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Review: Swiss troupe's performance sheds 'Lux' on choreographer's artistry

| Sunday, March 9, 2014, 9:27 a.m.
Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve
Gregory Batardon
Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve
'Glory' by Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève
Gregory Batardon
'Glory' by Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève
Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve
Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve

Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve began its U.S. tour on March 8 at the Byham Theater, Downtown, with powerfully emotional and breathtakingly energetic performances. The company brought two recent, major and well-contrasted works for its Pittsburgh Dance Council appearance.

“Lux,” by Ken Ossola, is set to Gabriel Faure's Requiem, which notably lacks the “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath) and ends with an exquisite “In Paradisium.”

A quick kick near the start shows “Lux” will be anything but passive, despite the music's measured pace. The dancers, who are en route to paradise, twitch and quiver as though in death throes. One of Ossola's most beautiful images — he seems never at a loss for ideas — is created by dancers on their backs, raising their legs to point almost straight upward.

Ossola also creates appealing variety within the ranks when he arranges the whole cast of 20 in rows across the stage.

Certainly one of the ballet's most memorable visions, and its most notable use of lighting, occurs when the back of the stage is illuminated with very bright warm light before which the dancers perform in silhouette.

Near the end, Ossola introduces romantic partnering. That's certainly unexpected, but then the choreographer may have been thinking, would it be paradise without love?

“Glory,” by Andonis Foniadakis, is set mostly to music by George Frideric Handel (yes, including the “Hallelujah Chorus”), which is occasionally modified electronrically by Julien Tarride, who also composed some music of his own. It's all cleanly laid out in the program.

Foniadakis creates dances with a rush of energy comparable to Handel's music, which is both a strength and weakness. He offers a dazzling variety of ideas in bold individual dance movements and short sequences that have their own sense of purpose.

One of the most breathtaking moments occurs when a male dancer offers an intricate solo that freely matches the initial statement of one of Handel's fast contrapuntal themes.

The recording chosen for Handel's concerti grossi is particularly edgy and aggressive. Foniadakis more than matches it with a vocabulary that includes sharp angularity along with twists and extensions at improbable angles. However, the choreography of the “Hallelujah Chorus” is uninspired.

The choreographer has a gift for large ensemble poses, but a woman's solo to keyboard music created equally arresting images, and in motion. It took eight other dancers to handle a immense black train that was used in various ways — including serving as the top of a clamshell coming down to cover the woman.

The downside of trying to match the quickness of the music is that the movement often feels hyperkinetic, which becomes tiring even for the viewer, given the ballet lasts an hour.

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

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