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DANCE REVIEW

BoSoma and City Ballet of Boston dance ‘Side by Side’

Set to music from Ottorino Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances," Tony Williams’s “Respighi Variations” has been adapted for this production.Metlicka Photography

“Side by Side” is the brainchild of City Ballet of Boston artistic director Tony Williams and BoSoma Dance Company artistic director Katherine Hooper, and it’s a good one. A program shared by two companies can offer two styles of dancing; it also means that “evening-length,” which these days describes evenings as short as an hour, really is. “Side by Side” runs two hours, with a half dozen new or recent works and one certified classic.

The latter opened Friday’s bill at the BCA’s Wimberly Theatre, City Ballet of Boston dancing José Limón’s 1949 “The Moor’s Pavane” in celebration of the Limón Dance Company’s 75th anniversary. Paring the cast of Shakespeare’s “Othello” down to four characters — The Moor (Othello), His Friend (Iago), His Friend’s Wife (Emilia), and The Moor’s Wife (Desdemona) — Limón condensed the essential action of the play into an economical 20 minutes. The drama revolves around the fateful handkerchief: Othello gives it as a gift to Desdemona, she drops it, Emilia picks it up and lets Iago have it, and Iago shows it to Othello as proof of Desdemona’s infidelity. Limón drew his score from works by Henry Purcell, and he combined ballet with Elizabethan court dance to create a gracious exterior under which suspicion and jealousy seethe.

Staged by Kurt Douglas, a former Limón Dance Company member, the performance Friday was stately in its movement but dynamic in its emotions. Former Boston Ballet soloist Sabi Varga was a conflicted and anguished Othello; Junichi Fukuda, a scheming and insinuating Iago; Ruth Whitney, a vulnerable Desdemona with her usual elegant line. Emilia and Iago actually have the more prominent dancing roles; Naoko Brown made the most of her solo with the hanky and then in her duet with Fukuda where a seductive Emilia teases Iago with it.

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The other two CBB offerings lightened the mood. Set to music from Ottorino Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances,” Williams’s “Respighi Variations” premiered in 1985; it’s been adapted for this production. The six women were sprightly and graceful in decorative choreography that makes only modest demands; Vincent Brewer, as the man they occasionally interact with, might have been more nimble and Puckish. Fukuda danced with Juliet Brown in his own “Spring Is Already Laughing,” which is set to Mozart’s soprano aria “Schon lacht der holde Frühling.” Their sportive salute to spring featured a number of original and difficult lifts, including one where she has to swim with her legs as he carries her around the stage. (“Spring Is Already Laughing” will alternate on the program with Gianni DiMarco’s “Romeo and Juliet Pas de Deux.”)

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The four pieces on BoSoma’s half of the program were all created this year and all by women: Jessica Flynn’s "To Life," Adrienne Hawkins’s “And Miles to go…….”, Johanna Kepler’s “Permission to Evolve,” and Hooper’s “On the Rails.” Each work was danced by six or seven women. The costuming by Jen Greeke put the dancers for any one piece in the same outfit, or variations of it. Hawkins drew on Miles Davis for her score, Hooper from Thylacine’s 2015 album “Transsiberian.” Flynn and Kepler choreographed to a mélange of music.

Each work had a different flavor: Middle Eastern/Asian, with Turkish trousers, for "To Life“; club vibe, with black tops and shorts, for “And Miles to go…….”; meditation, with loungewear, for “Permission to Evolve;” and train travel, with wide-legged blue trousers, for “On the Rails.” There were arresting moments: the shimmying at the end of "To Life“; the sidestepping as a unit in “And Miles to go…….“; the quiet ritual with which “Permission to Evolve” concluded; the way the dancers in “On the Rails” formed railroad tracks. But much of the choreography was as generic as the pieces’ titles, with the women dancing acrobatically and athletically, in unison and mirror unison and canon, interacting briefly and anonymously, in affirmation of shared womanhood and shared humanity.

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Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at jeffreymgantz@gmail.com.

“Side by Side”

Performed by BoSoma Dance Company and City Ballet of Boston. At: Boston Center for the Arts, Friday October 28. Remaining performances: Oct. 30. Tickets $40-$50. Bostonarts.org/experiences


Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at jeffreymgantz@gmail.com.