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New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022: Program 4

October 3, 2022

"Men of Kyiv," choreographed to high-spirited traditional folk music by Pavlo Virsky, pitted two groups of men—one wearing blue T-shirts, the other yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian national flag—against each other in a friendly, boisterous competition which began with a high-kicking entrance mazurka.  This was followed by one exhibition of prowess after another:  barrel turns, high cheerleader jumps, kazatskis, split leaps and unison chain dances.  It was almost as exhausting to watch as it was to dance and it left the audience totally in love with this good-natured dance troupe. [more]

Fall for Dance Festival 2022: Program 1

September 26, 2022

Perhaps the supreme dance festival in New York City, maybe even in the world, New York City Center’s Fall for Dance 2022 is celebrating its 19th year of presenting a panoply of domestic and international troupes. Initiated by outgoing City Center President Arlene Shuler, this celebration of the many facets of dance has brought some of the best and some of the mediocre representatives of world dance to many thousands of people who have been notoriously uncritical of what has been set before them.  And, rightly so.  This is an audience that has come to enjoy whatever entertainment is presented—and, at an affordable price. Program 1 of this year’s five-program edition was typical, presenting one local troupe, a Portuguese classical ballet couple and an all-male French/Algerian company which opened the program with in-your-face energy tempered by woefully mawkish “daddy was mean to me” back stories. [more]

The Sarasota Ballet 2022

August 19, 2022

The second Ashton ballet was "Varii Capricci," his clever take on Bronislava Nijinska’s "Les Biches" from 1924.  Her ballet was a tongue-in-cheek comment on the sexually liberated, chic young people of France.  Ashton set Varii to a witty score by Sir William Walton. La Capricciosa (a delightfully languid Danielle Brown, arrayed in Ossie Clark’s diaphanous white dress) is wooed by a gigolo, Lo Straniero (a hilarious, oily Ricardo Rhodes) whose intentions were clearly not honorable. These two were surrounded by a giddy ensemble that gamboled about watching them romantically self-destruct. "Varii Capricci" is light-hearted and lightweight, but impeccably presented. [more]

BAAND Together Dance Festival 2022 at Lincoln Center

August 12, 2022

The dancers were attired in puffy white tutus and black tights, the men bare-chested—chic costumes by the choreographer.  They pranced, undulated their torsos, tossed each other around and vogued in lineups that spread across the stage.  If there is one word to describe "One for All," it’s sassy.  Despite steam room like temperatures, the cast was exuberant and daring, considering Lopez Ochoa had just finished staging it that afternoon! It was led by a sexy, spritely Chalvar Monteiro of the Ailey Company. [more]

Momix’s Alice

July 11, 2022

Pendleton, in a program note, assures us that "Alice" is not a retelling of Carroll’s book.  Rather, he used some of the events and characters from the book, dividing the evening-length work into twenty-two sections with titles like “A Summer Day,” “A Trip of Rabbits,” “The Cheshire Cat,” “The Queen of Diamonds” and “The Wolf-Spied-Her.”  Although characters reappear—Alice, the Rabbits and the various playing cards queens—the episodes don’t particularly flow one into the other.  The takeaway is a series of fanciful images rather than a cogent whole work of theater. [more]

Pacific Northwest Ballet 2022

June 25, 2022

For the company’s director, Peter Boal, this short season was a homecoming of sorts.  He was a principal dancer in the New York City Ballet which calls the David H. Koch its artistic home.  He left seventeen years ago and, since 2005, has been the PNB’s artistic director. Boal should have put more thought into the ballets he brought, at least those on Program A.  Only one of three had heart and emotional depth and was gimmick-free.  All three works by established choreographers showed off different facets of the skilled dancers.  [more]

Paul Taylor Dance Company 2022

June 17, 2022

The new work on the program, a world premiere, was “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers” by Michelle Manzanales, choreographed to John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Bob Marley, Harry Woods and several others.  Using ten of the Taylor dancers, Manzanales produced a work that was charming if a tad repetitious.  Santo Loquasto’s pale costumes had an elegantly informal look. The dancers trooped on in a long line performing unison steps, lunges, leans and twists until movements moved sequentially down the line, mostly soft falls to the stage.  In between these unison sections there were jaunty solos and quick duets that segued into group dances.  The pop song soundtrack underlined the work’s informal feel.  Manzanales certainly put the dancers through their paces.  There’s nothing more appealing to an audience than a line of performers dancing their hearts out in unison! Her work shows promise but also is clearly the work of a novice.  What the ballet had to do with the Emily Dickinson poem it came from wasn’t clear. [more]

The Limón Dance Company (Spring 2022)

