“Astounding!” “Absolutely amazing!” “Superb!”
One could hear these exclamations abounding in the lobby of the Knight Theatre this past weekend after the North Carolina Dance Theatre’s season opener, “Limitless.” And indeed the performance deserved all of this praise; it was exhilarating, provocative, lively and even flirtatious at times. Featuring three different ballets, “Blue Danube,” “Shelter” and “The Groove,” “Limitless” captured traditional ballet at its best and the expressive, challenging qualities of contemporary ballet.
“Blue Danube,” choreographed by Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and set to music by Johann Strauss II, was the most classical of the three ballets. It showcased the entire company in a series of divertissement, pas de deux and pas de trois that were lively and cheerful. “Blue Danube” contained something for everyone with young lovers, rival suitors and a finale waltz immersed in the music.
“Shelter” choreographed by Sasha Janes expressed the varied forms and significance of relationships. Explaining the piece, Janes wrote “within the shelter of each other we fully live.” The billowy skirt like pants the dancers wore almost seemed a metaphor for the power of sheltering relationships. At times the pants were freeing and the dancers would flutter them like wings, while at other times the pants were constraining, hindering the dancers’ movements.
The final dance in “Limitless” was Dwight Rhoden’s “The Groove.” Set to 1980s house music, the ballet conveyed a Chicago or New York club scene with ecstatic dancers determined to groove the night away. The choreography was edgy, at times hard and almost over choreographed, but it always maintained an exhilarating pace. In fact, between the music and the dancers’ movements, the audience felt inspired to tap feet and clap hands. It is to Rhoden and the dancers’ credit that ballet often thought of as formal and technical could convey so strongly the spontaneity and euphoria of the club dance scene.