Butler Ballet Midwinter Dance Festival
Michelle Jarvis, artistic director
Clowes Memorial Hall, Feb. 12-13
An ambitious program, a part of Butler's campus-wide, year-long Mahler project, the evening built to Antony Tudor's ''Dark Elegies.'' Set to music by Gustav Mahler (Kindertotenlieder), "Dark Elegies" is still one of the most unusual ballets with its grounding in ballet yet looking like modern dance. Though plot-less, it's clear this is a community mourning the loss of children, and though the reason is not apparent, the dancers conveyed Tudor's emotional richness. They equally mastered Tudor's dynamics, which requires moving within Tudor's daring frame of reference for "form follows function," fusing Mahler's dense music with equally dark lyrics to bring us into a community working its way out of unspeakable loss. Donald Mahler was on the Butler campus to serve as Repetiteur for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust. Tong Wang served as rehearsal coach. Costumes, based on Raymond Sovey's original design, and lighting by Laura Glover, added to the idea that "Dark Elegies" evokes universal mourning. The program opened with a reprise of the start of the Mahler project, "Outside," a Movement Choir choreographed by Cynthia Pratt beginning in the Atrium of Clowes Hall and moving to the stage for "Inside Now Again" as a "piece of abstract visual art." Stephan Laurent set his flowingly elegiac "Farewell to the Singing Earth to an abstract of Mahler's "The Song of the Earth." Susan McGuire's "Little Blue Devil" delivered glowing vignettes to Gunther Schuller's musical "Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee." Derek Reid created his own unique dancerly voice to "Age of Innocence" to ragtime music by Joplin, Bolcom and Lamb. All in all a showcase of the best qualities of Butler Ballet.