CHROMATIC QUARTET may well be the most varied night of dance you'll ever see from the Oregon Ballet Theatre. Four works make up OBT's spring program, which began last week, and is bound together by collaborations that span the globe—from the local (fashion designer Adam Arnold) to the international (recordings from Africa). Unlike the lush set of OBT's last production—Giselle—the staging of these four numbers is stripped down; minimalist, monochrome backdrops put the focus on movement in these four short, abstract ballets.
The dissonant chords of Stravinsky's Violin Concerto usher in the evening, alongside some of the later choreography by George Balanchine. The dancers, clad in simple black and white, flit between ensemble work and duets (with music inspired by Stravinsky's relationship to his wife). It's followed by the program's standout piece, The Lost Dance, choreographed by Canadian Matjash Mrozewski.
The Lost Dance is filled with found sounds and slow builds. It's a collage of gestures that fuse the cinema—particularly film noir—with ballet. Dancers blow kisses, circle their index fingers together (like they're on set and signaling "wrap it up"), but also do pointe work. Portland designer Adam Arnold created the costumes for the number; they are gorgeous, slinky, sleek, and sophisticated, with the women in long halter dresses and the men in ties and slacks. Owen Belton provided the score, which swoops and clicks, sometimes sounding like slow-motion gunshots.
The mood switches from high drama to contemplative for the next work, the duet Liturgy. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon (a talent who was just announced as an inductee to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences), Liturgy is danced by Haiyan Wu and Brian Simcoe and is a formalist's dream, with Wu and Simcoe twining together and holding their bodies in different shapes. The Newmark Theatre creates a modest environment for the piece, which allows for the fluidity and contemplativeness to sink in.
Rounding it out is an African safari, the dance Lambarena. Written in 1995, the work is a mix of West African dance and ballet. The costumes are bold patterned, hand painted on silk, and reminiscent of African design, and the score is traditional music from the Gabon region of Africa mixed with Johann Sebastian Bach. If this pairing of cultures is confusing at all, it's redeemed by the joy and exuberance of this final piece.