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Flash Review 4, 2-28: Craving Novelty
Washington Ballet Pleasing and Soporific

By Albert Lee
Copyright 2000 Albert Lee

What Susan Sontag once said of photography is often true of dance: the eyes crave novelty.

Washington Ballet, seen Sunday at the Joyce Theater, performing pieces by the European choreographers Nacho Duato and Jiri Kylian, was both visually pleasing and soporific. Especially considering that Duato and Kylian's choreography is so closely wedded to the music, one longs for the joys that syncopation and asymmetry can bring.

Duato's "Na Floresta" was a dance for dryads, predicated upon movements performed in predictable patterns (circles and symmetrical arrangements) with an air of urgency. The piece has no angular movements nor strong visual points of reference; it was performed against a green, forest-y backdrop, with too-dim lighting. "Nuages" was a pas de deux to Debussy with an accent on pliability. The movements were a little clearer and more fully articulated by Heather Perry and Runqiao Du. In contrast to these plastic styles, the dancers felt more at home in Kirk Peterson's neo-classical piece, "The Eyes That Gently Touch," a trio of pas des deux performed to piano music by Philip Glass.

Septime Webre's "Juanita y Alicia" also allied itself to its score. But because the music was popular Cuban songs like "Chan Chan" (performed live by the seven-member band Sin Miedo), the beats lent a more lively flavor and rhythm to the movements. Without resorting to Latin dance idioms, Webre, the company's new artistic director (previously of the American Repertory Ballet in Princeton, New Jersey), evoked a colonial-era Cuba, characterized by an elegant festiveness. The dancers, clad in all white dresses and knickers, were a family portrait come to life.

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