Lawrence Toppman

Charlotte Ballet presents a modern mash-up

Mark Godden’s “Angels in the Architecture” contemplates the lives of the Shakers (or United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, as they called themselves).
Mark Godden’s “Angels in the Architecture” contemplates the lives of the Shakers (or United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, as they called themselves). Peter Zay

This week, Charlotte Ballet offers an energized world premiere by Dwight Rhoden, a revival of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux’s glittery “Danses Brillantes” and the local debut of Mark Godden’s profound “Angels in the Architecture.”

But what might have been merely celebratory has a valedictory element, too. Local dance fans are seeing the last appearances of Melissa Anduiza, Jordan Leeper, Amanda Smith, Pete Leo Walker and Lucas Wilson-Bilbro. (Anna Gerberich won’t be back, but she’s not dancing this week.)

All three works rely on ensembles, rather than extended solos, so the departing quintet had few chances to dominate the stage. But even in brief turns, you see why they’ll be missed. The company ought to have bid them farewell with an announcement from the stage, but their bodies speak for them.

Bonnefoux’s piece seems a strange choice for a concert titled “Contemporary Fusion.” It’s a tribute to old-fashioned Paris Opera ballets he danced: lifts, pirouettes, hands raised at the ends of gracefully curved arms. It keeps to this elegant pattern whether Edouard Lalo’s music turns melancholy, martial or mysterious. Alessandra Ball James and Addul Manzano use their height and long limbs to leave a strong impression as the central couple.

Godden set his piece to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” That took guts: Martha Graham has already made a world-famous masterpiece to the same music. Godden goes a different way, taking the Shaker hymn Copland incorporated (“Simple Gifts”) as a meditation on what Shaker life meant.

The dancers behave mischievously, meditatively and even exuberantly, finding individual joys while still adhering to the rules of the religious community. Sometimes they hoist Shaker brooms or chairs in front of their faces, as if to say, “We are the things we leave behind.” Quiet drama builds in intensity to the end, especially when we realize the sect has all but died out. (By 2012, one Shaker village was left.)

There’s not much quiet about Rhoden’s piece. It puts DJ Fannie Mae onstage, high above the dancers; she mixes classical, minimalist, club and hip-hop music, bobbing to Bach, Bassnectar and Beyoncé. This isn’t as random an idea as it sounds: One 11-note Bach keyboard motif melds seamlessly into a club beat.

Agonized solos and combative duets radiate energy (much of it angry or confrontational), though work on pointe and moments of light-footed grace have a place, too. Anduiza and Walker become the emotional heart of the piece for a moment, but mostly we see how a steady beat has linked music and inspired movement over the past 300 years.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

‘Contemporary Fusion’

Charlotte Ballet does Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux’s “Danses Brillantes,” Mark Godden’s “Angels in the Architecture” and Dwight Rhoden’s “Spun to the Sky.”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.

TICKETS: $25-85.

RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes.

DETAILS: 704-372-1000 or

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