I've been more than remiss in not acquainting myself till now with the work of José Mateo, whose ballet company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season. It's rare for a choreographer to make a go of it with his own company in this town - but the quality of "Elements of Passion," the first concert of Mateo's season (the last performance is tonight) makes the choreographer's longevity a whole lot easier to understand.
Although it must be said that "Passion" doesn't include all that much unbridled passion. True, all the pieces revolve around (troubled) couples, but Mateo's indebtedness to Balanchine means his sense of romance is embedded in rather cool, modernist structures; to accompany his analysis of a doomed affair, for example, this choreographer chooses Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" - which perhaps has too much historical resonance for such a spare, personal story. At any rate, we're not talking Carmen.
Yet oddly, Mateo's strength lies in the pas de deux rather than elegant group geometries a la Balanchine, and the evening was most compelling in the pairings of August Lincoln Pozgay and the striking Sybil Geddes (at left) in "Time Beyond Time" and Madeleine Bonn and Jacob Hoover in "Schubert Adagio." These long one-on-ones seemed to get at a tone that's uniquely Mateo's - a sense of taut, ironic elegy, if you will. There was also strong dancing on offer from Angie DeWolf and Kehlet Schou, although Mateo's company seems to have a solid base of technique, without any particular star (except possibly Geddes). Of course stars take time to develop - and these dancers will get that chance over this celebratory season, which takes four separate programs to encompass Mateo's full body of work. If you miss tonight's program, you can catch the company at its benefit cocktail party on October 23, and raise a glass to this intrepid choreographer's ongoing succeess.