In its local premiere last week, James Kudelka's "The Heart of the Matter" showcased a pair of lyrical dancers familiar as the Joffrey Ballet's most photogenic Romeo and Juliet. However, at its second performance, Tuesday in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Kudelka's ballet about sexual bonding and incompatibility featured two dramatic dancers frequently teamed in the company's "Taming of the Shrew."
As might be expected, the vulnerability implicit in the earlier "Heart" was replaced by a more openly combative approach when Philip Jerry and Denise Jackson headed the cast on Tuesday. Not so expected, perhaps: Jerry's perfect mastery of Kudelka's unorthodox torso motion--those taut, upward/backward stretches and twists at once hot and clenched in affect--and Jackson's remarkable ability to make the tension in her back and shoulders convey the character's concealed resistance.
Unfortunately, mutual shakiness in sustained extensions, awkwardness in executing the lifts across Jerry's shoulders and difficulties with managing Jackson's costume when coming down from the lifts kept the grueling second pas de deux from achieving maximum impact. But this was still a performance with abundant dance power and a distinctive dramatic edge.
In John Cranko's "Jeu de Cartes," Mark Goldweber brought to the role of the Joker his flashy technique and flamboyant attacks. This was a broad, bold portrayal, more persuasive when Goldweber could suddenly cut loose (the zesty jumps in the first "deal," for instance, or the outrageous drag comedy of the third) than when a more sustained, subdued or incisive approach seemed called for.
Gerald Arpino's "Kettentanz" completed the program.