BJM Danse Montreal arrived at the Byham Theatre Saturday during Pittsburgh Dance Council's busy springtime dance fling. However, some people might not have realized that they had seen the company before under its previous title, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal. The new moniker is sleeker (although repetitive in its dual usage of Montreal) and separates the company from the similarly named Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo and terpsichorean neighbor Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal. But it also hides the balletic and jazz components for which the company is known.
The BJM style has always circulated around the performing strength of its jazz element, with a strong technical foundation in ballet. International ballerina and company member Celine Cassone even broke out her pointe shoes for "Locked Up Laura," an intertwining choreographic snapshot of an artist in turmoil, performed with James Gregg, that took great advantage of her superb control and extensions. The two dancers were remarkably fluid, almost boneless in creating rippling undulations that initiated in the torso and spread throughout the body.
It was representative of the company itself, where the dancers showed an exceptional range and versatility -- strong leaps and turns, coupled with street-style smarts and acrobatic agility -- all executed with a cohesiveness that rendered the choreography to the most minute detail.
For the Dance Council performance, BJM brought an urban dance component in the works of two female choreographers. That's a rarity in itself on the concert dance stage, where men generally rule the roost. But structure and intelligence successfully combined with street-smarts? Let's hope they are heading a new wave of choreographic feminism.
The company first introduced Aszure Barton, native Canadian and first resident artist at the Baryhsnikov Arts Center in New York City. She now has her own group and has choreographed for American Ballet Theatre, Sydney Dance Company and the Martha Graham Dance Company, and this piece pulled from her global dance nature.
Although "Jack in a Box" was inspired by the lives of the BJM dancers and portrayed group dynamics through the choreography, it was a whole world unto itself.
And then he joined them.
I loved the simplicity/complexity of Ms. Barton's choreographic mind. And the music was a banquet of classics, folk and pop.
It was delicious.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa contributed the aforementioned "Locked Up Laura" and is BJM's current resident choreographer with credits that include Pennsylvania Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders and Ballet Hispanico.
She provided the finale, "Zip Zap Zoom," a title that could be attributed to dance, or in this case, a dip into the zippy world of video games. It indeed had zappy video work, with mostly black and white geometric graphics that sometimes initiated the movement but could also interfere. And sometimes the tongue-in-cheek aspect wrestled with the muscular choreography.
But on the whole, Ms. Ochoa displayed a real dance imperative that could cause her career, yes, to zoom.