Saturday evening I had the pleasure of escaping the City for some fresh air and dancing by American Repertory Ballet at Raritan Valley Community College. The evening featured work by Kirk Peterson and world premieres by Matthew Keefe and Mary Barton.
The show opened with “Fantasy for Violin, Piano and Ballet,” a new work by Matthew Keefe. The curtain rose on a formation of 22 dancers dressed in white that looked like it belonged in Les Sylphides or Giselle. A confident display of classical lines and technically challenging musical interpretations was soon juxtaposed with cute and quirky gestures. Keefe’s choreography got more witty and daring as it went on with unexpected comical references. The dancers executed both the more and less classical movement with a charm that made the piece thoroughly enjoyable.
“The Eyes That Gently Touch” by Kirk Peterson was reset for ARB by Company Director, Douglas Martin. Philip Glass’ score was performed live on stage by Jonathan Benjamin. The piece featured three pairs of dancers each with an extensive, intimate pas de deux and transitions between each with the full group. Repetitive themes gave cohesiveness, yet each duet had slightly different modifications and personality despite the repetitive music. The dancers managed impressive partnering and complex manipulations, however, I felt the piece was unsuccessful at procuring the larger emotional response which it seemed to be aiming for.
Last on the program was “Straight Up with a Twist” by Mary Barton. As promised by the title, Barton delivered a fun, dynamic movement quality that matched the jazzy music perfectly. My only complaint was the costumes—pastel unitards with gold Arabian or Grecian-like headbands that did not seem to match the stylish dancing. Overall, the dancers’ evident enjoyment of the movement made for a pleasing end to a consistently danced and delightful performance by ARB.