Ballet, we know, can be the generic term for choreographies as different as Martha Graham’s and William Forsythe’s. But new works by Amanda Miller, Luca Veggetti and Alison Chase, the choreographers featured in New Ballet – a production of the Miller Theatre and the Guggenheim’s Works & Process programme – stretched the conventionally classical idea quite out of shape. These new works paid some toe service to classical ballet but in other ways were notably un-pointe-d.
Chase is a founder of Pilobolus. Her Sweet Alchemy to John Adams’ John’s Book of Alleged Dances could be read as literal. Six outstanding New York City Ballet dancers battled gamely to incorporate the athletic-slanted Pilobolus aesthetic with gratuitous ballet steps. Dominated by a background of Sean Kernan’s high-intensity images of often-unidentifiable close-ups of the dancers’ bodies, Megan Fairchild, Megan LeCrone and Abi Stafford were presented first hanging upside down, supported by their partners Charles Askegard, Stephen Hanna and Andrew Veyette. They continued to be swung about in unconventional lifts. The men somersaulted over each other, jumped and jogged; the women occasionally posed on toe. Chase, alas, lacks the alchemy to mix her particular oil and water.
Veggetti’s Four/Voice to Paolo Aralla’s Analogie played on amplified cello by Michael Nicolas, plus tape, featured three more NYCB artists: Robert Fairchild, Rachel Piskin and Daniel Ulbricht, and the Armitage Gone! Company dancer Frances Chiaverini, whose ballet training and grasp of modern technique made her velvety, prowling cat-like movement mesmerising. A distracting element in this fascinating, if puzzling, piece was the flow of superfluous surtitles, words and phrases streaming across the backdrop. They diluted the suspense when the dancers sustained stillness. Still, Veggetti’s choreography met the challenge of the score, while Roderick Murray’s monotone lighting suggested film.
In dogwood, Miller had her four characters moving cardboard chairs about, switching places and allegiances. Two compositions by Fred Fith performed by the Sirius Quartet provided Miller, ballet-trained but more recently into modern dance, further incentive to abandon her roots. With Gino Grenek, Rebecca Jefferson and Matthew Prescott, she hinted at relationships in darting, lurching and kicking movement, but was never specific. Call me reactionary, but if this is new ballet, I’ll settle for the old.