Ask anyone in the ballet world how often they see a full-evening, three-part program devoted exclusively to the work of women choreographers, and they’ll tell you that this practically never happens. Thankfully, with the latest UCSB Arts & Lectures’ 2017 dance series, it did happen, with three innovative and refreshing performances by Canada’s Ballet BC on Friday, February 3.
Company Artistic Director Emily Molnar contributed the opener, “16 + a room.” A disciple of Ballet Frankfurt, Molnar favors an edgy, sliding style that makes the most of her dancers’ extreme athleticism. Dirk P. Haubrich’s electronic score combined a steady pulse with samples of industrial noise, including what sounded like a helicopter buzzing the stage. Dancers walked through the action, carrying signs reading “this is a beginning” and “this is not the end,” deployed in ironic counterpoint to the actual time left in the piece.
Crystal Pite’s “Solo Echo” shifted gears musically to a pair of movements using two of Johannes Brahms’s cello sonatas. The dancers continued to explore the rapturous frontiers of expressive contemporary technique, and Tom Visser’s abstract lighting design contributed to an atmosphere of mystery and enigma.
I was blown away by the tremendous inventiveness and kinetic vitality of Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s “Bill,” which closed out the night. Weaving together strands of movement from multiple sources to the pounding throb of Ori Lichtik’s minimalist techno score, the dancers created a stunning series of tableau and ensemble episodes, each with its own character and intention. I loved the stutter-stepping social-dance exuberance of it and can’t wait to see more of this school of choreography out of Israel.