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Dance

Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance: “Book of Clouds”

June 14, 2017

The ostensible theme of Sperling’s series of performances at the Baryshnikov Arts Center was climate change.  Had spectators not read that in the program they would have come away from Sperling’s performance thinking it was an ode to spring with some cosmic overtones in Huestis’ colorful slide projections of circular forms that evoked the earth, the moon, Mars, stars, subtle earth formations and, of course, clouds. [more]

Janis Brenner & Dancers: Spring 2017 Season

June 9, 2017

Wearing pale, simple but elegant costumes with small colorful patches around the hips (designed by Sue Julien and Brenner) the dancers in “Soul River/Blues” entered singly at first up a diagonal, almost as if sneaking on. As the dance unfolded they rolled and paused, looking over their shoulders to a score by Ry Cooder and V.M. Bhatt which was a hybrid of Indian classical and bluesy American guitar styles. One man (Aaron Selissen) and four women (Kara Chan, Ruth Howard, Sumaya Jackson and Kristi Ann Schopfer) interacted in slow lifts and groupings that became ever more complex in their angles and internal relationships. [more]

Parsons Dance – Spring Season 2017

June 2, 2017

Company member, Omar Román De Jesús choreographed the third world premiere, “Daniel,” to a multiple-sourced score. He took his eight dancers through a dramatic visit to those on the autism behavior spectrum, finding beauty, sadness and even some humor. The emphasis was definitely on the darker elements with angular knee and elbow jutting movements repeated over and over again. Unlike his mentor, David Parsons, De Jesús dared to end his work with two sections that each used two dancers. [more]

Ellen Cornfield/Cornfield Dance: “Close-Up” (2017)

May 23, 2017

There was a mysterious coolness about “Close-Up” which, according to a program note by Ms. Cornfield, was meant to delve into the personalities of her five dancers, doing this by assigning very particular gestures—touching the face with a finger, holding a palm to the forehead, quivering hands, mimed pouring, nods—and facial expressions like appearing to laugh or shout to each dancer. She called these intimate, non-dance details, “zoom close-ups.” These quirky bits were additions to sleek, catlike movements that included lunges, low leg circling and the kind of balletic movements that were the centerpiece of Cunningham’s choreographic output. [more]

The Deborah Zall Project: “In the Company of Women” 2017

May 21, 2017

All but one of Zall’s works were solos and all were based on famous literary figures: “George Sand” (ruminating on her lost love, Chopin), “Mary Tyrone” (from "Long Day’s Journey Into Night" fighting her addiction while remembering her childhood), “Sonnet” (to an Edna St. Vincent Millay sonnet about obsessing over a lost love), “Amanda” (the mother in "A Glass Menagerie" sadly musing over her ball gown) and “Shadow of Her Sister” (two sisters from "The House of Bernarda Alba" battle to the death with dark Catholic imagery overlaying the internecine war). [more]

Battery Dance – Spring 2017 Season

May 17, 2017

The final work, “On Foot” was choreographed by Hollander and seven company members. It featured a Middle East-tinged score by Kinan Azmeh and Anouar Brahem and sensational visual art, mostly created on the spot, by Kevork Mourad whose ancestors fled the Armenian genocide. Mourad created both beautiful and horrifying projections on the back screen of the stage and also sat at a computer projector producing fluidly morphing images on a scrim: people floated about; ancient buildings melted; and complex landscapes passed by capturing the mood of the choreography. [more]

Limón Dance Company: Spring 2017 Season

May 16, 2017

“Corvidae,” Colin Connor’s contribution to the program, was staged to the relentless first movement of a Philip Glass Violin Concerto. The title refers to the scientific name of the family of crows and ravens. The six dancers, stylishly dressed in all black outfits by Connor and Keiko Voltaire and moodily lit by DK Kroth, wandered about stylishly, but aimlessly, suddenly bursting into movement, softly leaping, arms held in wing-like positions. The heads of stationary dancers were held high in ornithological awareness as the rest of the cast softly cut through the air in balletic, sweeping steps. The overall mood was dark and sexy. [more]

Titicut Follies

May 3, 2017

The original film is brazen in its guerilla-style filmmaking, a good deal of which was surreptitiously produced right under the noses of the Institution’s officials.  To anyone who knows or watched the original 1967 film, James Sewell’s choreographic rendition would seem tame, certainly lacking the shocking visions of naked men abused and humiliated by sadistic guards, ridiculously backward psychologists and a nutritional staff intent on starving the patients.  (Images abound of skeletal men wandering aimlessly.)  The film begins with the eponymous follies, the men singing and dancing to a bizarre version of “Strike Up the Band” and showing off their other talents, only to quickly descend into a vision of hell on earth. [more]

