Review: Remaking the Ballets Russes, With a Queer Spin

Most dancers know the moment they caught the dance bug. For the choreographer Christopher Williams, growing up in Syracuse, it was at a performance of “Les Sylphides,” recognized as the first ballet blanc, or plotless ballet. This Michel Fokine work, originally performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s influential Ballets Russes in 1909, presents a shimmering world in which a young poet meets a group of sylphs, their blindingly white long tutus casting the scene in a ghostly haze.

Over the years, Williams has held firmly onto that experience: It was the first ballet he saw, as he writes in program notes, “that made me want to embody something hauntingly otherworldly.”

Unearthly, ethereal, magical and, yes, otherworldly: These words are synonymous with Williams’s dances, for which he has mined Greek mythology, folklore and the lives of saints. For his debut program at the Joyce Theater, which opened Tuesday, Williams pays homage to…

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