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Comfortable in their surroundings

Mateo Ballet sparkles in tight setting with 'Time'

CAMBRIDGE -- With every outing, Jose Mateo's 19-year-old company refines its mission to extend the vocabulary, and delivery, of classical dance. The company's current program features works from 2003 to now: Mateo isn't looking back.

In looking forward, he's built a company of exceptional, and exceptionally loyal, dancers who understand his fleet, buoyant style. Nobody in this company fusses over preparations for pirouettes; ''just do it" is the message.

The current program, in the Sanctuary Theatre in the Old Cambridge Baptist Church near Harvard Square, feels like the dancers, Mateo, and the space have all gotten used to each other. The choreography and the dancers have blossomed to fit the church, and they've adjusted to a setting that is not all that unconventional: America has a long history of excellent dance produced in church spaces, but generally it's been rule-breaking contemporary fare rather than the updated classicism that Mateo offers.

This program of four works by Mateo is masterful. In addition to three works seen previously, set to music by Ravel and Cuban composers, there's a premiere, ''Time Beyond Time," set to the eponymous score by Olivier Messiaen. It's a complex group piece that begins on an astringent note, with women emerging from columnar backdrops in movements that are searing, sharp, and crisp. They seem like a swarm of celestial insects, stretching and buzzing. Longtime company member Meg Flaherty gestures like a great bird and eventually finds a mate in Cosmin Marculetiu. The pace of the score's third movement is languid, with partnerships ever changing. The tone of the movement is quietly apocalyptic, however much those words clash. A melancholy duet has ''farewell" written all over it. All along, Flaherty has been supported, literally, by Marculetiu, but at the end she goes limp, her severe angular gestures dissolving into softness. This feels like a ballet that deserves a sequel -- and one that deserves repeat performances.

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