Saying Goodbye to New York in a Series of Intimate Portraits

Published: March 17, 2005

Peter Boal’s chamber ballet troupe is going out in style, in its final season in New York City, with an evening of dance that is intimate, thought-provoking and affecting. On Tuesday night at the Joyce Theater, the program opened with Wendy Perron’s “Finding,” set to music by Philip Glass. Created for Mr. Boal, the solo looks like a window into the soul of one of the most elegant classicists dancing today.


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Ms. Perron’s gift for eloquent simplicity is evident here in slow runs and reaches and extensions for the arms, accented by isolated ballet steps and occasional expressive gestures. Images are projected on the back wall, starting with a large boot and continuing with smaller and smaller images inside the boot, until we see the tiny figure of what might be a dancer. Mr. Boal moved softly and loosely through mostly bluish light. The upward tilt of his head suggested both rapture and seeking. His arms seemed to reach for something close but unattainable.

Purity of dancing has distinguished Mr. Boal, a veteran principal with the New York City Ballet, who will continue there through the spring season, then leave to direct the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. Who cared about acting when he could move like that? Later he began to reach out to unfamiliar, more dramatically expressive styles. “Finding” may be seen as a poignant metaphor for his career and artistry.

Classics survive changing styles of interpretation. Probably no one will ever capture Daniel Nagrin’s searing, knife-edged jazz dancing in “Strange Hero,” a 1948 portrait of a zoot-suited gangster. Sean Suozzi, from City Ballet, moves with the soft roundedness of the classical dancer that he is, though I missed the sharpness and the punch of the final death-throes fall. But Mr. Suozzi created an atmosphere of fear and cool bravado, and his billowing pivots and reversals worked on their own terms.

Edwaard Liang’s new “Distant Cries,” set to blessedly unfamiliar music by Albinoni, is a duet for uncomfortable lovers. It is clear from the start that Wendy Whelan’s character is a loner, a creature of angling, jutting arms and legs that repel intimacy. But Mr. Boal’s introverted character doesn’t seem to want or be able to tame her. The partnering is ingenious. And the promising young Mr. Liang doesn’t just fill the stage with activity. Everything suggests a larger purpose.

The hyperactive “don’t just stand there” approach to choreography so popular today is all too evident in Shen Wei’s new “Body Study III,” a solo set to music by Morton Feldman and Iannis Xenakis. Ms. Whelan travels along an invisible grid, twisting and pushing her arms and legs. Eliot Feld used repetition to give meaning to similar solos. But “Body Study III” doesn’t take activity to another level.

That seems to be a problem with Victor Quijada’s “Soft Watching the First Implosion,” set to Vivaldi and danced by Mr. Quijada, Mr. Suozzi and Andrew Veyette. Nothing much happens in the clutter of blackouts and movement jokes. But while Mr. Quijada’s hip-hop-based vocabulary doesn’t take the dancers anywhere else, it is an interesting and potentially rich fusion of styles.

Peter Boal & Company will perform through Sunday night at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, at 19th Street, Chelsea, (212) 242-0800.