I was knocked flat by Bronislava Nijinska's Les noces when I saw its reconstruction by the Joffrey a few years ago: driven by Stravinsky's whining, pounding oriental score, it captured with horrifying accuracy the biological and social imperatives of marriage. Now French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj has tackled the same subject using the same music and done a bang-up job: his Noces is just as formal, just as austerely beautiful, just as unballetic, as Nijinska's dance--and he manages to pull this 74-year-old piece based on primitive ritual into the present. Five couples--the women in timeless black dresses and pumps, the men in white shirts and ties--dance on and around five benches, enacting the elaborate gamesmanship of newlyweds through Preljocaj's abrupt, almost mechanical, yet deeply kinetic and moving choreography. This is one of two dances he's created in a tribute to Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, for whom Nijinska choreographed her piece; the other is Spectre de la rose, which uses the same music as Michel Fokine did in 1911 (by Carl Maria von Weber) in an updated version of the classic romantic tale. Rounding out the program is Preljocaj's Annonciation, set to music by Vivaldi and Stephane Roy. It's not every day a choreographer takes a biblical moment as his subject; I'm very curious to see what Preljocaj does with Gabriel and Mary's historic meeting. Thursday, May 8, through next Saturday, May 10, at 8 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; $15-$25, half price on all tickets opening night. Call 773-989-3310, 773-935-6860, or 312-902-1500 for tickets and information. --Laura Molzahn
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited photo.