The Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Harvard Square is quite the place for Good News.
Worthy groups rent space in the basement: Cambridge Child and Family Associates (mental health clinicians); the Homeless Empowerment Project, which organizes the Spare Change News vendors; the Adbar Ethiopian Women’s Alliance; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; and Solutions at Work (“helping people transition out of homelessness”).
But the reason I know about the Old Cambridge Baptist Church is that I went there Sunday to see ballet.
According to the church’s website, the José Mateo Ballet Theatre “occupies the worship space of the congregation for six and a half out of seven days per week. The church and the ballet company are long term partners, with a forty year lease. On Saturday nights, the worship space is reconfigured from a ballet studio into worship space, as chairs, altar table, organ, piano, and choir risers are moved into place for the worship service on the following day.”
Train buddies have been telling me for years that the ballet company is good and that the Sanctuary Theater is beautiful, and finally I got there. The program consisted of three pieces. The audience sat café-style at little tables. A small bar sold beverages and chocolates, and in the intermissions an accomplished pianist played classical music.
José Mateo, a Princeton grad originally from Cuba, is a talented choreographer with an energetic outreach to the community and to groups previously underserved by ballet. (Check this site.)
The three selections that made up his “Mysterious Arrangements” on Sunday were beautifully performed, and it was great to see the dancers up close in a church. One piece, performed to recorded Bach (Orchestral Suite #2), was an expression of joy. Two other dances, choreographed to Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” and to Philip Glass’s “String Quartet #4,” were both abstract and emotional.
A few words from the director’s program notes convey the vibe: “abstract,” “personal and social tensions,” “dramatic,” “physical and psychological dynamics,” “ambiguous.”
The Ballet Theatre also does a “Nutcracker” every year in a variety of locations to reach diverse audiences.
Photograph of José Mateo ballet “Circles”: Gary Sloan