So many good things of so many different kinds took place during the "Evening With Jean-Pierre Bonnefous and Patricia McBride," presented Saturday night by the Goucher College dance department at Kraushaar Auditorium, that it seems incredible in retrospect that it only lasted an hour or so. Not that the show didn't ripple along at a brisk pace -- among other virtues in evidence, the evening was admirably well coordinated by Chrystelle Bond and Jane Ward Murray of Goucher.
The occasion was billed as a "lecture-demonstration-performance," and it was all that and more. The principal focus of attention, inevitably, was on the celebrated husband-and-wife ballet couple named in the evening's label. Both have been stars of the brightest magnitude in the New York City Ballet, and dancers favored by the creative genius of George Balanchine. Bonnefous, 39, who retired from dancing two years ago following a debilitating series of injuries, has launched a new career as a choreographer. McBride dances on as one of the most notable luminaries of the NYCB, and frequently guests elsewhere.
Bonnefous' choreography was represented on the program by a pair of works that testified to his striking craftsmanship, facility and individuality. One of these, "Sinfonia," set to music by the 18th-century composer William Boyce, was created in three days for a group of workshop students, and it proved an absolute sparkler. The vocabulary is purely classical, but Bonnefous -- who said he wanted to make a "jazzy ballet on point" -- has managed to infuse the material with a fresh musicality, charm and invention very much his own. If this is what he can do with students of limited technical means in three days, heaven only knows what he has up his sleeves for the future.
Also shown was an excerpt from his "Madrigal," a pas de deux to Purcell's "Dido's Lament" that captured the melancholy of the text without the merest trace of bathos -- it was beautifully rendered by two students from Balanchine's School of American Ballet, Julie Michael and Peter Boal. I've seen a handful of earlier Bonnefous ballets elsewhere, and it's clear this is a man with a prodigious flair for choreography -- why scouts in the field aren't barraging him with requests, in these days when good new ballets are as scarce as quill pens, is a mystery.
McBride danced three solos Balanchine has made for her across the years -- "Pavane," from the '75 Ravel Festival; a "Harlequinade" solo; and "Fascinatin' Rhythm" from "Who Cares?" She was touchingly doleful in the first; a fetching soubrette in the second; and dazzlingly quick and sexy in the third. At 40, she has the slenderness, the agility and the magnetism of a teen-ager, but also the unmistakable sophistication of a mature artist -- a fabulous combination.
No less marvelous in their way were the students who served Bonnefous both in the lecture-demonstration portion of the program and as his "instruments" in the ballet "Sinfonia." Ranging in age from 12 to late teens and drawn by audition from Goucher itself and six other Baltimore-Washington area dance schools, they reflected both precocious talent and splendid training; they worked together, moreover, with the rapport of veterans.
The event -- free of charge to the public -- and the workshop that preceded it were made possible by the Elizabeth B. and David Allan Robertson Lectureship Fund; this was money extremely well spent.