Like a canny poker player in a six-card stud game, Charlotte Ballet kept a couple of aces in the hole Friday night for “Innovative Works.” They landed on the table to justified cheers, capping a program that until then consisted almost entirely of virtuosity without narrative.
The first of those, Mark Diamond’s “Yamato,” took its title from a name for ancient Japan. It began with a primal mass that exploded into people who would settle the Earth. Rocky Iwashima, head of a taiko drum group in Raleigh, arranged the percussive soundtrack; like the music, the dancers found variety in repeated rhythmic patterns, whether soaring or stomping.
Sasha Janes gave us four romantic vignettes in “Sketches From Grace,” set to songs performed by Jeff Buckley. Chelsea Dumas and James Kopecky showed combative mutual need in “You and I;” Alessandra Ball James became a hazy fantasy for Ben Ingel in “Lilac Wine,” and Sarah Hayes Harkins and Joshua Hall experienced troubled ecstasy in “Hallelujah.” All six joined in the exuberant tenderness of “Lover, You Should Have Come Over.”
Diamond and Janes also made the best use of their video introductions, giving us entry points while letting us use our imaginations. The comments with which Dwight Rhoden and David Ingram introduced the opening pieces, vague reflections on beauty and space, didn’t augment our understanding enough.
Rhoden interspersed a Bach chaconne with his typical pulsing electronic sounds in “Ballad Unto;” he gave us the coiling and uncoiling couples he likes to use, this time with more of a sense that they might end together in happiness.
Ingram set “Omologia,” an Italian word for likeness in structure between parts of different organisms, to Arcangelo Corelli’s “La Folia.” Dancers spun through athletic gestures as blocks of light shifted around the floor, to what point I cannot say.
Charlotte Ballet gave two dancers chances to choreograph short pieces. David Morse asked for stunning virtuosity from Harkins and Hall in “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” as they gyrated to John Adams’ score. In Harkins’ “#HateHurts,” Ingel and Sarah Lapointe sat at distant keyboards, facing cyberbullies. A preachy voiceover undermined her choreography, an expressive and moving duet of fear and loneliness.
When: Through Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Also 2 p.m. Feb. 13 and 20.
Where: McBride-Bonnefoux Center for Dance, 701 N. Tryon St.
Running time: 120 minutes.
Details: 704-372-1000; charlotteballet.org.