In Paramodernities, Netta Yerushalmy deconstructs dance masterworks and presents their movement alongside scholarly essays that contextualize them. Yerushalmy has had a sterling dance career, working with Doug Varone's company and freelancing with notables like Joanna Kotze, as well as making her own dances. This particular project is in demand in such places as Jacob's Pillow this month, and later at venues across the country, including multiple New York City sites.
New York Live Arts, NYC
September 16–25, 2011
Performances reviewed: Sep. 16, 17
Photo: Paul Matteson and Jennifer Nugent in Valley Cottage. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy NYLA.
The inaugural event of New York Live Arts (the merger of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Dance Theater Workshop) sets the bar high with "Body Against Body." These dances, created between 1977 and ’82, are all costumed and lighted by heavy hitters Liz Prince and Robert Wierzel, respectively. The two programs illustrate Jones' and Zane’s early choreographic methods.
Monkey Run Road (1979), Valley Cottage: A Study (1980/81), and Blauvelt Mountain (A Fiction) (1980) are duets originally made by the partners for themselves. All explore similar movement materials, and it’s interesting to see how phrases transform their intention from formally doling out motifs in Monkey Run to organic flow in Valley Cottage and emotional catharsis in Blauvelt.
In Monkey Run, tall Talli Jackson and small Erick Montes replace Jones and Zane. They start, dutifully recreating precise pushing of a large wood box from here to there and back, sitting on it, diving into the hole in its top, doing solo phrases of different lengths in front of it, then doing them at once, timed to end together. Gradually, the men become more themselves and add their personal flavor to the dance. At 30 minutes, it’s too long for cyber-age sensibilities, but Jones’ craft can bore and fascinate us simultaneously.
In Valley Cottage, Paul Matteson and Jennifer Nugent—also a real-life couple—capture the rapport of the original partners. But their tour de force is Blauvelt Mountain, in which their repetitive persistence builds fierce emotional intensity; the two exhaust themselves in a miasma of endlessly rearranged, repeating motifs. The movement takes a backseat to personal relationship. Their verbal word association repartee is as comfortable as a slipper, as they dance with Olympic stamina and precision—slow-motion fighting, caressing, wrestling, skipping like pop stars.
In Duet x 2 (1982) LaMichael Leonard, Jr. and Antonio Brown burst through a red-fringed swinging door (by Bjorn Amelan) and walk divergent paths before engaging in contact that alludes to Jones/Zane’s life partnership—mutual support, hand-holding, squabbling. At length, they exit the saloon doors, but immediately the duet repeats with Jackson replacing Brown. So archetypal are the measured moves that small alterations from one partnership to the next are vivid.
An array of illustrious guests graces Continuous Replay (1977), including Jones/Zane alumni (Alexandra Beller, Arthur Aviles), and members of the Cunningham (Robert Swinston, Jennifer Goggans), Trisha Brown (Vicky Schick), Alvin Ailey (Matthew Rushing), and Graham (Marni Thomas, Tadej Brdnik, Janet Eilber) dance companies—even Graham channeler Richard Move.
Led by Erick Montes, naked throughout, Replay is an accumulation, set to John Oswald’s sampling of birdcalls, disco, and Stravinsky. Dancers repeatedly join and leave the phrase, first nude (some less inhibited guests), then in black, black and white, and finally white clothing. In a corridor of light, the piece traverses the upstage, moves down, then across the front, surrounding solos, duets, and trios that happen in the negative central space. Here, although the material constantly repeats, its modulation in ever-changing combinations keeps it gripping.
“Body Against Body” continues at New York Live Arts through September 25. Click here for information and tickets.
Susan Marshall & Company
Baryshnikov Arts Center, NYC
Performance reviewed: June 10, 2011
Photo: Kristen Hollinsworth in Adamantine. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy BAC.
Susan Marshall & Company took over two performance spaces at BAC, June 9–11, for a celebration of its 25th anniversary season. The Howard Gilman Performance Space became a gallery for installation of five miniature works from 2006 and 2008 (under the title “Frame Dances”), created by Marshall in collaboration with her dancers. And in the Jerome Robbins Theater, Adamantine (2009) exposed and exploited the theater’s technical capacities.
