New works keep the arts alive. That was true for artist Alexander Calder, inventor of the mobile, and it’s true for the three Carolina Ballet choreographers whose new pieces, based on Calder’s mobiles, premiered Thursday in Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium.
Commissioned by Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art, the ballets complement its current Calder exhibition. The choreographers took inspiration from the motion, balance and juxtaposition of forms in Calder’s marvelous, free-floating creations.
Timour Bourtasenkov, company principal dancer, re-confirmed his reputation as choreographer with “Calderiana,” a 15-minute piece to playful, jazzy works by Mexican composers. Mimicking the shapes in Calder’s “Orange Paddle Under the Table,” Alain Molina in gleaming white and Lilyan Vigo in bright orange coupled into various counterbalanced positions, Vigo often upside down or entangled in Molina’s arms. Four men in black sometimes supported Vigo for more complicated contortions. These arresting combinations were counterpointed by Margaret Severin-Hansen and Pablo Javier Perez as cat figures (based on Calder’s “Chat-Mobile”), teasing and gamboling about. The contrasts of elegance and humor made for an unusual but satisfying work.
Company member Zalman Raffael chose breezy music by Darius Milhaud for his seven-minute piece inspired by Calder’s “The Ghost.” Eight women, representing the mobile’s structure, danced sprightly, repeating patterns, sensuously disrupted with energetic kicks and leaps from Yevgeny Shlapko, representing Calder. Though too slight, the piece had a pleasing airiness.
Duke faculty member and company guest teacher Tyler Walters offered “I Mobile,” based on Calder’s works in general. Set to Sergei Prokofiev’s 20-minute Flute Sonata, 11 dancers filled the stage, walking slowly and randomly, momentarily bursting into individual spins and gyrations, then returning to their walking. Severin-Hansen and Richard Krusch paired for a dazzling pas de deux, and the piece’s final section had vivid energy, but the work often seemed repetitive and academically structured.
When new in 2001, Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s “Carmina Burana” was a brilliantly innovative tale of Wall Street fortunes set to Carl Orff’s popular score, and it still has great emotional impact. Fine dancing and acting, led by Attila Bongar, Melissa Podcasy and Marcello Martinez, kept the production afloat, despite some shaky work from the N.C. Master Chorale and the percussion ensemble under Alfred E. Sturgis.