Pennsylvania Ballet mixes tradition, quirkiness

October 22, 1994|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

The Pennsylvania Ballet made its Kennedy Center debut this week with a program that underlined the company's strong Balanchine tradition as well as its penchant for experimentation.

"Mood Swing," the new ballet created by David Parsons (part of the Kennedy Center's ongoing commissioning project), had all the oddities one might expect from the gifted choreographer who once danced with the master of quirkiness, Paul Taylor. With its exaggerated movements, "Mood Swing" was a lighthearted foil for the other two program offerings: George Balanchine's "Serenade" and "The Golden Mean" by Christopher Amboise.

The ballet, under the artistic direction of Roy Kaiser, will present a different program tonight and tomorrow -- Balanchine's "Swan Lake" and "Agon," as well as Paul Taylor's "Arden Court."

In "Mood Swing," Mr. Parsons explores the realm of human emotions from maniacal joy to listless depression. But what he uncovers doesn't always hold together -- especially in the opening section, where the nine dancers move about in a general melee. Eventually the dance unraveled itself as the group syncopated their emotionally based gestures to the cool temper for Morton Gould's jazz.

Mr. Parsons is a clever choreographer, and his inventiveness led the dance through several surprising moments. In one of the more potent moments, the company became infused with the spirit of the music, tapped their feet, snapped their fingers and simply let loose with their dancing.

In contrast to the loopy "Mood Swing" was Mr. d'Amboise's "The Golden Mean," which was maddening in its homage to the Balanchine legacy (more than one familiar motif surfaced); yet, it was exceptional in its ability to create a mysterious atmosphere. Principal dancers Dede Barfield and Jeffrey Gribler were well matched, giving expressive and technically accomplished performances.

The opening "Serenade" was given a finely tuned performance by the corps de ballet and principal dancers Tamara Hadley, Mr. Barfield and Leslie Carothers. "Serenade," created by Mr. Balanchine as a classroom exercise more than 50 years ago, still retains its power to captivate. The Pennsylvania Ballet adroitly delivered one of the most soulful renditions of this seminal ballet.


What: Pennsylvania Ballet

Where: Kennedy Center Opera House

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: $21.50-$33.50

Call: (202) 467-4600

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