Marshall’s strongest works have always been small duets, which use simple gesture to establish intimate, personal relationships. In “Frame Dances” three video screens around the room showed live dances, projected onto them, and previously recorded ones.
In the video-only Frame Dance, an excerpt from Cloudless (2006), five dancers squirm around in a tight, square box, filmed from above. In Sandstone (performed live) Kristen Hollingsworth and Joseph Poulson pursue the same idea, thrashing like frisky puppies in a four-foot-square sandbox, digging up buried stones, which they toss out of the box.
A dozen people slide and get pulled across a patch of Astroturf in Green, Green Grass. We watch the pedestrian mechanics of the live people, hauling and crawling on the floor and then watch them on screen, floating effortlessly, up and down, defying gravity.
Poulson, in Forward, spins upside down in a transparent, fog-filled cubicle. He rises and sinks on rigging by Flying by Foy. On video, he’s often invisible in the acrid mist, although live we can always see him, flailing in the smoky cell. This and Body of Water (seen only recorded)—where Luke Miller and Darrin Michael Wright bathe sensually together in a pool of milky liquid—don’t really transcend their mechanics, as the other two live pieces do.
Adamantine melds dance, sound, and visual design into a series of provocative images in search of a unifying theme. The bare stage becomes a canvas for myriad effects of light and scenery by a crackerjack team (video design, projections, and scenic design by Jeremy Lydic; lighting by Mark Stanley). The kinetic sensibility is Marshall’s, but because she collaborates with her dancers in creating phrases, the vocabulary shows traces of the styles of other postmodern choreographers they dance with.
In the rich aural atmosphere, it’s hard to distinguish Jane Shaw’s sound design from Peter Whitehead’s score, which incorporates a few of his folk-rock songs, sung by him on guitar with drummer Elton Bradman.
Dancers’ silhouettes moving in a spotlight, projected on the rear wall, sometimes match the dancer onstage. Another large light lowers over a clump of dancers lying on the ground. Hollinsworth dances in its beam, and other dancers block it every time she falls down; we’re not sure which is cause and which effect.
Miller, Poulson, and Wright tangle, slapping each other’s bottoms. A spotlight circles the space, briefly catching ongoing motion, like a lighthouse beacon. An electric fan blows aloft clear plastic jackets that Hollinsworth puts on. Fluorescent and strobe lights catch her and Miller alternately frozen in tableaus and tussling on the ground.
A heavy plastic tarpaulin—black on one side, silver on the other— descends from the grid and slowly revolves, revealing and concealing the dancers’ action in a sophisticated game of peek-a-boo. A canvas sail drops into in an upstage corner, behind which there’s more playing with the fan. A white curtain falls behind Whitehead, singing on a rolling platform; the dancers rip it down. And in what’s lately become a common theatrical device, four lamps swing like random pendulums, as Petra van Noort nimbly cavorts amongst them before vanishing into the darkness.
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
May 25, 2011
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
Sascha Radetsky, Alexandre Hammoudi and Daniil Simkin in Benjamin Millepiedâ€™s Troika. Photo by Mikhail Logvinov. Courtesy ABT.
Itâ€™s a shame the general public has no idea how difficult the dancing is that American Ballet Theatre does with such authority, grace, and apparent ease. The program titled "From Classic to Premieres"â€”comprising premieres by Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon, a new work by Benjamin Millepied, and Antony Tudor's 1967 Shadowplayâ€”received respectable applause on Wednesday, May 25, reflecting not the quality of the dancing, which was typically amazing, but the wow factor of the choreography, which featured few flashy tricks.
Ratmanskyâ€™s Dumbarton is a lyrical etude for five stellar couples, impelled by Igor Stravinskyâ€™s Dumbarton Oaks. The dancers dash on and offstage in too-brief interactions in myriad combinations. Even in an abstract piece Ratmansky throws in little dramatic flourishes, and his forte, quick shifting of spatial patterns, reigns throughout. The ballet is well-craftedâ€”no surprise for Ratmanskyâ€”but the constancy of change and fast pace makes it too frenetic to savor.
