New Moves takes you to new places

It is no secret that the annual “New Moves” show is this reviewer’s favorite
part of the ballet season. Devon Carney has once again brought new and
emerging choreographers together for a night of being taken to new places. It
is always exciting to watch an art form grow before your very eyes, and this
year is no exception.

First up was “Fractals”, a number that San Francisco Ballet instructor Parrish
Maynard expanded upon especially for this performance. The program describes
fractals as numerical equations that never end–it might be more accurate to
say that they are capable of infinite complexity. Nevertheless, the dance fits
just as well. Kenneth Curshner’s music evokes a William Gibson-esque
atmosphere, oriental hints but aggressively modern. This is choreography with
sharp edges, and a very strong opener.

Next came “Beyond Blood” Emily Mistretta’s pas de trois to music by Shakey
Graves. This one has a distinct contemporary feel, movements deliberately
winding and gyrating to the music. The contrast to the previous performance is
striking to say the least. There were a couple of moments that felt like
filling to get to the next bit, but overall an enjoyable performance, and
elegantly danced.

Next was “Evanesco” by Christopher Costantini, set to Mendelssohn’s Violin
Concerto in Em (1st). It does seem there are one or two pieces each year that
come back to classical music, and this is by no means unwelcome. Mr.
Constantini has opted for a very graceful take, letting the strings guide the
movements. It is formal by and large, and yet has programmatic hints. One
almost feels one is being given a glimpse into a small part of a much larger
story.

Abdur-Rahim Jackson’s “aBnOrMaL Normal” finishes off the first half of the
evening on a fascinating note. This reviewer has pondered how best to describe
Mr. Jackson’s choreography, but can only give hints and allusions. Certainly
his experience in the worlds of fashion and modern music are quite apparent,
as is his considerable showmanship. To this viewer, steeped as she is in the
literature of the fantastic, it evoked ritual dances by things unknown under
stars far older than our own. It is visually and audibly stunning, and easily
takes this reviewer’s vote for the highlight of the evening.

After the intermission came Mariana Oliveira’s “Beauty In Chaos” with music by
Heitor Villa-Lobos. Inspired by the music bringing to her mind the image of a
flower in the desert, she has created an evocative piece with six males and
one female. The piece is an exercise in contrast, and while an argument may be
made for bringing in the female (the ‘flower’) earlier in the piece, it was
nevertheless a successful and involving performance.

Next was “Quatre Pièces De Calvecin” by Monique Meunier, who has latterly
added choreographer to her already extensive list of titles in a life
dedicated to dance. As the title indicates, this is a four-part performance,
with each piece combining elegant flow with solid technical underpinnings. It
is interesting to see the result of someone who has this much expertise
breaking new personal ground in this way.

Lastly was “You Do You!” by Michael Davis (who had earlier impressed us as a
principal in Mr. Jackson’s number). This reviewer was unable to attend last
year and so missed his “Keep” that was performed at that time, but is given to
understand that this is a radical departure from that. Indeed, it has a
feeling quite unlike anything else of the evening. A fable of conformity and
iconoclasm, there is a manic, desperate cheerfulness to it that fascinates,
and hints at a less cheery undercurrent. This is ably reinforced by the music
of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, whose bouncy upbeat melodies don’t
quite hide the darkness of the lyrics. This reviewer was fascinated by the
movements and the “feel” of this particular number, and besides which
discovered the music of Sharpe & co, which is a bonus.

A final note: New Moves has always been held in the intimate space of the
Bolender Center, the spiritual home of ballet in Kansas City. This is as it
should be. Still, seeing the sold-out crowd last night, and hearing the talk
of seats selling out for the other performances, one begins to wonder if it is
due to outgrow this space? One almost cannot imagine this show moving into a
“regular” venue, but it is still nice to imagine Kansas Citians having enough
interest to necessitate such a move. For now, however, it could not be better
placed.

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