Ballet of our Times

4.5 stars

Indiana University Ballet Theater

Musical Arts Center

Oct. 10-11

A new ballet by Michael Vernon was the stand out in a program including works by Twyla Tharp and George Balanchine, all superbly danced by a company of 50. Set to text by William Blake and music by Philip Glass (played by the Kutner Quartet and pianist Florence Couvrette-Dupuis), with “Endless Night” Vernon explores our Age of Anxiety, particularly illustrating fixations that keep us from enjoying the gifts of sunrise and sunset, of joyful hope. Tightly intellectual, it is riveting with edgy intensity. Tharp’s 1996 “Sweet Fields” is set to 18th and 19th century hymns, including the Shaker tradition. Danced to the music’s framework of shape notes (sung by the IU Symphonic Choir), the geometric floor patterns and designs move fluidly, melding music with movement in seemingly infinite cohabitation. The sculpting of bodies moving in space is awesome. Balanchine set his 1946 neo-classical ballet, “The Four Temperaments,” to music by Paul Hindemith (played by the University Orchestra with pianist Susan Chou). Pairing the classical elements of earth, air, water and fire with emotions, Balanchine challenged our visions of all by extending classical ballet steps with a lean and angular style we’ve come to call “American ballet.” Throughout the dancers beautifully articulated the signature styles of each choreographer, always exhibiting grace with a sense of musicality and control of body.

 

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