The men and women in formal French garb flitting about the gardens of Hillwood Museum on Saturday were not overzealous Francophiles, but members of the New York Baroque Dance Company performing as part of the museum's French Festival.
The program included the company's amusing "La Boite de Chocolats," a dance theater piece that enchantingly weaves baroque dance with a story featuring figures of Italian commedia dell'arte, popular in 18th-century France.
As the character Pierrot, artistic director Catherine Turocy guided the buffoonish Harlequin (Nicholas Jumara) and Columbine (Sarah Edgar) as they brought together their vapid master Lorenzo (Timothy Wilson) and mistress Isabella (Caroline Copeland).
Despite Turocy's opening caveat that all but Jumara were dancers first, actors second, the ensemble acted their cartoonish roles well, particularly Copeland and Edgar, who conveyed a feminine superficiality, Copeland's flavored with aristocracy and Edgar's a servile banality. Jumara's antics repeatedly elicited laughter from the audience.
The company performs the intricate footwork and complicated geometric patterns of baroque dance with a rare fullness. In a prologue portraying the states of love, Turocy's slow rise to the balls of her feet seemed to travel up her body, exuding the hesitancy of new love. Copeland and Wilson skimmed so delicately through a partnered dance that the speed required by the accompaniment of Ryan Brown's violin and Andrew Appel's harpsichord barely registered. Edgar showed her finesse as well, sashaying through a lonely duet with a mop as her partner.
-- Clare Croft