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Washington Ballet earns warm reception


"Momentum," by the late choreographer Choo San Goh, was a fitting way for the Washington Ballet Company to open its run at the Kennedy Center this week. Under the artistic direction of Mary Day, the troupe revved up with one of its favorites, set to the lush score of a Prokofiev piano concerto. Then the troupe expertly soared through works by resident choreographer Lynn Cote, South African artist Ntsikelelo Cekwana and renowned choreographer Graham Lustig.

Ms. Cote's world premiere of "Nexus, n: connection, link" was bolstered by the live performance of original music by Maritri Garrett and Shana Tucker, and a dynamic set of diagonal hangings contrasted by a rope-wrapped bar that paralleled the floor. Ms. Cote's images of dancers pairing off and reassembling at the bar were at times overworked -- yet the dance did convey the sense that the barre is a connecting element for dancers.

Elizabeth Mertz and partner Peter Stark set off sparks in Ms. Cote's "Icare," which was created for the Helsinki International Ballet Competition. Ms. Mertz, who received third place in the competition, is a precise dancer who conveyed sensuous exoticism. Ms. Cote's dance, with its twisting contours set to the music of Rene Dupere, gave an obvious nod to company mentor Choo San Goh.

"Brother, Brother" was the winner of the first prize for choreography at the Helsinki Competition. Performed by Mr. Cekwana and company member John Goding, it was a beautifully expressive and haunting work. Set to the "Gloria Magnificat" by Vivaldi, the dance fused traditional movement with classical poses.

The unison movements and the amazing physical feats of Mr. Cekwana and Mr. Goding brought a deservedly warm response from the audience.

Graham Lustig's witty and inspired "Transit" took the troupe to its final heights. Mr. Lustig chose complicated musical selections by Conlon Nancarrow as the dance's armature, and cleverly hung his eight dances on its quirky rhythms. Again we were treated to Peter Stark's admirable dancing as he partnered Jeanene Jarvie in a delightful duet that blended elements of the tango with more mundane, yet artfully performed, movements.

This company is filled with newcomers, but all deserved the warm reception of the audience.

Washington Ballet

When: 7:30 p.m. today; 2 p.m. matinee today and Sunday

Where: Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

Cost: $30

Call: (202) 467-4600

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