Choreographer Melissa Barak, a onetime company member with New York City and Los Angeles ballets, has spent the past two years planning for her own contemporary ballet company to be based in Los Angeles, her hometown. Sunday night was the “pre-launch performance” and about 300 turned out at the new Ann and Jerry Moss Theater in Santa Monica for the show. The concert was smartly planned: four pieces that represent the kinds of works supporters could expect Barak Ballet to produce, including a playful new quartet by Barak, “La Follia,” to music by Antonio Vivaldi. River North Dance Chicago’s Melanie Hortin and Michael Gross performed Frank Chaves‘ searing “Sentir em Nos” while Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s Haiyan Wu and Brian Simcoe did an expert job with “Liturgy,” by Christopher Wheeldon, who is a friend of Barak’s. The show opened with Alissa Halpin and Kelly Ann Sloan in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s striking duet, “Moments,” which knocked out the audience at last summer’s National Choreographer’s Initiative; Barak was a participant there with Moultrie.
The friendly audience gave Barak a standing ovation at the end. It was an hour of great dancing with receptions before and after the show so that viewers could talk to the choreographer and get to know her better. (She inserted a questionnaire in the program to gauge interest in the evening and get to practical matters, such as, “how many miles would you be willing to travel to see live dance.”)
If all goes as planned — which means, if she has raised enough money — Barak has said she will hire dancers for the official company over the summer and begin performances in the fall. Stay tuned.