Something very close to a miracle has been taking place within the Washington Ballet, which launched its third annual series of concerts at Lisner Auditorium yesterday. In a few brief seasons, the troupe has evolved from a promising but sketchily focused outfit into a vivacious, handsome, coherent young ballet company with bold, farsighted goals.
Part of the reason is Choo San Goh, the 30-year-old Singapore native who came to the Washington Ballet as resident choreographer two years ago. "Fives," the new piece he introduced at Lisner yesterday, is his seventh ballet and the fourth he's created in Washington (two more will be unveiled this spring). It's not only his strongest work to date, but it also confirms once and for all that what we are dealing with is the emergence of a major new choreographic talent, a fact surely to be recognized soon by the ballet world at large.
Also on yesterday's program was a new work by a 22-year-old American - "Timespan" by Eric Emmanuele, premiered last year in Hamburg - which was unusually compelling in concept. These two new pieces point to a second reason for the troupe's blossoming: The company has become a prime showcase for new ballet choreography and there are few such anywhere in the country.
Finally, there is the company itself, which, boosted by its present stalwart complement of males, is dancing with a heretofore unparalleled brilliance and ardor.
Both new offerings on the Lisner program deserve a far more detailed characterization than is possible here. "Fives" is set to three movements from Ernest Bloch's Concerto Grosso No. 1, and the choreography converts the dynamic muscularity of the new-Baroque score into an abstract dance poem of striking sweep and passion. Moving often in the quintuple groupings suggested by the title, the dancers swing into shifting planes, layers and configurations that excitingly mirror the musical counterpoint. The cardinal-red costumes and the backdrop of ruby lights enhance further the ballet's unrelenting tone of rapture.
"Timespan," to the Adagio of Saint-Saen's Third Symphony, explores the psychological confrontation, very much in the Tudor manner, of two couples, one young, one old. Though not fully realized, it's undeniably affecting.