The opening weekend of New Chamber Ballet’s busy 10th season took place at its usual venue, a large City Center practice studio. The room’s Art Deco upside-down punchbowl chandeliers provided the “lighting”. The audience sat on metal folding chairs – and, when the ballet called for it, so did the dancers. The German-born Miro Magloire doubled as artistic director, introducing each piece, and stagehand, repositioning the main property, a grand piano. Economic necessity even comes into play in the choice of scores, which underpin this onetime composer’s choreography: violin and piano literature only. One piano, one violin, both blessedly live.
But as soon as stupendous concert pianist Melody Fader sat down to Stockhausen’s Klavierstück IX, around which dancers Elizabeth Brown and Holly Curran draped themselves, any worry that we were headed towards amateur hour dissolved. Coupled with emotional extravagance, strict means turn out to be as essential to Magloire’s aesthetic as to the discordant composers whom he favours.
The Stockhausen, Boulez and Rebecca Saunders, for three of the night’s five short ballets, vaulted from pounding chords to erratic silences to lyrical rumination. The choreography was disjunctive too. It did not unfold so much as burst forth, then lull. The dancers (five in all) travelled back and forth on a narrow track or around and around, as did the hints at story. The ballets featured many dramatic flourishes but no dramatic arcs. Magloire hit an emotional key and soon enough hit it again.
But the effect was not boring. The choreographer’s movement fixations proved persuasive – the piqué, the woman’s pointe stabbing the floor, or the outstretched limb, as in Klavierstück when the dancers touched fingertips in an echo of the pact between Apollo and Terpsichore in the Balanchine ballet. Magloire lingered on simple motifs until their gorgeousness seeped in.
In the premiere Oracle – whose three dancers accompanied themselves with the rattles and bells strapped around their ankles – my favourite moment consisted simply of these nymphs striding forward, one leg pointing behind, in a full revolution around the stage. The second loveliest: them tumbled together in sleep on the ground.
Magloire understands the power of repetition and stillness. Next he might expand his lexicon of hypnotising moves.