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Dance Review

Much to relish from Ballet BC at Jacob’s Pillow

Members of Ballet BC in Emily Molnar’s “To this day.” Christopher Duggan

BECKET — It was stirring to hear Jacob’s Pillow Dance’s director, Pamela Tatge, during her curtain speech for Ballet BC on Wednesday night, affirm the importance of embracing the internationalism of the dance world. (The BC stands for British Columbia.) While the three works on Ballet BC’s program this week are by four choreographers from three continents — the company’s artistic director Emily Molnar, as well as Sharon Eyal, Gai Behar, and Medhi Walerski — the dances in many ways share not only a common language (an athletically rubbery, kinetically articulate movement vocabulary) but often, the works share even the same accents.

This physical universality is a unifying sign of our global times, but there’s an ocean of difference between similarity and sameness; this evening’s one weakness is that there are several almost identical compositional motifs. The impact lessens with each iteration of these nearly uniform moments.


Individuality is, however, amply supplied by the dancers themselves, and there is, in fact, much to relish in the three works, particularly in the program’s bookends. In their 2015 “Bedroom Folk,” Eyal and Behar push daringly at the potential boundaries of repetition. To Ori Lichtik’s spare but cunningly hypnotic score, the dancers spend long swaths of time in tight clusters, drawing from a movement palette that expands teasingly slowly. In unison the dancers take tiny shifting steps, sharply cock their heads, bounce their shoulders with minute shivers. Looking uncannily like a school of exotic fish, they move with magical deftness into new groupings: Lines form and dissolve as the movements develop, the dancers either picking their way forward and back on forced arches or shuffling sideways in wide second-position pliés. When, finally, dancers begin to jump or move with expansiveness, it feels like a glorious surge after an eerie calm. When the group does travel about the stage, it is often with a breathtaking seamlessness, now like a swooping flock of birds. The piece walks a fine line; it nearly crosses into robotic coldness, but maintains a hypnotic, sensual cool. Thierry Dreyfus’s lighting underscores the mysterious tension throughout.

Molnar’s new work “To this day” is set to the unmistakable sound of Jimi Hendrix’s always-visceral guitar and sexy, spare vocals. Much of the look is right — James Proudfoot’s hazy, evocative lighting is both mellow and trippy — but the choreography’s dynamics are ultimately too modest overall. The buttery floorwork in some of the brief solos is delicious, and there are many wonderful individual moments from the cast, but at some point the piece runs out of steam as Molnar, apparently, runs out of ideas. The dancers are sent running helter-skelter, then sliding in socks across the stage, over and over again, but momentum fails to build.


Conversely, in the closing piece, Walerski’s 2011 “Petite Cérémonie,” a momentum does build, but with a charming slyness. Channeling Pina Bausch here, Ohad Naharin there, “Cérémonie” is, like its snippet-filled score (faint, lovely traces of Bellini at the beginning, then lovely bits of works by Mozart, Rodgers and Hart, and Vivaldi) a series of little scenes that could easily fall apart. Handsomely costumed by Linda Chow, the dancers alternate between ensemble sections filled with (like “Bedroom Folk”) little step/touches side-to-side, hands and arms forming strange but expressive shapes, and intimate duets, some of which hint at combat, others at love. It’s a bit ridiculous, at times — a man juggles while chatting to us, the dancers manically move large white cubes about the stage — but endearingly, purposely, winkingly so. For all of the quirky humor, there’s also a sneaky streak of deep, sighing beauty.



At Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, through Sunday. Tickets $35-$78. 413-243-0745,

Janine Parker can be reached at