Five delightfully diverse world premiers (six including the "celebrity choreographers" frothy warm-up piece) came to life Thursday evening in the Ballet's intimate Mickey-Jarson Kaplan Performance Studio.
The dancers' determined elegance, raw strength and jaw-dropping flexibility held center stage.
"K281," set to Mozart's Piano Sonata K. 281, is quick, smart and sharp. Adam Hougland filled the space with rich, intricate choreography. At first the stark white form-fitting costumes gave me pause, but their advantage quickly became evident: Even the most subtle torso adjustments register and carry weight. Torsos undulate. Arms swirl, curl, fold and propel, slicing through the air like windshield wipers. I felt vaguely surprised to see the women step on pointe.
Innovative lifting and complex partnering fuses with quirky, jerky gestures as the women go sliding and gliding around their partners -- often on pointe -- as if on ice.
Artistic Director Victoria Morgan's "Entwined and Falling" displays a contrasting style of partnering -- and not only with its male-female-female configuration. Anthony Krutzkamp, Kristi Capps and Jill Marlow explore the possibilities of three-way partnering, leaning into, onto and away from each other in breathtaking sculptural forms. Their thin, flesh-toned costumes with vines wound into them enhance the piece's underlying sensuality.
The women arch their backs and stack onto Krutzkamp, who manages to support their full weight. As they sway, they resemble a multi-tentacled, undulating deep-sea creature. And they make it look effortless. The warm drone of Estonian composer Arvo P#228rt's score provides a mesmerizing backdrop. Interestingly, for the most part form seems to supplant feeling. Is there a sense of competition between the women? Only hints were revealed. Someone told me this piece stopped passersby in their tracks when it previewed at Fountain Square recently. I could see why.
Even before the music begins, Ballet-Master-in-Chief Devon Carney's "Convergent Sight" establishes a tone of palpable tension. Two couples take long, slow strides in silence. Dawn Kelly takes off in lightning-quick pirouettes as urgent as the score demands. Arms slice violently through the air like swords, narrowly missing their human targets. One couple embraces, the other fights. Considering their respective matching outfits, I wonder -- are they actually two separate couples or might they represent diverse facets of a single couple?
"Leda and Zeus," the second movement of Kirk Peterson's Javelin offers the program's most classical-flavored work and reads somewhat like the odd piece out. In contrast to Swan Lake, a guy plays the swan -- as Zeus. Although Christopher Kent Weisler and Janessa Touchet nobly performed their roles as swan and object of desire, the choreography drifted into a place more ordinary than their mythological personae evoke. The anticipatory drama all but evaporates with the dry ice that billowed around Zeus. Touchet's frantic bourrées and wrapped arms effectively expressed her vulnerability and Weisler capably embodied the aggressive swan, but figuratively the momentum didn't feel sustained.
The rousing finale, New York City-based choreographer Darrell Moultrie's "Three for g," is named for three women of great influence to him, all of whose names begin with "g." Unrestricted by any one style, a playful mix of ballet, modern, African and even yoga springs forth. Trad Burns' warm lighting design and glowing saturated color backgrounds add flair to the white costumes and high-energy action.
The dancers look like they're having a blast, kicking up the spirited mood a notch. Cervilio Amador spins into oblivion and suspends midair during his many leaps, garnering audience cheers.
After the show I overheard a woman say, 'In a word: wow!' Indeed. Grade: A
Cincinnati Ballet's New Works continues through Sept. 30.