"Double Contrasts," a new ballet to the music of Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, further buttresses Choo San Goh's reputation as a choreographer of exceptional craft, resourcefulness and imagination.
The new work, given its premiere by the Washington Ballet at Lisner Auditorium yesterday, exhibits the by now familiar Goh traits of unfaltering musicality and ingenious design. At the same time, like the previous five ballets Goh has created for the company, "Double Contrasts" quickly established a visual and thematic identity of its own.
The dualism of the musical score is reflected not only in the constuming - a pair of lead couples in black and white, each backed by a similarly attired ensemble of four - but also in oppositions of gender, dynamics and spatial alignment. Poulenc's atmosphere of boulevard chic, moreover, pervades the dance imagery. The women strike stylized poses suggesting boutique mannequins, and the languid romantic passages evoke the smart-set amours of the Astaire movies. A backdrop effect of glittering specks (designed by Goh) adds a further touch of suave nocturnal glamor.
Groups of dancers elegantly mingle, cualesce and divide again into new configurations, while the sinuously flexing forms of the individual dancers lend a kaleidoscope of plastic emballishments. There's a sense of cool sophistication about the whole ballet, as if love was an exercise in haute couture.
Madelyn Berdes, James Canfield, Maya Larson and John Goding were splendid as the lead couples; the other eight dancers caught the spirit but, as yet, not quite the flashing speed of the choreography, which calls for constant lightning shifts of rhythm and shape.
Also on the program were fine performances of Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco"; Salvatore Aiello's "Sola" (a solo for Patricia Berrend, who needs to reach for a bit more fluency); Kevin McKenzie's romantic pas de deux, "Essay," featuring Terry Lacy and the remarkably deft Caroline Iura; and Goh's earlier "Untitled," still one of his strongest, most inventive compositions.
At the Publick Playhouse Saturday night, the Murray Spalding Dance Theater offered six works, five by dancer-choreographer Spalding and one by another Washington, John Bailey.
Spalding uses the term "theater" in the title of her group advisedly; she has a pronounced gift for theatrical conception and effect, ranging from absurdity to surrealism. The problem is she appears unable to take her ideas beyond the idea stage. The actual choreography is so limited and colorless that the dramatic concepts are neither sustained nor developed.