Above: Elizabeth Brown and Constantine Baecher at a rehearsal for New Chamber Ballet
Saturday February 16, 2013 - The opening work on tonight's programme at Miro Magloire's New Chamber Ballet was a world premiere by Constantine Baecher entitled ALLOW YOU TO LOOK AT ME. Several things set this new piece apart from what we are accustomed to experiencing chez Miro: the dancing started before Miro's usual opening remarks; there were industrial-type spotlights at two corners of the dancing space; there was a spoken narrative and...there was a man dancing.
The new ballet seems to be about several different things: it is about Constantine's long friendship with dancer Elizabeth Brown; it has autobiographical elements; it touches upon what it's like to be a dancer and to be constantly observed, corrected and criticized; and it is also about the relationship of the dancer to the music and to the choreography.
Elizabeth Brown, in simple practice garb, appears in the space while the audience are still arriving and chatting. At first she seems simply to be warming up, but we then realize it's part of the dancework; standing still and alone, Elizabeth begins to examine her own hands and arms in a gestural language of port de bras that seems spontaneous at first but is in fact highly structured. She continues thru Miro's pre-curtain speech.
Then Jonathan Parks-Ramage starts to read the script. Pianist Melody Fader plays the rather sentimental score, a collage of familiar melodies including the Pachelbel Canon and Greensleeves. Elizabeth and Constantine dance in tandem: their duet intimate, the audience as eavesdroppers. Holly Curran - who may be depicting another aspect of Elizabeth - dances a solo about dancing a solo. And Constantine's almost spiritual solo refers to his learning to play the piano at an early age. The piece seemed to cast a spell over the viewers, and as my third experience of Mr. Baecher's work, confirmed his unique spot among current choreographers. His works are personal, imaginative and engrossing.
Following a break, dancer Sarah Atkins appeared in a creamy silk shift (created by Candice Thompson) to dance Miro's new solo ballet BITTER END. This work is set to a score by the English composer Rebecca Saunders for violin and piano, played by Caroline Chin and Melody Fader. With the music buzzing in the stratosphere, Sarah Atkins - seated - begins to ingest something delicious. Leisurely at first, and then with increasing fervor, Sarah becomes addicted to this unknown treat. She rises from time to time and dancers about the space in - classic-style combinations, on pointe - as her mood veers from pensive to sly to giddy to questing. To an incessant knocking motif from the musicians, the now-ravenous Sarah goes out of control. Then - with an explosive bang! from Ms. Fader - the dancer has over-dosed. She collapses. Moments later, Holly Currran takes up the mysterious dish and commences on the same path. Kudos to Miro for bringing us this intriguing composer's score, to the musicians for their intense playing of it, and to Sarah for her very accomplished dancing.
A second - and familiar - solo piece by Miro is MOMENTS set to a solo violin score by Salvatore Sciarrino. Ms. Chin showed her mastery of the difficult, buzzy technique demanded by the composer: this music was clearly written in another galaxy. Dancer Katie Gibson moved fluently thru the adagio phrases of the work, interspersed with flashes of more animated and spacious dancing. She often moves slowly when the music is fast. The piece ends on a quizzical note.
The trio LACE is set by Miro to music by Luciano Berio: Sequenza VIII for solo violin, expertly played by Ms. Chin. The music sometimes takes on a bustling quality and lingers in the high register. The trio of dancers - Sarah Atkins, Holly Curran and Katie Gibson - commence in a ritualistic, meditative state and then move on in a series of lyrically-styled solo passages woven into their agitato trios.
Miro's evenings continue to attract an ever-expanding audience of serious dance-lovers, as well as admirers of contemporary music. This programme was especially strong in terms of both the music and the dancing. The next performances by New Chamber Ballet will be on April 5th and 6th. Visit the Company's website here.