Switching effortlessly between highly stylized classical ballet to more contemporary forms of movement, dancers from Minnesota Dance Theatre (MDT) show off their range at the Lab Theater for the company's fall concert.
The performance — which includes Lise Houlton's staging of Marius Petipa's 1898 "Pas de Dix" from "Raymonda," Jose Limon's "The Moor's Pavane" and two new pieces by company member Helen Hatch and MDT founder Loyce Houlton's granddaughter, Elizabeth Houlton — proves that while the dancers may have the chops to take on the most demanding works of the canon, they can also hold their own in a more modern style.
Hatch, whose work "Traces" makes its debut as part of the show, shines as a dancer in all three of the other pieces.
In the "Raymonda," you watch her float in the air like a winged sylph in the arms of Sam Feipel, but later she gets plenty sassy in her Hungarian dance-inspired solo.
Hatch also alternates with Carlie Clemmerson as the moor's wife in Limon's Othello-inspired courtly dance, and on opening night, she showed off her vulnerability in the role.
Hatch shines in Elizabeth Houlton's captivating "Close Quarters in a Large World," in which she performs along with Solana Temple, Jeremy Bensussan and Feipel.
In the work, the four dancers, dressed in white-collared shirts and black pants, appear to be trapped in a confined location — perhaps some ship in outer space, or maybe a submarine deep in the ocean.
The sense of being trapped is accentuated by Marcus Dilliard's lighting design, which literally boxes the dancers in a square of light.
The dancers' movements are idiosyncratic, erupting from their hips and their cores, shooting out energy in strange angles, but with a mechanical, emotionless attitude.
The piece is also decidedly nongendered, despite a cast of two men and two women.
Unlike the other works in the show — and indeed in much of ballet and even a lot of modern dance — here the dancers are bodies surviving in the absence of masculinity or femininity, grasping instead for a semblance of humanity.
Hatch's choreography bears some similarity to Houlton's work in its stark, almost dystopian mood.
The dancers appear as a kind of wandering tribe, breaking out of the herd occasionally to explore their individuality and personal relationships.
Ezio Bosso's Philip Glass-like score adds to the piece with a sense of melancholy ennui.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts writer.