Ballet Hispanico – Spring 2017

April 27, 2017

The company is in great shape. It’s a difficult task to combine ethnic themes with ballet and modern dance, but somehow Eduardo Vilaro has been succeeding terrifically. His troupe entertains, titillates and even educates (if that isn’t a dirty word). [more]

Doug Varone and Dancers: Spring 2017 Season

April 2, 2017

Varone employs movements loosely flung out from the body’s core; sudden, inexplicable pauses; (painful looking) drops to the floor (usually onto a knee!); contrasting chaotic activities with stillness, high with low and slow with fast. There is a sense—clearly mistaken—that the choreography is improvised which makes for unfocused and nervous stage pictures. The fact that his dancers, a diverse bunch, wear his movement style like a second skin adds an excitement to his ballets. They seem born to his particular style and give it an offhanded grace, looking more like people moving rather than dancers. [more]

Paul Taylor American Modern Dance: Spring Season 2017

March 31, 2017

Now named Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Taylor has included ballets by other choreographers which allows for some healthy comparisons and a hope for the future of this legendary company. The four non-Taylor works, all but one danced by the Taylor dancers, made fascinating comparison with his work: particularly Martha Graham’s “Diversion of Angels,” her ode to romantic and sexual love, choreographed in 1948 to music by Norman Dello Joio, one of the few works in which Graham, herself, did not appear. [more]

Nihon Buyo Dance by Geimaruza

March 6, 2017

Three musical pieces displayed the instruments on which the music is made. “Nagare (Flow)” was played on two shamisen (stringed instruments) by Touon Minamidani Mai and Touon Sakata Maiko, completing in ever faster, improvised sounding, themes, all based on traditional melodies (kind of like a gentler version of “Dueling Banjos” from Deliverance). “Toki (Japanese Crested Ibis)” featured a long fue (flute) solo by Tosha Suiho, whose passionate musicianship was overwhelming. The third work, “Shishi (Lion)” combined all the different percussion instruments and the flute to great dramatic effect. [more]

Complexions Contemporary Ballet 2017 at the Joyce

February 15, 2017

“Star Dust,” Rhoden’s tribute to rock original David Bowie forced Rhoden to study and use each of the nine chosen songs as vignettes to comment on Bowie’s magic, the superb quirkiness of his dancers and display subtlety in his use of steps sometimes missing from his wham-bang, jet engine choreography. Rotating lights and disco balls beamed mood-changing pools of light on the stage (designed by the hard-working Mr. Korsch with psychedelically colorful costumes and makeup by Ms. Darch which exposed a lot of skin.) [more]

Batsheva Dance Company: “Last Work”

February 11, 2017

The centerpiece of “Last Work” was the image of a single dancer, in a blue costume, jogging on a treadmill far upstage while the rest of the troupe, dressed in chic practice outfits by Eri Nakamura went through its paces in a performance area defined by two lines of upright panels lining each side of the stage (designed by Zohar Shoef). The dancers’ outfits changed later on which, for some reason, made it seem as if there were many more dancers on stage than there really were. [more]

17th Contemporary Dance Showcase: Japan + East Asia

January 9, 2017

All the choreographers displayed over-intellectualization and overuse of gimmicks, avoiding dealing directly and honestly with their subjects. Homosexuality raised its head in two of the works but was handled superficially. Perhaps, there’s an “Asian sensibility” that eluded me, but the vocabulary used was decidedly Western and has to be assessed in those terms. [more]

Confucius

January 6, 2017

This dance/theater piece is subtitled “Teacher, philosopher, man who shaped a nation,” a rather big theme to dramatize effectively, especially when the mandate is spectacle. Mr. Liu’s barebones, chronological script (consisting of little more than narrative plot advancements and quotes from Confucius) first finds Confucius a defiled presence in the court of the Duke of State (Zhu Yin, zestfully portraying the enervation of over-indulgence) whose evil Minister (Guo Haifeng, zingingly evil) works overtime to frustrate Confucius’ effort. Confucius becomes the love object of and mentor to the Concubine (lovely, floating Tang Shiyi) and, finally becomes the beloved and respected sage. [more]

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Fall 2016 Season)