Millepiedâ€™s Troika, which premiered at Moscowâ€™s Bolshoi Theater in March, is a male trio, set to Bach solo cello music, wonderfully played by Jonathan Spitz seated onstage. After an opening of good-natured horseplay, the structure has each man by turns taking the lead, while the other two accompany, lifting and supporting him or matching his steps. Millepied features each dancerâ€™s strengthsâ€”Sascha Radetskyâ€™s exuberance and dazzling beats, Daniil Simkinâ€™s playfulness, and Alexandre Hammoudiâ€™s poeticism. But boyish roguishness seems juvenile for such a masterful cast.
Shadowplay reflects Tudorâ€™s fascination with Buddhism. It recounts the journey of its protagonist toward Nirvana, beyond worldly irritations. Boy with Matted Hair (Craig Salstein, technically assured and expressively restrained), reposing by a gnarled tree (scenery and costumes by Michael Annals), encounters a pack of vine-swinging Arboreals, a six-pack of Aerials on point, a Terrestrial (stately Cory Stearns), and Celestials (Xiomara Reyes, lofted by strongmen Roddy Doble and Patrick Ogle). This odd, exotic piece is a curiosity we appreciate getting to see once.
Handily abetted by Brad Fieldsâ€™s dazzling lighting, Wheeldon paints ravishing stage images in the premiere of Thirteen Diversions. The cast in Bob Crowleyâ€™s stylish costumesâ€”four lead couples in light gray and eight couples in blackâ€”move against a backdrop of changing color washes with a glowing bar of light in contrasting hues that changes the perceived height of the space. To Benjamin Brittenâ€™s Diversions for Piano and Orchestra, Wheeldon sends the corps streaking across the stage like paintbrush strokes, creating spaces for his amazingly inventive partnering, most especially a duet for Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg that twines like a warm embrace.
Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Co.
92nd Street Y, NYC
February 18–20, 2011
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
Joe Varca, Chad Hoeppner, and Robert Eli Thompson in Nancy Bannon's A Man of Wealth and Taste. Photo by Julie Lemberger, courtesy 92nd Street Y.
Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Company opened the annual Harkness Dance Festival with a mixed evening titled “LITup,” a potpourri of pieces by Young, Thomas, and four guest artists. Dancer Luke Miller turned the Y’s Buttenweiser Hall into a cabaret with casually arranged chairs, couches, carpets, and pillows for audience members, who were encouraged by a program note to “feel free to move around, change your seat or visit the bar anytime during the performance.” The informal setting and the drinks helped dampen our expectations for artistic epiphany.
Jonathan Belcher and David Ferri were credited as lighting designers, so we didn’t know whom to blame for the annoying on-and-off flashing of the lights that accompanied Young’s opener, Tensing. To electronic sound by Georgios Kontos, 10 notable dancers (including Miller, Darrin Wright, and Omagbitse Omagbemi), scattered throughout the space, did short fragments in unison groups and canons. Young’s distribution of the movement in space deftly averted chaos, but his intention remained elusive.
In Young’s other opus, Off (for Pedro & Ildikó), Pedro Osorio and Ildikó Tóth essentially made out, while Young’s real-time, close-up video of them was projected on the wall behind them. In Thomas’ Damsel, Keith Johnson walked a tightrope, flailed and rolled in typical postmodern style, and wrestled with a tangle of rope on the boxy little stage at one end of Buttenweiser.
Levi Gonzalez, in his Performance Experiment with Furniture, climbed over assorted furniture appropriated from the audience—a couch, benches, chairs, and stools—trying to keep his feet off the floor. The audience enjoyed his zany, self-imposed challenges. But the show’s most fully realized work was Nancy Bannon’s short play, A Man of Wealth and Taste. Actors Chad Hoeppner, Robert Eli Thompson, and Joe Varca portrayed three buttoned-up junior execs, letting off steam at a hockey game. They vociferously and profanely professed that this was “the MOST FUN EVER,” but we slowly learned that their bravado concealed personal misfortunes.
Geared to be equal parts concert and party—complete with DJs Terror Dactel and Damian Quinones—“LITup” recalled that ubiquitous phenomenon of the sixties, the “happening.” Neither part, party nor concert, was momentous, and it’s ironic that the most moving piece wasn’t even a dance.
