It is nothing if not audacious to pair Mozart and Beethoven for choreographic treatment. The audacity is heightened when the choreography features the hip displacements and angularities of the modernist vein.
In his "Scenic Invitations," Choo San Goh and the Washington Ballet proved last night at Lisner Auditorium that bravura of this kind can bring rewards. One of Goh's most ambitious and fascinating works to date, "Scenic Invitations" places him as a movement inventor rather than mere manipulator--that bane of much contemporary ballet choreography.
"Scenic Invitations" found its power in the simplicity of its vocabulary. Goh's choice of gesture was such that movement done in canon or simultaneously seemed to increase by multiplication rather than by simple addition. Magically, the stage appeared filled to overflowing by 12 dancers performing the most subtle postures. Stressing frieze-like, two-dimensional movement for the corps, Goh created startling images of arabesques done in tandem that unfolded like kaleidoscopic pictures. A striking trio for Janet Shibata, Brian Jameson and John Goding was a refracting mirror of delights in its intertwinings.
Like the Mozart-Beethoven venture, Goh's "Due Pezzi Sacri" was startling in its accompaniment--sacred music by Verdi. Again, the bold undertaking succeeded stunningly. Simplicity and restraint were the watchwords here. As bold and bright as is Verdi's music written for ballet, his "Sacred Pieces" are soft-colored and sublime. Religious music is almost unheard in ballet, but Goh again showed himself capable of a daring enterprise. Shibata's ethereal Mary and Goding's Christ figures were Michelangelo made plastic; the beauty and torment of the "Pieta" informed this work. However, Goh's Mary was ultimately transfigured by her agony rather than crushed by it.
Next to these Goh offerings, Gray Veredon's 1981 "Facets" seemed particularly innocuous. This unresolved and enigmatic psychodrama posed Shibata as a still figure in the midst of anguished activity. While providing Alejandra Bronfman and Bonnie Moore with some lovely passages in which to shine, "Facets" was finally unsatisfying in its frustrated fruition and ungainly lifts.
As satisfying as Goh's choreography were the company's dancers, who continue to gain strength and authority with each season. The strikingly lyrical and pliant Bronfman is striving for the mature solidity of Shibata. A particular delight in her solo passages in "Invitations," Lynn Cote continued to gratify in her generous extensions and articulate arms. Moore's willowy suppleness and innocent beauty were pre-Raphaelite in effect. Her arabesques were soaring paradigms.