BalletX specializes in commissioning new ballets. It even named its headquarters the Center for World Premiere Choreography.
But it has also grown over the years from a plucky start-up to a sophisticated company that presents work others would be proud to dance.
It showed that maturity Wednesday night at the Wilma Theater, when it opened its fall season with three world premieres — all primarily ensemble pieces — by an international trio of choreographers.
The one most likely to resonate is The Last Lifeboat, the true story of 16-year-old Kate Gilnagh who caught the last lifeboat off the Titanic. She was the grandaunt of Berlin-based choreographer Marguerite Donlon, who made the piece. It is also a story that parallels the movie Titanic, as Gilnagh survived thanks a man who wound up drowning.
Chloe Perkes danced the role of Gilnagh, sleeping through much of the chaos until Zachary Kapeluck woke her.
Set to electronic music by Dirk Haubrich, with voice-over narration from old recordings of Gilnagh herself, the piece uses the dancers' movements to represent the drama of the dire situation.
They perform frantic pas de deux, shouting out instructions for both the movements and, presumably, the escape route. They move three wooden pallets around to form the ship, swaying them to show rollicking waters, and enclosing Kapeluck inside them to form his watery grave.
A remarkable amount is described in a stripped-down set.
Dutch choreographer Wubkje Kuindersma’s Yonder is a mostly soothing piece, staged in shades of blue. It addresses the connections and the distances between people and was, fittingly, choreographed in part over Skype.
The dance is set to music by Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet and to a variation on John Lennon’s Imagine by Antony and the Johnsons. It features one dancer, Francesca Forcella, in a darker-blue costume than the others, reaching for her people. They come together but retain some distance as Forcella performs a combination of steps and the others echo with small variations.
I found it hard to focus on the duets, though, because the squeaky stringed instruments and mechanical sounds intruded.
The program closes with Napoleon/Napoleon, Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto’s look at entitled, bullying children — and the unpleasant adults some grow into. This work is set to music by Khachaturian, Vivaldi, Shostakovich, and some others.
The dancers wear militaristic costumes. They march, preen, and complain. They also go through the motions of swans in a corps de ballet, slide across the stage in last-minute entrances, and scoot around on their bottoms. The effect is circus-like, with some tightrope walking and our young dictators crisscrossing the stage carelessly on tiny tricycles.
It’s an amusing scene — we all know people like that — but one best enjoyed from the safety of a seat in the audience.