Beautiful Things I’ve Seen

June 2, 2008

Sometimes I get to see so many gorgeous things that I feel like my cup runneth over. Or maybe my eyes runneth over. Anyway, here are some of the recent reasons I feel so fortunate.

• Damian Woetzel and Janie Taylor of NYCB in Robbins Afternoon of a Faun:

This was a dream world from the first note of Debussy’s flute to the last. Woetzel and Taylor both danced as if behind a veil, a veil of narcissism that Robbins intended. But it’s a narcissism that’s familiar, a ballet class look in the mirror, extended in time and place and fantasy. The sensuality of that first stretch of his leg, the way she languidly admires her own arched foot in the “mirror” —together they created an atmosphere of pleasure that was shared—or was it?

• Bigonzetti’s Oltremare:

It’s even more raw and exciting than it was last season (my review is in the May issue). You wonder what turmoil these refugees have faced that makes them be so fierce with each other. Their partnering is daring and organic at the same time, and the group stuff is sort of goofy and celebratory. It’s the opposite of Faun in that the partners really affect each other. In one section of all the couples in unison, the woman is lying on the ground and extends her leg up until her foot touches his upper back, and he reacts by suddenly flinging his arms up.

• The Danspace gala honoring Laurie Uprichard:

When John Kelly started singing a cappella from the back of the space and slowly walked up to the altar, well, it was magical. Also great was David Dorfman reading a letter from Kei Takei, whom they both (David and Laurie) had danced with, saying what a “leopardess” Laurie had been as a dancer. The letter said, “I could almost see her tail!” Not the soft-spoken, hard-working advocate of the arts that we usually think of as Laurie Uprichard! (After many years heading Danspace, she is now running an international dance festival in Dublin.) One of the performers after the dinner was Steve Paxton, doing the snaky interior kind of dancing he has done for years, leading with the head—and the ears, as though he were listening to himself. He ended in the proximity of Laurie and bowed his head. There is a time for that kind of meditative dancing, and this was it.

• The ABT spring gala at the Met

Ethan Steifel was super charged up as Basilio in the Don Quixote pas de deux. Martine van Hamel was subtly, sublimely hilarious as Venus in Tudor’s Judgment of Paris. And Nina Ananiashvili and Angel Corella were divine in an excerpt of Giselle

• Houston Ballet’s rendition of Stanton Welch’s Falling (2005)

What was beautiful was the floating silences in between the Mozart movements. Each time a musical movement ended, the dancer or dancers would not stop moving but slow down gloriously as though they were floating in space, unmoored by meter. You got so you couldn’t wait till the orchestra completed each Mozart movement so you could see that slow-motion bridge between the last musical movement and the next.

• Susan Rethorst’s 208 East Broadway, Part 2, Suitcase Dreams

You enter a world of quiet intimacy of someone’s living room (Rethorst’s) of women just hanging out together, but oddly so: shifting, lying too close to each other, nudging, or tossing a pillow to the floor. There’s just enough congruence that seem happenstance, and just enough hint of craziness and wild humor under the surface, that you cannot turn your eyes away. And when one woman goes to open a back door, and everyone freezes, you know something good is coming, and it’s Jodi Melnick. The others slide the furniture away, and all attention is on Melnick, a true dancing diva (see my last blog of the Dancing Divas program at La Mama that included Melnick). She knows just when to make a ridiculous theatrical gesture (like throwing her head back to look at us), just when to be sly, and just when to loosen her hips in a mini samba. Sheer heaven.