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Monkey Run Road (1979), Valley Cottage: A Study (1980/81), and Blauvelt Mountain (A Fiction) (1980) are duets originally made by the partners for themselves.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.