The newest program by the Washington Ballet, given two performances at Lisner Auditorium this past weekend and slated for two more next weekend, left an overall impression of a company in transition. Both the program itself -- devoted entirely to works by resident choreographer Choo San Goh -- and the execution illustrated present strenghts and shortcomings. The dancing, for example, showed that depite the troupe's concrete progress of recent years and its distinctively youthful verve, there's still a gap to be bridged between promising provincialism and professional authority.
As the program once more confirmed, Goh's choreography remains the company's single most rare and valuable possession. But, granting his fundamental craftsmanship, his native flair and his hitherto solid achievement, one sees also that Goh himself has much growing still ahead of him, as his newly premiered "Destined Farewell" plainly indicates.
In a sense, Goh is still testing the waters of his own individuality, even though most of his work already bears a highly personal imprint. "Destined Farewell," set to the "Four Last Songs" by Richard Strauss, finds him grappling with the problem of fusing abstract form and dramatic content. Four women in veils, collectively representing "Fate," attend the birth and upbringing of the central male figure (John Goding), and then lead him in turn through three emotional encounters, with a young Girl (Amanda McKerrow), a First Love (Lynn Cote), and his fatally stricken Wife (Julie Miles). The last song recapitulates these experiences, as the man joins his trio of amours behind a translucent scrim of oblivion.
The ballet, though, doesn't succeed in establishing a viable demarcation between implicit and explicit narrative, between poetically suggestive and crassly specific elements. In moving closer than any previous Goh ballet to outright storytelling, "Destined Farewell" becomes too simplistic in its characterizations and overly schematic in design. The "plot," moreover, is too trite to support the poignancy Goh strives to wring from it. Hence, the results come perilously close to self-parody at times, despite the generally sympathetic portrayals by the principals, especially persuasive in the case of Julie Miles.
Nevertheless, this is just the sort of experimentation Goh should be undertaking, if he is to put his expressive ideas on firmer dramatic footing, and given such ventures, both he and the company stand eventually to gain from them.Also on the program were the lyrically charming but overextended "Variations Serieuses," and the propulsive "Fives," exciting despite a rather labored performance.