There’s a new ballet in town. It's worth dancing about.
Ventana Ballet, directed by AJ Garcia-Rameau, made its debut at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center with "Disrupt," seven short dances that confidently showcased elements taken from traditional and contemporary ballet as well as rhythm and modern dance.
“Tempest,” created by Garcia-Rameau, established the group’s basic musicality, as a solo cello player, Daniel Kopp, interacted sensitively from center stage with the seven primary dancers — six women and one man. Even casual observers could validate with their own eyes the pretty amazing artist resumes made available in the printed program.
“The Night We Met,” also devised by Garcia-Rameau, brought together matched young guest performers from the Austin School of Classical Dance for a pleasing, fluent quartet.
The dynamics of the company grew more complicated for “In the Fluid Presence of Time,” exquisitely constructed by Erica Gionfriddo and set to Eliot Gray Fisher’s hypnotic “Slip into the Ether.” If Ventana Ballet thrives beyond its first season — and why shouldn’t it, given its initial full houses? — this organically unfolding piece should become a permanent part of its repertoire. I could see it again and again.
Navaji David Nava, the company’s sole male dancer, blended gracefully, naturally with the female performers in each of the concert’s main group numbers. Yet in “Dearly Beloved,” which he choreographed, he and Garcia-Rameau assumed more traditional gender roles in a charming duet about the first blush of romance.
Surrealism clearly informed Dorothy O’Shea Overbey’s “After a Dream,” given the titular subject matter and the costumes translated evocatively from a surrealist’s vision of antiquity. A mesh of poetry by Romain Bussine with music by Kamila Swerldoff and Gabriel Fauré generated an appropriately unsettling and dreamy atmosphere.
Fun, funny and uplifting, Ginnifer Joe’s ”How Do You Cook a Beat?” made the most of a reverberant raised floorboard.
“Chaccone” brought together all the accomplishments of the troupe and revealed Garcia-Rameau’s powers as a sophisticated maker of dances. Traditional ballet fundamentals set the frame here, but the company proved it could stretch far beyond those parameters without disrespecting their origins.
The MACC proved a puzzle for this debut. Who would not welcome its intimacy, friendliness and informality? At the same time, its technical limitations were obvious to the audience, who giggled each time the house lights popped on and off. Also, gestures that would have appeared bold as seen from an imaginary balcony sometimes looked oversized in this more confined space. More serious: Seated halfway back on the risers, one often could not see the dancers’ feet and even their legs over the heads of other audience members.
And everyone deserves to see the whole effect when Ventana Ballet performs.