What struck one most forcibly about the Washington Ballet's program at Lisner Auditorium this past weekend, opening a new season with the company on the brink of its first New York appearance, was the staying power of the choreography of Choo San Goh, the troupe's assistant artistic director.
The program ended with "Double Contrasts," created in 1978 -- a particularly prolific year for Goh -- to Poulenc's "Concerto For Two Pianos." It remains one of the choreographer's boldest, most brilliantly realized conceptions, and seeing it in performance again was a further reminder of the ingenuity, musicality and structural elegance which have drawn Goh into the national limelight.
Leading the platoon in black were Joanne Zimmerman, an appealingly svelte guest artist from the Dutch National Ballet, and the fully recuperated Simon Dow their opposite numbers for the ensemble in white were Amanda McKerrow, an extremely promising youngster just upgraded from apprenticeship this season, and her partner John Goding. All 12 dancers captured the urbane scintillation that Goh has so cannily distilled from the glitter of Poulenc's score.
The program also introduced an interesting but flawed "Othello" by 24-year-old Lambros Lambrou of Canada's Alberta Ballet. The plot is lucidly set forth in mime and gesture, and the ballet, making a nice dramatic contrast with Goh's abstract pieces, gives Dow the chance to display his splendid acting ability and dance technique in the role of Iago. Iago, however, is the only compelling character Othello (in a wan portrayal by Goding), Desdemona and the others are pallidly drawn, and without Othello's heroic nobility, the tale loses most of its potency.
The music, moreover -- thin, rhythmically monotonous little Renaissance and pseudo-Renaissance court dances -- locks the choreography into tidy banlities that ill befit the tragic subject. Lambrou shows taste and facility in this ballet, but not the depth demanded by his chosen theme.
Opening the program was Goh's 1976 "Introducing . . .," his first work for the Washington Ballet, composed as an affectionate tribute to the then-fledging troupe. The work's witty charm has eroded a bit with the transfer to a new generation of dancers, and the newly inserted cigarette business is a crude mistake. Still, the ballet is a clever and enjoyable confection and the performance gave fresh evidence of the potential of young soloist Hilary Canary.