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Whim W’him: Ballet 6.0 at the Joyce Theater….

August 15, 2013
Andrew Bartee & Vincent Lopez in Olivier Wevers’ Monster, Whim W’him

Andrew Bartee & Vincent Lopez in Olivier Wevers’ Monster, Whim W’him. Photo: Bamberg Fine Art

The Joyce Theater’s Ballet 6.0 is a unique festival at that has been running from Aug. 6th  and continues till Aug 17th. With Ballet 6.0, the Joyce Theater has gathered six small companies from around the United States that are pushing the envelope in regards to the expected of ballet. The six companies selected have or will be presenting works that range from Neo-classical to the Contemporary.

The Seattle-based company Whim W’him, founded in 2009 by former Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Oliver Wevers, describes itself as both “entirely classic and entirely now.” The company presented three works on Aug. 12th and 13th, all choreographed by Mr. Wevers, Monster in 2011, Flower Festival and The Sofa in 2012.

Monster is a triptych in three duets, Society, Addiction and Relationship. It is an intriguing work that asks the question what is a monster and what does the word conjure. Seattle rap artist RA Scion wove chilling poetry with a compilation of music by Max Richter, Alva Noto and Ludovico Einaudi.

Lucien Postlewaite & Melody Mennite in Olivier Wevers’ Monster, Whim W’him

Lucien Postlewaite & Melody Mennite in Olivier Wevers’ Monster, Whim W’him. Photo: Bamberg Fine Art

The each of the three duets was beautifully danced, but it was the duet between Melody Mennite and Lucien Postlewaite that was emotionally rocking. Ms. Mennite was anguished and torn, wrapped in a love that hurt. Mr. Postlewaite would leave only to return, his fist in his mouth, afraid to speak or afraid of the words that may come out. Ms. Mennite would run and throw herself into Mr. Postlewaite’s arms, sometimes from trust and sometimes from an unhealthy need. Excellent performance by both dancers……….

The pas de deux from August Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano is part of a one-act ballet created for Denmark’s Royal Ballet in 1858. Set to a score of by Edvard Helsted and Holger Simon Paulli, it is a charming love duet and a sacrosanct piece of ballet history. The pas de deux is often performed in Ballet Competitions and can be found in the repertory of some of the world’s greatest ballet companies.

Oliver Wevers’ Flower Festival is a slight reworking of that classic pas de deux. Two men, Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite, come on stage wearing business suits, each dragging a chair to their perspective corners like a pair of prize fighters. In a show of manliness, each tries to out dance the other, often with witty and engaging choreography that had me smiling ear to ear throughout.

Lucien Postlewaite & Andrew Bartee in Olivier Wevers' Flower Festival, Whim W’ him.

Lucien Postlewaite & Andrew Bartee in Olivier Wevers’ Flower Festival, Whim W’ him. Photo: Bamberg Fine Art

Andrew Bartee’s comedic timing was perfect and his ability to stretch his leg up to heaven created long lines that just added to everything. Mr. Postlewaite’s response to Mr. Bartee’s silliness was to be somewhat insulted at his obnoxious behaviors.

This is a genius of a work, Mr. Wevers’ witty choreography and musicality blend here into the perfect marriage. He dissects the pas de deux, especially the partnering and then reassembles it in the most unexpected of ways. Partners move each other, maneuvering the other by their foot or with arms around their waist while the other is off-balance and fighting to regain it.

My only problem with the duet is that I had expected a stronger ending to the piece. It has been so strong that at the end, instead of a grand moment it seemed to just fizzle out.

Mr. Wevers’ The Sofa set to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 was another quirky and delightful romp. The music brings to mind the great symphonic ballets as a purple velvet sofa is lifted, carried and rearranged by six dancers who acts as a Greek chorus.

Yuka Oba and Nicholas Schultz came on stage; both elegantly dressed as if going to ball. They fit together like a pair of gloves, he handsome and gallant while Ms. Oba is flirtatious and teasing.

Mr. Wevers’ choreography is organic, nothing is forced. The energies momentum would flow intrinsically through the torso and into the limbs to create smooth transition of the body in space. His use of the classical vocabulary is not academic, but instead he relies on his balletic foundation and the way his body was trained to implement, mix and blend movement into his own artistic statement.

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