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Sometimes it’s nice when things don’t turn out the way you expect. Like last Friday, when I went to see the Colorado Ballet’s Choreographer’s Showcase, expecting to love Paul Taylor’s Company B, and not expecting anything in advance from the other two performances, Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs and Jessica Lang’s From Foreign Lands and People.
Turns out, I had it backwards from the start. Company B is fun, and I love the swing tunes of the Andrews Sisters, but the ballet itself seemed thin to me, as if the music overshadowed the dancing during most of the songs. Nine Sinatra Songs, on the other hand, was absolutely lovely to watch — due in part to the Oscar de la Renta ballroom costumes, and in part to Tharp’s sensual choreography — and had me ready to go out and buy all of Sinatra’s greatest hits over the weekend. But again, for something billed as a choreographer’s showcase, I wasn’t really blown away by the dancing or the dance movements themselves. If anything, the ballet dancers seem to struggle a bit with the loose style and less formal movements of swing and ballroom dance.
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But Lang’s From Foreign Lands and People? By far, it was my favorite piece of the night. This is what I was expecting from a choreographer’s showcase. Visually stunning, emotionally touching, and brilliantly choreographed, Land uses her four male and four female dancers in a wholly modern and beautiful way, and uses a handful of tall, simple black columns in many ways throughout the dances to further the physical expression of the music. None of the triple bill of the evening is was you might consider traditional ballet, but this particular ballet is one that I would happily see again and again — a future classic, and a wonderful surprise.