By MANUEL MENDOZA
Published: 18 April 2015 10:27 PM Updated: 18 April 2015 10:27 PM
With Balanchine, Ben Stevenson and Jirí Kylián supplying choreography to music by Stravinsky, Wagner and Mozart, Texas Ballet Theater’s Masterworks program lived up to its name this weekend before a pointe shoe ever touched the Dallas City Performance Hall stage.
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Dance review: Troupe’s talents a match for Texas Ballet Theater Masterworks program | Dallas Morning News 5/27/15, 3:05 PM
But that star power wouldn’t mean much without the precision and grace displayed by Stevenson’s crack troupe on opening night Friday. The run ends with a Sunday matinee.
The bill began with Stevenson’s turn-of-the-century Five Poems, an ethereal piece set to Wagner’s mournful Wesendonck Songs and distinguished by the amount of time the ballerinas spent off the ground.
Actress Jane Seymour’s wall-covering blue-gray backdrop depicting a cloudy landscape established the work’s wispy nature. After fog rolled in from the wings, six dancers tiptoed on stage, leaned forward and raised their arms over their heads.
Paige Nyman, lifted into the air by Mason Anders and Paul Adams, walked among the clouds and up the backs of the other performers. When they weren’t floating, the dancers turned in place and circled one another.
The circling motif continued during the more vigorous second poem as Simon Wexler and Marlen Alimanov swung each other around by their arms. The hypnotic effect grew more intense during the third poem when Carl Coomer looked as if he were manipulating Leticia Oliveira’s every move.
In one of the most visually arresting moments of the night, Oliveira effortlessly extended her leg straight up until it almost touched her head. The classical elegance of Five Poems gave way to contemporary master Jirí Kylián’s pointed Petite Mort (1991), which started with six men wielding swords in both dramatic and comical fashion.
Shirtless and facing upstage, the danseurs held their swords aloft as the women waited behind them in near darkness engulfed by ball gown dress forms. The men danced with the swords, manipulating them with their feet and knees.
After the women stripped down to corset-style bodysuits, the men started pulling their partners between their legs to strains of the adagio section of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major. Symmetries emerged as the couples snapped into unison poses, creating a regimented sensuality that gave Kylián’s inventive choreography a modern feel.
The show closed with the Rubies section of Jewels (1967), the choreography by Balanchine and the music by Stravinsky reflecting the growing influence of jazz on the classical world. Costumed in sparkling candy-red dresses and shirts, the 15 dancers hopped and swayed in Balanchine’s complex, eye-catching formations.
Manuel Mendoza is a Dallas freelance writer.