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Impressions of: Miro Magloire's New Chamber Ballet at City Center Studios

Impressions of: Miro Magloire's New Chamber Ballet at City Center Studios

Published on February 14, 2017
Photo: New Chamber Ballet

Choreography by Miro Magloire

Music Compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven, Friedrich Cerha, Rebecca Saunders, Ryan Brown, and Michel Galante

Music Performed by Doori Na and Melody Fader

Choreography Performed by Sarah Atkins, Elizabeth Brown, Traci Finch, Cassidy Hall, Gracie Holway, and Amber Neff

Picture above: Cassidy Hall and Amber Neff in Gravity

While the new and the trendy garner the buzz in the dining scene, sometimes nothing beats your local restaurant. Reliable and satisfying, these places have lifelong customers for a reason.

New Chamber Ballet is the dance equivalent of a neighborhood favorite. Now in its second decade, the company presents short runs several times a year at City Center Studios. Shows boast a small but devoted following and a thoughtful, well-articulated point of view.

Like a maître d’, Artistic Director and Choreographer Miro Magloire cares about our comfort and pleasure. He introduces the pieces and, during intermissions, invites us into the lobby for wine and brownies. His friendliness extends into the dances, which are welcoming and easily digestible.

Two women lunge and arch their backs. Their faces look up to ceiling. A woman playing the piano is in the background.
 Amber Neff and Grace Holway in Sunrise; Photo: New Chamber Ballet

This program features five shortish ballets with tiny, all-female ensembles. Fast Forward, a playful romp, quotes from iconic ballets. In Gravity, a trio employs the planes and hollows of their bodies to support each other. The lone narrative, Anna’s Last Day, haunts with a ghost and a grieving woman. Sunrise (a premiere) sweeps between jigging feet and supple backbends. Dark Forest is the only clunker: too dense and heavy.

Magloire was a composer in his native Germany before discovering dance, and he treats the flesh and breath of bodies like instruments. Except for Fast Forward, which is set to Beethoven, he uses music by living composers, whose work may be unfamiliar to dance-going audiences. Skillfully rendered by violinist Doori Na and pianist Melody Fader, the notes grumble with dissonance, moan with soprano pathos, and flutter with silky bravado.

The choreography centers on ballet with sporadic detours of modern floor rolls and jazzy flexed hands. It’s not overtly virtuosic save the odd double pique turn or spiky developpé that standouts Gracie Holway and Amber Neff execute with gusto. The movements, unfolding with and sometimes against the melodies, animate and personalize the music. This is sound shaped.

A woman in a white dress bends her front knee while her other leg stretches behind her. One hand hovers near her tilted face and the other grazes her elbow.
Sarah Atkins in Anna's Last Day; Photo: Jacqueline Lopez

Intimacy appears as Magloire’s chief organizing principle. He situates the audience in the four corners of a large, spare studio to relax the stringent division between stage and house. No one has a bad seat although everyone sees a slightly different performance.

Most striking is the tender familiarity among the dancers. One or two will kneel or recline, their bodies crimped like ribbons, to watch their fellow performers before rejoining. Often, the women clasp hands to assist a penchée (a move where a dancer extends a leg backward and then seesaws her body) or to hoist one another high in the air. Their partnering is gentle, graceful, yet subtly provocative — it’s a rare sight in ballet for women to lift women.

New Chamber Ballet doesn’t perform for us; they perform for each other. We, however, don’t feel like voyeurs. Instead, we’re guests invited into their home to witness harmony and amity in action.

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