Arts ballet review

In Sanctuary Theatre, a religious setting for an intimate ballet

Impelling Forces opens 2016 season of Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre

Impelling Forces
Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre
Oct. 14-30

Tucked away inside the Old Cambridge Baptist Church near Harvard Square, the Sanctuary Theatre is home to the small company of the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre. Below arching church rafters, a bare rehearsal floor was the stage for Impelling Forces, one of four ballets in the company’s 2016-17 season, entitled “Inner Space Adventures.”

I entered this quaint venue on an October evening of torrential rain. Two-person round tables populated half of the dance floor in a cabaret-style arrangement, and performers occupied the other. I was seated at the front, and the performers were, at their closest, 15 feet away from my seat. This intimacy afforded me the rare opportunity to notice every detail of the dancers — their expressions, their form, the exertion of their muscles.

The first act was Mozart Provoked, to the music of a reimagined Sonata in C Major for Piano. The rearrangement was intriguing — it schizophrenically strung new phrases into the piece, altering the cadence and flow of the melody constantly. Almost jazzy, the music drove the energetic choreography.

In the second act, to Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, dancer Spencer Doru Keith stood out as the most talented and athletic. He bounded airily across the stage, and his leaps attained impressive height and ended in light, graceful landings.

Madeleine Bonn, a member of the company since 2004, was rock solid as a soloist in the second act. Her traveling turns were precise and smooth. Angie Dewolf, also a 12-year veteran, had multiple solos and duets in the second and third acts. While she had a lot of time in the spotlight, I felt that she could have done much more with her arms and frame to be more expressive.

The last act, Over and Over, featured some excellent group choreography to the minimalist, tense music of Philip Glass. Involving all the members of the troupe in waves of dancers ebbing and flowing across the stage, this dance showcased the company’s range of abilities.

A fine local discovery, Jose Mateo is a very small group by all measurements (16 dancers were listed in the program), but it affords some welcome intimacy in a unique, almost hidden nook of Harvard Square.