BWW Review: BLACK DIAMOND by the Danish Dance Theatre at The Kennedy Center

Two masked figures stand over a man lying on the floor. As they begin to dance, the man is swept up into an otherworldly spectacle. Dancers in black capes create a stream of movement across the stage, ushering the outsider and the audience into the strange world of Tim Rushton's choreography.

Black Diamond, performed by the Danish Dance Theatre at the Kennedy Center, is a breathtaking piece. The production is scored by pieces from Phillip Glass, the Balanescu Quartet, Tom Opdahl, and most interestingly, electronic producer Trentemøller. The contrast between pounding house beats and soaring strings, often emphasized by a quick shift in movement, is dizzying. The audience is kept on its toes, never knowing when a graceful variation will give way to a seething wave of dancers.

The detail in Rushton's choreography is exquisite. Dancers hit beats simultaneously using the tiniest of movements- fingers, wrists and toes are as critical to the piece as port de bras and leaps. The company performs it all with great passion and agility.

If there's a story in Black Diamond, it is the outsider's journey as he is explores the cult of masked dancers. A pas de deux filled with repetitive lifts and partner work grows to incorporate three, then five dancers as the pattern builds. A woman presents a glowing orb, instantly entrancing the swarming dancers and turning them into orderly followers. And two dancers dressed in white bodysuits become automatons that perform an intricate, robotic duet. Throughout it all there is a strong sense of movement, with ensemble members constantly moving across the stage.

Charlotte Østergaard's angular costumes and delicate mesh masks are stark and effective. Johan Kølkjær's set features a metallic, faceted drop that changes color under Jacob Bierregaar's lighting. Bierregaar adds to the immersive nature of the piece by tightening focus on featured dancers and washing the company in eerie greens and blues.

The piece's one weakness is it's ending, when the outsider reunites with one of the automatons and frees her by removing her bodysuit. While the last image of the naked dancer is beautiful, it doesn't satisfy. In a post performance discussion, Rushton acknowledged that he had the female and not the male dancer disrobe because he "finds the female body prettier", which left a sour taste in this reviewer's mouth.

Ending tableau aside, Black Diamond is a spectacular piece of dance. If you are able to catch the company in Chicago where the production is headed next, do not miss your chance to enter Rushton's dream world and experience its haunting beauty.

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From This Author Hannah Landsberger

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