Ballet BC offers plenty of style, not enough substance – Orange County Register

Ballet BC is the other major company at this year’s Laguna Dance Festival, and though all the fuss has understandably been lavished on Paul Taylor’s better-known ensemble and work (and it’s a treat for Taylor’s company to be seen in an intimate local venue), this Vancouver-based group presented choreography on Friday that contrasted well with Taylor’s program of classics.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company brought us three Taylor pieces that exemplify the first generation of choreographic postmodernism. Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar has programmed an evening of three ambitious works, all created by her and two other female choreographers, which reveal the highly stylized path that some post-Taylor modern dance has taken. It was illuminating: we clearly saw the strengths and weaknesses of this aesthetic.

The evening began with Molnar’s “16 + a room,” set to a loud, often cacophonous sound design by Dirk P. Haubrich. The 13 dancers stride with intent, stand in robotic stillness, and often burst into jagged bursts of sliding, off-center tilts, rapidly flung arms and lots of frenetic running.

It’s hard to miss the influence of choreographer William Forsythe in Molnar’s work – she was a member of Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt – but “16 + a room” lacks a sense of Forsythe’s sense of proportion, long-term shape and compositional rigor. It’s all process – interesting ideas and moments that beg to be harnessed to an overarching structure. Without that, the work is undermined by a sense of sameness and lack of development. The signs that occasionally appear – “This is a beginning” and “This is not an ending” – are a red herring. They don’t provide insight. Neither do the black costumes and low lighting, which often obscure shapes and phrases.

Crystal Pite, the best known of the choreographers, created the evening’s strongest work, “Solo Echo.”

Pite, like Molnar a former Ballett Frankfurt dancer, has also been steeped in Forsythe’s work. But whereas Molnar used a soundscape without discernible form, Pite’s music is two cello sonatas by Johannes Brahms,…

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