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Paul Taylor Dance Company
New York City Center, NYC
February 24–March 14, 2010
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
Julie Tice and Michelle Fleet in Brief Encounters. Photo by Tom Caravaglia, Courtesy PTDC.
Each time I anticipate seeing the Paul Taylor Dance Company, I think, “Uh-oh, that old pre-postmodern dance.” And each time I actually see his dances, I think, “What good choreography!” Taylor turned 80 this year and in celebration presented 18 works in his City Center season.
Seeing many of Taylor’s dances at once, you realize that he has a habit of establishing a community of people and dancing them through a series of semi-narrative episodes that take you on a journey of sorts. By the end you don’t necessarily know any more deeply about those folks you’ve just spent 25 minutes watching, but the trip has been kinetically and visually engrossing.
Spindrift (1993) features set and costumes by frequent collaborator Santo Loquasto—typically, shirtless men and mini-skirted women, and here, a projected skyscape. A romantic “Quartet Concerto (after Handel),” composed (surprisingly) by Schoenberg before he waxed atonal, accompanies it. The highlight is a solo for Michael Trusnovec, one of Taylor’s stars. Whether gliding across the ground, falling into it, or bounding into the air, his apparent ease and catlike grace are uncannily silken.
Runes (1975) reminds us of Taylor’s Martha Graham roots with its contractions and controlled falls. Here, a human body lies onstage that the dancers either ignore or not, as they streak across the space. Partners get replaced in the midst of duets, as though they were interchangeable ciphers. The ballet’s intent remains a puzzle, while its animal physicality seduces us.
A commissioned score by Donald York drives Syzygy (1987). Thirteen hyperactive denizens comprise this tribe, led by tiny firecracker Julie Tice, who alternates between balancing in a low back attitude pose and flying around like a maniac. Dancers' limbs flail and bodies vibrate in whizzing spins, reckless jetés, and all manner of fast-paced steps to fit the breakneck tempo of the music. The result is an opener (on the first night) that’s like an exhilarating shout and a program finale (in two subsequent shows) that tuckers out the dancers and brings the audience to its feet in tribute to their courage and stamina.
The New York premiere of Brief Encounters, set to Debussy’s haunting “Le Coin des Enfants” (The Children’s Corner) casts six men and five women as inhabitants of an inner sanctum at the end of a stone corridor, with costumes (black bikinis, scanty briefs) and backdrop again by Loquasto. An opening circle breaks into a series of leaping diagonal crosses, then solos and duets, interspersed with group comings and goings.
Taylor’s mastery of transitions is second to none. He employs airborne locomotive phrases that carry dancers through space with actual steps rather than just running into place. Ensembles and partners replace each other seamlessly. The mood here is playfully childlike, yet the lingerie-clad bodies—all beautifully athletic—imply grownup sensuality.
Public Domain (1968), however, looks like a fraternity party skit gone wild. To an assortment of musical snippets, the dancers, wearing unitards in spectrum colors, reference several dance styles—ballet, exhibition ballroom, Graham, folk dance. A woman in purple lies on the floor for a long time—a favorite Taylor device—then rises for a killer-difficult solo, balancing on one leg while extending the other. But despite its variety, Domain outwears its welcome.
On the other hand, the second NYC premiere this season, another of Taylor’s comedic pieces, scores. In Also Playing, a vaudeville olio in 15 brief acts, Taylor’s gags are more focused and concise than those of Domain four decades ago. In “Strip,” Eran Bugge removes her gloves with her teeth; Jamie Rae Walker has handkerchief issues in “Waltz” with Michael Apuzzo; Michelle Fleet gives Orion Duckstein as good a whippin’ as she gets in “Apache”; Tice’s dying swan in “Ballet” just won’t stay dead; and the Stagehand, Robert Kleinendorst, has to keep sweeping up debris—blossoms from “Garland Dance,” confetti from “March,” and assorted hats.
Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet
The Joyce Theater, NYC
May 5–10, 2009
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
Meredith Webster and Keelan Whitmore in Dust and Light. Photo by Marty Sohl, courtesy LINES.
