The Washington Ballet made its penultimate appearance in its spring series at Lisner Auditorium Saturday afternoon, with a program (repeated from Friday evening) that once again showed the company reaping the fruits of six years of growth. At the moment, the troupe is in prime condition--it has an abundance of dancing talent that can hold its own in a wide span of idioms, as the performances of some new experiments in repertoire helped to demonstrate. And the spirited rapport of the company as a whole has never been higher.
A special treat was a performance of the "Bluebird" pas de deux from "Sleeping Beauty" by Washington Ballet apprentice Bonnie Moore, recent prize winner in Lausanne, and 16-year-old guest artist Pablo Savoye, who took top honors in the same competition. French-born Savoye, now a student at Balanchine's School of American Ballet, is miniature in size, but there's nothing small about his gifts. With his buoyant jump, clear, sparkling beats and proud classical bearing, he is, simply put, dynamite. Moore, all impala limbs and electric pulse, couldn't help but remind one of the New York City Ballet's current Wunderkind, Darci Kistler--they both beam out an unabashed euphoria from the sheer thrill of dancing. Together, Moore and Savoye made quite a storybook pair, youthfully raw in spots but wholly transporting.
Guest choreographer Luk de Layress, a young Belgian with an estimable degree of international experience, contributed a five-movement piece called "Encuentra en la Tarde" ("Late Afternoon") with Latin cafe' music by the Argentinian composer Astor Piazolla. It's skillfully wrought, but it's more atmosphere than anything else. In the main, it gave Amanda McKerrow, Janet Shibata, Simon Dow, Brian Jameson and three supporting couples a chance to slink about indolently, strike insinuating poses and exude sexual voltage. Once the erotic aura is established, however, the choreography just goes around the same circles without making any further points. It was startling, though, to see McKerrow extend her range into sultriness so deftly and easily.
Layress also staged the celebrated 19th-century bout of the romantic ballerinas, "Pas de Quatre," in a version based on Keith Lester's 1936 production. It's a charming, tasteful stylistic exercise, and Shibata, McKerrow, Alejandra Bronfman and Julie Ten Eyck danced it with sweet refinement. But the very nature of the piece as a portrait of legendary prima donnas inevitably underlined their theatrical and artistic immaturities.
The matinee ended with an excellent repeat performance of Choo San Goh's new, stunningly crafted and profoundly affecting "In the Glow of the Night."