North Carolina Dance Theatre’s Innovative Works is a two-week sprint with the goals of challenging choreographers and dancers and delighting audiences.
Sasha Janes was nearly out of breath, and he was only describing the scant period between rehearsals and the opening performance of this season’s Innovative Works program at the North Carolina Dance Theatre. Janes, the company’s associate artistic director, choreographed two new ballets; three other works will premiere at the annual program.
“The idea is to feature smaller, shorter pieces that may be a bit more avant garde,” said Janes, who had been a dancer and former rehearsal director with the company. “Because of scheduling, we only get about two weeks, start to finish, bringing these pieces to the stage. A typical production schedule would be five weeks. It is a mad, mad rush. The audience may not realize what they are seeing didn’t even exist two weeks earlier. That is part of the exhilaration.”
Presented in NCDT’s own black box theater, the intimate staging brings the audience of less than 200 practically onto the set. Each performance will feature a reception and opportunity to meet with dancers and choreographers after the show.
Janes’ pas de deux, “Queen,” is about 10 minutes and will be perhaps the evening’s most dramatic work.
NCDT dancers Anna Gerberich and Frederick “Pete” Leo Walker II represent a young queen and a seemingly treasonous soldier who wishes to abandon what he sees as a futile fight against his queen’s enemies. The physical performance is filled with tension as Gerberich’s queen tries to seduce her soldier, only to be rejected in the end.
“The idea came to me from a Suzanne Vega pop song, ‘The Queen and her Soldier,’ ” Janes said. “Anna and Pete are the perfect couple as the chemistry between them is strong and their charisma carries through so well to the audience.”
Janes’ other piece is the slightly longer (about 18 minutes) “At First Sight,” featuring several couples supporting the primary pair, whose movements speak to enduring love.
NCDT 2 program director Mark Diamond choreographed two pieces, the Japanese-themed “Zokusuru” and “Alternate Paths.” Resident choreographer Dwight Rhoden rounds out the program with “Gateways,” a piece showcasing eight couples, electronic music and Rhoden’s characteristic athletic movement.
When asked what ties the performances together, Janes answered with a laugh. “Hopefully nothing,” he said. “That’s the point; We want to offer diverse programming with Innovative Works, and get people thinking and talking about new and different work.”