There’s no shortage of luscious, fluent movement in Alonzo King’s choreography for LINES, his San Francisco-based troupe of highly accomplished dancers. King’s infatuation with constant motion has his refreshingly interracial cast stretching, leaping, and body-rippling, often at reckless speeds. His vocabulary synthesizes neo-classical ballet, earth-bound African undulations, and his own eccentric twitches and spasms.
In his new Dust and Light, three women and five men carve complex arcs through space with their honed bodies to an assemblage of liturgical-sounding selections from Francis Poulenc’s “Sacred Choral Music” and several Arcangelo Corelli concerti grossi. But the somber music blunts the dynamic edges of the dancing.
Axel Morgenthaler’s lighting inflects the moods with a glowing sky and piercing beams, made visible in stage mist. Robert Rosenwasser’s mini kilts and booty shorts on the men and translucent, backless shifts on women expose dancers’ sleek physiques. The structure comprises extended transitions—people crossing the space in random groupings—between duets that mix genders indiscriminately and ooze sensuality.
The interactions of dancers and their juxtapositions suggest emotion, albeit abstractly, but the spill of showy steps doesn’t always fulfill the emotional drama it suggests. One provocatively aggressive sexual battle begins with willowy Meredith Webster running up the back of lunging Corey Scott-Gilbert, who’s impressively lean and lanky. The two passionately tangle limbs and toss each other around. But they end abruptly by simply strolling offstage.
Fifteen sections are far too many for a cohesive suite, and random costume changes—a flowing white blouse on a man or two, and chic frocks on the women—make Dust and Light seem like several dances folded into one.
Tabla music by Zakir Hussain lends exotic mystery to the second ballet, Rasa. Here, Rosenwasser dresses the eight in scanty leotards and briefs. Lighting designer Alain Lortie begins with focused beams highlighting each dancer. As the piece proceeds, the rear curtain slowly opens, gradually revealing a golden, textured backcloth.
There are more satisfying passages in this ballet, like a quartet where dancers remain tightly linked. And at the heart of the dance is a gorgeous duet that delivers the emotional journey we’ve been craving: Caroline Rocher and Brett Conway take us through facets—sexuality, trust, comfort—of a turbulent affair and a lasting bond.
If only more of King’s protracted manipulations yielded more such emotional payoffs. But reverting to his impressive showmanship, he ends the ballet with a dazzling male trio, in which Conway, Scott-Gilbert, and David Harvey try to outdo each other, and it brings the audience to its feet.
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Gina Gibney Dance
Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church
New York City, New York
November 4-7, 1999
Reviewed by Gus Solomons Jr
In 1995 Gina Gibney dropped out of the concert scene for a couple of seasons after the deaths of both her parents and the consequent re-evaluation of her life and values with respect to dance. She's back with an all-female company and a more thoughtful outlook. Objects No Longer Present is a rumination, inspired by a trip back to her childhood home in Ohio, where strangers now live. In making the dance she used real props to generate movement, then abandoned the objects and let the movement evolve.
The result is an hour-long dance in ten sections for a cast of eight, dressed in multi-layered but under-detailed costumes by Stefani Mar. At the start the movement retains its pantomimic genesis. Aislinn MacMaster wanders among the motionless women, as if revisiting the rooms of her past. In a solo she runs along corridors of light (by Kathy Kaufmann). Marta Miller and Eden Mazer lend each other mutual support, lifting and leaning. There seems to be a familial relationship between them, though it's not overtly indicated.
Except for the fast-moving finale and one other active group section, the energy of the piece is contemplative, accompanied by an assortment of musical selections that are diverse in instrumentation—from atonal flute melodies to chromatic string quartets—yet similar in tone. Likewise, the movement remains dynamically flat, with emotions externally applied rather than organically generated by it.
Though Gibney has shifted her artistic focus to women and their issues, these women don't seem empowered, either emotionally or physically—despite lots of lifting. Nor are they particularly diverse; they are all fine dancers—Leah Chevalier, Angharad Davies, Kara Gilmour, and Jeanne Schickler—but only Johanna Hegenscheidt, in her solo two-thirds of the way through the dance, really ignites physically. She is a tall, sturdy, strong woman, whose physical commitment to movement is total, almost reckless, giving it an urgency that's missing from the rest of the work.
