A sky that threatened rain, lightning and thunder delayed the start of Program One of Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City’s five night BAAND Together Dance Festival in Damrosch Park, slightly to the left of the Metropolitan Opera House and to the west of the David H. Koch Theater.
BAAND is an acronym for the five participating dance companies: Ballet Hispánico, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Let’s skip politely over the requisite thank you’s and the rallying of the audience. The dancing began with a work commissioned for the occasion, One for All choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to a zippy score, “Manteca” by Funky Lowlives via Dizzy Gillespie. She used dancers from each of the five participating troupes.
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.
Alvin Ailey’s Cry, the poignant three-part solo created by Ailey in 1971 for his star dancer and muse, Judith Jamison, was danced by Constance Stamatiou dressed in A. Christina Giannini’s folksy flowing white dress. For those who remember Jamison in this role it is difficult to judge “newbies,” even those actually coached by her as was Stamatiou. (This staging was produced by Ailey stalwart, Masazumi Chaya.)
Stamatiou acquitted herself well performing the movements of this work dedicated “to all Black women everywhere—especially our mothers.” She didn’t have the emotional heft to communicate the journey of this woman from mourning to defiance to exuberance using the music of Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro and Chuck Griffin. Nevertheless, she was greeted with a strong ovation for her efforts.
Con Brazos Abiertos is inspired by Michelle Manzanales’ many memories of her Mexican-American upbringing using music that ranged from Julio Iglesias to Spanish language rock and roll. The dancers of Ballet Hispánico entered the stage led by Dandara Veiga who later joined Chris Bloom in a sensual duet. They were dressed in costumes that ranged from chic peasant in the opening section to exuberant Mexican, flaring red skirts for both men and women in the final skirt whirling section. They all wore hats in the appropriately titled “Sombrero” as they struck attitudes that showed off their chapeaux. “Court Dance” referenced the royal history of Mexico with its bows and flourishes and elegant footwork. The above-referenced “Skirt” ended Con Brazos Abiertos with a theatrical bang.
The dancers of the Ballet Hispánico have never performed better. They appear to be going from strength to strength.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem contributed a gentle pas de deux, When Love, choreographed by Helen Pickett to music by Philip Glass excerpted from his opera Einstein on the Beach.
Two young dancers, Amanda Smith and David Wright, performed this very polite, lightweight duet. She wore a sleeveless red dress with appliqués and he pale pants with red appliqués and a red top designed by Charles Heightchew. Considering this was about young lovers, the choreography was way too formal, balletic and uninspired. Sure, she interrupted classical arabesques and partnered turns with a few embraces and subtle touching, but the duet, sweet as it was, paled against other works on the program.
Smith and Wright danced with a certain tentativeness that belied any passionate attraction between them. They appeared to be concentrating on the partnering complexities and not the emotions.
Compare this with the final work on the program, Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels, a series of passionate and tender pas de deux that was performed by members of the New York City Ballet: Emilie Gerrity, Ashley Hod, Davide Riccardo and Peter Walker. Red Angels made When Love look naïve and underdone.
Dove, who sadly passed away in 1996, used ballet steps, as did Pickett, but extended and distorted lines, used partnering to express emotional states and reacted brilliantly to his phenomenal score by Richard Einhorn, here played by the incredible electric violinist Mary Rowell. She bowed, plucked and pounded her instrument making an energetic base for Dove’s movement palette and supporting the dancers’ efforts.
American Ballet Theatre was represented by Jessica Lang’s Children’s Songs Dance to a score of the same name by Chick Corea. The costumes, more casual dancewear, in shades of blue were credited to Isabella Boylston.
Created for the young, inexperienced dancers of ABT’s Studio Company, Children’s Songs Dance received its first performance by American Ballet Theatre’s senior company at this BAAND Festival. The ABT dancers were Tristan Brosnan, Cy Doherty, Camila Ferrera, SunMi Park, Andrew Robare, Yoon Jung Seo and Elwince Magbitang who served as a kind of mascot to the taller male dancers.
Lang, to her credit, created a playful dance that put her cast through their paces showing off impeccable ballet technique. Lang managed to fill the stage with her small cast as they all bounded about in solos, duets and trios that all came together in playful groups. Deep it wasn’t. Pleasant, yes, but little more.
This was a pleasant, undemanding program.
These five companies appear on each of the five programs offering different works each evening.
BAAND Together Dance Festival 2022 (August 9 – 13, 2022)
Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City
Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center, in Manhattan
Tickets are free
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes without an intermission