Local dance wunderkind Josh Beamish, who formed MOVE: the company seven years ago at the age of 17, only to decamp last year for New York, partly as a result of a lack of peer-reviewed grant funding from BC agencies, was back in town last night as part of the Dancing on the Edge Festival, presenting fragments from his work-in-progress Pierced. The piece, a full-length ballet whose composition has been facilitated by a Jerome Robbins Foundation Award, will eventually bring together dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the New York City Ballet for a premiere in May 2013 at the American Institute of Dance in Washington, DC, where Beamish will begin a term as Artist-in-Residence this September. Talk about external cred!
Personally I've always been a bit hot and cold on Beamish's work. As a dancer there is no quarreling with his amazing technique, and with his apparent facility in any form. Yet I sometimes find his choreography to be overly fussy, designed to show off what he--as featured performer--can do, rather than serving a coherent whole. A case in point was last night's opening fragment, which was a solo by Beamish. I took the flowered chemise Beamish was wearing (the other male dancers were shirtless) to mean he was playing Cupid, and if so, then the preening poses and the fluttery hand and flexing feet embellishments on otherwise straightforward extensions are perhaps in keeping with the capriciousness of the character. By contrast, the concluding solo, by RWB principal soloist Jo-Ann Sundermeier, was a marvel of pared-down simplicity, an exploration of the proximate spaces of one's own body (three delicate taps by Sundermeier on the inside of her arm were stunning in their grace) in order to recover an imprint of what has been lost.
The duets sandwiched between these solos were also a mixed bag. The first and third--featuring Joshua Green and Delphine Leroux, and Green and Beamish, respectively--both felt like they hadn't yet fully worked out the relationships of the partners, especially when to bring them together and when to keep them apart (as well as what they should be doing while apart). Some of the reaches and claspings between Green and Leroux also seemed a bit tentative, which was maybe due in part to the fact that their entries into them were still being refined (or maybe because Green's body was so slick--I've never seen a dancer sweat more on stage!). However, the middle pas-de-deux, again featuring Sundermeier and her RWB colleague Harrison James, was stunning, with the dancers rarely apart, and showcasing the expert classical technique of each, not least the flexion in each of their backs. The final image of James lying on the floor, lifting his torso to the ceiling to receive the arrow he knows must come, is definitely a keeper.