Photo by Josef Astor
Sinha Dance and Sean Curran Company
Culture Splash, Central Park
New York, New York
July 7, 2000
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
The production quality of free summertime performances in New York keeps improving. Summerstagearmed with a bevy of corporate underwritersnow boasts a huge cantilevered roof structure that supports full theatrical lighting and sound systems above the stage. The artistic quality, however, remains uneven, as the lows and highs, respectively, of this program proved.
Indian performer Roger Sinha, imported from Montreal, did two solos with Pascale Léonards assistance. Léonard made tea (chai) in the first dance, Burning Skin, and danced bharata natyam quite proficiently with Sinha in the second, Chaiin which no tea was involved.
In Skin, Sinhas recorded voice confessed his former difficulty in accepting his Indian identity, while he danced a grab bag of cultural styles. Pastiches of bharata natyam, karate, capoeira, classical ballet, and hip-hop, done to a musical melange of Strausss "Blue Danube Waltz," Dean Martins rendition of Frank Loessers "Standing on the Corner," Gaelic jigs and a tango, as well as traditional Indian ragas, constituted arrant cultural appropriation. At the climax, after stripping to trousers from his Indian robes, he donned a shirt that had been soaking in boiling water. Ouch!
In Chai, like an old-time vaudevillian, he tangoed, wearing skirt and elaborate headdress; parodied ballet in red tutu and sequined mask; and in a kilt tried to turn classic Indian dance into Highland fling. Sinha achieved not stylistic synthesis but the choreographic equivalent of multiple personality disorder. Furthermoreand most cruciallyas a dancer hes a jack of all styles but a master of none.
On the up side, after intermission Sean Curran, who embraces his Irish heritage, regaled us with two company dances. Abstract Concrete, with live percussion score by Tigger Benford, deconstructed a repeated duet, multiplying it into three couples, reversing the roles and changing the orientation. It was a deadpan commentary on abstraction and a paragon of choreographic manipulation. Amy Brous, Tony Gugglietti and Heather Waldon-Arnold were standouts.
Folk Dance for the Future was a hearty romp through Irish step dancing, on which Curran was weaned in his native Boston. Curran interspersed his own hilarious solos with group passages that turned authentic Irish motifs into brisk modern movement. He danced with the authority of someone whounlike Sinhaactually can do the real thing convincingly. In the finale, all ten dancers skittered their feet madly in fake versions of Irish jigging: a riotous, crowd-pleasing parody.
Lincoln Center Mitzi Newhouse Theater
New York City, New York
For anyone aware of Agnes de Mille's contribution to musical theater, Contact is hardly innovative. It's three short stories told with minimal dialogue, substituting dancing to music for conventional musicals' singing to music in order to move the plot along. Director/choreographer Susan Stroman, whose dances for Show Boat and Steel Pier garnered critical praise, is adept at shaping the familiar vocabulary of social dance to advance her narrative.
Contact has all the Broadway trappings: gliding sets on recessed tracks by Thomas Lynch, chic costumes by William Ivey Long, high-tech lighting by Peter Kaczorowski. But the charm of the show is watching the wonderful performers negotiate the intricate choreography, crammed onto the spatially-challenged thrust stage of Lincoln Center's Newhouse Theater. Abetted by John Weidman's succinct dialogue and some brilliant casting, Stroman has concocted a fast-moving entertainment that may elevate dance's role a notch in theatrical visibility.
The curtain-raiser, Part I: Swinging, is set in eighteenth-century France. Young woman (Stephanie Michels) on rustic swing flirts with beau (Seán Martin Hingston). Beau's manservant (Scott Taylor) keeps swing in constant motion, even whenin beau's momentary absencehe and lady have steamy sex on it.
Karen Ziemba is heartbreaking in Part II: Did You Move?, as a fifties housewife who stoically suffers husband's (Jason Antoon) verbal abuse in a Queens restaurant. Each time he exits to the buffet, she waltzes ecstatically around the tables, romancing the headwaiter (David MacGillivray), to Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin Waltz, and fantasizes about liberation from her husband's cruelty. When he catches her in one of these flights of fancy, a scuffle ensues, and she shoots him deadbut then he really returns with his manicotti. Ziemba realizes that her triumphal act of vengeance was only a dream within a dream, and her wonderfully expressive face crinkles into a grimace that embodies the desperation of the rest of her life with him.
