In dance, lineage matters. It’s how a budding choreographer learns from a master or, at the very least, grasps something about craft and collaboration. Making a dance is an act of give and take.
In the case of the choreographer Emily Molnar — celebrating her 10th anniversary as artistic director of Ballet BC, or Ballet British Columbia — there is more take than give. Displaying her lineage, she programmed her own “To this day” alongside a masterwork from William Forsythe, in whose Ballett Frankfurt she once danced. She also included “Solo Echo,” by Crystal Pite, another Canadian choreographer and Forsythe alumna.
The program, which Ms. Molnar brought to the Howard Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music starting Thursday, proved that Mr. Forsythe’s choreography — at least its angular shapes in which every limb is stretched and torqued like taffy — is easy to imitate, but impossible to replicate. Yet oh do his former dances try.
The evening opened with Mr. Forsythe’s “Enemy in the Figure” (1989), a stylish mediation on structure and disorder. After that the program took a ponderous turn. Ms. Molnar’s Jimi Hendrix-inspired “To this day” (2018) is a tepid rendering of the blues, its dancers attired in Kate Burrows’s colorful tops and pants as they grappled with sophomoric themes of the individual versus the group. Mr. Forsythe’s influence was recognizable throughout her movement phrases, whether brisk or in slow motion, which emphasized her dancers’ elasticity.
In the first moments, the dancers, one by one, walked to the front of a foggy stage and stared out at the audience before raising a right arm straight into the air. Instead of evoking defiance, it looked innocuous; and that wasn’t the last time we saw the gesture. Twisting, rolling and falling backward, the cast eventually took turns racing across the stage into a slide — “Risky Business” on a loop.
Ms. Pite’s “Solo Echo” (2012), set to Brahms, was inspired by a Mark Strand poem, “Lines for Winter.” There is falling snow as dancers, grim and self-serious, tangle up and separate as if moving through a force field. Like “To this day,” it has the air of an expensive student production — especially in contrast to Mr. Forsythe’s “Enemy in the Figure.”
In “Enemy,” moving lights, a rippling rope and a wavy barrier cutting through the center of the stage work together to hide and reveal dancers lurking in painterly shadows and slivers of darkness while they fling a leg or a shoulder against an exposed wall, jog in a corner or pair up to mimic a skater’s gliding stroke.
The way Mr. Forsythe commands the architecture of the space is full of surprises, and the dancers — with a sleek, disjointed kind of grace — curl in and out of pockets of the stage as if spinning through riptides. Thom Willems’s ominous, pulsating score ties the urgent scene together: How is it that in the end all of its pieces, seemingly fragmented, fit together like a puzzle?
The mystery in Mr. Forsythe’s dance reveals his mastery at imparting emotion — dark, insistent, playful — through finely detailed movement; with that comes the sense that the dancers are living their own worlds within his bigger canvas. On this program, “Enemy” felt more like a good friend.
Through Saturday at the Howard Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; 718-636-4100, bam.org.
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