Kansas City Ballet’s New Moves created a succinct glimpse of the now and future of dance with eight world premieres on Thursday.
From choreographers emerging on the national field to first-time creative voices from within the company, this was a collection of thoughtful, engaging works from smart, young dance-makers, presented in the intimate confines of the Michael and Ginger Frost Studio Theater at the Bolender Center.
Five were choreographed by current or former KCB members. This cohort was joined by Andi Abernathy and Stephanie Ruch, a Kansas City-based sister team, and Yury Yanowsky and Gabrielle Lamb, both working at the national level.
With no sets or props and only minimal costuming, the creativity fell entirely to images created by the choreographers and the company dancers, with nothing to distract. Lighting by Amy Taylor was the one technical necessity, adding dimension and definition to each piece, most set to classical instrumental selections.
The Kansas City Ballet Second Company performed a fine addition to KCBII repertory from former KCB member Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye. It demonstrated the power of precise ensemble work, showed off strong maturing performers in the solo/duo sections with elongated movements and indicated a keen sense of gesture and accent.
Lamb’s “A Thousand Several Ways” was set to modernized versions from Henry Purcell. With a frequent motif of placing a dancer’s head onto another’s hands, the work used a series of arresting forms as the dancers touched and shaped each other with reactionary movement in seamless motion, achieving a state of recognizable allusions yet remaining ambiguous in message.
“Grasping,” from Abernathy and Ruch, had a confrontational intimacy as the dancers challenged each other, grabbing and moving each others’ bodies: lifting, pushing, shifting. There was threat and vulnerability, particularly in the effective iterations of a pointing gesture.
Yanowsky’s wide-ranging “Peregri-Nation” was searching and experimental, featuring muscular back-turned ensemble sequences and inventive gestures (the sharp angles of the arms nearly geometric), displaying frenetic phrases and contrasting partnering: some tense, some empathetic.
Contrasting to these heavy and complex themes was James Kirby Rogers’ “A Ruckus Recess.” The ensemble, decked with red noses on the men and deer antlers on the women, cavorted with a variety of gestures and expressions in a detailed mix of crude and elegant phrases in slapstick precision for an irreverently playful work touched with absurd and welcome levity.
First-time works from Michael Davis and Molly Wagner examined the nuance of relationship, with a playful female duet in Davis’ “Keep” and a pursue/resist pairing in Wagner’s “Inveterate,” a more conventionally balletic work, accompanied live by Ramona Pansegrau playing Chopin on piano. Gustavo Ribeiro, one of KCB’s newest members, began and ended “Tempestades da Vida” (Storms of Life) with a powerful ensemble gasp, individual moments breaking out amid the swirling group.
New Moves is an important opportunity, especially for these novitiates, to have the encouragement and support to develop a separate creative scope, and an interesting opportunity for the audience to see these artists in a new perspective.
Further performances will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Go to kcballet.org for ticket information.