Sizing Up 7x7: Another Fine Fit

By Alexandra Tomalonis
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, June 10, 2006

Washington Ballet's 7x7 series has grown from a clever idea into a welcome annual event. Each season, Artistic Director Septime Webre invites seven choreographers to create works for the company, each no longer than seven minutes. It's a good length: long enough to provide scope for imagination, and short enough that if there's a misfire, it's a brief one.

This season, all the dances are by female choreographers, though that matters less than one might have imagined. The women come from varying backgrounds; some had ballet careers, others danced with Twyla Tharp or William Forsythe. Their dances seemed more reflective of current trends than gender: high-energy, fragmented movement; same-sex partnering; music used as sound rather than for its structure or rhythm. While all the works were well crafted and could sustain their brief length, only two transcended it.

Susan Shields's "Uncertain Song" (to the sonorous music of Joseph Canteloube) breathes new life into one of the oldest devices in Western art: contrasting the dark, passionate couple (Sona Kharatian Jordan and Alvaro Palau, in lavender) with the fair, sunny pair (Morgann Rose and Jared Nelson, in rose). Shields goes beyond stereotypes. The lavender couple is adventurous as well as sensual. One or the other is constantly pulling away, not to leave the lover but to move on to another shared experience. The rose couple, on the other hand, is so deeply in love that they are content, lost in their love and in each other. Their dancing is a continuous soft swirl of movement, a metaphor for love fulfilled.

Julia Adam's "Pillow Talk" is a deft and amusing light comedy. Four dancers, toting pillows, enter as if sleepwalking. Each stakes out a spot for rest, but then tosses and turns, rolling into and onto the others, squarely on the beat of E.T. Rouse and Mikis Theodorakis's "Orange Blossom Zorbet" (a tweaked version of the theme song from "Zorba the Greek").

In Jodie Gates's "Minor Loop," a couple (Brianne Bland and Jason Hartley) dance an intense duet to Haydn that's a disconnected conversation: The two are bound together, though hardly look at each other (that's part of the choreography, not a failing on the dancers' parts). They're less Every Couple than Any Couple, and this anonymity and disconnection are the themes of the other works, by Sarah Slipper, Helen Pickett, Tania Isaac and Jessica Lang.

The 7x7 series continues every day but Mondays through June 25. These are the last D.C. performances with the company by Michele Jimenez, who will leave at the end of summer to join the Dutch National Ballet. Jimenez's beautiful lines and sweet intensity were shown to advantage in Pickett's "Trio in White."

The dancers were excellent throughout, and among its many charms, the 7x7 series lets audiences see dance up close, the way the choreographer does, in the ballet's small, comfortable Studio Theater.

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