In 1986, when Ballet of Dolls first performed its then-transgressive, cabaret-style of ballet, it appeared artistic director Myron Johnson had successfully turned the old “dancers-as-dolls” trope on its head — with a passionate, even groping embrace. The company was also frequently compared to the legendary Parisian dance-theater-music group Ballets Russes, led by impresario Sergei Diaghilev.
One might not want to go that far. But Johnson has, nonetheless. The result is “Pas de Qautre: The Oriental Ballets,” his version of several famous Ballets Russes dances choreographed by Michel Fokine that’s he’s re-done, the Dolls’ way. The show is already generating a lot of buzz.
In the Dollverse (Dolls + universe), “Cleopatra” (1909) now stars the ferocious Stephanie Fellner, doing a blend of classical ballet and jazz. “Firebird,” Fokine’s incendiary 1910 ballet set to Stravinsky’s score, now features the incomparable Zhauna Franks with Robert Skafte.
Johnson’s remake of “Le Dieu Bleu” (1912) uses Native American music, and is performed by Grant Whittaker, Lisa Conlin and Joy Langer. “Scheherazade,” set to Rimsky-Korsakov’s music, stars the slim and elegant Heather Cadigan as the performer who enraptures the Sultan with her kinetic storytelling for 1001 nights.
It’s the Dolls 24th season and the 100th anniversary of the Ballets Russes. Why not celebrate?