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February 19, 2005

Out and About – New Chamber Ballet

I’ve known Miro Magloire for close to a decade by now. I have “unclean hands” for a review, so here are scattered notes from a friend, as it were.

What’s interesting about what the New Chamber Ballet does is the deliberate smallness of the enterprise. I considered Dance as Ever’s budget to be a shoestring – over 10 years we spent about $330,000 and made 28 ballets on that. Miro probably operates at about 5% of that and still manages a good quality of dance and dancer. What gets ruthlessly stripped out are all production values; you’re sitting in a studio (on the fifth floor of City Center. I took morning ballet classes in that room for much of my career. I believe there's a picture of Balanchine rehearsing Danses Concertantes with the Ballets Russes in that room in the Bernard Taper biography of him as well.)

Seeing ballet in a studio is a concentrated experience and Miro’s works are particularly so; his aesthetic and palette tend to be rigorous and restrained. I’ll admit a partisan liking for it because it’s ballet rather than a hybrid form, and he has no trouble finding things within the medium to explore. He did three works, a duet to music by Morton Feldman, a trio to Haydn and a series of Spanish waltzes with three women and a man. The duet is a dreamy work that moves on its own clock time; one woman begins a solo, another woman enters. They dance on the same stage yet barely interact. The first woman leaves the space to the second woman who continues in the same contemplative mood. In no way does the work physically remind one of Merce Cunningham (strike that – it does in one way; Miro used a broken-armed port de bras that reminded me of a ballet equivalent of something derived by LifeForms, the computer simulation model Cunningham has used) but the focus of the piece and its calm insistence on moving at its pace, not ours, are things I associate with watching Cunningham. His women, in this case Elizabeth Brown and Denise Small, are quite lovely. One is blonde haired, the other brunette and ID’ing them turned into a scene out of a Danny Kaye movie. Brown is blonde and Small is brown. Remember that when you are trying to figure out if the chalice with the palace contains the brew that is true.

Small and Brown (one is brown, but neither are small. They’re both tall.) were joined by Julia Welsh for the Haydn trio. Again, a well crafted work, miniature in scale but full length. There were some fine moments here including a repeating circle that took a familiar motif and made it unfamiliar. The strength of the works, their clean ascetic rigor and craft, is also their Achilles heel. The works have intimacy, but little theater. We are in a studio, but the dances can feel as remote at times as if they were separated from us by a wall.

Production values could bridge the gap. No lights and simple un-costumes provide the most neutral of settings and the choreography, especially the first piece, demand atmosphere. In the second piece, Welsh added drama of her own. With her wide lovely face and slit-eyed look like Eve Harrington without the malice, she always looked as if she were conspiring something unknown at any moment. You watched her wondering what it might be. And that is theater.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at February 19, 2005 11:22 PM

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I'm so glad you've started a blog!

Eliza Minden

Posted by: Eliza at February 22, 2005 10:42 AM

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