In the most fully developed section, Part III: Contact, terrific actor Boyd Gaines, a prize-winning TV adman, contemplates suicide. His downstairs neighbor leaves him angry voice-mail messages about getting carpet to muffle his late-night pacing that's keeping her awake. After an apparently botched attempt to hang himself, he flees to an after-hours dance club where he meets the girl of his dreams, The Girl in the Yellow Dress (Broadway newcomer Deborah Yates). When he returns to reality, he finally meets his annoyed neighbor, who turns out to be her incarnation. He realizes what's been missing from his life, and they fox-trot into eternal bliss.
It's especially nice to see a cast of dancers who look and act like real characters, rather than the twenty-something Kens and Barbies who used to populate Broadway musical chorus lines. Let's hope the trend of hiring seasoned, mature, and physically diverse dancers is here to stay.
New York, New York
February 26-March 1, 1998
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
Since the sixties, the solo performances of marvelous maverick Margaret Beals have straddled the border between dance and theater. In Pathways, an unsentimental reflection on "life's impossibility and occasional beauty," she recalls in word and movement images the deaths of one cousin to suicide, another to cancer, two friends--a critic and a dancer--to AIDS, and her father, also to cancer.
Of the five-part piece, directed by Lee Nagrin, "Pa" is perhaps the most moving section. Beals's clear, lusty voice recounts with simple, thoughtfully crafted language the fierce tenacity of her father's fight against the inevitable. Then in a narrow beam of light (design by Carol Mullins), she parries defiantly with her shadow cast on the rear wall. Finally, she succumbs, lying motionless for a long moment as Toru Takemitsu's plaintive flute music concludes.
Beals's strong, elegant, dancerly physique and eloquent voice celebrate the courage of her loved ones, and affirm the enduring strength their lives give hers.
Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake
Adventures in Motion Pictures
Neil Simon Theatre
New York City, New York
September 26, 1998-January 24, 1999
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
Who would have guessed? Swan Lake is knocking 'em dead on Broadway. England's Matthew Bourne has updated and revised the ultimate fairy-tale ballet with state-of-the-art production: design by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Rick Fisher, and Tchaikovsky's score orchestrated by David Cullen. And Cameron Mackintosh and Adventures in Motion Pictures, Bourne's modern dance company, are the producers. He's renovated the Queen (Fiona Chadwick) into a glamorous, Dior-clad monarch with a romantic bent for young men, who keeps her son, the Prince (Ben Wright), tied to her apron strings. The Prince's Girlfriend (Emily Piercy), crass but sexy, is in cahoots with the villainous Private Secretary (Barry Atkinson) for nefarious reasons never made quite clear. The Prince is an amiable fellow who has erotic dreams about swans and an Oedipal dependence on his Queen mom.
Led by the Swan (big, powerful Adam Cooper), fourteen males, bare-chested and barefoot in feathered pedal pushers, are like the actual birds: Mean and dangerous, they strike out with powerful legs and peck menacingly. Were the Prince not so taken with them, he'd surely flee in terror from their onslaught. Bourne's movement cleverly conveys the swans' feral nature and pulses with male energy. Throughout the ballet, arch humor, ambiguous sexuality, and accomplished theatricality keep us enthralled.
It hardly matters that the climax has some blurry dramaturgy. Why does the Prince try to kill the presumptive object of his affection, the Black Swan (Cooper in black leather), just because he's flirting with a bevy of foreign princesses at the palace ball? Why does the Private Secretary shoot at the Prince, killing the Girlfriend instead? And is that eerily lit asylum scene just cover for the final set change?
