‘Pointe/Counterpointe’ Impresses in Second Half

Presenting a combination of classical and contemporary pieces, the Harvard Ballet Company (HBC) gave a clean and dynamic performance that only improved as their spring show, “Pointe/Counterpointe,” progressed towards its impressive final piece. Produced by Valentine N. Quadrat ’09, and co-directed by Raymond W. Keller III ’08 and Sarah C. Kenney ’08, HBC took the stage this past Saturday in Lowell Lecture Hall.

The evening had an unpromising beginning—the first two numbers were indubitably the worst of the entire performance. “Breath,” a contemporary group piece, lacked basic unison for almost its full duration. This disunity coupled with a distracting costume choice—silky, over-sized men’s shirts—diverted attention from a unique and difficult choreography by Boston Ballet’s Gianni DiMarco.

Choreographed to the music “Recycled Air” by the Postal Service, the second piece was a disappointing classical pas de deux. Dancers Pilar A. Ochi ’08 and Keller were hardly able to demonstrate their adept skills, in part, limited by the choreography of Lila K. Gollogly ’04. Countless repetitions of the same tricks—Ochi’s beautiful splits and grand jetés—combined with unchallenging lifts and turns resulted in a boring, awkward choreography that clashed with the music and truly obscured the dancers’ prowess.

At this point, the evening took a permanent turn for the better. The third piece, Arleene Monahan’s “Riverdance” was arguably one of the best performances of the night. This large group number truly captured the feeling of riverdancing with its perfect costuming and dynamic execution. The group maintained an impressive cohesiveness throughout the entire performance and displayed a great array of technical skills, from fouetté turns to explosive leaps.

The first half of “Pointe/Counterpointe” concluded with a beautiful, classical group number, “Mendelssohn Romance.” For the most part, the group gave a very clean performance of this lovely choreography by Joffrey Ballet’s Avichai Scher which was set to a Mendelssohn piano trio. Female soloist Joanna R. Binney ’08, gave a particularly remarkable performance.

“Slung Low Rising,” an upbeat, contemporary lyrical piece, provided a lively and promising beginning for the second half of the evening. Though choreography by Larissa D. Koch ’08 was often a bit too theatrical, the four dancers gave a very cohesive, technically impressive, and vibrant performance.

Two pieces from “Don Quixote” followed: “The Dream Scene” and “Kitri Variation.” The group in “The Dream Scene” gave a mostly clean performance in this difficult Marius Petipa-based choreography by Rudolf Nureyev. Both soloists, Jennifer S. Love ’09 and Quadrat, were impressive—complementing each other with grace and technical merit.

In the “Kitri Variation,” Kate M. Funderburk ’07 gave an impressive performance that left the audience yearning for more—particularly for more of her turns.

The evening concluded with a resonating final piece, Michael Banigan’s “Summer Solstice.” A very talented small group performed this truly contemporary piece that blended classical steps with contemporary music and movement.

Kenney and David L. Blazar ’06, impressively executed a technically difficult routine. The entire group gave a clean, lively, and sophisticated performance—a perfect ending.

The first two pieces of “Pointe/Counterpointe” gave an unrepresentative account of the evening as a whole. Despite a rough beginning, the HBC gave a stellar performance that left both the dancers and audience members enthusiastic for classical and contemporary ballet. The show will run again on April 28 at the Harvard Dance Center.

—Reviewer Giselle Barcia can be reached at