How to remain objective when writing about a company you love, with a choreographer you adore and a dancer you've admired since you first saw him? If you've got a pulse, it's not easy. Especially if the company is Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, which opened NextMove's [cq] 2016 spring season at the Prince Theater Wednesday night.
BJM performed here in 2004 and 2012 and Artistic director Louis Robitaille continues to fill his roster with impeccable dancers. They sizzled to Rodrigo Pederneiras' Rouge, featuring the stellar company with Mark Francis Caserta, dancing to his hometown audience with a luxuriantly sensual vengeance.
Pederneiras (e família) founded another beloved dance company of mine, São Paulo's Grupo Corpo and I worried the Montreal dancers would not be up to his arduous, whiplash style. How foolish of me. The formidable BJM forces stormed the stage in black ankle boots, simple shifts and armbands to music composed by Canada's Les Freres Grand, an homage to traditional Amerindian music. Pederneiras' movement influences range from indigenous to industrial, with signature phrases that include head-snapping, knee-and-heel rocking, C-curving torsos, and tight-fisted arm swings, often in unison. The dancers eddy off into duets and trios that reform into the larger pool flooding the space with an ever-percolating flow of reverse skipping, sliding and slithering along each other's bodies. Brother Gabriel Pederneiras' cathedral-like crimson shafts of light flooded the work.
I first saw Caserta, a South Philly native, up at Freedom Theater in 2009, dancing with Eleone Dance Theatre and barely graduated from the University of the Arts. He stunned me in Fast Alone? [cq] by Gary W. Jeter II (now a BalletX dancer) and who was in the audience along with Pennsylvania Ballet and Philadanco stars to witness Caserta's homecoming triumph. His duet in Rouge with Celine Cassone matched her flame red hair in intensity She'd go limp as a rag-doll in his hands, then he'd yank her up by an ankle or wrist.
In Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili's erotica-suffused Mono Lisa, Caserta exuded a sinister sexuality. He and Cassone danced to typewriter noises, an odd choice for a dance about "the relationship of a modern couple." With Cassone en pointe, this seemed another anachronism. But they so flawlessly performed such daring millisecond timing in tours, jetés, floor-thwacking splits and backward lifts, who could quibble?
In the furiously dark choreography of Greece's Andonis Foniadakis "Kosmos," the bare-chested male dancers excelled to Julien Tarride's drum soundscape. Suddenly, the stage went relâche and a pixilated Seurrat-like video washed over the dancers as they seemed to dissolve in slo-mo friezes. Just magical.