State Street Ballet Presents ‘Modern Masters’

Company Performed Seven Contemporary Dance Pieces at the New Vic

Kathee Miller

This exciting evening of short works showed the range of State Street Ballet in its current incarnation, moving confidently from classical pas de deux to large ensemble works in experimental contemporary idioms. The first half featured two choreographers with strong ties to the company — co-artistic director William Soleau and Montreal-based Edgar Zendejas — and a relative newcomer, Kevin Jenkins, who participated in Modern Masters last year. “Flirting,” the new Jenkins work, used classical music by Beethoven and Grieg to send its yellow-clad cast into paroxysms of head bobbing motion. While Jenkins has a gift for representing social experience, this piece felt somewhat less finished than the French-themed work he showed last season.

An excerpt from Zendejas’ “Spartacus” pitted Saori Yamashita against four male suitors — or were they opponents? Scored to Khachaturian, the fragment of a larger work made an effective curtain raiser. The highlight of the first act was William Soleau’s 1984 duet “Isle,” as danced by Deise Mendonça and Francois Llorente. Mendonça was sizzling in this beautiful and passionate piece.

Following the intermission, another duet, “J and L/In Tandem” by Nancy Colahan and featuring Leila Drake and James Folsom took an entirely different approach. Closely synchronized footwork and powerful videography by Andrew Yew combined in a mesmerizing vision. Cecily Stewart’s “Reverie” came next, performed by nine dancers and featuring the live piano of Stephen Kelly. Eight of the dancers were greeted and launched into the playing space by the ninth, a mysterious catcher figure who guarded this dream realm. Once inside the reverie, the four pairs rolled and riffed along to Kelly’s rhythmic, bluesy interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah.” The overall impact of this strongly conceived segment was ravishing.

Autumn Eckman’s contribution, a solo titled “Electra” set on dancer Amara Galloway, delivered the charge promised by its title and received some of the evening’s loudest and most enthusiastic applause. In the finale, “Fold” by Kassandra Taylor Newberry, a cinematic sensibility merged with extreme athleticism as the dancers executed cascading waves of spectacular movement featuring rolling chairs and a special rolling table. It would be a treat to see an evening length production of work by this astonishing artist.


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