The duets between the Prince and the Swan establish a provocatively ambiguous gay relationship. And an incestuous pas de deux between the Prince and his mother is stunning and twisted. Bourne peppers his choreography with sly quotes from Hollywood movie musicals and the original Ivanov choreography. The adoring crowd outside the palace recalls the Paris hustle-bustle of Gene Kelly's An American in Paris ballet, and the quartet of cygnets is composed of four small men leaping in playful canons. Of course this Lake is a hit. It's got great dancing, spectacular production, controversial sex--everything Broadway audiences love--and no garbled lyrics to misunderstand.
American Ballet Theatre Studio Company
Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse
New York, New York
April 26, 27, 2000
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
If these thirteen dancers, aged 16 to 21, are part of the talented pool from which American Ballet Theatre and other ballet companies will replenish their ranks, the ballet world can rest assured. Under John Meehans keen artistic direction, the 4r-year-old ABT Studio Company grooms budding artists in the finer points of professional performance with a busy schedule of school performances and residencies.
The New York City season programmed four new ballets, but due to an opening-night injury, only three were performed the second evening. Still, the program was satisfying in length and variety. Schulwerk, by William Tuckett of The Royal Ballet, set to selections from Carl Orffs eponymous music, depicts the shenanigans of four pairs of uniformed schoolchildren. Coy grimaces and silly mime condescend to the young school audiences, to whom it is apparently geared.
However, Bitter Moonby Australian Ballets resident choreographer Natalie Weir (adapted for three couples instead of five)is a well-crafted lyric study, set to romantic Rachmaninoff music. Lovely, twining duets, arranged in various combinations, represent passionate affairs between young lovers. Its a stylish work that suits the skills and agility of its cast.
The company is well drilled, gracious and technically spectacular, but two dancers are standouts, fledgling stars. Tall, supple Kristi Boone moves with serenity, expressive conviction and a maturity far beyond her 17 years, and 20-year-old Ricardo Torres is a spinning wizard who seems to defy the physics of momentum by bringing multiple pirouettes to full stop in perfect balance.
ABT principal Robert Hills Marimba features three couples in sexy, sheer costumes by Santo Loquasto. Lighting by Brad Fields pierces the darkness with sharp diagonal beams that capture the fleet bodies flashing through space. Minoru Mikis rhythmic score, played live by an ensemble of four, amplifies the excitement. As usual, Hill demonstrates his knack for highlighting his dancers technical strengths with physically luscious, dynamic virtuoso dancing. The crowning moment is Boones long, breathtaking balance on one pointe that finally erupts into an arcing back attitude; that alone is well worth the price of admission.
Armitage Gone! Dance
The Joyce Theater
March 2-7, 2004
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
The curiously punctuated company Armitage Gone! Dance has come back! Karole Armitage dubbed the "punk ballerina" of the '80s for loud accompaniments and violent dancing, assembled a group of stunning dancers for her return to New York. Her new hour-long Time is the echo of an axe within a wood tosses ballet, gay-club dancing, and yoga into a provocative stew that has moments of genuine inventiveness, like odd lifts, unlikely juxtapositions, and a uniquely subdued, angular duet, beautifully danced by Brian Chung and Cheryl Sladkin.
Set to musical selections as disparate as Bart'k, Gavin Bryars, Annie Gosfield, and Charles Ives, the ballet progresses from acrobatic neoclassicism through moody expressionism, to an exhilarating freak show that introduces vogue contortionists (Mecca, Aviance Milan, and Bendeleon), and a yogini (Sharmila Desai) into the mix.
The sides and rear of the stage are hung with a crystal bead curtain by Armitage's long-time visual collaborator, artist David Salle, a less elegant version of a similar one by Jan Versweyveld for Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's Rain. Dancers, clad in skin-toned, metallic leotards by Peter Speliopoulous, burst through the strands to enter and exit in Clifton Taylor's crisp architectural lighting.
During lithe Megumi Eda's lush, leggy opening solo, dynamic Theresa Ruth Howard flies onstage in a series of split leaps, propelled by Leone Barilli, whose classic line accentuates his wonderful quirkiness. Later, William Isaacï¿½ï¿½tall, big, and wild, small but quick Leonides D. Arpon, and gorgeously articulate Valerie Madonia also get to show off their high technical skills. However spectacular the dancing is, in the end it neither moves nor enlightens you, and the echo of an axe within a wood sounds like one hand clapping.