Featuring 10 duo pieces, many of which were classical and modern and some of which were absurd, the Charleston Ballet Theatre presented An Evening of Pas de Deux on Friday. Choreographer Jill Eathorne-Bahr balanced the playful with the dramatic. Though some pieces were flawed, no one can dismiss her success in offering Charleston audiences 20 years of innovative dance.
Stand-out selections included the opener "Esmeralda Pas de Deux" — traditional movement performed on point in formal tutu by Melody Staples and male lead Michael Fothergill. The couple treated us to classical ballet at its best, with precision movements, elegant lifts, and solid adagio elements. Given the contemporary approach of the follow-up vignette, "Her Heart Went Blind," beginning with a conventional piece felt just right.
"Her Heart Went Blind" was inspired by the movie Crash and was as evocative as the film. Dancers Jessica Roan and Jonathan Tabbert performed barefoot. The piece betrayed conventional movement with flexed foot work. The suggestive final embrace of the two dancers made for the evening's most lasting visual moment.
Sadly, the first act quickly took a downward turn with two theatrical pas de deux arrangements of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Great Gatsby. Not to sound too discriminating, but there's a reason ballerinas are ballerinas and actors are actors. You wouldn't ask Sharon Graci to brisėlike Baryshnikov. Nor would I expect CBT's elegant ballerinas to convincingly act.
Lip-synching to dialogue from The Rocky Horror Picture Show broke the Fourth Wall to startling, rather than pleasant, effect. It appears Eathorne-Bahr was trying to achieve a tongue-in-cheek interlude, but the pas de deux was frustrating and awkward. Perhaps kitsch was the goal, but the result, unfortunately, came off as amateurish. "The Great Gatsby" continued the frivolity with more lip-synching confusion.
Thankfully all five of the second act's pas de duex were superb, particularly Jennifer Balcersak Muller's performance in "Dracula." Her partner, Roy Wei Meng Gan, played the ultimate villain, but it was Muller's articulations as the stiff-as-a-board victim that most impressed me.
Pajama-clad dancers Melody Staples and James Peronto transformed a Melissa Etheridge political anthem into a romantic lover's serenade. Trey Mauldwin in "Carmina Burana" continued to show his impressive athleticism. An Evening of Pas de Deux closed with a somewhat anticlimactic "Romeo and Juliet," but I applaud CBT for continuing to take chances and to evolve its choreography.