ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, seattledanceproject.org. $20–$25. 8 p.m. Fri.–Sat. Ends March 30.
Seattle Dance Project has invited local choreographer Jason Ohlberg back to stage three of his dances, including his new setting of Vivaldi’s Gloria. Some pieces of music just seem to be candy for choreographers, inspiring dance after dance, and Gloria is one of those scores. Its lively energy and formal structures create a matrix for kinetic invention. Ohlberg’s polyglot background as a dancer (including modern, jazz, and ballet), is reflected in his movement choices, which draw from those multiple traditions. There are allusions to Martha Graham, José Limón, Paul Taylor, and Mark Morris, all grafted onto a balletic base that gives most of the work a fleet quality. This is dancing in the happy-nymphs-and-shepherds vein, where any conflict is resolved well before the end of the work. It’s a charming showcase for the dancers and a happy closer for an evening that opens with a more problematic dance.
Ohlberg made Departure From 5th for SDP last year, and he’s continued to refine it for this performance. A work laced with confessional text drawn from the SDP dancers and edited into the soundtrack, it contrasts their frustrations with their bodies (expressed in the script) with their obvious facility moving those bodies. It takes a special kind of schizophrenia to strive for a perfection you know you will never achieve. For every kudo these performers relate, they offer a counterexample, so that “beautiful arms,” for example, are canceled out by “sturdy legs.” Despite the old stereotype that dancers are seen and not heard, these interviews are articulate and evocative, commanding our attention more powerfully than some of the movement sequences, which gives the work an odd asymmetry. Adding to that confusion is Ohlberg’s inclusion of three women credited as “Fates.” Like their Greek counterparts, they seem to bookend the dancing life of the performers, ushering people on and off stage and spreading a black curtain over them at the end of the work. They’re a deus ex machina trio dressed in elaborate ballgowns.
Artistic director Tim Lynch cofounded SDP (along with Julie Tobiason) to explore choreography beyond their dancing careers at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Though their repertory choices have certainly moved in that progressive direction, their ensemble now looks ready to go further, to take some bigger artistic risks for bigger rewards.