Morris’ world premiere Beaux
Wheeldon’s Number NineÂ©
Program 2 burst onto the War Memorial Opera House stage with a repertory program of contemporary ballets from three very prominent modern choreographers. It was a great study of three very different styles, vaguely within the same genre. I got to watch this program for the matinee show on Sunday February 19.
The program opened with Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, a rollercoaster of angular twists and turns around every unexpected corner. With this piece, we as an audience get to experience the joys of having a modern dance choreographer bring his primary expertise to the world of ballet. The stage is set with a bright white background by Jack Pawson lit with different shades of white (with lighting design by Lucy Carter and costumes by Moritz Junge). Within this setting, McGregor places his dancers as superhuman athletes in an alien world. His choreography encompasses a wide range of movements, focusing on the extremes of physicality, from unending fast solos to slow duets where the woman orbits Â slowly wrapped around her partner’s torso as if she was underwater. Propelled by music by composer Joby Talbot (including orchestral transpositions of Jack White III’s songs of the White Stripes), every image onstage is riveting and hypnotic. The dancers were spectacular. Vito Mazzeo shaped the space around him beautifully. Sarah Van Patten showed us a flair for contemporary choreography with clear and sharp punctuation in her movements. Sofiane Sylve was stunning, dancing with remarkable sculptural elegance. In a complex duet with Vito Mazzeo, she showed multiple facets of her artistry, from pure strength, to outright sex appeal, to moments of disarming delicacy – and always in command. She was breathtaking to watch. Lonnie Weeks was also another standout, dancing with a fierce intensity. He will definitely be one to watch.
Mark Morris’ world premiere Beaux was next. A dance set for nine men and set to the music of Martinu’s Concerto for Harpsichord and Small Orchestra, Morris shows us a more intimate portraiture of male virtuosic dancing. The sets and costumes (both by Isaac Mizrahi) colorfully warn the audience that this might not be what we’re used to seeing, with bright pink unitards and a hot pink camouflage backdrop. Gestural motifs are peppered throughout, but nothing is too forced. The choreography flows like a casual conversation. Morris makes us sit up, pay attention, and look closely, to see that in the opening line of men standing in front of the stage, all but one is facing the same direction. There were references (intentional or not, most likely not) of Rodin’s sculptural figures that I used to bike by at the Stanford campus, standing and posturing with other statues around them. There was beauty in the simplicity of the movements with a communal spirit throughout, and the men danced with full hearts.
With the program closing with Christopher Wheeldon’s Number NineÂ© (is that title really copyrighted?), it was like watching the company do what they do best. The brightly colored costumes by Holly Hynes lit up the stage in a blaze of pristine ensemble work by the excellent corps, and it was thrilling to watch some of the company’s best dancers take over the stage in a showcase of virtuosity. Gennadi Nedvigin made the audience gasp with his flying entrance with his delicate and nimble duet with Maria Kochetkova, and Frances Chung and Pascal Molat flew lightning-fast through the choreography with ease and limber musicality. Yuan Yuan Tan was fun, playful and flirty in her pas de deux with Carlos Quenedit, and Elana Altman and Anthony Spaulding were statuesque in spite of a brief fumble early on. With music by Michael Torke, it was thrilling to watch the dancers dance with such style and mastery over the music’s complex rhythms, and a proper end to a gorgeous evening of contemporary ballet.