This production runs from May 22-26.

By: May. 26, 2024
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The Washington Ballet’s “Beyond Boundaries, An Evening Curated by Anabelle Lopez Ochoa” is an inspired trilogy of works that challenge conceptions of what ballet is and can be.

A Dancer’s Prayer by Houston Thomas opened the program with force, featuring dancers in black bodysuits with metallic detailing tracing vectors between a clean downlit grid. The reflective silver of the costume, weighted movement quality, and serious facial expressions evoked imagery of mercury and lava, thick and dangerous. 

High-contrast spotlighting was interspersed with strobe and intensified with haze to create an atmosphere of anticipation. The music, electronic and encompassing, composed by Johannes Goldbach, provided subtle but powerful tones through which striking sounds erupted to create a sonic score in a shape not unlike the ocean’s surface. 

The energetic rise and fall of this piece was well choreographed to keep the audience engaged through a significant period of high-intensity action. The conceptual poem, written by Skyler Maxey-Wert, was repeated multiple times during the composition. 

The opening phrase of this poem, “in a moment of contemplation, we turn our gaze inward,” was matched with the same movement phrase each time, providing the audience a centering moment from which to expand thoughtfully into and out of the ideas explored onstage. 

In the second work, Delusional Beauty, we were taken to a more surreal world, different from the last but curious just the same. 

A golden figure with a spherical flower headpiece moves slowly and sinuously towards a two dimensional tree topped with three gold balloons. Dancers move around the two enduring figures, attracted to the power of the flower person and compelled to be close to a loose balloon that appears and travels between hands. 

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Delusional Beauty demonstrates an exemplary use of prop to enhance narrative and create meaning. Like the Dalí it was inspired by, this piece is sublime; a work of fine art in movement.

The balloon has such a compelling and unique slow-motion quality that was complemented so skillfully by the dancers, especially Gilles Delellio. It was simply enjoyable to watch the dancers improvise with the prop and adjust to the small, unchoreographed movements of the floating balloon.  

Chanel Dasilva's colorēm was the standout piece, and ended the show with a lasting image and unanswered question, prompting the audience to remember it long after the performance was over. 

Dasilva's choreography featured a mixture of contemporary dance vocabulary and ballet technique. The stark contrast of the red or gray bodysuits made the formations and unison choreography in this piece visually striking and memorable.

Traditionally gendered partnering roles were performed by all dancers regardless of gender with strength and finesse. It was enjoyable to see the company practice skills and shapes they may not be familiar with. In all instances, I was impressed by the versatility of their talent. 

The inter-group relationship was pressed into a fine point in the connection between Gilles Delellio and Maki Onuki. The expression in their pas de deux felt charged but not romantic, emotionally dynamic in the way that keeps one watching. These dancers performed with the beauty and subtlety that makes people love the ballet. 

The groups of red and gray were not split by gender or any other demographic difference and movement was varied in an equal way. The apparent non-representation of the colors allowed for projection and interpretation of meaning, which I thought was one of the smartest elements of this work. 

I found myself reading the binary in colorēm as political. In Washington, DC during a presidential election year, a clashing of red and blueish-gray instantly brought to my mind political relations on an interpersonal scale. In another place and time, the expressive systematic movements may have reminded me of blood cells or insects. Spinei’s work is a masterclass in the value of the abstract. 

As the final production of the 2023.24 season, I left “Beyond Boundaries” wanting more in the most delicious way. I am curious to see what works the company will present under the direction of Edwaard Liang in his first full season as Artistic Director in the fall, and how The Washington Ballet will continue to evolve alongside and among the arts in DC.

Image by @xmbphotography


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