Christian Holder's one-act ballet, "Coup d'Estoc," was the lighthearted centerpiece for the Washington Ballet's program Saturday night at Goucher College. Based on the 18th century novel, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," Mr. Holder's condensed ballet smartly unraveled the complicated plot of genteel seductions and revenge with attention to character.
"Coup d'Estoc" ("Thrust of the Sword") was visually attractive and featured first-rate dancing. Yet there was an annoying abundance of pantomime. While "Coup d'Estoc" needed more than average character work for the audience to understand the mechanisms of the dance's plot, the work felt more acted than danced. Instead of a deeper exploration of character that would naturally occur in a pas de deux, it seemed that whenever John Goding and Julie Miles, or Yan Chen or Francoise Thouveny began a serious interlude, another character made an entrance.
Ms. Chen's character, Cecile Volganges was terrific in her innocent curiosity and enthusiasms. Ms. Thouveny as Madame de Tourvel was a marvelous blend of smoldering passion and overt religious devotion, and Ms. Miles was a superbly glacial Marquise de Merteuil. Despite a few plot inconsistencies, the ballet was entertaining in its farcical manner.
The evening opened with the recently reworked and retitled "Dumky Variations" to the soulful music of Dvorak. Choreographer Ray Barra has breathed life into this abstract and romantically evocative ballet for 10 dancers in which memories of past loves flutter by like so many leaves.
"Birds of Paradise," by Choo Sand Goh, closed the evening. To music by Alberto Ginastera, the company expertly danced this work with its ever-changing riffs of energy.