Washington Ballet in Jiri Kylian's hypnotic "Petite Mort"
It’s only been a year, but one can already see the influence Julie Kent has had on the Washington Ballet. This fine company, now in its 72nd year, has attractive dancers, excellent choreography, and likely thanks to the inimitable Kent, a solid feel – one that could take it from regional ensemble to one of the more important ballet institutions in our country.
It would be fitting as it does represent our nation’s Capitol. And it is representing it well as the finale to the Jacob’s Pillow season. The 30-member company is offering a knockout program of three works Jiri Kylian’s mesmerizing “Petite Mort,” Alexei Ratmansky’s delicious “Seven Sonatas” and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s playful “Sombrerisimo.”
Kylian’s work instantly takes in its viewers with its tableau – six men balancing swords on their fingers and six women, motionless and lurking in the dark background, in black, baroque-style gowns. Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major KV 488 awakens the men. They swipe their blades through the air, swing them around their feet and necks like a majorette toying with her baton. Danger hang heavy in the air.
And then in a flash, they grab a stage-size cloth that obscures the scene. As they draw it back, the women are out of their dresses, the swords are gone and a series of formal but unexpected pas de deux unfold. Kylian transports his audience to another dimension – a place where men and women, wearing now corset-like costumes, are clear in their social roles, but willing to break with the norm.
All of the duets are hypnotic, but Brooklyn Mack and Ayano Kimura are especially alluring. Their connection is real and therefore lending their dance an authenticity that capture every eye in the audience.
And this is where the influence of Kent, who danced every dramatic heroine and classical role in American Ballet Theatre’s repertoire, comes in. She was the ideal ballerina, what a prima is suppose to be all about. She was not just a dancer who could perform tricks, but one who infused meaning into her steps. And she is sharing this knowledge, ingrained in the fibers of her body and soul, with her dancers.
The dancers demonstrate their cohesiveness once again in “Seven Sonatas,” a series of Russian-inspired dances to music, played live, by Scarlatti. With pianist Glenn Sales onstage, the dancers gambol with counterpoint and solos and duets that are joyful and windswept. Gian Carlo Perez and Sona Kharatian duet is the exception. Ardent and tender, it is the beautiful, romantic heart of “Seven Sonatas.”
The evening ends with the boisterous “Sombrerisimo,” an all-male dance that allows the guys to cut loose and show a less serious side to the company’s persona. With six men and six bowler hats, the dance tickles with high-flying moves that add up to a delightful diversion.
Lastly, there is one more reason to love Washington Ballet. They have dancers of color – something I’d love to see more ensemble strive for.