DALLAS If you caught Texas Ballet Theaters mixed repertoire performance in Fort Worth last month, well, you saw what looks to be an early front-runner for dance production of the year. The companys Dallas edition, however, with two of the three works seen in Fort Worth, pales in comparison.
For one, the performance that opened at Dallas City Performance Hall on Friday doesnt have the companys magnificent performance of Kenneth MacMillans Gloria easily the best thing the company has staged in years.
Also, Ben Stevensons Liza Minnelli tribute, L, doesnt feature the three live musicians playing Don Lawsons all-percussion score, as it did in Fort Worth. L does still have an excellent all-male ensemble doing some showy ballet moves, again with Phillip Slocki as a standout.
What both concerts share is George Balanchines moonlight-kissed Tchaikovsky-set Serenade, again showcasing the company in excellent form. Balanchines technique those arms! is executed with pinpoint precision. The final view of Carolyn Judson as the Waltz Lady, lifted by three men and carried off as she stands perfectly vertical, is stunning.
The replacement for Gloria is the premiere of Clann, by the companys principal dancer, Carl Coomer, his second ballet as choreographer for TBT (his first was Evolving in 2012).
Inspired by a Seamus Heaney poem about an Irish woman whose body is found after she committed adultery, the ballet is set up in a series of scenes, not necessarily linear, featuring the lively Gaelic music of viol player Jordi Savall and harpist Andrew Lawrence-King.
There are visual references to traditional Irish dance, including step dancing and jigs, but the movement is decidedly grounded in ballet technique.
It might be a ballet to appreciate more on subsequent viewings not quite a home run, and bearing the mark of a young choreographer trying to find his voice and define his movement vocabulary.
A couple of scenes featuring bare-chested, tattooed men in kilts brim with testosterone, as if portraying warriors on a mission. The women dont get such exciting choreography. Lucas Priolo, playing the husband, is the standout, especially in two comic scenes, with terrific physical control, as his character tries to heal with a bottle of booze. Really? A drunken Celtic man isnt going to sit well with the PC police.
Although it isnt straightforward storytelling, Coomer has a knack for narrative architecture. The whole is easy to understand. As a dancer with this company, he obviously knows the talents and limits of his fellow dancers. He doesnt take it easy on them. High standards are important for any choreographer who wants to be taken seriously.