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Review: At Vail, Female Choreographers Feed the Mighty River of Dance

In a marvelous finale, the dancers became a three-part tap orchestra, with front, middle and back rows making quite different physical styles combine, polyphonically. (You have to smile when you see a final ensemble in which Mr. Cornejo, Ms. Peck and Mr. Whiteside — top ballet stars — are in the second and third rows.) And “we seem to be more than one” wasn’t just festival fun. It also showed Ms. Dorrance’s skill with geometries and overlapping group rhythms.

The most experimental of the four choreographers was Ms. Tanowitz, who contributed two premieres. A modern-dance choreographer who uses aspects of the ballet vocabulary, she said in an interview with The New York Times last year: “There is the famous quote from Balanchine: ‘Ballet is Woman.’ Well, it’s a woman made by a man.”

For the “NOW” program, she used for the first time ballet’s single most defining feature: pointwork. This was in “For Patricia,” a solo conceived and created at short notice for Patricia Delgado (former principal of Miami City Ballet) to Bartok music for two violins. Pointwork apart, it abounded in piquant, intricate changes of rhythm and direction: Ms. Delgado looked elegant, wholly unpredictable, commandingly playful.


From left, Miriam Miller, Devon Teuscher, Lauren Lovette and Patricia Delgado in Ms. Lovette’s “Angels of the Get-Through.”

Erin Baiano

In Ms. Tanowitz’s other creation, “Entr’acte,” she played games with gender. Jared Angle, Jeffrey Cirio and Calvin Royal III took turns partnering one another in different ways, and each had vividly individual steps. (They all did, in unison, gargouillades — foot-flourishing sideways jumps that used to be exclusively for female dancers.) When Melissa Toogood arrived, she seemed at once central and peripheral, a forceful presence unsure of how to fit into this group until she danced a duet with Mr. Angle. Yet that didn’t resolve matters. In the dance’s most memorable image, the men, backs to the audience, slowly but steadily paced to the back of the stage while she, facing us, moved in a sharper, livelier tempo — separate but strong.

The scores for “Entr’acte” (string quartet) and Ms. Lovette’s “Angels of the Get-Through” (solo violin and spoken poetry) were by Caroline Shaw, another returning Vail artist, who is to be next year’s composer in residence. Though her “Angels” score resembles Arvo Pärt too much for comfort, her “Entr’acte” music has a marvelous range of sonorities: One whole section is played pizzicato; another keeps the violin in the highest section of its register.

Ms. Lovette, a City Ballet principal, has often visited Vail as a dancer; this time, she was here as a choreographer, too. It was impressive how nonconformist her “Angels of the Get-Through” work was: four women, with some sequences of mutual partnering and supportiveness, moving to a combination of poetry and music (with no men). But the spoken word usually upstages dance. Certainly, it did so here. Andrea Gibson read her own poems, exercises in sentimental emotionalism, with a throbbing, exaggerated tremolo.

Claudia Schreier’s “Tranquil Night, Bright and Infinite” was a neat dance quintet (three men, two women) to Leonard Bernstein’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, with lovely little moments of geometry and musical timing. But everything looked too concerned with tastefulness. Politeness and polish ruled; human energies were reduced to inoffensive good form.

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