At the altar of dance, the spirit is missing

Special to The Times

Sometimes ballet is all about longing for the divine, without being the least bit divine, which does not make for a good evening of dance. If you think of the latest offering of mixed works by the ballet-oriented local company La Danserie as a gathering place where the hopeful came to worship, it was one that provided only the outline of a dance sanctuary. Saturday at the Japan America Theatre, there were diligent performers, chiffon, unitards, pointe shoes and big, important music, but no holy spirit to animate the proceedings.

The program, "Jamais Vu," included works mostly by artistic director Patrick R. Frantz, opening with "Valse From Eugene Onegin" and closing with "Golden Jubilee," both, curiously, featuring dancers costumed in the same black and gold short tutus. Each featured formal, shifting patterns for a female corps, using steps that varied so much in style and changed direction so awkwardly that they looked like puzzle pieces that never came together. The youthful dancers were fairly advanced in technique, yet they seemed to have had the excitement schooled out of them, an unforgivable transgression.

In Frantz's "Over the Top," a delicately jazzy romp of sorts danced to Jelly Roll Morton tunes, Andrea Thompson managed to vamp with creative exactitude and personality, but even in this ostensibly fun piece, the corps looked too careful, as if it had never been allowed to find itself in the dancing.

Holly Mistine in "Farruca" and Jennifer Wilson in "Point de Depart" looked accomplished in Frantz choreography, which translated music into a series of high-drama phrases, the latter work enhanced by Chopin, played onstage by pianist Darrin Blumfield. Frantz seems to hear music in bursts, and constructs steps and impressive shapes to fit these phrases, without having a style or architectural design to create substantial ideas.

Armen Ksajikian played moody cello music by Zoltan Kodaly onstage for "Celsius," while Ariana Lallone and Olivier Wevers bent and stretched around each other, stern of face and limb, in steps that asked for no more than the stately concern of their opening stares. In another duet -- Kent Stowell's "Hail to the Conquering Hero" -- the poised couple, who were from Stowell's Pacific Northwest Ballet, did much the same thing, with more poses and a stalking, serious walk, to Handel's famous Largo from "Xerxes."

Judy Pisarro-Grant's "Blink of an Eye," while not much more than a stylish solo, had a welcome, different look, and it was well-danced by Rei Aoo.

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