Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven features Arvo Pärt’s music—the bell ringing is chilling. The overhead lighting is ominous, and the dancers, in sleek unitards, greys and whites, are conspicuous, exposed. Dove’s dance, complete with motifs, such as weight shifts in second position, or rapid leg extensions, is exciting to watch. Although the dancers’ faces may appear cold and serious, the rest of their bodies—arms, legs, torso—are beautifully expressive. Lesley Rausch, in particular, astonishes with her precision and balance. Her extensions, one after the other, comprise a soulful soliloquy. Cecilia Iliesiu, a technical master, stuns with her articulation. But it is the sensuous pas de deux of Christopher D’Ariano and James Kirby Rogers that is mesmerizing—not just for the achingly slow slides to the floor or the other committed moves, the virtuoso spins and fluid phrasing, but for the breathtaking chemistry between the two. They dance as if sharing the same breath, revealing a vulnerability that is almost unbearable to watch. Vulnerable, too, is the women in their strong pas de trois—Raisch, Iliesiu, and Amanda Morgan. All six dancers, including Dylan Wald, are monumental talents
Jessica Lang’s Ghost Variations, set to music by Robert Schumann and Clara Schumann, is a striking piece. Danced by Christopher D’Ariano, Elle Macy, Lucien Postlewaite, Dylan Wald, Leta Biasucci, Kyle Davis, Angelica Generosa, and Elizabeth Murphy to the solo piano of Christina Siemens, it is wonderfully creative, playing with front- and back-lighting, discordant music, and a lot of dance moves. Each dancer offers something a little different—Postlewaite, his utter confidence, his joyous musicality; Generosa, her spryness and ballon; D’Ariano, his remarkable stage presence; Macy, her lithe moves; Wald, his deep emotive presence; Biasucci, her precision; Murphy, her extraordinary technique; Davis, his unstoppable, articulate dance—all in such a technically-demanding piece. The women (Macy, Biasucci, Generosa, Murphy), especially, are a huge presence in this ballet. Strong and daring, watching them you think this is what dance is really all about.
The Personal Element, with choreography by Alonzo King and music by Jason Moran, opens with Cecilia Iliesiu maneuvering her foot in all possible directions on pointe and extending her arms and legs, too, trying to throw herself off balance. The eight dancers (Iliesiu is joined by Elle Macy, Amanda Morgan, Miles Pertl, Lucien Postlewaite, Lesley Rausch, James Kirby Rogers, and Dylan Wald) then test their balance, as well. They find their respective partners, and the pace quickens as the dancers perform separate duets on stage. Some of the pieces are frenetic, and some painstakingly slow. Either way, the dancers push their limbs through the air as if making a huge effort, compelling to watch. Sensitive partnering, quick-paced moves, and many well-timed lifts give these dancers a lot to do here, showcasing their enormous skill. Josh Archibald-Seiffer delivers the amazing solo piano.