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Reflections From the Past

Ballet Pacifica will dance the original version of Monica Levy's 'Glass,' as well as Choo-San Goh's classical 'Double Contrasts.'

March 21, 2000|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Choreographer Monica Levy tells us how she would like us to see her ballet, "Glass," in its title.

"Glass is the metaphor for the piece," Levy said in a recent phone interview from her home in Boston. "When I think of glass, I think of a window. The piece is about looking into the past and one's past experience.

"You either accept your experiences or you feel frustrated by them. You have a choice."

Morton Subotnick wrote the score that Levy uses for the work, which will be danced this weekend by Ballet Pacifica in a program that also includes works by Balanchine, Choo-San Goh and company artistic director Molly Lunch.

Subotnick's piece is called "Key to Songs."

"It's not exactly music you can listen to just once and feel you've gotten the whole thing," Levy said. "It's very complicated, very multilayered and complex."

Levy created the work for Ballet Pacifica in 1992 at the company's annual summer choreographers workshop. Two years later, she revised and enlarged it for the Hartford (Conn.) Ballet, using more of Subotnick's score and putting the dancers on pointe.

Local audiences will see the original version for six dancers, lasting about 20 minutes.

"You're going to see a dance with a slow movement in the middle and a coda in the end," Levy said. "Basically, it's a piece that begins right away, with a very fast moving section, very dynamic and explosive. Then there's almost a dreamlike section, almost like a play.

"The idea for the coda is that I try to distill the whole beginning section into about a minute and a half. When you have something that you're constantly thinking about, it almost becomes like this flashback. Your mind will distill it for you. You will select things."

There isn't much of a set--just a table and a few chairs.

"I like to work in a simple way and keep the emphasis on the movement, not the visuals," Levy said. "Besides, when you hear the music, you'll see that that is enough. It takes up a lot of what you can absorb. The music is so powerful."

Levy, who was born in New York, has also created works for the Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet and Repertory Dance Theatre of Utah, among other troupes. Currently, she teaches dance composition at the Boston Conservatory and also teaches movement to preschool children.

"I must say that Ballet Pacifica is wonderful to work with," Levy said. "I really admire Molly for bringing such a wide variety of repertory--past, present and future--to her company. I think that's very important. She shows the roots where things come from but also gives support to people to do new things.

"It's also good for the audience to see that range and get a sense of history."

*

One of the older works the company will be dancing is Goh's "Double Contrasts," created in 1978 for the Washington (D.C.) Ballet.

"Choo-San wanted to make something that extended the classical technique of the dancers," said Janek Schergen in a recent phone interview from Ballet Pacifica's studios in Irvine.

Schergen is director of the Washington-based Choo-San Goh and H. Robert Magee Foundation, which holds the rights to Goh's works (the choreographer died in 1987) and which gives out choreographic awards. He was here to set the work on the company.

"Since then it's been danced by Singapore Dance Theatre and numerous companies in the United States," he said.

The work, danced to Poulenc's Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos, is for 12 dancers, divided into two groups costumed either in white or black.

"The black-clad group is a lot more sophisticated and romantic and mature," Schergen said. "The other is more impetuous, fast and frenetic."

But unlike "Glass," the ballet tells no story, not even a semblance of one.

"It has no more intent than to be good classical dancing," Schergen said. "It's formal and pattern- and step-oriented. It's very challenging classically. Dancers have to use the technique that they in essence have trained in since they were children."

Schergen feels that Ballet Pacifica can handle the challenges.

"Ballet Pacifica is doing very nicely," he said. "The dancers looked quite good today."

* Ballet Pacifica will dance Monica Levy's "Glass" and Choo-san Goh's "Double Contrasts," among other works, Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 and 8 p.m. at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive. $20 to $24. ($8 student rush tickets.) (949) 854-4646.

Chris Pasles can be reached at (714) 966-5602 or by e-mail at chris.pasles@latimes.com.

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