A Dense Sliver of March Madness

March 29, 2014

Yes, dance has spread throughout the world. But there are times, like this last stretch of March Madness, that New York still feels like the center of the dance world. The wonder for me was not that I saw eight dance events in one week, but that they were all exciting performances with crazy-good dancing.


While watching two Martha Graham Dance Company programs at City Center, I was wowed by the dancers’ astonishing command of a range of styles. The premieres by Nacho Duato and Andonis Foniadakis looked hypermobile alongside the regal stillnesses of Graham’s Clytemnestra and Appalachian Spring. Maurizio Nardi, dancing The Preacher in Spring as his farewell performance, brought an extra verve and sting to the role. Duato’s inventive Depak Ine looked like a kinetic earth-worshipping ritual. PeiJu Chien-Pott, glamorous even while thrashing around as some kind of forest denizen, emerged as a star.


(Right: PeiJu Chien-Pott in Andonis Foniadakis
‘ Echo. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu, courtesy Martha Graham Dance Company.)


On the opposite end was Beth Gill’s spacious New Work for the Desert, which could have been titled The Courage to Go Slow. It immersed us in a world of light and distance that made New York Live Arts feel vast. The illusion was that we had all the time in the world to watch the sky change color. 


Beth Gill’s
New Work for the Desert. Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy Beth Gill.


Victor Quijada’s RUBBERBANDance Group, with no advance hype, slipped into the Pace’s Schimmel Center for the Arts with a a work that I would call stealth choreography. Empirical Quotient expanded and contracted as mysteriously as in a dream. Ultra-contemporary in its blend of ballet, modern and urban dance forms, it sent me to the program bios to find out what kind of training these superhuman dancers had. They created a fascinating forcefield, reacting to each other as though they had touched even when they hadn’t. Invisible strings, I guess. 


Empirical Quotient. Photo by Michael Slobodian, courtesy RUBBERBANDance.


Talk about superhuman: Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance came to Peak Performances in Montclair, NJ, for the third (and I hope not last) time. The dancers in his Atomos go to astounding extremes in shape and motion. They look more elongated to me than last year, perhaps influenced by McGregor’s work with ballet companies. McGregor’s astute sense of structure kicks in just at the moments when the stage might be overtaken by chaos. Dancers Alvaro Dule and Michael-John Harper were insanely good.


Random Dance in
Atmos. Photo by Ravi Deepres, courtesy Random Dance.


And then to top it off, Juilliard presented a stellar program of American choreographers (what a concept!), with the students shining throughout. They were slippery and subtle in Tharp’s Baker’s Dozen, expansive and funny in Lubovitch’s Concerto Six Twenty-Two, and bursting with exuberance in Feld’s The Jig Is Up.


Juilliard dance students in
The Jig Is Up. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Juilliard.


Throw in a dose of Broadway-style entertainment in Aladdin, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, and a sparks-flying “BillChat” at New York Live Arts (“When did the avant-garde become black?”), and that was my week. There wasn’t a single weak link in this dizzying seven days of dance watching.