Separate yet cohesive: 'THIRST' united by variety

Missouri Contemporary Ballet’s "THIRST" includes a wide assortment of works.

One of these things is not like the other.

Classic “Sesame Street,” right? This childhood jingle perfectly describes Missouri Contemporary Ballet’s "THIRST," which premiered this weekend at the Missouri Theatre. The show features an eclectic collection of works that complement each other though no two are remotely the same.

"THIRST" opens with Thang Dao’s “S.O.S.,” a piece that bathes dancers in a deep blue light as they move with robotic precision. A stellar Morrissey song choice plays over rain and thunder in the background.

The mechanical feel gives way to interconnected, rapid-fire movement. Female dancers are literally tossed from partner to partner. A pale yellow spotlight acts as a pool: Dancers dip their toes in, swim across and stay in the middle awhile before returning to the edge.

The second piece, John-Mark Owen’s “minore al maggiore,” is one of the strongest. Clad in simple white shirts, dancers travel through a series of tender, poignant interactions. Movement pauses just long enough for the audience to note sculptural elements in the work. When it resumes, each movement again flows into another.

Quavering classical melodies by Vivaldi and Biber make each image powerful and memorable.

“You Again,” a solo choreographed by Karen Mareck Grundy and performed by Elise Eslick, is lovely in a heart-wrenching sort of way. Eslick’s excellent technique is evident throughout the piece.

The second work by Thang Dao, “Lenore,” is a personal favorite. Set to a reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (think Morgan Freeman-quality), the piece features dancer Fernando Rodriguez as the tortured main character. The remainder of the company, dressed in black up to its eyes, leaps and arabesques around him with choreography evoking flight.

Shannon Lee West’s “proximity” is otherworldly. “Putting the Dog to Sleep” by The Antlers gives the entire piece a retro feel. West’s choreography goes from heartbreakingly isolated duets to interrelated solos to mini-pas de deux — lots to watch and lots to like.

The finale of "THIRST" consists of Karen Mareck Grundy’s “1000 Details,” which features methodical, detail-oriented choreography. The costumes — pieced-together unitards in contrasting shades of blue, yellow and brown — are difficult to digest at first but make sense as the work progresses.

“S.O.S.,” “minore al maggiore” and “proximity” stand out as the cleanest and most compelling pieces of the show. As a whole, the show's diversity in style, music and costume make it well worth attending, and every audience member is sure to come away with a unique favorite.

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