Above: Traci Finch and Sarah Atkins of New Chamber Ballet; photo by Kristin Lodoen Linder
~ Author: Oberon
Saturday June 9th, 2018 - Miro Magloire's New Chamber Ballet continue to explore brave new music whilst also honoring great composers of the past. This evening's program, the last in the Company's 2017-2018 season, balanced works by two contemporary composers with classics by Niccolò Paganini and Claude Debussy.
I've found my spot in Miro's thoughtfully-designed seating arrangement: right next to the musicians. With pianist Melody Fader and violinist Doori Na performing the often-challenging scores Miro and NCB Resident Choreographer Constantine Baecher have chosen to set, I felt as close to music as one can possibly get; I was even able to look over Doori's shoulder to see the scores of Reiko Fueting and Kaija Saariaho on his illuminated tablet.
The evening opened with Miro Magloire's Schattentanz (“shadow dance”), receiving its world premiere performances this weekend. It's set to a commissioned score by Reiko Fueting, who was present and took a bow after the ballet had been presented.
Clad in Sarah Thea's body tights of grey-blue-pale rose abstractions, dancers Kristy Butler, Traci Finch, and Amber Neff are first seen prone on the floor. My first impression was of alien creatures feeding on some unknown substance; but what beautiful creatures they turn out to be.
An itchy passage from Doori Na's violin sets the complex, brilliantly inventive Fueting score on its way; meanwhile, Melody Fader must periodically reach inside the piano to manipulate the strings. The three dancers have now risen, and they huddle while executing twisty moves. Later they engage in finger-snapping and then in foot-stamping offset by quirky port de bras. The musicians occasionally fall silent as the dancers continue to move.
A stuttering violin motif emerges. In wide 2nd position, the three dancers flutter their hands; then they begin racing about the space. Joining hands, Traci leads them on a merry chase as Doori's violin snakes up and down scales, creating the effect of a fire siren. From the piano, Melody joins in the scaling expedition.
Kristy Butler circles the space as if pursued, then all three dancers collapse to the floor. Doori's violin takes up an eerie pinging passage, withdrawing to hushed pianissimo. The piano sounds deeply, the dancers begin to stir ever so slightly; then the music fades to nothingness.
Miro Magloire's Entangled is a ballet in two duets, set to Paganini Caprices, which Doori Na played with striking virtuosity. Sarah Thea's lime-green-and-grey costumes (see top photo) suggest sheer harem pants.
The first duet, danced by Elizabeth Brown and Madeleine Williams, opens with the dancers standing face-to-face, foreheads touching. They will rush away from one another and then meet again; in fact,their entire duet seemingly springs from an approach-avoidance situation. They end up on the floor, in something of a struggle.
As Elizabeth and Madeleine run off, their places are taken by Sarah Atkins and Traci Finch. Their duet is more balletic and sculptural in feeling. Throughout Entangled, Doori Na's expert playing gave the movement its continuing impetus, and all four dancers were simply beautiful to watch.
Calices, a ballet Miro Magloire has set to Kaija Saariaho’s violin and piano score of the same name, was evocatively played by Doori Na and Melody Fader. Listening to this music - at once ecstatic and dramatic - my mind kept drifting back to the marvelous performance of Ms. Saariaho's opera L'Amour de Loin that we experienced at The Met in 2016.
In Sarah Thea's white body tights, with bits of exposed skin giving a vulnerable feel, four dancers - Kristy Butler, Amber Neff, Rachele Perla, and Madeleine Williams - are at first seen dancing independently in an animated, space-filling quartet. They seem never to touch one another. In a solo passage, Rachele Perla, a dark-haired beauty new to New Chamber Ballet made me hope this is just the beginning of her affiliation with Miro's work: really lovely.
Now three of the girls stand back-to-back, forming a tight-knit clique which Madeleine Williams cannot access, try as she might. Yet the long-limbed Ms. Williams will become the central figure in Calices. As the girls circle about her in tight, swift turning figurations, Ms. Williams strikes ecstatic poses, recalling Isadora Duncan's triumphant feminine expressions of power and summoning.
Mlles. Neff, Perla, and Butler take to the floor as Ms. Williams dances alone, her arms carving the air, her dancing commanding the space. The girls rise, backing away from the myth-evoking image of Ms. Williams. The music dwindles to a murmur.
Children’s Corner, Constantine Baecher's light-hearted ballet set to Claude Debussy's piano pieces of the same name, brings out impish playfulness from its five sporting ballerinas: Elizabeth Brown, Kristy Butler, Traci Finch, Amber Neff, and Madeleine Williams. Trading their toe shoes for socks, the five girls engage in childhood games. Ms. Finch is sort of the ring-leader, egging her playmates on and teasing them as a tennis ball gets rolled and tossed about. Hide-and-seek is played with a bolt of translucent white fabric, and then Ms. Neff plays with white balloons - a small and then a larger one - skillfully balancing them along her arms and shoulders, then batting them into the air. Mr. Baecher's concludes this romp of a ballet - the Debussy solos charmingly played by Ms. Fader - by engaging his dancers in a clapping game as they meanwhile toss a tennis ball one to another. Timing is everything, and they handled it all so nimbly.