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Review: A Scrappy Ballet Company, Undone by High Expectations

Alas, it isn’t enough. Mr. Hanna’s ingenuous acting and leading-man moves suit the doltish soldier, and Mr. Kelly brings some sizzle, delivering all his lines as double-entendre. But presented without the usual narrator, the story is fuzzy and flat in spots, and the choreography, heavy on balleticized folk dance, never rises above serviceable. The wonderful score seems underserved.

“The Soldier’s Tale” caps a varied program that was admirable and underwhelming. In the past, I’ve thought of Antonia Franceschi as one of those unjustly neglected choreographers championed by NYTB. She’s not in the same world-class league as Pam Tanowitz, who made her witty, idea-packed “Double Andante,” also on this program, for the NYTB back in 2014, before many of the world’s greatest companies all started hiring her. Still, Ms. Franceschi has talent and skill.

Unfortunately, I found her new “Uncaged” at once overwrought and wispy. Set to a melodramatic commissioned score by Claire van Kampen, the dance is, according to the program note, inspired by Lee Krasner’s “Umber Series” paintings. But this clichéd view of stormy male-female relations has none of Krasner’s precision or power.

Similarly, while I have loved works that the veteran British choreographer Richard Alston has made for the company, I was disappointed in “The Small Sonata,” which he created for his own troupe in 2004. Admittedly, I was very distracted by Julian Macdonald’s tacky costumes: netting and crystals more suited to dancing on ice. But Mr. Alston’s dutiful musicality seemed not to discover much in Ravel’s “Sonatine.”

That musicality, though, did showcase the dancer Erez Milatin. A little guy with luminously clear classical technique, he is one of those standout NYTB dancers who raise expectations; it is easy to imagine him moving up to a major troupe. It may be tempting the devil to want more from him, more for him, but I do.

NYTB/Chamberworks REP program
Through Feb. 15 at Danspace Project, Manhattan; nytb.org.

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