Lar Lubovitch Dance Company

April 17, 2007

Skirball Center, NYC
April 17-21, 2007

Reviewed by Susan Yung

Pictured: Rasta Thomas, Sean Stewart, Jay Franke in �Little Rhapsodies�

Photo by Nan Melville

Courtesy: Lar Lubovitch Dance Company

Lar Lubovitch has created some new dances that feel as if they spring from a more romantic, idealistic, and yet timeless era. One of the choreographer’s great strengths is the ability to demonstrate his vision of beauty with such commitment that it becomes real, at least for a dance’s duration. Like a spell cast and then broken, the magic lingers in the memory.

Little Rhapsodies, a world premiere, was a superb showcase for three of the accomplished company’s men—Rasta Thomas, Jay Franke, and Sean Stewart. Thomas, a nomadic ballet wunderkind, also guests in the lead role of ABT’s revival of Lubovitch’s Othello this season. He brought a bit of that character’s dramatic intensity to his solos in Rhapsodies, spreading his palms wide and tossing his head back, unleashing passion. Lubovitch showed restraint by inserting just a few bravura moves for the highly gifted Thomas, who displayed a nuanced physical mastery, fleshing out even the subtlest gestures. Franke, a wiry, fleet dancer, expertly showed the continuity of energy in Lubovitch’s choreography, eliding one movement into the next, although his habit of gazing at the floor occasionally weighed him down. Stewart, a veteran of ABT, showed admirably clean ballet technique and an upright carriage that gave him the appearance of floating. His unchanging, detached demeanor sometimes served him well, and other times not. Bold Schumann piano études were played onstage by Pedja Muzijevic, setting the framework for regiment-inspired sequences—high stepping, heel clicks, and plenty of ambiguous masculine camaraderie.

The other premiere, Dvorak Serenade, was an example of the most romantic extreme of Lubovitch’s work. The elegant Scott Rink was matched in height by the amazonian Drew Jacoby, plus a corps of ten. Usually, in group pieces, Lubovitch conjures powerful natural imagery—vortices, mountains, cresting waves—but here, the corps made bulky masses that didn’t enhance, but distracted from, the central figures. Lubovitch’s choice of familiar, strong music at times overwhelmed the airy feel of his silken, organic phrases and Wendy Winters’ filmy vanilla costumes.

Set to tunes sung by Kurt Elling, Love Stories (2005) displayed the choreographer’s jazzy side. A snappy couple, Charlie Neshyba-Hodges and Harumi Terayama, were smartly matched, portraying an alternately smitten and petulant couple. Stewart, featured in “Nature Boy,” seemed out of his element while doing shoulder shimmies and holding his hands like dog paws, but otherwise made Lubovitch’s choreography shine, highlighting its organic shapes, detail-filled construction, and sheer beauty.