Who the heck is George Piper? And what does he have to do with the Ballet Boyz? Turns out that "George Piper" is an amalgam of the middle names of Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, dancers with London's Royal Ballet who were featured in Ballet Boyz, a collection of video diaries that first aired on the BBC's Channel Four in 1998. The television exposure apparently inspired them to think outside the box: the two left the Royal to help form K Ballet in Japan the next year, then created George Piper Dances in London in 2001. An unusual sort of chamber ballet group, it's made up of five exquisitely trained dancers, including the founders. Unlike most companies of its size, George Piper was not founded to showcase a resident choreographer, instead offering a range of contemporary works. One of the pieces to be performed here is William Forsythe's 1984 Steptext, a somewhat anomic dance for three men and one woman invigorated by its toughness, both technical and formal. At one point a man leans the woman back in a deep embrace as she stands on pointe; she then swings one leg to the skies and hauls herself upright, achieving a commanding verticality, legs like two compass points. On videotape, all four dancers did a terrific job, but Oxana Panchenko, in the female role, stood out. The other works on the program are Christopher Wheeldon's piece for the full company, Mesmerics (set to excerpts from Philip Glass string quartets), and Russell Maliphant's duet Torsion, performed by Nunn and Trevitt. The selections are interspersed with humorous video footage of the dancers' travels, including their current stay in Chicago. There may not be quite enough fun to leaven the mix, however: New York magazine critic Laura Shapiro describes the three dances as "haunting," "thoroughly haunting," and "too haunting." Nevertheless this is a good opportunity to see top-notch dancers perform demanding choreography in an intimate setting. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Opens Thursday, February 26, 8 PM. Through February 28: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20-$24. Note: There will be a discussion with the artists after the Thursday performance. And the company offers a master class Saturday, February 28, at 1:30 PM at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, 1147 W. Jackson. $15.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Hugo Glendinning.