Falling in Love with Fall for Dance

September 21, 2008

That’s a misnomer (ormis-title) since I already fell in love with New York City Center’s Fall for Dance in 2004 when it started. But I do sort of swoon over the variety each year. And it’s only partly because I am now an artistic advisor. It’s pretty thrilling to be fully absorb one piece and then after a silence (or rather the excited buzz of an audience that has paid only $10 to see excellent work) you get pulled into an entirely different piece. What typified this kind of shift for me was seeing Merce Cunningham’s Sounddance (1975), in which David Tudor filled our ears with cricket noises and lots else that went into the wall of sound accompanying an urban forest of dancers in constant motion, bristling with spiky energy. You’re just on Planet Merce for those 20 or so minutes. After the audience buzz died down and the lights dimmed, you heard the slow beat of an African drum for Asadata Dafora’s Awassa Astrige/Ostrich (1932)—and you’re transported half way round the world. Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s G. D. Harris, with his undulating arms, thrusting chest, and proud head, took us to an African grassland. Totally satisfying.

   That was in Program 2.

   In Program 3, the clean crisp lines of a duet from Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush, beautifully danced by Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov of Oregon Ballet Theatre, made a great contrast with the onrush of Hofesh Shechter’s Uprising. The cast of his seven vigorous, affectionate, aggressive, prowling, pushing, fleeing, steadfast men, now creature-like, now heart-breakingly human, caught us all off guard. (You can read about Shechter, an Israeli choreographer who  lives in London, in the “Dance Matters” section of our September issue.) I can only say it was a powerful performance.

   As exciting as it is to discover a company or artist you hadn’t known before, or to see a piece that knocks you out artistically, I think the more profound thing about this festival is that it enlarges the idea of dance, the world of dance. We tend to circulate in our own niche and think we can see on a flat line to the horizon. Being at Fall for Dance is like discovering that the world is round. There is so much more dimension to the dance world than we usually see. I hope all of you who are anywhere near NYC had or have tickets to see at least one of these six programs, which end on Saturday.