April 25, 2022

The final work was the world premiere of “Only One Will Rise,” a work by a new choreographer Olivier Tarpaga to a colorful score he co-wrote with Tim Motzer who was one of the three on stage musicians.  Daniel Johnson and Saidou Sangare were the others. “Only One Will Rise” used a large cast that Tarpaga handled adroitly, shooting groups across the stage in interesting patterns, eventually focusing on several soloists who appeared angst-ridden.  His movement themes were decidedly Limón influenced with the addition of sensual twists and undulations taken from African ethnic folk dance, movements that the Limón troupe performed beautifully, wringing a myriad of emotions from these departures from their home base technique. [more]

The Little Prince

April 18, 2022

Essentially, Mouron boils the story down to a couple lines about love and beauty, while eliding any sense of the loss, isolation, and dread that the novella also poetically conveys. Her little prince is a man-child incapable of engaging with life's pain rather than Saint-Ex's courageously inquisitive child-man who can't help but look for happiness in sorrow and vice versa. In the absence of this existential heft, the production makes room for co-director Anne Tournié's, admittedly, often charming choreography. A pas de deux between Zalachas and Sulty is particularly lovely, thanks in part to the latter's stunning, and protean, red dress from costume designer Peggy Housset. [more]

Artists at the Center: Tiler Peck

March 8, 2022

By far, the audience favorite was the world premiere “Time Spell,” an entertaining attempt at a hybrid of tap dancing (choreographed by Michelle Dorrance and Jillian Meyers) and ballet (choreographed by Peck) with the assistance of Byron Tittle.  The musicians Aaron Marcellus and Penelope Wendtlandt provided witty a cappella close harmony vocal accompaniment, even occasionally joining in the dancing. The alternating of tap dancing and ballet began slowly with the two dance forms not combining easily, but as the speed picked up so did the similarities until the ballet dancers were tapping in their toe shoes and the tappers were bourrée-ing in their tap shoes.  The large cast included Dorrance, Meyers, Peck, Lovette and Mejia. [more]

Four Quartets

February 14, 2022

In her selection of the movements and structure of "Four Quartets," Tamowitz chose to ignore the depth and imagery of the poems, producing a cool Merce Cunningham-like ballet that glided along beautifully on the surface of Eliot’s heavy, sometimes distasteful, imagery.  Movements were balletic, full of arabesques, skittery connecting steps, soft leaps and jumps. She built the work upon a series of steps and phrases that are repeated in various ways: jumped, turned, performed alone, performed in unison and performed in reverse.  One salient image was that of a dancer jumping into the arms of another.  Other than that there was very little touching.  The barefoot dancers often mimicked each other or performed side by side.  Only two duets occurred, one quite long near the end, watched by the other cast members gathered at the corners of the set. [more]

Parsons Dance: Fall 2021 Season

December 10, 2021

Parsons’ first work on the program was the tour de force solo “Balance of Power” performed by the phenomenal Zoey Anderson.  Clad in Barbara Erin Delo’s brilliantly colored tight costume—the bright red left sleeve particularly inventive—Anderson first appeared upside down in a golden spotlight. (Lighting by Chambers.) As she turned right side up, she began undulating to Giancarlo De Trizio’s sparkling score, her body reacting to every nuance of the quite rhythmic music.  Parsons unloaded hundreds of difficult tiny movements on her which she performed with skill and allure, stopping the show with her quickness and sensuality. [more]

Twyla Now

November 22, 2021

After a pause, there was the world premiere of "Second Duet." It was the most dramatic and emotional dance of the program. Wearing sneakers and casual sportswear, Cassandra Trenary and Aran Bell of American Ballet Theatre were the handsome couple whose tempestuous and turbulent relationship ranged from argumentative to violent to clinging and physically dependent. Tharp’s choreography included complicated partnering in which elements of the relationship were uncomfortable and disturbing, or sometimes amusing (as an example, Trenary stood solidly and dared Bell to just try and pick her up). Without an actual story line, the dance was emotionally charged, revealing and riveting. Trenary and Bell gorgeously performed the complex choreography. Looking more like members of a modern dance troupe than classical ballet dancers, they brought emotional depth as well as physical ability to this taxing piece of work. A modern music mix by Thomas Larcher and Aztec Camera played by the musicians Stephen Gosling (piano) and Gabriel Gabezas (cello) was sometimes as appropriately discordant as the relationship. [more]

New York City Center’s 2021 Fall for Dance Festival – Program 5

October 25, 2021

For something completely different, New York City Center commissioned and presented Ayodele Casel’s tap dance company for the world premiere of "Where We Dwell." A crowd-pleasing, often rousing production of tap-dancing choreography, it highlighted the various ways that tap dancing can entertain and enlighten. Amplified, it was astonishing to hear all the sounds created by tap shoes on the feet of extraordinarily gifted dancers. [more]

