You have to hand it to the Washington Ballet. The 35-year-old company has been relentless in finding ways to shake off the “stodgy” label and appeal to the city’s vast swath of young professionals. Last year, their take on The Great Gatsby earned major kudos from reviewers and audiences for its athletic and charming dancing; they’ve got a few regular programs like beerandballet and Jeté Society happy hours that are geared toward drawing an after-work crowd; and artistic director Septime Webre has talked about holding site-specific performances in various art galleries around town in the near future.
So the company’s current show, Rock & Roll, isn’t too surprising. Sure, it’s still ballet, which means audience members can expect to see pointe shoes, graceful arabesques, and the kind of suspended-in-air leaps that only male ballet dancers seem capable of. But none of the three pieces in the show can be called typical.
There’s “Rooster,” choreographed by Christopher Bruce and set to some of the Rolling Stones’ lesser known 1960s songs; “High Lonesome,” created in 2001 by Trey McIntyre and accompanied by music by Beck; and “Fluctuating Hemlines,” which Webre himself choreographed fifteen years ago and, in this iteration, is performed by dancers in their underwear.
It’s an appealing lineup: one that seems, at least, to be experimental and energetic enough to bring in new audiences without alienating older ones—a balance that isn’t always easy to master. But the true question, of course, is whether there will be some really kickass dancing onstage.
Rock & Roll runs tonight through Sunday at Sidney Harman Hall. $20-$87.
Amanda Abrams is a local modern dancer and a member of the company Human Landscape Dance.
Image: The Washington Ballet