I went to the Sunday matinee, and I took along a self-described modern-dance fan, who went with me to see Paul Taylor in the Auditorium the night before and who joked with me that she might need some caffeine, because she fell asleep at some ballet when she was young. After Paul Taylor, which she'd been anticipating for a long time, never having seen his company on stage, she said she'd found it mostly boring. She'd wanted something more expansive, I think.
But after Divertimento No. 15 she said, That was beautiful. That was beautiful. They were excellent. I really enjoyed watching their feet. (I pointed out that modern dancers aren't known for their feet, and that ballerinas in particular are more articulate with their feet than most people are with their hands. She agreed.) Mozart and Mr. B. and Ballet Chicago did it again.
Indeed, while I had had a good time with Taylor's Black Tuesday, especially their sharply-outlined rendering of Taylor's development of vernacular dances of the Depression period, and a pretty good time with Sunset, to Elgar, though it put me in mind of Company B to its disadvantage, it came to me at the end of the opening Allegro of "Divert" I would have given the whole of last night's program to see just that much again, but the two companies were opposite each other. And then of course, "Divert" got better. And better. Human dancing, clear, sharp, but alive, human. (Not without a slight flaw of timing or partnering here and there, either. I'll take it.)
Things went a little downhill after that, but this "Divert" was on such a high level, that was no catastrophe, not even a spill late in Tarantella, which concluded the middle part.
Except in Jordan Nelson's solo circle, and even there, Valse Fantaisie (1967), which began the second part, while lovely, lacked much of the buoyancy of the performance that set the standard for this for me around 1980, led by Judith Fugate and Daniel Duell. Now Duell directs this company; there's irony, or something. But the ballerina in this, Rebecca Bruch, the "first among equals" in "Divert" was maybe even more lovely here, while more brilliant there.
In the middle of the middle of the program, Ted Seymour's new dance, Intermezzi, to Brahms's Op. 117, was an engrossingly perceptive work I thought, maybe becoming just a little portentous here and there when his collaborator did. What I'm saying is that the two men evidently worked closely and well together, never mind their difference in age. But Ballet Chicago is like that - you don't see "deaf" choreography here.
Not that you don't see "showy" choreography here: Duell's own 1987 Ellington Suite concluded, with only Dana Coons and Cyrus Bridwell's duet near the end to give it more substance. Don't get me wrong, the dancers always looked good in it.