Choreographer Mark Godden created his ballet Minor Threat, set to the first two movements of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, some 20 years ago for Canada’s Alberta Ballet, but in a performance May 28 in Boca Raton, this allegory of courtship, love and birth came off with newly minted freshness.
This well-designed modern ballet with a clever and moving punchline was the second featured work in the last of three iterations of the Harid Conservatory’s spring recital, held in the Countess de Hoernle Theater at Spanish River High School. Godden’s work is a regular feature of these end-of-year events (he has done close to 20 dances for the Harid students) and his pieces are always welcome for their savvy use of music, clarity of story and underlying vigor.
The Harid closers are also welcome because of the institute’s director of 25 years, Gordon Wright, who brings members of the senior class to the stage to greet the audience and talk a bit about themselves. This year’s seniors numbered seven dancers from places as distant as Australia, Taiwan and Ecuador, and as close to home as Georgia. The new graduates always have good news to report, and this year was no exception: These fine performers are headed on to further study in dance at universities, or joining companies such as the Sarasota and Washington ballets, and Salt Lake City’s Ballet West.
Godden’s Minor Threat features 10 dancers, five men and five women. The stage is dark and lit from the top by spotlights, and the performers are clad in black. This is a two-movement modern dance work with a great deal of energy and activity, full of romantic relationship Sturm und Drang as four couples pair off and a central woman resists the entreaties of a fifth.
This is dance with plenty of jazzy movement that went well with Mozart’s forward-looking 1786 score, and it included unison corps movements that could have come out of a Bob Fosse musical, along with its extensive couple interaction. At several points, dancers drew their arms back beneath their haunches and bent over crablike, scuttling in and out of view. This also was a dance that was almost as busy for upper torsos; Godden added several rapid-fire sequences of wiggly hand movements that complemented the dancing and added a jumpy, nervous drive to the overall motion.
All of the dancers looked like polished, dedicated members of a contemporary dance troupe, having moved easily from the classical poses of the program’s first half into the force and energy of the second. One of the highlights of this recital was the level of exciting male dancing, with Isaac Allen, Cy Doherty and Liam Hogan looking particularly limber here and in the first half.
But all of the dancers in this work gave engaged, committed performances, and it came off brilliantly, all the way through to the end, when the significance of the far right spotlight, which began at a narrow point and spread out in a large triangle, made itself clear as one of the women was carried on the backs of the other dancers and then lifted into a silhouetted pose just as Mozart’s exquisite second movement came to a close: A sonogram.
It’s not necessary for modern dances to have the same kinds of story structures classical ballets do, but they are an integral part of Godden’s dances. One always feels that a directorial master is at work here, someone who designs dances that are always in the service of a dramatic or humorous arc, and that makes his work deeply enjoyable.
The first act of Sunday’s program featured excerpts from Le Corsaire, the 1856 classic in the multiple-choreographer and -composer version (Leo Delibes, Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Ludwig Minkus) that has evolved over the decades. Included were the Pas d’Esclave, the Greek and Corsaire dances, the Pas de Trois from Act II, and the dances of the three odalisques, as well as the opening and finale.
As in other canonical story ballets, the repertory of dance moves in this work approaches the encyclopedic, and the Harid dancers were more than a match. Allen’s explosive first entrance in the Greek Dance drew vocal admiration from audience members sitting near me, and Anna Gonzalez’s exquisite poses in the slave dance, graciously partnered by Hidetora Tabe, had a strong sense of Old World ballet elegance.
The three odalisques – Tiffany Chatfield, Rebecca Trionfo and Julia Vinez – were memorable as a trio and strong in variations, and Zoe Cavedon was marvelously light and radiant in the well-known pas de trois.