You’ll never guess what I saw at the Kennedy Center on Friday night: a new ballet that actually took ballet as its subject and didn’t blow it to pieces.
Here were tutus and tiaras and the whole nine yards — make that 900 yards, more likely, of satin and tulle. But the pleasure of “Rhapsodic Dances,” created by Sasha Janes for North Carolina Dance Theatre, went beyond its vibrant costumes and luxurious candle-glow lighting. This work didn’t lampoon ballet or yank it out of shape. With a sure, firm hand and knowing wit, Janes infused classical technique with brisk energy to evoke ballroom glamour and romances both smoldering and overheated.
Dancing — not just flung-open poses and lifts, as in so much of contemporary ballet, but logical and unexpected streams of movement — simply poured out of the cast of five couples. It hurtled along the silvery, thundering gush of Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” a wild musical ride to a cosmic circus and back that was its own treat. Arkadiy Figlin was the remarkable piano soloist, alongside the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra under the baton of Grant Cooper.