The Washington Ballet packed Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium Saturday night with fans hungry for ballet. Artistic director and founder Mary Day satisfied everybody with her company's first-rate , dancing and with a program of three solid works by George Balanchine, Nils Christie and Choo San Goh.
Opening the evening was Balanchine's "Serenade" to "Serenade in C major for String Orchestra" by Tchaikovsky. It is the first ballet Balanchine created in the United States, and it remains the epitome of modern classical style. While the ballet is plotless, and takes its cues from the swooping score, there are many small dramas that occur within its four movements, and the total effect is a work that is both serene and mysterious.
In "Serenade," the corps de ballet is the piece's backbone, as the united discipline of familiar and elemental movements dominates the dance.
When the curtain parts, seventeen women are staggered in short diagonals across the stage, one arm raised demurely. As the music swells, they begin to move in small groups that eventually give way to solos.
The solo roles, attractively performed by Julie Miles, Anita Pacylowski, Francoise Thouveny, Christopher Doyle and John Goding, balanced the ethereal images of the corps with clean and soulful dancing.
Following "Serenade" was "Danses Concertantes" by Nils Christie, with music by Igor Stravinsky. This ballet for six men and six women is a series of energetic duets. Mr. Christie's work plays with relationships, offering colorful sketches of the flirtatious, the romantic, the supportive and the fickle ways of men and women.
Stylistically, the choreography is full of quirks and oddities, and the company took up the challenge with ease. Notable performances among the duets were those of Runqaio Du and Anita Pacylowski with his wonderfully centered and powerful turns and her mercurial vivacity, and Ms. Thouveny and Mr. Doyle with their excellent timing, fine lines and strong musical acumen.
The well-known "Fives" by Choo San Goh closed the evening. The start was shaky (several dancers looked as if they weren't quite warmed up), but the dance soon boiled over with stunning percussive movements and all the exhilaration that ballet fans crave.