Rhyme is a piece Plotnikov did for Ponomarenko (his wife) and Yanowsky; danced by Heather Waymack and Altan Dugaraa, it retains its mystery but not the intensity that Ponomarenko and Yanowsky gave it last year. It begins in silence, with poses and slow-motion interrupted by blackouts; then the magnificent Largo from Chopin’s Sonata for Cello and Piano starts up, a piece that has salon wallpaper written all over it (like Boris Pasternak’s “White Night,” it’s “witnessed so very many things”), and the pair dance in unison, at right angles, separately, moving as if through water, writing “a poem with two bodies,” as Plotnikov explains it, looking for the rhyme. Like Tsukiyo, the piece tips off its ending, and like Tsukiyo, it benefits no little from the musical performances, by the company’s first cellist, Roland Lowry, and pianist Alex Foaksman.
Elo’s Carmen first lit up (hey, our heroine works in a cigar factory) the Wang Theatre in May of 2006, and even over the two weeks of that first presentation, the choreographer made significant changes. The piece is set to the 45-minute Carmen Suite that Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin, drawing on Bizet’s themes, composed for his wife, Maya Plisetskaya, for Alberto Alonso’s 1967 ballet. The story, Elo told us, had been updated: Carmen was now a supermodel, Escamillo a Formula One driver, Don José a soldier but also a businessman. Little of that was evident on the Wang stage. Shchedrin’s music was like the ghost of Bizet’s opera, and the dancers ghosted through the outlines of Prosper Mérimée’s story, in solos and duets and groups, against Walt Spangler’s bifurcated amphitheater backdrop, which suggested the halves of a bullring.
TSUKIYO Sabi Varga and Lia Cirio explore forbidden love.
But if ever there was an opera made to be danced, it’s Carmen. Mikaela (in Elo’s spelling) comes to the big city to search for her home-town sweetie, Don José. Carmen, to the strains of Bizet’s “Habanera,” seduces all the boys while Don José watches from the amphitheater. Carmen gets into a catfight with a fellow worker; Don José is supposed to escort her to prison but lets her off and suffers the consequences at the hands of his commanding officer, Zuniga. Carmen and all the other ladies fall for Escamillo, Bizet’s “Toreador” getting subsumed in a welter of percussion. Mikaela reproaches Don José. Don José stabs Zuniga. Carmen and Don José fall out. Don José stabs Carmen and is hauled off. Mikaela mourns.
Elo’s Mikaela is a puzzle. In 2006, the role was danced exclusively by Cirio, and she exuded self-pity. That’s still true, but now Cirio’s character is a finger-wagging, hopscotching, hyperventilating little girl who’s come to take Don José back to their childhood. Saturday afternoon Megan Gray made Mikaela into Don José’s winsome, un-neurotic village sweetheart, a girl who could give Carmen a run for her money. Gray was so different from Cirio, you had to wonder what Elo wants.