Ballet Memphis is something of a little engine that could, to perhaps sum up the imaginative grit of Dorothy Gunther Pugh, who has presided over the group with equal dashes of elegance and temerity for 20 years. On Tuesday night both ingredients were on display in a program of New York premieres at her company’s Joyce Theater debut.
The first, by Trey McIntyre, is exceptional. When he’s on his mark, Mr. McIntyre, the troupe’s resident choreographer, embodies the breezy nature of a dreamer, albeit with his feet planted firmly on the ground. His joyful “Naughty Boy!” (2004), set to Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G, focuses on the romantic antics of four couples and a Cupid, in the form of an especially enchanting Dawn Fay.
“The Naughty Boy!” begins with a curtain drawn across two-thirds of the stage and Cupid wearing a whimsical orange coonskin hat and a fitted plaid jacket. (Costume design is credited to Kirsty Munn and Liz Prince.) Suddenly colorful paper streamers fly through the air, paving the way for Ms. Fay to flee the stage, and she does, darting mischievously with a teasing smile.
Mr. McIntyre can move groups through space with ease, as he does in “The Naughty Boy!” But in the second movement, when the curtain is drawn back to reveal the full stage and the work’s main couple, Crystal Brothers and Travis Bradley, he offers even more in intricate partnering.
Lifts, which show off Ms. Brothers’s long feet and switchblade legs, are somehow both graceful and precarious; the dancers, for all their daring and attack, never surrender plasticity. Unfortunately Mr. McIntyre’s work was the exception.
-The New York Times
When founded in 1986 by Dorothy Gunther Pugh, its artistic director, this feisty company had only two professional dancers. Expanded over the years to 14 and with Trey McIntyre as resident choreographer, the company looks pretty spiffy. The dancers are ballet-trained but, as they notably demonstrate, perfectly capable of loosening up into hip-hop and contemporary dance.
McIntyre's Naughty Boy! to Mozart's "Violin Concerto in G Major " was strictly in classical mode, albeit with a lighthearted touch that kept wafting the dancers along like cottonpuffs on air. Despite the ballet's title, Cupid (Dawn Fey) is an androgynous figure deftly manipulating her courting couples, intervening in their pas de deux but never breaking them up. Crystal Brothers and partner Travis Bradley showed great style in their adagio pas de deux, perfectly adjusting to McIntyre's pliant and playful choreography. A nice start [to the program].
-The Financial TIme