The Glass Project

The music of Philip Glass in the three works of Ballet Austin's program provided more thread than theme

Exhibitionism
Courtesy of Tony Spielberg

Dell Hall at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside
Feb. 15

A common composer, like a common choreographer, is a thread but not a theme. Each of the three dances on Ballet Austin's Philip Glass program, all choreographed by Artistic Director Stephen Mills, was contextually self-sufficient. But wasn't there a thesis, an overall takeaway? Maybe: I sensed resignation in the ballets themselves, though there was unanimous resolution in the dancing. And though all three works benefited from deft yet innovative lighting by Tony Tucci, they were hampered by costuming that seemed misdirected.

The first work, "Liminal Glam," is aptly titled: It's neither here nor there and illusorily attractive. Without underlying substance, the "glam" in this 2008 romp for seven couples is already fading. Set to a recording of Glass' Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra, the dancers, cold neoclassical pinups and cavaliers, seemed to look for luxury in the wrong parts of the music. In Susan Branch Towne's teal costumes wrapped with day-glo spirals, the women bouréed to jiggle their Frisbee tutus, while the men did their best to match the regal in the music despite their cartoonish unitards.

Costuming also seemed to manhandle "CARBON53," the premiere that ended the program. Accompanied by recordings of Steve Reich's Clapping Music and Pendulum Music (the latter the result of the feedback sounds that result when suspended microphones are allowed to swing back and forth over speakers) and Glass' Songs for solo cello, the piece was a study in ash-white and charcoal for the 18 dancers encased in Monica Guerra's severe, long-sleeved leotards. A bar of white light crossed the backdrop like the lamp of a copier, tracking a line of dancers that dropped off and picked up members of their cohort with each return. Duplication and the carbon cycle suggested a choreographic cycle in which there is nothing left to be discovered: Each element of contemporary and neoclassic ballet was reused and will once again be recycled.

Yet this fatalism was relieved in the middle work, Mills' 2010 "Angel of My Nature," especially in the central section, which has malachite hues (innocuous leotards chosen by Mills himself) and a subterranean mood. In "Liminal" and "CARBON53," the dancers were strong and slick; "Angel" allowed them to explore richness and depth, too. In duos and trios, they amalgamated in organic vignettes, curious and welcome diversions from arrow-straight manipulations and overt athleticism in the other dances. Austin Chamber Music Center Artistic Director Michelle Schumann was there to play the music, piano pieces by Bach and Glass. Conjecture: Perhaps it's the (once again) return to the piano, that humble instrument that coaxes the ballet dancer's body awake to the art in daily class, which makes for the depth, care, and focus of this piece.

READ MORE
More Austin dance
Jonelle Seitz's Top 10 Brave Dance Artists of 2016
Jonelle Seitz's Top 10 Brave Dance Artists of 2016
The year revealed how much courage and inspiration can be found in Austin's masters of movement

Jonelle Seitz, Dec. 30, 2016

The Theorists' <i>Hiraeth</i>
The Theorists’ Hiraeth
A sprawling evening of art and community organized by Amy Morrow and company showed the challenge of editing in our age

Jonelle Seitz, Sept. 23, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Renaissance Austin's <i>My Big Fat Bahookie</i>
Renaissance Austin’s My Big Fat Bahookie
Lorella Loftus' really funny new play preaches that everybody's got back, and that's just great

T. Lynn Mikeska, April 28, 2017

The Phantom of the Opera at Bass Concert Hall
The Phantom of the Opera at Bass Concert Hall
This new touring production makes a grandly restaged, compelling tale of thin source material, with a chandelier drop that still thrills

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 28, 2017

More by Jonelle Seitz
2017 Austin Dance Festival
2017 Austin Dance Festival
This year's showcase of two dozen dances proved how Austin's dancing has risen to the level of its dance making

April 7, 2017

<i>Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees</i>
Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees
In Sharon Marroquín's new dance, we are all gnarled and heliotropic

March 24, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Glass Project, Austin dance, Ballet Austin, Stephen Mills, Philip Glass, Susan Branch Towne, Tony Tucci, Michelle Schumann

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)