If ballet doesn't evolve, it will die," James Canfield, artistic director of Portland's Oregon Ballet Theatre, likes to say. His 10-year-old company makes its New York debut at the Joyce Tuesday, with two programs.
OBT's hard-driving, sexy, revved-up brand of dancing represents what the former Joffrey principal believes will propel the art form into the 21st century: classically trained dancers who function readily in a well-crafted repertoire including neoclassical, modern, postmodern, and contemporary choreography, much of it reflecting popular culture and melding styles and forms within the same work.
Both Joyce bills open with Canfield's cq (charmed quark), an edgy, menacing work containing rapid-fire aerobic classical dancing, juxtaposed with a hiphop solo by guest artist Mariecella Devine. Both close with resident choreographer Trey McIntyre's 1997 Like a Samba, a bossa nova gloss on '50s culture. On Program A, McIntyre's Speak, a duet for Matthew Boyes and company fireball Vanessa Thiessen (18 years old and able to dance anything thrown at her), pairs athletic dancing with rap text, an experiment that works.
Two sections of Canfield's triptych about fallen women travel to Gotham: Anais, a sensuous trio based on the film Henry and June, and Edie, a brilliantly deconstructed 11-minute Sleeping Beauty based on the life and death of Edie Sedgwick, shown in spread-legged degradation, utterly wretched and exploited, wearing black satin point shoes. (Coco Chanel stays home.) The balance of the New York season, which Canfield calls a "milestone for the company and a calculated risk," contains work commissioned from Portland's modern and contemporary choreographers, like conceptual artist Kristy Edmunds's "Downtown" antipas de deux, January Postcard; Josie Moseley's With, an emotionally charged series of solos and duets, stylistically Limón-based, danced to the music of Lou Harrison and John Lurie; and Ashley Roland's innovative duet for men, Singe