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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]

Still Standing You

May 16, 2016

The duo that makes up and has created 'Still Standing You" consists of the charmingly suave Guilherme Garrido from Portugal and the dour, heavily bearded Pieter Ampe from Belgium, neither of whom appear to have ever set foot in a dance class. Skinny, but out of shape, they nevertheless proved that they certainly were not weaklings, supporting each other in odd lifts, tucks and all sorts of interlocking of body parts. [more]

Ballet Preljocaj: “Empty Moves”

April 27, 2016

Testing the patience and understanding of both the audience and the dancers, Ballet Preljocaj, Angelin Preljocaj’s modern troupe from Aix-en-Provence, performed the complete version of his “Empty Moves” at the Joyce Theater. Two of the three parts were previously seen in New York City. Set to John Cage’s “Empty Words,” a deconstruction of a text by Henry David Thoreau, the work put four terrific dancers through their paces for nearly two hours. [more]

Miami City Ballet

April 20, 2016

I cannot remember the last time a ballet company so completely blew me away as the Miami City Ballet did during its recent, depressingly short season at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. The explosive metaphor is entirely apt. This is a stylish classical ballet troupe that is definitely a company whether they are dancing works by Alexei Ratmansky, Twyla Tharp or George Balanchine. They exude a lushness of style that allows them all to be individuals, yet cohere into an exciting artistic unit. [more]

Dance Theatre of Harlem 2016

April 14, 2016

The four works on the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s program revealed a troupe that loves to entertain and show off but one that also hasn’t quite reached a secure level of technical achievement. Fervor and personality can take a dance company only so far. Nevertheless, this is definitely a ballet company with most works featuring solid point work. [more]

Ballet Hispanico

April 11, 2016

The Ballet Hispanico wants to be meaningful while at the same time entertaining. It is a difficult course to chart—just look at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—and, so far, the entertainment element seems to have taken charge. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to please an audience, but, let’s face it, others do it better. Mr. Vilaro has kept the technical level of the dancers and the productions at a very high level and shouldn’t be afraid to shock, move and confound his audiences—along with making them happy. [more]

From the Horse’s Mouth Celebrates Gus Solomons jr

April 6, 2016

Nearly thirty speakers glorified Solomons, but none quite as well as himself who appeared in three bits that deftly paid tribute to—and simultaneously gently poked fun at—his two choreographic mentors. Watching Solomons’ Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham hand puppets debating their individual philosophies of the art of dance, while getting their personality foibles down perfectly, was the highlight of the program. This was the rare Horse’s Mouth in which the object of the show performed. [more]

Julliard Dances Repertory 2016

March 29, 2016

This was a particularly satisfying showing by the Juilliard Dances Repertory. It’s good to know that there is hope for the future of dance represented by these students, all of whom displayed fine technique and understanding of the different works. Also, the respect and care paid to these three choreographic geniuses makes it clear that they won’t soon be forgotten. [more]

Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble

March 17, 2016

“Ride the Culture Loop” (1975) to dark, percussion-heavy music by long-time Sokolow colleague, Teo Macero, pitted small groups of dancers against each other, all seemingly trapped in a nightmare of frustration symbolized by jutting elbows, pained expressions and tense pile-ups that led inevitably to one dancer being lifted high and slowly rotated only to be subsumed back into the flailing bodies a second later. Dressed in hippy-ish jeans and colorful tops, they seemed more concerned with their inner turmoil than communicating with each other. The tense movements gave the work a thick, emotional veneer. “Ride the Culture Loop” was staged by Samantha Geracht. [more]

Angel Reapers

March 6, 2016

The audience for "Angel Reapers" is immediately immersed in the Shaker world, forced to cross the set—simple board floors, ladder-back chairs, a couple of windows and doors—en route to the seats. Several cast members are already in place. As more characters saunter on and take their seats, men and women on opposite sides, an infectious laughter spreads improbably through the cast before hymns are sung and a long list of proscribed activities is chanted. They also express delight in the “gifts” they contribute: “I have the gift of gathering eggs;” “I have the gift of reaping hay;” etc. [more]

New York Theatre Ballet: Legends & Visionaries 2016

March 5, 2016

“Song Before Spring,” to a vibrant and pulsating steel band score by Philip Glass is an exciting addition to the NYTB repertory. Choreographed by Zhong-Jing Fang and Steven Melendez, “Song” caught the rambunctiousness of the score while telling many poignant and funny stories about the characters’—the entire company—lives. Dressed in Ms. Nolan’s incredibly witty street clothes, these young dancers became a community, a microcosm of urban life as they interacted. There were a sullen youth (Mr. Melendez), three flirty young ladies (Alexis Branagan, Carmella Lauer, Mayu Oguri), two aggressive young men (Joshua Andino-Nieto and Michael Wells) and a panorama of telling activities that combined ballet, modern dance, mime and very fine acting. “Song Before Spring” is a real forward leap for Ms. Byer’s troupe of dedicated dancers. [more]

Pacific Northwest Ballet

February 29, 2016

The second Balanchine masterpiece was “Prodigal Son,” the final work that the great impresario Serge Diaghilev commissioned. Prokofiev’s moody, rough-hewn score and colorful, scenery and costumes by Georges Rouault which evoke a fanciful, ancient biblical era give Balanchine’s story heft. The clever scenery includes wildly colorful backdrops and features a large wooden structure that ingeniously becomes a pathway away from the Prodigal’s home, a dining table, a stage and even a poignant place of crucifixion as the Prodigal writhes against it. [more]

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s Cinderella

February 25, 2016

Maillot decided, however, to set his version in a distorted fantasy realm, with no identifiable time period or place, distancing the story’s emotional impact. It is difficult to identify with the group of highly stylized, caricatured characters he presents and the tortured, though imaginative, path he takes them on. [more]
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