Ballet has traded its tutus for hashtags, projections, and rock music in #albatross. Through three short works, MOVEIUS Contemporary Ballet presents us with a program which redefines ballet as diverse, connective, and deeply resonant.
The first work, The Lorelei, the Albatross, and the Pine Tree, opens in a wave of dissonant sound and a chorus of words. Choreographed by Olivia Sabee with the dancers (Rachel Bade, Dustin Kimball, Melissa Lineburg, Diana Movius, Catherine Roth, Shelley Siller, and Tyrone Walker), the piece interprets Coleridge’s canonical poem, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in an abstract, complex, and multifaceted composition.
Running 27 minutes, this non-linear work is set in turns to excerpts from the poem itself, critical texts by Heinrich Heine, and a selection of German songs. And, like Coleridge’s “Mariner,” this piece is structurally multi-layered, incorporating different types of movement—ranging from the playful to the forlorn–aligned with each of the soundscapes. It seems an exercise in modes of translation, from one time to the next, from one language to another, from written word to gestures of the body. More than either of the subsequent works, the many dimensions of The Lorelei, the Albatross, and the Pine Tree at times feel disorienting, the crude recordings and harsh changes in light distracting from the performers. It’s a bold move on MOVEIUS’s part to lead with the most challenging of the three pieces, and it serves as an apt introduction to the concert as a whole.
There will be no rows of synchronized swans, no nutcrackers or dolls come to life. In fact, there will be no distinct plots. And that’s exactly the point. The work MOVEIUS is doing far more relevant, innovative, and topical to the audiences of today.
In a complete change of mood, the second work, Viduity (which means widowhood) offers a meditation on grief and loss. Constantine Baecher’s choreography, which premiered in 2007 by New York’s New Chamber Ballet, shows a stunning fluidity of movement interrupted by pangs of tension, physical interruptions that catch a gesture off guard and halt forward motion.
In long, backless gowns, the four dancers (Carrie Denyer, Melissa Lineburg, Catherine Roth, and Shelley Siller) remain solemn as widows, formality and loneliness permeating every move. The piece juxtaposes absence and presence, darkness and light, to explore the many dimensions of grieving. Breathtaking and somber, Viduity finds the beauty in pain, and vice versa.
Choreography by Melissa Lineburg, Constantine Baecher and Olivia Sabee
at Lang – Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Details and tickets
The choreography (Melissa Lineburg, Carrie Denyer, and Shelley Siller) relies on traditionally balletic movements, with each of the five dancers (Carrie Denyer, Erin Fitzgerald, Melissa Lineburg, Catherine Roth, and Shelley Siller) breaking in their pointe shoes and flying through impressive combinations that flaunt the dancers’ technique. But one need not know anything of ballet to appreciate the message here. By fusing stylistically classical elements with ultramodern projections and contemporary music, this work underscores the happy coexistence of old and new, traditional and modern. It asks of the audience to not forget one’s origins. It incites the viewer to probe for heart and substance, in whatever the medium—art, friendship, technology.
Overall, #albatross demonstrates (and celebrates!) how ballet can forge effective and topical connections between an old medium and a new world. It is a well-executed and personal evening of dance. If you’ve been put off by ballet’s perceived formality, this is a performance that will make you reconsider.