Michele WilesBalletNext is clearly undergoing evolution. The company was founded in 2011 to “provide a platform for leading dancers, choreographers, and musicians.” This was the company’s first performance after a year-long hiatus and it seems things have changed. Given Wiles’ history and the caliber of her previous collaborators, I anticipated something on the level of a serious professional dance company. I regret to say that this performance did not live up to that expectation. This was more on the order of a school recital. I don’t wish to say anything hurtful about the dancers because they obviously worked very hard to put this show together. They were all engaging performers and they evinced a sincere desire to please. Each of them gave her best effort. In her first show after having had a baby, Wiles showed flashes of her old form but was clearly not yet in peak condition. It was not in any way a bad show but it was not what I was expecting.

Alice Regnouf, Emmi Strickland, Violetta Komyshand and Egle Andreikaite in <i>The Pianist</i> © Eduardo Patino
Alice Regnouf, Emmi Strickland, Violetta Komyshand and Egle Andreikaite in The Pianist
© Eduardo Patino

As currently constructed, BalletNext consists of its leader, Michele Wiles, and five young women. Choreographer Bailey Anne Vincent created and also danced in a piece for this show. The musical accompaniment was top notch with Elliot Figg on piano, Angela Kim on violin and the Tom Harrell Duo. Other than the collaboration with Vincent, all the works were choreographed by Wiles and she created her dances to make use of their ability level. At no time did they seem to be in over their heads.

The opener was The Pianist with Figg on the piano. The effect of great musicians on a show is immeasurable and Figg was superb. With no men to partner, Wiles and her dancers supported one another in this neo-classical piece. They used the piano as part of their environment, taking turns sitting on the bench with Figg. Experience followed with Kim on violin and Figg on piano, music by Ludovico Einaudi. It was a nice modern dance duo featuring Violetta Komyshan and Natalie Stys. If anything, Kim is an even better musician than Figg. I made a note to myself to see if she performs elsewhere around the city. Follin, the next work, was a collaboration with deaf dancer-choreographer Bailey Anne Vincent. It was accompanied by recorded music of Philip Glass and a Robert Frost poem that was read by Anna Wotring and signed by Emily Hepburn Moran. Vincent is not a great technical dancer but she is very expressive which compensated. She used more signing gestures than the other dancers and when she did, it was elevated to choreography rather than just everyday language. The closer was Vibrer with the Tom Harrell Duo, Harrell on trumpet and Danny Grissett on piano. Harrell’s playing is often sotto voce and reminded me at times of the late great Chet Baker. This jazzy piece was the most effective of the night. All of the dancers moved with expressive ease and executed everything pretty well.

Bailey Ann Vincent and company in <i>Follin</i> © Eduardo Patino
Bailey Ann Vincent and company in Follin
© Eduardo Patino

By all means drop in and see BalletNext but be aware that this a dance company in transition. All the musical collaborators were first class. Go with an open mind and reasonable expectations and you will enjoy yourself.