A Celebration of the Wacky and Wonderful

posted by Kina Poon on Thursday, Apr 11, 2013
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Silas Henriksen with members of NDT in Lightfoot/León's SH-BOOM! Photo by Rahi Rezvani, Courtesy NDT.

Leave it to Monica Bill Barnes to bring the Joyce into the David H. Koch Theater. Last night's Joyce Theater gala opened with a time-lapsed film of Bill Barnes and dancer Anna Bass lugging a proscenium curtain from the Joyce through Manhattan, resulting, of course, in the film's action continuing live onstage. Their goofy performance involved blinking stage lights, flowers thrown to themselves, and mini-bursts of confetti. (Read about Bill Barnes' approach to humor in this "Quick Q&A.")

Wendy Whelan and Desmond Richardson are undoubtedly two of the most poetic dance artists of our time. That unequivocal fact made the flat-line sameness of Charter, choreographed by Dwight Rhoden, even worse. (Wouldn't it be wonderful to see them together in Agon's central pas de deux? Or in After the Rain?) We're still very much looking forward to seeing Whelan's "Restless Creature," her own project that pairs her with four contemporary choreographers. (It will have a public unveiling of sorts this weekend at the Guggenheim's Works & Process program. You can view the livestream at 3:00PM on Sunday here.)

The happiest surprise was Benjamin Millepied's Sarabande, a rollicking work for four men that reminded me of his Troika, made for American Ballet Theatre, in its good-natured jostling, lifts performed with deceptive ease, and mile-a-minute ballon. All of the men were intriguingly individual, but Randy Castillo, who opened the piece with two solos, was a marvel. His seamless connection of long balletic lines, radiating energy through his spine, to sudden contractions was mesmerizing. (You can get a taste of the piece in this excerpt.) I hope the full company will be back to New York very soon (hint, Joyce!).

Nederlands Dans Theater shone in SH-BOOM!, an equal parts wacky and poignant work by resident choreographers Lightfoot/León. (Paul Lightfoot is also NDT's director.) NDT is perhaps the greatest contemporary ballet company in the world, and the company's full-bodied, voracious dancing was very much on display, spliced with absurdist vignettes—a dancer in Victor/Victoria garb in a lovers' quarrel with himself, the wonderfully creepy Silas Henriksen engaging in slow-motion peek-a-boo with the audience, a flashlight dance with full-frontal male nudity played for laughs. At its conclusion, the audience was showered with the second round of confetti that night.

NDT is at the Koch Theater for two more performances, tonight and tomorrow. The program, as we mentioned in this month's "New York Notebook," is two more Lightfoot/León works and if you're in town, it's not to be missed. There are a few more tickets left, which you can purchase here.