LET'S BEGIN AT THE END, because while the first three works in Summer Splendors are satisfying, it's Northwest Dance Project (NDP) Artistic Director Sarah Slipper's closing piece that surprises. Walking in, I feared that one of Slipper's inspirations for "En(gulf)ed"—news images of oil-covered NOLA fauna—would smother her work. Wrong. Slipper's choreography beautifully translates broken wings, buckling legs, and ruffling feathers to human form. Her gaggle of petite dancers breaks up timid, elegant movements with spastic blips that evoke shaking off evils (or oils). Origami leaves taped to the performers fall gradually from their shoulders like molting feathers. Slipper's topical strand perfectly complements the position of the company, gaining its footing in stride with its young talents.
Working backward, James Canfield, founding artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theatre, presents "WILL," a lovely piece inspired by Hamlet and Ophelia. Visiting choreographer Lauren Edson's showing oscillates between two couplings until Samantha Campbell enters, a dramatic focal point. Reed College Dance Chair Carla Mann is the only choreographer to use seven company dancers, and the highlight of her "Illumine" comes when they share the stage, limbs flexing in unsynchronized coordination.
Summer Splendors celebrates one year of NDP's installation on Mississippi, prior to which their contemporary ballet had no home. It isn't summery in the ways you might expect, but then again, neither, so far, is summer.