A compendium of temperaments, techniques and talents underscored Sunday evening's performance of "A Gala Evening of Ballet" at Wilde Lake High School as part of the 10-day Columbia Festival of the Arts.
American Ballet Theatre stars Amanda McKerrow, along with her dance and life partner, John Gardner, Dance Theatre of Harlem principals Christian Johnson and Donald Williams, and Pennsylvania Ballet soloists Lisa Sundstrom and Scott Jonovich were the featured dancers in this program of contemporary short ballets and well-known classical excerpts.
The electrifying performance of Ms. Johnson and Mr. Williams in Glen Tetley's "Dialogues" was just one of the highlights in a program that delighted the audience. This duet to the powerfully charged music of Alberto Ginastera was specifically created by Mr. Tetley to display this couple's magnificent sense of timing and strong vibrant technique. The power of the dance is the polarization of the couple. There are no shades of gray in this work. "Dialogues" is a conversation and a power struggle. At one moment Ms. Johnson is solid steely strength, in the next she charges across the space, only to be improbably supported by her partner.
The closing pas de deux from "Le Corsaire" was also performed by Ms. Johnson and Mr. Williams. Here a nearly flawless performance of the ballet favorite was wildly cheered by the audience, which was obviously taken with Mr. Williams' fine barrel leaps and Ms. Johnson's regal demeanor.
Ms. McKerrow and Mr. Gardner danced Anthony Tudor's "The Leaves Are Falling" and the adagio from "Swan Lake, Act II." Ms. McKerrow is a brilliant dancer whose wonderful technique becomes an extension of the dance. There is nothing false or artificial in her performance. She has the rare ability to dance from within. As she bends like a willow in "Leaves" or swoons in the adagio, the technique is only the vehicle by which she reveals the complex shadings of character.
Mr. Gardner evinces fine control, especially in "Leaves," where his delight in dancing with Ms. McKerrow only served to underline his virtuosity.
Lisa Sundstrom and Scott Jonovich not only opened the evening with the grand pas de deux from "Sleeping Beauty" but offered Balanchine's pas de deux. Ms. Sundstrom is an ice queen, with a crystalline technique. Her foot work is superb and her technical skills are finely realized. Mr. Jonovich is musically elegant and presented an equally regal presence.