Vital Signs

September 26, 2011



In Vertigo

Dizzy with recent success, Israel’s Vertigo Dance Company visits the U.S. this month for the North American premiere of Mana, Vessel of Light. The piece, choreographed by founder Noa Wertheim, explores tensions between light and dark, hollow and whole, and interior and exterior. Set in black and white against the stark, implied shape of a house, Mana exhibits Vertigo’s hallmark physicality combined with a quiet fluidity that resembles calligraphy.

A dance community with a social vision, Vertigo’s members live in the rural Eco-Art Village they built. For Wertheim, the village is about “investing more in the movement, the philosophy, and social communication with the world.” The village hosts artistic collaborations and provides workshops on green technologies, fostering a new way of life “built on ideas and ideals, not only dance.” Vertigo performs at White Bird, in Portland, OR, Oct. 13–15 and at UC San Diego’s Price Center Oct. 19 before heading to NYC’s Fall for Dance.



The Power of Nature

The captivating performers of Natya Dance Theatre, which claims the title of America’s oldest classical Indian dance company, bring the magic of ancient Tamil folklore to Chicago with The Flowering Tree, choreographed by mother/daughter team Hema and Krithika Rajagopalan. Using the subtle gesturing and rhythmic footwork of bharata natyam, this piece tells the tale of a poor young girl with the supernatural ability to transform herself into a splendid flowering tree—and the consequences of squandering Mother Nature’s gifts. An original score by 25 musicians from across the globe that incorporates Indian music, jazz, and Japanese drumming sets the tone. Oct. 8 at the Harris Theater.



Irish Dance, Invigorated

Thanks to Riverdance and the increasingly splashy productions it spawned, the term “Irish dance” calls to mind Rockette-like lines of dancers, glitzy costumes and sets, and narratives involving mystical creatures. Colin Dunne, internationally acclaimed Irish dancer, is taking the form in a refreshing direction. His multimedia solo, Out of Time, coming to the Ringling International Arts Festival, Oct. 13–16, and the Baryshnikov Arts Center in NYC, Oct. 19–22, falls at the opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum: quiet, intimate, understated, still replete with phenomenal footwork but not so intent on wowing the crowd. Informed by his study of contemporary dance, Dunne’s movement ebbs and flows unpredictably between containment and release. Using archival footage of Irish social dances—and of himself as a 10-year-old competitive dancer—he intertwines his personal history with the history of a cultural tradition, giving us a deeper understanding of both. and



Head over Heels

Fall for Dance takes over New York City Center Oct. 27–Nov. 6 for the eighth year in a row. Highlights from the five programs, which will each be performed twice, include the Ailey company in its first NYC appearance under new artistic director Robert Battle and performances by other heavyweights New York City Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet and Mark Morris Dance Group. The international contingent includes the Royal Ballet of Flanders, France’s CCN de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne/Compagnie Käfig, Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, Sweden’s Pontus Lidberg Dance, choreographer/Royal Ballet principal Steven McRae, and the Australian Ballet (in a preview of its longer NYC stay next June). At $10 a ticket, this event is a steal. Tickets go on sale Oct. 2.



More, more, more!

Hailing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Faustin Linyekula of Studios Kabako brings the infectious rhythm and electricity of ndombolo (Congolese pop music) to the US. Linyekula draws from both Congolese and contemporary dance styles, creating intensely musical works that address big issues such as war and economic struggle. His piece more more more…future explores the poetic texts of political prisoner Antoine Vumilia Muhindo. The dancers pulsate with fluid torsos, channeling rage, despair, and hope in a portrayal that is at once poignant and raw. Set to live music by Congolese guitarist Flamme Kapaya and his five-member band, more more more…future appears in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Albuquerque, and Chicago. Sept. 23–Oct. 23.



When It Rains, It Pours

The annual Dance Umbrella festival in England’s bustling capital brings performances, workshops, and audience participation to venues all over the city. Honoring old masters while introducing new voices, Dance Umbrella 2011 includes Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s final appearances in London, a focus on preeminent UK choreographer Richard Alston, revivals of works by Karole Armitage and Lucinda Childs, and ”Springboard,” a performance platform for local emerging choreographers. The festival taps diverse talent beyond the British and American dance scenes, including Emanuel Gat (Israel/France), Jérôme Bel (France), and Nelisiwe Xaba/Mamela Nyamza (South Africa). Dance Umbrella also steps outdoors for site-specific Square Dances in four locations. This year’s dance downpour spans Oct. 1–29.



Access Dance

Mixed-ability dance companies have been breaking molds and expanding minds for more than two decades. The Oakland, CA–based AXIS Dance Com­pany calls on choreographers to churn their creative gears for dancers on wheels, canes, and crutches alongside their able-bodied colleagues. For the company’s 2011 home season, Marc Brew, a UK choreographer who is wheelchair-bound, explores everyday situations with a series of duets in his world premiere, Full of Words. The bill also includes Light Shelter by David Dorfman and company choreographer Sebastian Grubb’s The Narrowing. AXIS takes center stage at the Malonga Casquelourd Center in Oakland Oct. 7–9.



Contributing writers: Siobhan Burke, Kina Poon, Vani Ramaraj, Stav Ziv


From top:
Mana, Vessel of Light. Photo by Gadi Dagon, Courtesy White Bird; The Flowering Tree. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Natya; Colin Dunne. Photo by Eoin Stephenson, Courtesy Ringling; The Joffrey’s Christine Rocas and Temur Suluashvili in Edwaard Liang’s Woven Dreams. Photo by Herbert Migdoll, Courtesy FFD; Faustin Linyekula in more more more…future. Photo by Agathe Poupeney, Courtesy Studios Kabako; Richard Alston Dance Company. Photo by Chris Nash, Courtesy Dance Umbrella; David Dorfman’s Light Shelter. Photo by Kevin Colton, Courtesy AXIS.