Confronted with four principal dancers in the New York City Ballet, Dove made Red Angels a tribute to the speed with which Balanchine-trained dancers can flash their legs around and manage complex rhythms. Boal danced in the premiere, and he has staged the ballet with that muscle-deep memory. Sensitive to NYCB style in works set to contemporary music, Dove allowed the dancers’ hips to jut out and ease classical decorum. In this work, his choreography, while astringent, is wittier, more sensual, and more expansive in terms of the space it covers than that of the other two pieces on the program. It’s also more complex.

The meat of Red Angels is two duets. The first, danced by Ariana Lallone and Olivier Wevers in the cast I saw, involves the man coolly manipulating his partner into a variety of positions that reveal tall, long-legged Lallone’s steely strength as well as her flexibility. In the second duet, Rausch and Lucien Postlethwaite spend more time apart than together, but they’re clearly in tune with each other. Richard Einhorn’s “Maxwell’s Demon” (1988-1990) is a perfect accompaniment to the ballet. Played onstage by Mary Rowell, the blazingly abrasive and propulsive electric violin makes you imagine that these angels are prone to having musical binges on their harps. At the end, the black curtain opens fully to reveal a red sky, and as the four dancers walk toward it, they stop to turn their heads and stare at us for a moment before they continue into darkness. A moment both luminous and heartstoppingly prophetic.

The Pacific Northwest Ballet performs Ulysses Dove’s "Vespers"
Karli Cadel
The Pacific Northwest Ballet performs Ulysses Dove’s "Vespers"

Details

Pacific Northwest Ballet
Jacobís Pillow, Becket, Massachusetts
August 19 through 23

Red Angels is the most nuanced and sophisticated ballet of Dove’s that I’ve seen, both in terms of the movement and the dynamics. He harnessed his passion without taming it. Two years after the work’s premiere, he was dead. And we missed all that might have come after it in this millennium. It’s good that Boal chose to present a glimpse of Dove’s talent, and we can be grateful for the fine dancers’ commitment to it.

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