December 26, 2016

“r-Evolution, Dream.” was a jaunty new ballet by Ailey member Hope Boykin to music by Ali Jackson plus narration spoken by Leslie Odom, Jr. which included a Shakespeare sonnet, “A Negro’s Complaint” by William Cowper, “If I Can Help Somebody as I Pass Along” by Alma Irene Bazel, etc. This delightful romp pitted four groups of dancers against each other, occasionally joining forces, particularly in a fleet finale in which the lines interwove and “interbred.” The dancers—including members of Ailey II—were defined by the color of their chic costumes (black, white, purple and green, designed by Ms. Boykin) all led by Ailey veteran, Matthew Rushing whose Pied-Piper performance gave a center of gravity to what might have been a pleasantly disorganized entertainment. Standing out was Megan Jakel whose whirling, undulating solo evoked spontaneous applause. [more]

The Mar Vista

December 8, 2016

The title means “sea view,” a metaphor for the fact that his mother’s happiest memories involved being mesmerized by large bodies of water. All the places she felt happiest were by the sea, even—with a stretch of the imagination—the suburb of Mar Vista, L.A., with its wispy view of the Pacific. It was, therefore, dramatically sensible that the final scene should take place on the island off Istanbul where his mother’s family vacationed. [more]

Wonder/Through the Looking Glass Houses

December 8, 2016

The final sections of this theater/dance work were more effective than the earlier scenes and they included a game show knockoff call “The Price is Right to Be a Queen,” a rigged quiz show which included rather strained audience participation. (Throughout the work the performers zipped into and out of the audience, touching, tweaking and grabbing surprised theatergoers!). The famous “Chess Match” led directly to a totally naked, well choreographed pile-up of bodies reaching for a shiny crown, just out of reach. When Alice grabbed the crown it had a real feeling of triumph. [more]

Netherlands Dans Theater

December 4, 2016

Is there a more stunningly beautiful troupe of dancers than the Nederlands Dans Theater? This very international array of performers is not only good looking but dances with thrilling precision and a style that clearly says “company,” thanks to artistic director Paul Lightfoot and general director Janine Dijkmeijer. [more]

Pilobolus Dance Theater (NYU Skirball Center)

December 1, 2016

[esc], staged by Penn & Teller, Mr. Barnett, Ms. Jaworski and Mr. Kent, is a Penn & Teller homage to Harry Houdini. To a musical background of pop songs, the performers—Messrs. Fitzgerald Ahern, Banks-Sullivan, Coalter & Loman and Mlles Krystal Butler & Jordon Kriston—were variously locked in an “escape-proof” box (assembled by two audience volunteers), squeezed into a carry-on bag, handcuffed to a 13-foot pole and duct-taped to a chair. Their escapes, accompanied by Penn’s humorous narration were exciting, energetically performed, but, in the last analysis, a bit long-winded. [more]

“Misty Copeland” by Gregg Delman

October 6, 2016

"Misty Copeland" is not just the celebration of Misty Copeland the feisty, young classical ballet dancer, but of Misty Copeland the young, nubile, well-proportioned young woman. She looks great wearing next to nothing, her exposed skin gleaming under Mr. Delman’s expertly subtle lighting. She is able to achieve all sorts of hyper-stretched positions on all sorts of furniture, her expressions ranging from distracted to come hither. [more]

A Corona Works: Thorns of the Crown

September 20, 2016

Two queen-like figures, Ms. Corona and Maricarmen Garcia, dressed in a parade of Aviad Arik Herman’s sumptuous costumes, reigned over four young men—Nick Burrage, Alexandre Barranco, Nicholas Montero and Michael Bishop (dressed in Herman’s tight, revealing shorts). The men morphed into the roles of consorts and warriors, manipulated by the two royal ladies into confrontations involving vividly acrobatic ballet steps and quotes from Shakespeare. [more]

BalaSole Dance Company: Mixtus

August 22, 2016

The ten solos proceeded efficiently and smoothly with certain similarities becoming apparent: black was the color of all but one of the costumes and black was the mood of most the works. Crouches were the preferred opening poses, beginning with “Convergent Unease” by Alexis Julian to music by Max Richter, and the movement palettes were not particularly original, even when well danced, as were most of the solos. [more]

Sarasota Ballet: A Knight of the British Ballet

August 15, 2016

A few months ago we saw the sensational Miami troupe featuring the works of George Balanchine. Now we have just had a fascinating week-long season by the Sarasota Ballet troupe, directed by Iain Webb, at the Joyce Theater in Chelsea, in a program called "A Knight of the British Ballet" focusing on the brilliant work of Sir Frederick Ashton. Ashton was for decades synonymous with The Royal Ballet. His ballets were the artistic backbone of that troupe. It’s odd—yet wonderful—that Florida has become a stronghold for the repertories of two of the twentieth century’s most important choreographers. [more]

