The Canadian troupe Ballet BC may bill itself as a contemporary ballet company, but if last night’s program is any indication, the style of the company is more along the lines of the Nederlands Dans Theater or the now-defunct Cedar Lake – more in the vein of sock-clad, yearning contemporary. This isn’t a bad thing. (Though the socks can seem like overkill.) This is a group of beautiful technicians, eager to show themselves as adept at liquid partnering as quirky and idiosyncratic movement.

Scott Fowler and Ballet BC company members in Sharon Eyal's <i>Bill</i> © Chris Randle
Scott Fowler and Ballet BC company members in Sharon Eyal's Bill
© Chris Randle

The opening piece, 16+ and a Room is by Ballet BC’s artistic director, Emily Molnar. It feels too long by a third and verges too often on kitsch: dancers skulk onstage carrying signs that read “This is a beginning” and “This is not the end.” We’ve seen this detached nihilism in contemporary dance before, perhaps too many times, for this to read as original or noteworthy. There are many onstage slides into deep lunges and duets in which the dancers interact almost exclusively with the negative space. Where the piece excels is in the dancers’ dynamics – the elasticity with which they manipulate time and movement is like watching taffy be pulled. Ms. Molnar also makes good use of the signage when she keeps things simple: a dancer flips the front and back sides of the sign with beautiful efficiency; another time, one dancer slides the sign into the waiting hands of another, only to remove the sign once more and slink his arm around the dancer’s head.

The finale piece, Bill an Ohad Naharin-esque (in fact, it was originally created for Batsheva in 2010), feels like a cross between what Pee-wee Herman might do with a dance company of his own and a cracked-out version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Wearing long-sleeved unitards, the dancers appear eerily unsexed. A series of opening solos, in which the dancers seem to be competing for The Most Awkward award – and this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it! – are followed by an orange-lit, cult-like section, where a triangle of dancers center stage do Butoh-slow hinges as the rest of the company twitches their hips as backup. While I admire the dancers’ commitment to the wacky weirdness of choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, there’s something missing in the delivery; it’s as if the dancers don't fully own the piece.

Crystal Pite's <i>Solo Echo</i> © Michael Slobodian
Crystal Pite's Solo Echo
© Michael Slobodian
The real meat of the program is its second piece, Solo Echo, a work by Crystal Pite first created for NDT. On the surface, it all seems destined for the overly-sentimental pile: The dancers wear socks again, and the set design (by Jay Gower Taylor) is a black background with illuminated falling snow. But Ms. Pite soon proves her choreographic prowess, not only in her selection of music – two achingly beautiful Brahms cello sonatas, played by Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax – but in her motifs. Watching the dancers, I felt compelled to ask myself what felt unique here. I think it is Pite’s gift for shifting the shapes the dancers makeso seamlessly. It was as if the entire piece were one long ricochet, elastic to the end. As they raced each other across the stage, grasped each other about the waist and felt each other’s faces, they simultaneously carved the space into something tangible and real – not an opaque blackness.