Working Together in Ballet Across America

June 13, 2008

I just saw Program C of Ballet Across America at the Kennedy Center, and I’m feeling like this whole idea is way better than I ever thought it would be. There’s a sense of cooperation between the companies, and the audience left feeling very satisfied. We saw three entirely different ballets, all performed on a high level. The opening ballet was Brake the Eyes, by Boston Ballet’s resident choreographer Jorma Elo. This ballet gets better every time I see it, but the main thing is the look — so contemporary, both fun and scary. There are moments that make me laugh inwardly that I didn’t see the first two time. A woman chassé-ing behind a man holds her hands in back of his head like she’s trying to outline him as he dashes off stage right. A second later they dash in, with her outlining him again. If you watch closely, there are all kinds of witty repeats like this. Larissa Ponomarenko is by now completely authoritative in her role as the strange Russian-speaking bird with the tinkling laugh who seems to be dreaming up the ballet. At the end her single finger-snap brings on the blackout.

Next up was Tudor’s Lilac Garden, danced (and acted) beautifully by the Joffrey Ballet. It projected a mood so entirely different from the aggressive playfulness and oddities of Brake the Eyes, and yet so clear dramatically, that you felt transported to another world, the world of romances that don’t work out, the drama of being trapped in the wrong relationship and illicit desires expressed beautifully. Emily Patterson, as Caroline, was especially pliant in her upper body. And of course there is Tudor’s ability to express pain and desire in a single gesture.

Last was Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush, danced by Oregon Ballet Theatre, a rousing finish. It didn’t sound like Wheeldon ballet to me; I could have sworn that the music, by Bohuslav Martinu, had strains of “OKlahoma!” in it. A reddish rectangle glowed above the dancers, and the central duet for Aliison Roper and Artur Sultanov was lovely, especially when she would be in an upside down spiral while reaching for his thigh, a reach that would turn them both.

It was kind of sweet that the curtain calls included not only the choreographers, but also the artistic directors of each company. And they all looked so willing to be part of this little trek across America. I think the audience too, beside having enjoyed three class acts, liked the sense of cooperation.