Bridgman|Packer Dance

July 20, 2016

At times, Hopper’s paintings—mostly the moody ones—were inhabited by the dancers who took on the iconic, emotionally laden poses so brilliantly painted by Hopper, helped by Frank DenDanto III’s fine lighting. Outdoor scenes, images of isolated houses and rows of urban buildings added to the complexity. Endlessly long corridors, down which the dancers wandered, appeared as the soundtrack (by Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg) alluded to city sounds, distant trains, conversations and nature. The two dancers were never eclipsed by the set and projections, their emotional states always in flux and always crystal clear. The effect was often breathtakingly and movingly beautiful. [more]

Twyla Tharp and Three Dances

July 13, 2016

From 1976, “Country Dances” represented the post-experimental avant-garde phase after breakout success with her ballets for major dance companies. From 1980, there was “Brahms Paganini,” her entrée into her hybrid style combining her eccentric, seemingly casual movements with the classical ballet vocabulary and from 2016, “Beethoven Opus 130,” virtually a classical ballet with quirky touches. [more]

DELIRIOUS Dances: To Begin the World Over Again

July 9, 2016

Edisa Weeks’ DELIRIOUS Dances company presented "To Begin the World Over Again," an ultimately hopeful, informal look at American values filtered through the words of Thomas Paine, the Revolutionary War era philosopher and rebel-rouser—sort of an informal, easy-to-get-into Hamilton. [more]

RIOULT Dance New York 2016

June 30, 2016

The New York City premiere of “Polymorphous” to Bach was a coolly elegant work that featured ever shifting black and white projections (by Brian Clifford Beasley) matched by the witty leotards by Karen Young which were white in front and black on the back. The video also featured reverse shadow images surreally mirroring the dancers as they plied the light jumps, gentle partnering and beautifully arching steps. The most balletic work on the program, “Polymorphous” used one of Rioult’s frequently used technique of working one pair of dancers in contrast to the other. In this case, the four dancers—Brian Flynn, Ms. Haines, Jere Hunt and Sara Elizabeth Seger—created two different pools of emotions—one quietly amorous, the other darker. “Polymorphous,” with its careful, quiet craftsmanship, was a kind of choreographic palate cleanser between the heated “Dream Suite” and the four “Duets Sacred & Profane” which followed. [more]

Ballet Tech presents Kids Dance

June 17, 2016

However, the main thrust of this troupe is to stimulate a gentle discipline and the ability to work effectively with others. It’s clear that these youngsters who range from seven or eight years old to teenagers enjoy their time on the stage and have been rehearsed to perfection. Occasionally a look of concerted concentration replaced smiles but this experience—whether any of these kids will go on to careers in the performing arts—is priceless and will have positive repercussions throughout their lives. [more]

American Ballet Theatre: La Fille mal gardée

June 1, 2016

Leading this bucolic tale of amor interruptus were Gillian Murphy (her usual strong technique subsumed in girlish sweetness) as the farm girl, Lise, the “badly guarded girl” of the title, and Cory Stearns (at his lyrical best) as Colas, her young farmer swain. In the drag role of Lise’s mother, Widow Simone, was Marcelo Gomes, the still vibrant classicist perhaps just having a bit of fun in a character role, or keeping an eye on the future—distant future!—when character roles will be the natural progression for this great artist. [more]

Ariel Rivka Dance’s Ninth Season Festival

May 28, 2016

Ms. Grossman’s three works were all world premieres: “Hallelujah Eva” to the famous Leonard Cohen song, “Beatrice’s Rainbow” to the Yip Harburg/Harold Arlen classic “Over the Rainbow,” and “Variations on a Box” to music by Ms. Grossman’s husband David Homan (who also did the beautiful arrangements of the first two works). Each was a study in relationships and community. [more]

American Ballet Theatre: Shostakovich Trilogy

May 19, 2016

His Shostakovich Trilogy may have been too much of a good thing, somewhat weakened by too many overlapping themes, generally dark moods (with some bright moments, of course) and a sameness of choreographic technique. However, these three ballets displayed his talent for moving dancers around the stage with musicality and dramatic expressiveness and a good ear for Shostakovich’s quick-changing musical themes which often go from ponderous to lighthearted within a few measures. [more]
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