Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux liked to say his dance company changed its name to Charlotte Ballet” two seasons ago because “everything we do is ballet.” The three works on Thursday’s program at Knight Theater pushed every side of that envelope without tearing it and yielded a satisfying mix.
Sasha Janes’ unabashed romanticism, George Balanchine’s bouncy elegance and Dwight Rhoden’s wild energy showed the company off and balanced moods deftly.
Janes set “They Danced Through Life” to sections of Dvorak’s “New World” symphony. The first and third celebrate the marriage of Terrie Hauck (who commissioned it) and Jimmy; the second acknowledges his sudden passing. (Aptly, Dvorak’s Largo later became the spiritual “Goin’ Home.”)
Janes consistently offers small surprises: Exuberance turns to quiet joy, or a couple touches across a space that will eventually divide them. A woman leaps into the air; effortlessly, two men walking behind her rush forward to lift her higher.
Balanchine’s “Who Cares” uses bits of Gershwin, all showstopping in broad or subtle ways. His trademarks are here: quick feet, positions that look awkward but suddenly resolve in grace, tongue-in-cheek playfulness. (We get eight of the 17 songs from the 1970 original.)
Patricia McBride famously danced the swooning “The Man I Love” and high-stepping “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” then; she’s staged them for Alessandra Ball James, who danced with panache. Yet this is one Balanchine piece where a guy carries most of the weight, partnering multiple women and whirling through the “Liza” solo, and Josh Hall earned his final bow.
Rhoden has given us sexual ballets before, but none as sensuous as “Bop Doo Wah.” This premiere combines jazz moves and bits of ballroom dance with classical technique; a woman goes into an arabesque, keeping her lower half still, while her upper half rocks with the beat.
The piece has an androgynous element: Men wear eye makeup, see-through shirts and trousers, and finally black skirts, as if auditioning for the chorus line at the Kit Kat Klub. Women project a straightforward, smoky mood that goes perfectly with the sax solos coming from the pit.
MCG Jazz capped their live set with a “Sing, Sing, Sing” full of high-octane fun, and Gloria Reuben sang about half the numbers in a voice that didn’t dominate the band but blended like yet another attractive instrument.
P.S. The Saturday concert will mark the farewell of three male dancers: Addul Manzano, David Morse and Gregory Taylor. Manzano is retiring; Morse will join fiancée Tina Laforgia at Cincinnati Ballet, and Taylor will go to college.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.
Tickets: $25-$85 ($10 for kids at Saturday matinee).
Details: 704-372-1000 or charlotteballet.org.