Carolina Ballet’s program Thursday night offered two works that pushed the boundaries of classical technique and a lovely piece, strictly within tradition, by which to measure the others.
Guest choreographer Christopher Stowell, artistic director of the Oregon Ballet Theatre for nine years, staged his highly acclaimed 2009 “The Rite of Spring” to mark the centenary of Igor Stravinsky’s iconoclastic score.
“Rite” originally was about sacrificial rituals but Stowell takes a universal approach that examines society’s insiders and outsiders, creating a chilling view of humanity. The minimalist setting by Michael Mazzola, revealing the back wall and side entrances with no masking, employs three cloth walls that move to create various spaces. The score is a two-piano arrangement by Anatoly Larkin, who plays it live, along with Tad Hardin, creating appropriately mysterious percussiveness.
Six couples, the women in red unitards, the men in red shorts, dance robotically inside a boxed-in space. One couple begin a combative pas de deux, the woman encouraging the man to leave the group. Another couple in black appear from a gathering of outsiders, gesturing with oddly angled arms. The pair later return in red, now accepted into the group. The first couple are pulled back to the group (into a mesmerizing tower of writhing dancers) but the woman bolts, left alone at the end.
On Thursday, Lara O’Brien and Marcelo Martinez were riveting as the first couple, while Lindsay Purrington and Richard Krusch added steely character as the second couple.
Company dancer Zalman Raffael’s “A Street Symphony” uses hip-hop’s strong rhythms and insistent lyrics for vignettes that purposely fuse classical steps with contemporary body language. The piece generated much humor, especially in the hands of Margaret Severin-Hansen and Yevgeny Shlapko, but the dancers needed more individual characterizations and variation of steps to successfully combine the two cultures.
In between, company artistic director Robert Weiss contributed one of his most beautiful creations, set to Richard Wagner’s “Idyll.” Three couples in white waft effortlessly in a dappled glen, building their romantic pairings perfectly to the music’s surge. Thursday’s cast (Lilyan Vigo, Timour Bourtasenkov, Margaret Severin-Hansen, Gabor Kapin, Jan Burkhard, Pablo Javier Perez) demonstrated the quality of the company’s principals.