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Wednesday, October 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 49.0° F  Overcast
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Successes and some snags in Autumn Heart by Kanopy Dance Company
Fall finesse

Kanopy Dance Company's Autumn Heart, which played last weekend at Overture's Promenade Hall, was a setback for the company after its plucky goth opera, After the Fall, just last month. Some works on the Autumn Heart bill were just about right, but others fell flat.

Sophia, a premiere by Kanopy principal and ballet mistress Kerry Parker, supposedly was based on a creation myth. The implied imagery was vague, but the satisfyingly complex choreography glittered with rhythmic finesse. Parker's moderne, angular-on-pointe vocabulary paired well with fellow company principal Juan Carlos Díaz Vélez's balletic grand allegros. The corps around them shifted in and out of unison, breaking into solos and duets. A few spots, where my notes say "nada," needed spice, but I look forward to seeing this dance again.

Kanopy co-artistic director Lisa Thurrell's Partita & Chorales was quintessential Kanopy - Graham-based barefoot ballet. The suite de danses featured a corps of seven, including Díaz and Parker. There were no lead roles, but Parker and rising company star Yoshie Fujimoto Kateada stood out. So did Kanopy Company Two member Isaac Jerin Robertson, doing a lock-eyed lift with Parker. But Thurrell's editorial eye could stand focusing. Some sequences were overly repetitive, filling up music but losing their oomph.

I enjoyed Kanopy co-director Robert Cleary's Highway Patrolman, which I also liked in its 2002 premiere. Cleary and Díaz, both ballet-trained, wearing jeans and white T-shirts, danced an ode to U.S. working-class males. This Joe the Dancer good cop-bad cop duet hit all the right notes while keeping it short and sweet.

In Cleary's Wagnerian tableau vivant, Eva in her Garden, lovers flirted around a woodland tree stump. This barefoot pas de deux danced by Díaz and Kanopy principal Meg Johnson was potentially lush and fun, but it suffered from Johnson's amateurish performance.

Left scratching my head, I was even more baffled by Johnson's self-choreographed solo, Crossing in Solo: Obsession. Wearing ripped red dancewear and the expression of someone who's just chomped into a sour lemon, Johnson lept awkwardly amid an unexplained assortment of glassware. According to the program notes this dance drew from a historical sample of women's stories, but it came off as simply pointless.

The public deserves better for its hard-earned ticket money. But works like the finale - one of the company's greatest hits, Thurrell's 2006 Yggdrasil - keep Kanopy's audiences coming back. Performance artist nonpareil and frequent Kanopy collaborator Kiro Kopoulos reprised his starring role as the wintertime Tree of Life in this Romantic dance. He furled and unfurled his spindly white branches with infinite wisdom as Parker, Johnson and additional members from Kanopy, Kanopy Two and the Kanopy School student ensemble cavorted around his trunk, playing with poinsettia garlands. Everything about Yggdrasil works - it's a perfect little holiday piece.

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