“Let’s dump it upside down and see if we can’t find something human in it,” the actress tells her co-star in John Cassavetes’s film “Opening Night,” talking of a role she views as stereotypical. Gena Rowlands, the film’s star, recalls that comment in a Daily News article on display at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Compagnia Aterballetto opened on Tuesday night across the lobby from a film tribute to Ms. Rowlands.
Something different — whether human or just new — might have also been what Mauro Bigonzetti had in mind for his reworking of two early-20th-century classics, “Les Noces” and “Petrushka,” for this Italian ballet troupe, which he directs. But what comes pouring out when his dances are turned upside down is a clattering tangle of shiny steel chairs, tables, door frames and clothes racks.
He has modernized the works so they look like a great deal of European choreography of an era influenced by the antiseptic stylings of Jiri Kylian and Glen Tetley. This is particularly true of the sleek, chilly new dance “Les Noces.” You do not know Mr. Bigonzetti or his dancers any better after 80 minutes with them.
The original “Noces” and “Petrushka” had profound things to say about the human condition. The updated versions are not entirely without interest: four men in “Les Noces” jump like fleas onto a long metal table at center stage, and there is the germ of an idea in Mr. Bigonzetti’s turning Petrushka (Thibaut Cherradi) into a hardscrabble thief.
But the puzzling scenario for “Petrushka” turns out, according to the company’s press kit, to be a story about a loner’s response to a consumerist society. The plot is unintentionally funny at times, with four police officers dancing up a storm, a white man in a white suit playing the character identified as the Moor (Valerio Longo), and a Marilyn Monroe-like Ballerina (Ina Broeckx).
Mr. Bigonzetti has said he intends “Les Noces” to suggest the killing effect of the commitments society requires of lovers. That never comes through in the piece, performed by a cast headed by Macha Daudel and Roberto Zamorano in the first pas de deux and Ashen Ataljanc and Walter Matteini as the bride and groom.
Surprisingly, the Aterballetto engagement is part of the academy’s supposedly forward-looking Next Wave Festival.
“Les Noces” and “Petrushka” will be repeated through Saturday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, at Ashland Place, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; (718) 636-4100 or www.bam.org.