Martin Fredmann, the Tampa Ballet's artistic director, has talked often of pushing his company beyond big, Romantic story ballets - or rather, Fredmann has talked about nudging his audience along. The audience seemed willing to go along Thursday night and the dancers able when the ballet performed a work by local choreographer Lynne Wimmer. It had nothing to do with wood sprites or bewitched princesses. Wimmer's Among Silken Cords was a graceful blend of movements that played with time and space in a manner probably unfamiliar to a traditional ballet audience.
The audience loved Among Silken Cords, and no wonder. Wimmer's choreography to Mozart's Symphony No. 40 toyed with position and movement in a way that was both beautiful and humorous. Throughout the work, pairs and trios of dancers formed and dispersed. An active pair of dancers was often contrasted with an immobile or slowly moving performer to fill the stage with different rates of speed.
Arms and legs were seldom straight, though they often appeared as if they were on the verge of becoming so, before they bent. Male dancers often placed a hand on their female partners' heads in a motion that looked as if it could turn into a caress or a ruthless spin.
Works such as Wimmer's could be a new direction for the company.
The dancers seemed more at home with it than they did in the other selections on the program. There is a male drought in dance, and the Tampa Ballet particularly seems parched. The less the men were on stage during the evening, the better. The Masquerade Suite had some extremely shaky moments for the men, and their contributions throughout were suspect.
There was some charming dancing from the women, however. Yuko Katsumi's gentle and long-lined dancing on Silent Woods was memorable, as was Patricia Renzetti's work during the third act from Raymonda.
DANCE REVIEW Tampa Ballet The Tampa Ballet: Khachaturian/Fredmann Masquerade Suite, Dvorak/Fredmann Silent Woods, Mozart/Wimmer Among Silken Cords and Glazunov/Petipa Raymonda (Act III). Performance 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Further performances 7:30 tonight, Saturday and Sunday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.