I began to think of Larissa Ponomarenko as the benevolent sprite and Melissa Hough as the mean fairy — for no reason I can explain now except that Hough made fierce gestures and jumped like a man, and Ponomarenko seemed to levitate even though her arms and legs kept twisting the wrong way.
My longing for a unifying concept was ruined when Elo introduced a lot of floorbound movement that made me think of fish or seals. With their legs seemingly immobilized, the men’s group dove onto their stomachs and propelled themselves with their arms. The other dancers caught this crippling idea like a virus, and by the end of the ballet there were whole progressions of people flopping across the floor. A toy shop 20,000 leagues under the sea?
I’ve never thought ballet needed plots, heroes and heroines, or even master metaphors. But the “Next Generation” evening left me grasping for a lifeline. I’m not against novelty at all; in fact, in these works novelty was limited to applying ingenious quirks and torques to classically programmed movement, and in increasing the speed and quantity of the trickiest tricks in the lexicon. Aside from that, the old-fashioned ballet conventions remained in place. There’s got to be more to the future than the spectacle of gaudier and gaudier soulless cyberbodies.
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