October 17, 1996 in Features

Baroque And Ballet An Enjoyable Combination

William Berry Correspondent
 

Allegro Tuesday, Oct. 15, The Met

Allegro added some pizazz to music of the Baroque era in the form of dancers on Tuesday night. The program was repeated Wednesday at The Met, and I will have to assume the pizazz level was the same, plus or minus the standard scientific margin of error.

Music of Handel, Rameau and Telemann was variously accompanied by ten dancers from Theatre Ballet of Spokane with choreography by Margaret Goodner.

The dancing was an enjoyable addition. Modern dance, with the dancer whooshing about on stage doing her own thing, seemingly independent of the music, was held in check. Movements appropriate to the 18th century made much sense of the Baroque music.

Precision was evident in all of the dance, without sacrificing grace. Musical rhythm and mood changes were instantly reflected in the steps, enhancing the understanding of the square and symmetric music.

Costuming was simple and uniform for each selection danced: powder blue for Handel’s “Alchemist,” long, plain dresses in seafoam for Rameau’s “La danse” and white with ruffles during the “Water Music Suite” by Telemann.

My single complaint with the overall excellent staging and costuming would have to be the green spotlight that accompanied the initial appearance of dancers in the Rameau. The intent may have been wood nymphs in a forest dance, but the light washed out the green of the dresses and added a chilling otherworldly tone to the faces.

The musical aspects of the performance went nearly flawlessly. The four strings were well-anchored by Wayne Smith’s cello, especially in the Telemann; the oboes of David Dutton and Keith Thomas go well together; Beverly Biggs took a few moments off the harpsichord to tap the occasional drum and tambourine; and it ought to be noted that basso continuo on a wind instrument is a lot of work and bassoonist Barbara Novak kept it from seeming that way.

While the Rameau would have seemed bland on its own without the dance, Telemann’s “Water Music” had some wonderful surprises. Musical imagery abounded, with hints of lapping waves, tides coming and going, stormy winds and gentle breezes. The musicians offered a various and refined reading that sparked visions superfluous of the dance.

Other musical tidbits were thrown in to give the corps de ballet a rest. The Quantz Trio Sonata, featuring the double reeds, was pleasant enough and had some creative canonic writing in spots but did not leave me doing backflips. Handel’s early opus, the Sonata No. 2, was more melodically inspired and was aided by the adept musicality of Thomas and Biggs.

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