I don't think choreographer Glen Tetley means to bore us, but it appears to be his lot in life to be forever lusting, in his dances, after Higher Philosophical Significance.
He's never shown that he has the artistic means equal to his ambitions, however, so that more often than not the results look arid and pretentious instead of profound.
His "Pierrot Lunaire" to the celebrated Schoenberg song-cycle of the same title, which American Ballet Theatre has now adopted for its repertory (the company seems positively addicted to Tetley in recent years) and which was given its local premiere at Kennedy Center last night, is a case in point.
Created in 1962, the work helped build Tetley's reputation and was widely performed by various companies. In retrospect, however, one suspects it sustained itself mostly through the cachet of Schoenberg's revolutionary score, a few striking, grotesque images, and an aura of depth psychology.
Strip away the trimmings, though, and you've got quintessential Tetley-subject matter in anxious quest heavy meaning; elliptical dramatic suggestions clear neither in outline nor intent; movement that is a drab, eclectic mixture of Graham and academic ballet; and the inevitable, painfully commonplace sexual overtones, from phallic symbolism to splayed crotches to graphic couplings.
To be fair about it, much of the imagery-of mad ravings, despair, blood-lust-and Rouben Ter-Arutunian's decor, with its cubist spiderweb, answer well to the spindly, nightmarish perversities of the music. And the three characters-Pierott, the clownvictim; Colombine, tease and strumpet; and Brighella, the nemesis-death figure-are reasonable personifications given the song texts.
But the choreography itself is a dead weight. The imagery is displayed but never developed in any arresting way, and once you've gotten the general idea, the rest seems to drag on interminably with the same shaped and dynamics.
All the same, it would be difficult to imagine a more intense, finely turned performance than the one dancers Greogry Osborne, Lise Houlton and John Meehan provided, and the score was expertly set forth as well.