L.A. Dance Project Has Vivid Performers and Fine Repertory. There’s Just One Problem.

Choreographer in Chief

Mr. Millepied made half the repertory brought by his company to the Joyce. And his creations are both bewilderingly versatile and incurably second-rate. He also has the regrettable touch of making his female performers look insincere.

His best piece here is “Orpheus Highway,” which had its world premiere on Wednesday. A two-tier work of film and dance, it suggests — now vaguely, now obviously — the Orpheus-Eurydice myth, set beside a modern American highway, to Steve Reich’s Triple Quartet. (This and two other items the company presented have live music — well played — a luxury at the Joyce.)

Mr. Freeland, marvelously authoritative, is the Orpheus whose Eurydice dies in his arms; when he leads her back to the world, he kills her again by looking at her. The dancers are also shown on the film projected at the back of the stage, often in similar or identical movements, suggesting the story has happened again and again.

But Mr. Reich’s music has a rigor and a metric complexity that the choreography lacks. The dancers do brisk footwork (in tennis shoes) now and then, as if toying with it.

And the worst Millepied piece at the Joyce? The season’s most eagerly anticipated one: “In Silence We Speak” (its world premiere was on Tuesday), a duet for the former ballerinas Janie Taylor and Carla Körbes, set to three compositions by David Lang. Mr. Millepied has set himself a tough assignment here: a study in sustained mutuality, proximity and supportive sensitivity for two women without conflict or contrast. Music gives us many examples, from Bach to Puccini, of the two-voiced female idyll; but Mr. Millepied’s dance is bland in the extreme.

Surrounded by a calf-height frame of dim neon light, Ms. Taylor and Ms. Körbes dance in loose trousers, with flowing hair and (why?) tennis shoes. The choreography keeps suggesting lines, but the sneakers keep the lines from extending through the…

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