The dancers (Romi Beppu and Yury Yanowsky, Rie Ichikawa and Lorin Mathis, Kathleen Breen Combes and Raul Salamanca) could have been any ordinary courting couples. Schubert’s lullaby/funeral march prompted no death forebodings or sexual anxiety. Thoughtful, but not moved, they strolled out to Schubert’s tranquil closing chords.
Helen Pickett kneaded the classical line into sinuous curves and sexy seductions in Eventide, a formal dance for five women, five men, and a female ensemble of 10. Three musical selections by contemporary composers (Michael Nyman, Jan Garbarek, and Philip Glass) drew on Indian and Indonesian sounds as well as the driving pulse of post-minimalism.
Eventide began in some hermetic, exotic locale, perhaps a harem, with an electric guitar rummaging through ideas you might hear on an Indian sitar, extravagant red swags hanging at the sides, and a line of women along the edge of the stage. Wearing little besides panels of silvery fabric, the women face away from the audience to where Kathleen Breen Combes seems to be getting ready to entertain a male suitor. I wasn’t sure who she danced with, but as soon as the first man left, the other four appeared ceremoniously. The ballet continued as an extended exposition of its resources and hierarchies.
The principal men and women dance alone and in combinations that get remixed before you grow too attached to them. The corps women reassemble prettily around them. The setting changes twice — the red drapes disappear and the background goes black, then a large busy abstract painting drops down.
By the time Glass’s music starts to play (Meetings along the Edge, a rewrite of the last part of Glass’s score for Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, with a pseudo-Bach line running over the top of it), the dancer forces begin collecting into a quite conventional ballet wind-up. I never did decide where or when all this was supposed to be taking place. Fortunately, I guess, the audience wasn’t let in on Pickett’s baffling list of sources, which included Edward Hopper and e.e. cummings.
Jorma Elo’s new work, In on Blue, had a less symmetrical and even more swiftly shifting cast — three women, four male principals, and a corps of six other men. Elo’s musical pastiche sandwiched two of Eugene Ysaÿe’s million-notes-to-the-bar violin sonatas (played by Michael Rosenbloom) between globs of creepy movie music by Bernard Herrmann. Lighting designer Mark Stanley took Elo’s title seriously, enveloping the ballet in an impenetrable layer of cobalt, with only occasional glimmerings of sunshine.
When it began, shadowy dancers were whirling through an inky space. We could see nothing at first but vague disturbances and sparks set off by what turned out to be chunks of silver in the women’s hair. When actual bodies could be distinguished out of the murk, there were men scampering around and women locked in doll-like poses. I thought immediately of some enchanted toy shop where the Coppélias and Tin Soldiers come to life in the middle of the night. But their alternate selves proved to be all wound up and maybe not so nice.
Released from their spell, they partied, looking a lot like the hyperactive dancers in Elo’s previous ballets. Not only the men but the women spent a good deal of time spinning in the air. Various cavaliers stopped streaking across the room long enough to partner the mannequins, but the light was so dim and the encounters so brief that it didn’t seem to matter who they were.