The New Chamber Ballet is a collaborative ensemble dedicated to creating new work at low cost. It is the brainchild of Artistic Director Miro Magloire, a German composer turned ballet dancer, who founded the group in 2004. Currently comprised of two choreographers, five ballerinas, a pianist, and a violinist, the New Chamber Ballet performs five weekend series a year in studio space at New York City Center. The ticket price is $22 for general admission, $12 for students and seniors.
This studio rental strategy allows Magloire to present an unusually large amount of new work, all with live music. Indeed, the New Chamber’s most important achievement is to remind audiences of the importance of live music for dance, which is now prohibitively expensive for many dance companies. Magloire makes dances that are neoclassical, abstract, and traditional: The women typically wear pointe shoes and costumes with short skirts. Magloire also has a talent for developing natural interactions between dancers and musicians into an elegant drama, taking the time to let dancer and musician acknowledge one another. Here the dancer-musician collaboration is greater than the sum of its parts.
Magloire’s choreography is technical and especially cerebral compared to the constant motion/wrestling of so much contemporary ballet. Magloire sets real steps. Real steps call for real ballerinas, and the New Chamber’s greatest asset is Lauren Toole, on whom Magloire’s artistic vision comes wonderfully to life. Beautifully trained, strong, with gorgeous feet and a regal coolness, Toole is never unnerved by Magloire’s movements. Her dancing has the legibility Magloire’s work requires. The other dancers sometimes appear to fight the moments of weightedness or pure technique that dot each dance: Magloire’s lunges, intricate pointe work, and falls to the ground look more awkward and fussy on his dancers than they should.
Working with choreographer-in-residence Emery LeCrone will help. LeCrone is a graduate of the North Carolina School for the Arts and one of the ballet world’s rising stars. LeCrone uses a similar movement vocabulary as Magloire, but her work allows the dancers a more comfortable relation to the floor. When they’re down they’re really down, and when they’re up they’re really up. It is this ease and fluency with vertical contrast that makes her ballets look modern.
The downside is that the studio space does not accommodate lighting design or sightlines. Many of Magloire’s introspective dances would benefit from softer lighting. Risers, which require a union contract to install, would improve visibility. LeCrone’s Five Songs for Piano was performed by the NCB last September. The piece premiered in April 2010 at Columbia University’s Miller Theater, where it featured a spectacular lighting design by Edward Rosensteel.
The next performance of the New Chamber Ballet is November 19-20 at the New York City Center Studios on West 55th Street.
Natalie Axton writes about dance in New York and blogs at www.howdotheymove.com.