The Washington Ballet performed at Goucher College yesterday with four works that evidenced the stylistic versatility and strong technical expertise of this attractive company.
The highlight of the afternoon was the electric performance of Yan Chen and Kevin McKenzie in the Pas de Deux from "Don Quixote," not the premiere of artistic associate McKenzie's "Lucy and the Count" nor the new ballet "Colorful Fantasies" by Keith Lee.
Ms. Chen is a world-class ballerina, and her magical performance with its daring dynamics welded to her acute musicality proves it. Her lines are crystalline, and she appears to float effortlessly above her intricate and precise footwork. She is strong, yet tender, as she smartly cracked her fan, then fell with abandonment into the arms of her partner.
Mr. McKenzie is a strong and powerful presence. His leaps, spins and difficult turns were smooth and expertly performed. The two dancers were well-matched and turned in a flawless performance.
While Mr. McKenzie's dancing brought accolades, his choreography had a mixed response. "Lucy and the Count" is Mr. McKenzie's dark and Gothic ballet based on Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula."
Unfortunately, the fate of both Lucy and her Count left the audience unmoved. Part of the problem is that we never got to know the heroine. The curtain opens and, bang, we are in the midst of the drama. There is no thematic climax, no gradual unfolding of character to hold our interest. The ballet becomes one-dimensional, a comic book rendition of the often-told tale.
Russell Metheny's terrific and inspired set, which metamorphosed from ship to bed to Gothic battlements, eclipsed the dancing.
The ballet is too compressed and too much action involved the placing of the set. Beth Bartholomew was dramatically attuned to her character. She is a skillful performer. Her attraction to the Count looks visceral. John Goding, the Count, while certainly attractive enough, lacked a certain charisma to bring us his role.
"Colorful Fantasies," an abstract ballet by Keith Lee, closed the program. Set to music by Max Roach and Keith Jarrett, it opens with eight dancers moving in seemingly random response to the tattoo of drum beats. There is a sense of chaos as the movements are quick and mercurial and poses are held for a fraction of a second then snapped into another without any apparent cause or reason. The work takes a sudden turn in the second section where order is created with duets, trios and quartets reiterating the original movement themes.
Mr. Lee is a sophisticated choreographer who understands the value of nuance, and his stylistic blend of jazz, lyrical ballet and funk works undeniably well with Mr. Jarrett's music. Yet the ballet's ending felt unfinished, with no flourish or dramatic punch.