Lucinda Childs’ “Dance” at The Joyce Theater

October 21, 2021

Before the dancers appeared live, "Dance" commenced with a burst of Glass’ iconic, pulsating music—here pre-recorded, originally performed live—and a still from LeWitt’s original video projected onto a scrim which covered the entire stage opening.  LeWitt’s videos, intimate contributions to the work, also served to honor the performances of the original cast:  Childs, Graham Conley, Cynthia Hedstrom, Erin Matthiessen, Daniel McCusker, Susan Osberg, Judy Padow, Ande Peck and Megan Walker. [more]

New York City Center’s 2021 Fall for Dance Festival: Programs 1 and 2

October 19, 2021

The final work on Program 1 was its finest.  A.I.M. By Kyle Abraham presented its director’s “Our Indigo: If We Were a Love Song,” a deeply moving paean to the darker meanings of love.  It was choreographed to Nina Simone’s glorious renditions of six songs in which she wrapped her moving contralto around the lyrics of “Don’t Explain,” “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” and “Little Girl Blue.” The opening moments found the seven-member cast gathered in a dramatically lit upstage corner—moody lighting designed by Dan Scully—bending and reaching, dispersing only to return to their sculptural starting image. [more]

Denishawn: Dances by Ruth St. Denis & Ted Shawn

October 3, 2021

The dances on this program are perfect examples of the Denishawn aesthetic which combined what was then exoticism with impeccable theatricality.  The Denishawn troupe was very much of its time, the early twentieth century. The modern dance giants that came out of this artistic sensibility—Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman in particular—revolted against the exoticism to find a modern way of expressing themselves through movement, the way that artists who were their contemporaries put distance between them and the Impressionists.  These modern dance pioneers learned the ins and outs of dramatic presentation as they forged new dance forms. [more]

Ragamala Dance Company: Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim

September 25, 2021

As the opaquely complicated plot played out on the stage, the three lead dancers (Ranee, Aparna and Ashwini Ramaswamy) took turns displaying impeccable Bharatanatyam technique:  feet adorned with ghungroos (ankle bells), softly pounding out clear rhythms in varied positions, arms, exquisitely expressive, moving in striking patterns topped by constantly changing hand positions (mudras) which communicated character, mood and, to some extent, the story as it unfolded. [more]

BAAND Together Dance Festival at Lincoln Center

August 20, 2021

It’s unlikely that New York City will ever see these five troupes sharing a stage again.  This was a festive occasion despite being uneven in tone and not particularly representative of at least two of the large dance companies. Pretentious program notes were fortunately only available online so that they couldn’t mar the visceral enjoyment of several of these works in Program One. ... Each evening of the BAAND Together Dance Festival will feature a different program with contributions from each of these five wonderful dance companies. [more]

New Chamber Ballet: “Sea” & “Sun”

May 31, 2021

“Sea,” according to Magloire’s program notes is “loosely inspired by the movement of waves.”  Five dancers—Anabel Alpert, Megan Foley, Amber Neff, Rachele Perla and Alison Tatsuoka-dressed in Sarah Thea’s beautifully flowing blue costumes, certainly moved in ways that were wavelike, but they also seemed to be performing a constantly shifting ritual that eased from quietly intense to agitated and back—from languor to vigor. [more]

Ephrat Asherie Dance: “Odeon”

April 16, 2021

Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, the artistic director of the effervescent Ephrat Asherie Dance (EAD) has absorbed the disciplines of a number of dance forms:  hip-hop, breaking, Latin-American and Vogue.  She skillfully and wittily scanned all of these into Odeon, a 105-minute long work that showed off her six member troupe. They—including Asherie—danced with a verve, if not native authenticity, that matched the Brazilian-tinged score by Ernesto Nazareth, here interpreted by an on stage four-member band under the musical direction of Ehud Asherie. [more]

Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company: “Solo Suites”

October 21, 2020

Now directed by the energetic and warm Enrique Cruz DeJesus, Alpha Omega provided welcome relief from months of quarantine and angst with “Solo Suites,” a breezy—in every sense of the word—outdoor, healthily spaced program created by three choreographers who have had the privilege of working in this inviting space, a beautifully appointed home base in the East Village. Now directed by the energetic and warm Enrique Cruz DeJesus, Alpha Omega provided welcome relief from months of quarantine and angst with “Solo Suites,” a breezy—in every sense of the word—outdoor, healthily spaced program created by three choreographers who have had the privilege of working in this inviting space, a beautifully appointed home base in the East Village. These three choreographers presented four solos as the carefully spaced, masked and wine imbibing audience watched as breezes swept up the costumes. After calmly (and professionally) enduring a minor audio snafu, Ari Mayzick opened the program with his “Orphée,” a tense study of grief, an intense take on the Orpheus and Eurydice legend. [more]

Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble: “Rooms2020”

July 20, 2020

“Rooms2020” was to have been presented in a live season which was aborted by the current Covid crisis. Instead, the troupe has presented the work artfully streamed in a version that is more realistic, each section filmed by the dancers themselves and edited with artistic precision and a feeling for its dramatic arc by associate artistic director Lauren Naslund to make a cogent whole. (The other directors are the founder Jim May, Samantha Geracht and Eleanor Bunker.) [more]

Nederlands Dans Theater 2020

March 12, 2020

If one were to come to conclusions about the Netherlands after seeing the three ballets presented by the Nederlands Dans Theater at the New York City Center, the Netherlands would clearly come off as a place of doom and gloom where relationships are expressed by tossing each other around or totally avoiding contact. This world-class dance troupe is always welcome, but one has to wonder who programmed this mini-season.  Of course, the company’s artistic director Paul Lightfoot who co-choreographed one of these works has to have been the driving force in putting this show together. [more]

Ballet Vlaanderen

March 6, 2020

Ballet Vlaanderen was founded in 1969 by dancer/choreographer Jeanne Brabants, and the present artistic director since 2015 is Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who is known for his own award-winning choreography. Under his direction, the Flemish company, based in two places, Antwerp and Ghent, is dedicated to creating innovative new pieces and bringing important works to the stage. Stylistically, the company bridges the gap between ballet and modern dance. For their presentation at The Joyce Theater (March 3-7, 2020), Ballet Vlaanderen danced three pieces: "Kaash," "Faun," and "Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue. " [more]

CunningGraham Technique Comparison

February 9, 2020

Hosted by the Graham Company’s elegant director Janet Eilber, the program began with some historical comments after which two groups of dancers, one representing the Graham technique from Graham 2 and the other the Cunningham technique from the Merce Cunningham Trust entered the large studio/theater.  They performed parallel exercise routines, the Graham side guided by Virginie Mécène, Graham 2’s director and former Graham star and the Cunningham contingent guided by two former Cunningham members Jennifer Goggans and the aforementioned filmmaker Madoff. [more]

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

February 5, 2020

“The legend returns” claimed the fliers and posters for "Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake"’s short season at the New York City Center.  That proclamation wasn’t far from the truth.  "Swan Lake" is definitely Bourne’s most famous and prolifically performed work from a repertory that includes "Edward Scissorhands," "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Red Shoes," all having made touchdowns in New York City with varying success.  Only his "Swan Lake" has caught the imagination of audiences throughout the world despite its daring take on a beloved classic. [more]

Grand Swan Lake (Shanghai Ballet)

January 20, 2020

A recent iteration of the classic ballet "Swan Lake" was staged by Derek Deane and danced by the Shanghai Ballet and presented by the Shanghai Ballet with China Arts and Entertainment Group Ltd. at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. The company called their version "Grand Swan Lake" because it promised to be bigger than any other, at least in the number of dancers on the stage. But was bigger any better? Actually, yes. I assumed that using 48 swans was just a gimmick to get attention, but it was a very effective dramatic device. Forty-eight white tutus in moving formation was impressive, and in the last act, all those swans magically rising up through the fog was really breathtaking, a memorably dramatic visual. [more]

Dorrance Dance: The Nutcracker Suite

December 23, 2019

The music included the catchy, familiar tunes of "The Nutcracker Suite" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, first featured in classical ballet. The Dorrance version uses the absolutely wonderful jazz arrangement by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. No doubt the music would have been enhanced with a live orchestra, but one assumes that there was neither the budget nor the space for a Big Band orchestra. Nonetheless, the music is a marvelous interpretation, providing the perfect accompaniment for tap dancing – and certainly worth hearing again on its own. On occasion, however, there is no music, just the rhythmic sounds of tap dancing providing its own accompaniment. [more]

ZviDance: MAIM (“Water” in Hebrew)

December 19, 2019

Israeli-born choreographer Zvi Gotheiner created "Maim ('Water' in Hebrew)," a somber meditation on water, drought, misery, community and survival for seven members of ZviDance, all brilliant dancers with clearly defined personalities. Somehow, in under an hour, Gotheiner managed to dredge up memories and images of his early life on a kibbutz and how valuable water was in the life of his community.  That, added to the current climate crisis’ causing drastic drought concerns, stimulated him to produce "MAIM ('Water' in Hebrew)." [more]
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