The first flakes of snow that fell on the Twin Cities on Friday night didn’t seem to stop Minnesota Dance Theatre from bringing a bit of spring to their fall concert. The company’s repertory piece, “Boccherini Dances,” choreographed by late founder Loyce Houlton in 1984 to the courtly music of Luigi Boccherini, feels like a spring romp.
The piece requires huge amounts of technical skill from the three pairs of dancers performing it, while also emitting a graceful airiness. Boccherini’s music has a complex structure, with lots of repetition and variation, as does Houlton’s choreography. It’s satisfying to watch the three pairs diverge, switch partners, and come back again, with each pair getting moments to shine with dazzling lifts and falls. There are a couple of times when the three male performers dance together, all of which are quite fun.
MDT’s fall season features two world premieres. The first is “The Gateless Gate,” by Alanna Morris-Van Tassel, who shows herself adept at molding groups of bodies in movement in the Lab’s vast space, and at playing with tempo, juxtaposing moments of slow motion and stillness with sudden sprinting breaks.
Throughout, there is a ritualistic tone and an emphasis on healing through touch.
At the heart of the piece is the poetry of Baba Louis Alemayehu, who decries nationalism, greed and neglect of the environment. “For the Earth to live, America must die,” his voice says over the speaker.
Morris-Van Tassel goes to a lot of different places in this work as it travels from early 20th-century composer Ralph Vaughan Williams to the percussive sounds of Trinidad and Tobago’s Keron Keith. The dancers keep up, for the most part, switching quickly to different moods and senses, but do seem slightly out of their element in the last section set to Caribbean music.
After intermission was a short piece called “Unbound,” choreographed by Jennifer Hart in 2002, which features six young female dancers in bright red capes, recalling author Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The evening closed with the company’s second world premiere, “Critical Rave” by Zach Manske. If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like to see ballet dancers on pointe performing to techno music, this will give you some idea. Yes, it’s a strange juxtaposition, but it works. Manske’s aesthetic is taut and angular, with a pop. There are a few moments of surprise as the dancers burst occasionally into tableau in this darker piece.
Sheila Regan is a Twin Cities dance reviewer.