The blossoming of the Washington Ballet company is one of the modern marvels of the local Washington dance scene. Since the troupe's reorganization a few years ago under artistic director Mary Day and regisseur Martin Buckner, it has risen from the brink of extinction to become both a splendid classical showcase for young dancers and an indispensable launching pad for new choreography.
Yesterday's program at Lisner Auditorium continued the recent pattern of distinguished achievement.
At the center of the excitement the company generates these days is resident choreographer Choo San Goh, whose ballets have been providing a steady sense of creative discovery and growth. With "Synonyms," the new opus introduced yesterday, he has done it again, and without repeating himself, though the work is clearly stamped with his emerging choreographic personality.
His choice of music remains a powerful asset. "Synonyms" is set to the early, seldom encountered First String Quartet by Benjamin Britten, a tense, mysterious composition in a pungently bitter-sweet harmonic idiom.
To the first three of its four movements, Choo has fashioned an abstract but dramatically suggestive ballet for two female soloists and four couples. Thelead women are treated as twins - one is almost tempted to say Siamese twins, because even when they are apart there appears to be an invisible bond linking their movements and expression. The ballet as a whole also stresses the motiff of pairings.
The set and costumes (also designed by Choo), as well as the pale gold lighting, suggest a sort of grotto where in the dancers enact a sensual ritual of attraction and rivalry. The movement idiom goes far afield from the classic vocabulary at times, utilixing the elastic torso and the floor work of "modern danced." Yet there's no feeling of stylistic disunity, and the haunting impact of the ballet was reflected in the ovation prompted by this first performance. Robin Conrad and Julie Miles, both tall and anify incisive, were excellent as the leads.
The revival of Heiden's florid, precious "The Chinese Nightingale" proved a bore, but the performance of Balanchine's "Serenade" was [WORD ILLEGIBLE] did, the compan's most convincing account of this staple to date.