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Swedes bring cool, sleek style to ballet

BECKET -- The Royal Swedish Ballet may be one of the oldest dance companies in the world, but it's far from the stodgiest, if its chamber troupe of soloists, Stockholm/59° North, is any indication. In one of the most anticipated programs at Jacob's Pillow this summer, the superb ensemble presented three US premieres as well as two older works Wednesday night, and there was not a pointe shoe in sight.

It's a mixed bag to be sure, from the stridently postmodern to a flagrant spoof, but it suggests the range within what has come to characterize the Scandinavian style -- sleek and supple, full-bodied and curvaceous, but impeccably clean and veiled with a veneer of ''cool."

The most experimental work on the program was also the most viscerally thrilling, Orjan Andersson's dynamite ''Come Out." Set to Steve Reich's landmark tape-loop work of the same name, this powerful tour de force for four women (Jeannette Diaz-Barboza, Katarina Laitakari, Cecilia Olsen, and Kristina Oom) used the perimeter of the stage like the confines of a cage. Brilliant leaps, runs, turns, and crashes to the floor sent the women from one sharply defined corner to the next. Layered bursts of activity alluded to the score's phase-shifting words about a Harlem riot. But just as quickly, the four would stop, slowly raking fingers through hair in a gesture that seemed to evoke fatigue, desolation, and ultimately resolve as the repeated phrase ''come out" in Reich's score gradually turned into meaningless noise.

The Finnish-born Jorma Elo, Boston Ballet's newly named resident choreographer, contributed the US premiere of his 2003 work ''In My Dream Team." The piece intersperses movement with video clips of three male dancers and their mothers talking about their vital statistics, their injuries, their childhood dreams. While this helped personalize the work, it fractured the movement and music (excerpts of Weber's ''La Spectre de la Rose") into disjointed vignettes. In this case, avant-garde edge just seemed indulgently messy. The movement itself, however, was dazzling -- characterized by balletic precision and clarity, yet softened by liquid limbs.

The third premiere was Virpi Pakhinen's ''By the Painless Arrow of Artemis," a duet for Jan-Erik Wikstrom and Karin Forslind that looked a little like a scene from ''Cats" gone postmodern. Costumed in earthy red and harsh makeup, Wikstrom flashed his bare chest and Forslind tossed a mane of curly blond hair. With arms bent, drooping wrists, and fingers clenched like claws, the two all but snarled at each other in a predatory pas de deux that featured lunging stretches, unctuously jazzy torso rolls, and some inventive but awkward partnering.

The company gave an excellent performance of the delightful, folk-flavored ''Pas de Danse" by Mats Ek, and it closed the evening with Kenneth Kvarnstrom's cheeky ''Carmen?!"; danced to Rodion Shehederin's medley arrangement of Bizet's opera, this spoof for five men combined terrific dancing with gestures that captured the entire story -- the mystery and danger of the Gypsies, the soldiers' march, the horses, the bulls. There was love and lust, death and destruction, debilitating heat and maddening flies. It was an imaginative sendup, as substantive as it was funny.

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