Elisa Monte

January 21, 2009

Elisa Monte Dance
The Joyce Theater, NYC

January 21-25, 2009

Reviewed by Emily Macel


Photo by James Edmunds, courtesy Elisa Monte Dance.

Daquan Thompson barrel rolls across the “rich Louisiana landscape” of Monte’s
Zydeco Zaré.

Live music almost always makes a dance performance come to life, and you can’t get much more lively than Zydeco music. For Zydeco Zaré, a New York premiere, Elisa Monte’s company collaborated with Jeffrey Broussard and the Creole Cowboys. The accordion, scrubboard, drums, fiddle, guitar, and vocals of soulful, southern folk/jazz brought a foot-tapping energy to the audience and to the stage.

The other pieces on the program included Slope of Enlightenment (2007), Arrow’s Path (a world premiere), and Audentity, a revival from 1984.

While vastly different in theme—Slope depicts one man’s struggle to find his place within the group, Arrow’s Path is a romantic quintet—the choreography looked recycled. Perhaps program placement was the issue. In Slope the embrace between the main male dancer and secondary male dancers was the recurring movement theme. In Arrow’s Path, the same embrace appeared throughout the intimate portrait that at times looked like a soap opera’s tangled web of love.

was relentlessly repetitive. With a minimal setting and costumes, the full company danced a movement score that built slightly on itself—an audio exploration into their identities. But the synthesizer sound score (by Klaus Schulze) and the metallic lycra unitards rooted this piece firmly in the ’80s without much hope of making a new statement 25 years later.

To help create a rich Louisiana landscape for Zydeco Zaré, photographs of Creole characters and environmental portraits by Jack Vartoogian slide through the background while the company of eight performs solos, duets, trios, and full-company numbers. The dancing is energetic and exuberant. When the band sings “Laissez le bons temps roulet,” the company indeed lets the good times roll. Women tease men in a bar scene; there’s a sensual duet under the stars, and it ends in a full company celebration of life. The varied vignettes not only gaze into the Louisiana world but also showcase the dancers’ skills. Maya Taylor’s come-hither hip flicks and Daquan Thompson’s aerobatic barrel rolls were memorable and indicative of the what the company has to offer.