Washington Ballet deftly meets challenges of demanding dances

February 19, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

When I told a friend I was seeing the Washington Ballet Thursday at the Kennedy Center, she said, "Aren't they a local dance company?" Actually, the Washington Ballet would be considered an international company if it were performing any place other than Washington.

Under the strong artistic direction of Mary Day, this company always manages to serve up strong performances of dances by young, exciting and often European choreographers. It is also a repository for works by the company's late choreographer, Choo San Goh.

Opening the evening was George Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco," a dance that is challenging for the dancers as they make their way through the various inventions. While not a "Balanchine company," this troupe can certainly dance this legendary work with verve.

The action begins suddenly with the first notes of Bach's "Concerto in D minor." The constant shifting of patterns made by the eight women in the corps de ballet is simply delightful as they provide a backdrop of geometric designs and counterpointed rhythms for the two principal women, Francoise Thouveny and Anita Pacylowski, and partner Christopher Doyle.

Mr. Doyle and Ms. Thouveny were a bit calculated in their performance. While technically sure-footed, they just missed that extra spark that could set their performance above the ordinary.

Mr. Goh's "In the Glow of the Night" is pure magic. Using the music of Bohuslav Martinu with its dramatic and soulful swellings, the dance personifies the transition from dusk to dawn in three sections. One can be mesmerized by the choreographer's skillful and imaginative transitions and the strong company performance.

Especially potent was Ms. Pacylowski and Runqiao Du in the second section. Ms. Pacylowski is wonderfully expressive in her demeanor. Her dancing was both regal and capricious, and glowed with inspiration.

"Transit," by Graham Lustig, is a decidedly modern work that combines a pointed wit, a determined athleticism and a cocky attitude to amuse and charm. Set to music by Conlan Nancarrow, the dances scribbles its eight sections through a range of humors -- mainly tongue in cheek.

It was in "Transit" that the company was at its most attractive. It was as if they had saved themselves for this dance. Ryan Taylor, Jeanene Jarvis, Melanie Anderson, Jennifer Reth turned in admirable performances.

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