A festive atmosphere surrounded the first night of State Street Ballet’s Modern Masters program at the New Vic. Dancers from Chicago and Detroit joined the Santa Barbara–based company for three of the seven works offered, and for one of them — Meredith Harrill of Visceral Dance Chicago — the visit was a return, as she was until recently a member of State Street Ballet (SSB). The evening kicked off with the world premiere of Laurie Eisenhower’s elegant composition “As We Always Have.” Filled with glorious lifts and churning with energy, this substantial new work set the tone for the rest of the program.
Next came another new piece, this one a duet choreographed by SSB’s Cecily Stewart and danced by Stewart and James Folsom. Charming and elegiac, “Wake” represents a new, more introspective stage in Stewart’s development as a dancer and a dance maker.
“Moonlit” by Joshua Manculich used the offbeat rhythmic patterning of Joni Mitchell’s song “A Case of You” as the point of departure for a splendid duet featuring Lindsay Chirio-Humenay and Matthew Schmitz of Eisenhower Dance Detroit. “Verbatim,” by SSB dancer Arianna Hartanov, paired some wonderfully familiar music by James Brown, Nina Simone, and the Beatles with spoken-word tracks exploring the vagaries of masculine identity as 10 dancers performed intricately expressive movements.
After the intermission, two spectacular duets, one by Autumn Eckman and the other by Nick Pupillo and featuring Meredith Harrill and Morgan Williams of Visceral Dance Chicago, swept the audience forward to a wild crescendo with the final piece, Kassandra Taylor Newberry’s effervescent “(Con)versions,” a tour de force for the SSB company.