Ice Theatre of New York
Sky Rink, Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
October 17, 2005
Reviewed by Rachel Straus
David Liu takes to the ice with a steel briefcase. He sets it down, opens it, and puts on a pair of red wool gloves. Then, in his black business suit, he rushes forward as though inches from catching a speeding train. Geoff Bennet’s relentless drum score and Liu’s speed on skates create a breathless intensity. This solo, Ritual in 7s, choreographed by JoAnna Mendl Shaw and Liu, becomes masterful when its elements—music, movement, and dancer—crystallize to capture one reality: a corporate culture’s mania with speed and its effect on one individual. Because Liu has no peace, he never stops moving. Like a mad bomber, he ends by sailing into the darkness on his briefcase.
The 12 remaining pieces in this performance didn’t provide the same theatrical cohesiveness as Ritual, but each proved that ice dancing isn’t merely a sport. It’s an expressive vehicle. Under the artistic direction of former figure-skating champion Moira North, the 19-member company is in its 21st season. The United States’ first nonprofit skating ensemble (and the first to be awarded grants as a dance company), it collaborates with modern-dance choreographers and performs choreography that doesn’t require a triple axel to stand out.
Subjects ranged from tried and true—Madame Butterfly, Carmen, and Tango Images—to the experimental. In 2:1, choreographed by David Liu, Alyssa Stith partnered a black folding chair with astonishing skill. Seated on the chair with her arms stretched behind her head, Stith sailed halfway across the rink, managing to finish in a contemplative twirl. Throughout the piece Line Haddad and Tyrrell Gene danced together, their companionship making Stith’s partnership with her chair all the more striking.
The ensemble dances of the evening, Dance Macabre, Draughtsman Contract (choreographed by Elisa Monte), Departures, and On the Town, revealed Ice Theatre’s penchant for the melodramatic, the sexy, and the cute. Yukina Ota’s lyrical arms and expressive torso in Madame Butterfly, a solo choreographed by Tom Dickson, radiated her innate musicality. The reigning two-time World Dance Ice Champions Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov stood out for their steamy, technically flawless partnership. At the gala benefit, two-time world champion Aja Zanova was honored for her contribution to ice dancing’s artistic evolution. See www.icetheatre.org.