GRAPEVINE - It's impossible to overstate how much better live music makes the performing arts.
It's true with musical theater, and most definitely with dance, especially classical ballet. While you probably won't hear a full orchestra with our major professional ballet company for who knows how many more years, the newish outfit Avant Chamber Ballet is taking up some of the slack with new works and fine musicians in a chamber set-up.
The dancing might need a bit more polish than was seen Saturday night at Grapevine's tiny LifeStage Theater, and nothing transcendent emerged in the choreography; but it was solid work by well-trained dancers, and greatly enhanced by the presence of those musicians, who come from Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera Orchestra, Dallas Wind Symphony and other groups.
First up was Francaix Marelle, a jaunty 10-minute work set to Jean Francaix's Divertimento for Horn and Piano. David Cooper, of the DSO, played French horn, and Konstantyn Travinsky was on piano. Choreographed by artistic director Katie Puder, formerly of Metropolitan Classical Ballet, it fit the mold of a divertissement, light and airy and with not too challenging choreography. Aside from some minor bobbles, it was a spirited way to open the evening.
Prelude, co-choreographed by Puder and solo dancer Yulia Ilina, this even shorter work showcased Ilina's lanky, angular limbs and severe look, as Travinsky accompanied on Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E Minor.
Puder's Colloquy ended the first half on a strong note, with Puder and Madelaine Boyce dancing together, and separately, in the six movements of Ligeti's Six Bagatelles. With a range of emotion and strong technical dancing, it would have been the highlight except that on opening night, an audience member had a seizure, which obviously messed with the dancers' concentration. (911 was called and they arrived just in time for intermission, and took the man in an ambulance.) What was most memorable was the wind quintet, sounding fantastic on a difficult work. Oboist Kelli Short deserves special mention.
The program closed with the six-movement Italian Suite, also by Puder (all four works were premieres), set to Stravinsky's Suite Italienne, played by Travinsky and violinist Angela Fuller. Making smart use of the entire company, notably soloist Brittany Bollinger, it show Puder's knack for symmetry and clean lines. However, the entire program in general could have used a little more flash in the choreography.
But what was there, and especially when joined by live music skillfully played, proved that Avant is a company to keep an eye on.