Well my dears, who doesn't love a little Southern Gothic? This week, you can thank the Richmond Ballet for serving it up nice and dark in "A Rose for Miss Emily," Agnes de Mille's 1971 ballet reconstructed by Gemze de Lappe. Inspired by a short story by William Faulkner, this macabre little work, well-lit, well-costumed and well-danced, adds a black pearl to RB's repertoire.
Dancing the lead role of Miss Emily on this past Wednesday, Dana‰ Carter exuded a warped vanity, gazing in a mirror conjured in the flat of her hand as she stood tall and slim, alone in the center of her great dark house. Teased by town children, she lived alone with cobwebbed memories -- oh, and the corpse of her former lover (Igor Antonov), stretched out comfortably on the couch.
A chorus of five women in glamorous red dresses (costumed by A. Christina Giannini) amplified Carter's reveries, moving from behind a lacy scrim to draw her back in time. The pas de deux with Miss Emily and Her Lover (now revived) followed the rhythms of breathing, with swooping lifts and a radiant tenderness dampened by the ominously dramatic sound score (composed by Alan Hovhaness, reconstructed by Ron Matson) combined with Miss Emily's terminal unease.
That unease was not unfounded, as Her Lover grew distracted by charming masked ladies among a party of passing revelers. Miss Emily lurked in the background during the revelers' pretty, stylized allegro dancing, in which Antonov became happily enmeshed. From that point, all forebodings were realized. In an increasingly violent pas de deux, Her Lover became disenchanted with Miss Emily and she grew desperate, offering herself repeatedly with a tilt of her head, with a little slap on her thigh, only to be turned aside each time. This could only continue for so long, and Carter's body, the moment she decided on murder, both caved in and tensed for action. You knew she could not be stopped and the story quickly spiraled into darkness.
This Studio Series performance also included Jessica Lang's "To Familiar Spaces in Dream," a choreographic love poem to the piano, in blank verse. The two works together -- dark gothic and light abstract -- form a perfectly balanced program.
The Richmond Ballet's Studio 2 featuring "A Rose for Miss Emily" and Jessica Lang's "To Familiar Spaces in Dream" runs through Nov. 11 at the Richmond Ballet Studio Theater. Tickets are $15-$28. Call 262-8003 or visit www.richmondballet.com.