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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Dance Review

Sleek steps from José Mateo Ballet Theatre

CAMBRIDGE — With its current program, “In the Mind’s Eye,” José Mateo Ballet Theatre presents two of Mateo’s sleekest, most contemporary ballets, created just one year apart. It can’t be a coincidence that both are driven by the repetitive rhythms of music by minimalist icons (Terry Riley and John Adams). Both ballets are relatively abstract, moving large ensemble groups through eye-catching patterns, with just a hint of fragmented stories and fleeting relationships emerging.

Riley’s colorful “The Cusp of Magic” for string quartet and pipa sets the tone for Mateo’s 2009 “Streams.” This 2007 score is a far cry from the composer’s early, more propulsive music and weaves a gentler magic, incorporating references from a variety of traditions, including Chinese, Northern Indian, and American jazz and blues. And Mateo, while never fully letting go of the classical ballet vocabulary, responds with movement that twists familiar steps slightly out of shape, adding weight here, subverting line there. Poses coil and cant, taking balance off axis, and directions shift in a heartbeat.

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