Daring, indeed. The Kansas City Ballet’s exciting presentation of modern works in its “Dances Daring” program included a wholehearted presentation of George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments.”
The Friday performance in Muriel Kauffman Theatre also included the late Todd Bolender’s “The Still Point” and two present-day creations from choreographers Edwaard Liang and Amy Seiwert.
In his second season, artistic director Devon Carney has expanded the company’s size and the expectations for it, providing a fine balance of contemporary and classical works and consistently high performance standards.
The ballet’s presentation of Balanchine’s nearly 70-year-old masterwork supported its relevance in the repertoire, conveying delight, athleticism, precision and imagination.
Set to music by Paul Hindemith for piano (played well by Samuel Beckett) and strings, the piece expanded and contracted in an organic structure, in keeping with the medieval concept of balancing the four humors, and its significance was indisputable.
Although the work ended with a massive visual impact, it was the excellent solo and duet work (and supporting quartets) that maintained the energy and interest: Liang Fu and Tempe Ostergren partnering and spinning across piano trills; an assertive, strong-limbed Angelina Sansone; Joshua Bodden’s widely leaping, open presentation.
Former artistic director Bolender danced the original Phlegmatic role in 1946. Friday, Geoffrey Kropp took on the sinewy, extensive part that emphasizes the joints.
Molly Wagner and Logan Pachciarz beautifully danced the final movement of Bolender’s “The Still Point,” the only narrative work on the program. Emotionally laden, the work focused on the relationship of their clasped hands, ending in a healing release of tension.
Liang’s “Wunderland,” set to music from Philip Glass, had a quiet, urban quality, as though watched from high and far away. Inventive partnering sequences, though at times imprecise, and captivating poses were matched with rolling harmonies and deep, chiming pedal tones. A patter of falling snow enhanced the atmospheric quality during the second pas de deux (an exquisite Wagner and Fu).
Seiwert’s “Concertino” was cast among these giants. It premiered last fall, a co-commission with the Johnson County Community College’s New Dance Partners, a pretty if overlong work, accented with funky, clever moves.
The string section of the Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Ramona Pansegrua, was generally fine, if overamplified, with the original string quartets expanded for depth and lushness. But the Corelli used in Seiwert’s piece was disappointing and (even allowing for an unnecessary whim of period performance practice) unacceptably out of tune.