Classical ballet, with its appetite for space and grandeur, calls for opera-house scale. Does that make the concept of chamber ballet a contradiction in terms? Two mini-troupes at the Kaye Playhouse in May argued persuasively that intimacy has its own charms. Diane Coburn Bruning's Chamber Dance Project proposes that choreography for small numbers on a stage of modest dimensions can rival the supersized productions that lure audiences to City and Lincoln Centers. Bruning hires top-notch classical dancers during their layoff periods; provides live music accompaniment so superior that the music-only interludes are exhilarating; and, on occasion, creates a memorable dance. Peter Boal, long admired for the purity and depth of his performances with the New York City Ballet, starred in two such numbersSuspended and the new Journeyboth duets, the first with a man, the second with a woman. Abstract, with an emphasis on the shapes of the intertwining bodies, they slowly accumulate an emotional resonance that can move you to tears.
Zig Zag Ballet, led by Brett Raphael, presented 11 beautifully trained dancers, their impeccable line and precision softened by a gentle attack. Even the kamikaze virtuoso, Jason G. Ignacio, made his feats beautiful as well as thrilling. The group looks perfect for the Tudor repertory, some of it originally created for a tiny stage, but it aims for the cutting edge. Reach exceeds grasp: A slight concoction by Raphael failed to register, while pieces by Miguel Gutierrez and Darrell Grand-Moultrie tepidly reiterated pomo conventions. Running counter to the prevailing aesthetic, Michael Uthoff's simple, sweet-tempered Canyon Pass, abstract but suffused with the landscape and mythology of the American West, easily won Best on Program. The main pleasure of the concert lay in seeing the dancers close-up. Harmony and proportion are their middle names.