Lawrence Toppman

Charlotte Ballet: Innovative? Yes. Easy? No.

Charlotte Ballet had all four choreographers introduce their premieres for its “Innovative Works” program at McBride-Bonnefoux Center. The Friday audience heard some clarification, some obfuscation and much praise for dancers and other dancemakers. But the most helpful comments came from Mark Diamond, program director for Charlotte Ballet II.

“Don’t worry about ‘getting it,’ ” he told an audience stumped by David Ingram’s opener. “Allow yourself to be the one to interpret what just happened.

“It’s really a lot of geometry you’re seeing. Can you get a peak experience watching geometry? I can, because it’s just about the music, the movement and the beautiful bodies.”

The works also contained clear ideas: A need for togetherness overcoming isolation in Dwight Rhoden’s moving “Peace Piece,” the CIA doing mind-control experiments through drugs in Sasha Janes’ “The Seed and the Soil,” a gay man torn between pressure to conform sexually and his inner nature in Diamond’s “Path.”

And emotions did come through. The subjects in “Seed” writhed in rage and perplexity under the influence of a CIA interrogator played by Frank Selby, who conceptualized the piece. Rhoden’s eight dancers dealt with alienation and private pain before easing into trust and harmony.

And the young man in “Path” (danced expressively by Jordan Leeper) fragmented under social opprobrium. Diamond shrewdly set this piece to the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, which Wagner called “the apotheosis of the dance.” The music, beautiful and noble, also has an inflexible formality.

Only Ingram’s opener remained conceptual. He translated the Greek title “Píso Sto Midén” as “Back to Zero,” and the piece consisted mainly of patterns forming and unforming before one tender pas de deux. What much of it had to do with his remarks about objectification – men seeing women and women seeing themselves being seen by men – I couldn’t tell you.

Each choreographer used physical darkness to represent the psychological kind, only occasionally bringing dancers into the light. This technique can work, but it grows repetitive through four pieces. And almost every soundtrack blasted our ears – an effective idea for Rhoden’s machine-gun fire, but wearying when Glenn Gould’s pianistic Bach became a slow jackhammer.

More crucially, though, the whole troupe now performs fast, intricate choreography with striking confidence and adeptness. Illness and pregnancy have depleted the never-padded ranks of Charlotte Ballet, so members of CB II stepped up to hold the fort with no letdown. I don’t think the company could have done that 10 seasons ago.

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