New Jersey Ballet remains immune to fads. With a repertoire grounded in the classics, this company prides itself on its ability to perform in the grand manner.
The troupe’s season opener, Saturday at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, in Morristown, did not disappoint. Titled “From Romance to Tragedy,” the program featured a collector’s assortment of pas de deux, including rarities and items created for New Jersey Ballet, with the duets sandwiched between lively divertissements.
On a program consisting of short numbers it is easier for romance to spark than for tragedy to ripen, however. Sunday’s showcase was cheerful, not gloomy, with only a knife-wielding excerpt from Vladimir Vasiliev’s “Macbeth” hinting at a tragedy yet-to-come. It would have been more accurate to call this program “From Design to Drama,” since the evening was divided between pieces like the “Satanella” Pas de Deux, in which flirtatious evasions are merely the pretext for a display of balletic virtuosity, and David McNaughton’s “Gypsy,” where the dancing tells a story.
If “Satanella’s” sweet violin music sounds old-fashioned today, the choreography remains a marvel. Marius Petipa displays the ballerina’s line in a grand sweep that takes her leg from a high kick in front through to “arabesque”; and he contrasts the scale of this movement with finicky passages highlighting the delicacy of her footwork. Her solo is a test of musicality, with the rhythmic accents of steps that strike the floor translated into steps where her foot circles sharply in the air, and with a tricky sequence of turns that breaks and resumes. Today’s ballet choreographers are neither ingenious enough nor sufficiently in love with their tradition to produce a showcase of such variety and charm. Kotoe Kojima-Noa and Albert Davydov performed stylishly.
“Gypsy” is something else entirely — a moody romance where a woman and a man meet by chance, possibly in his dreams. As the man, Andrew Notarile seems to take whatever comes his way. Gabriella Noa-Pierson is the active partner, whether falling back into his arms or surrendering to a kiss and then deciding to shove him away. Although this piece is not “about” the steps, the dancers’ physicality remains essential to the drama; and one can feel the energy in Noa-Pierson’s limbs from the moment she appears.
First-rate performances also came from Mari Sugawa, who danced effortlessly in an excerpt from “Fille Mal Gardée” whose obscure staging owed something to “Giselle”; and from Andre Luis Teixeira, an authoritative soloist and a suave partner in “Marietta’s Song,” choreographed by the late George Tomal. Attractive new company members Albina Ghazaryan and Narek Martirosyan were welcome additions to Edward Villella’s breezy “Shostakovich Suite” and to “Macbeth,” respectively.