In addition to chamber works on pointe by two alumnae (Claudia Shreier and Larissa Koch), the program included Opalescent, a dance for five women in a sort of early-modern-cum-Graham style choreographed by Dance Program director Elizabeth Bergmann. The gently skimming dance patterns were woven into muted chiming and drum rhythms — composed in collaboration with Bergmann by Jody Diamond — for a Javanese-style gamelan built by the American avant-garde composer Lou Harrison. This ensemble of instruments, on loan from Diamond to Harvard's music department, has five sets of tuned bowls and metallophones, drums, violin, and a great gong that hangs in its own frame and is struck with a soft mallet to mark the long intervals of the music.
A certain subdued exoticism about this piece reminded me that the early Ballets Russes shocked and subverted the dance stage at the same time as the American revolutionaries Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan.
The celebrations continue with Boston Ballet's "Diaghilev Centennial" program (May 14-17) and a week of events surrounding a three-day conference at Boston University (May 18-23; www.ballets-russes.com).
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