Every year, New York City Center presents Fall for Dance, a program to show a sampling of dancers and dance companies. Not only is it a wonderful way to check out different companies without committing to a full evening, the tickets are really inexpensive.
Program 3 (October 5 – 6) included The Mariinsky Ballet, English National Ballet, Skånes Dansteater, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
The Mariinsky Ballet
The Mariinsky Ballet performed the U.S. premiere of “At the Wrong Time,” which had been choreographed by Alexander Sergeev and had its world premiere March 26, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Mariinsky Theatre. The curtain rose to display a piano. A young man, Vladimir Rumyanstev, turned out to be the pianist who was waiting for a ballerina. Once she arrived, the music could begin. Eventually there were three ballerinas and three partners. The women wore pointe shoes and brightly colored dresses that were cleverly designed by Daria Pavlenko to appear simple but that allowed easy movement. Their partners wore dark shirts and pants.
The Russian dancers were clearly classically trained indicated by their strict posture and the beautiful ease with which they moved. Sergeev’s choreography leaned toward modern ballet, and showed three different relationships in pas de deux danced to various musical pieces by Hector Villa Lobos. The music almost sounded like Scott Joplin’s rags, so some of the choreography had a jaunty aspect. It was lovely to watch.
English National Ballet
English National Ballet also presented a U.S. premiere of “Dust Duet” which had its world premiere on April 2, 2014 at the Barbican in London, England. Without being specific as to time or place, the effective costume design by Kimie Nakano included the woman’s headscarf and the man’s bare chest and simple pants, which seemed to indicate that they were peasants.
The music by Jocelyn Pook was a montage of singing and staticky old recordings. The lighting designed by Fabiana Piccioli created different dramatic areas.
It was a wonderful introduction to choreographer Akram Khan who created an emotionally powerful pas de deux in modern dance idiom (with bare feet). Without any story or plot, it was danced with strength, intensity and control by Erina Takahashi and James Streeter. “Dust Duet” was riveting.
The loud shouts at the conclusion indicated that the audience was moved and appreciated the artistry involved. Certainly, it will be of great interest to see what Akram Khan choreographs in the future; talented choreographers are rare.
Skånes Dansteater’s original premiere of “Dare to Wreck” was on January 20, 2017 at the Skånes Dansteater in Malmo, Sweden.
Every dance partnership requires an element of trust, but none more so than between Madeline Månsson and Peder Nilsson because her legs are paralyzed and she is in a wheelchair. The two of them choreographed “Dare to Wreck” together, and her vulnerability and his strength were an essential part of the piece. The way he carefully handled her was touching. And she is to be applauded for pursuing her wish to perform.
Based on the title, it would seem that the worry for her safety was part of the performance, but isn’t that the essence of a novelty circus act rather than an artful presentation? It would be interesting to see them in different choreography.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s premiere of “Lazarus” was November 30, 2018 at New York City Center in New York. For the Fall for Dance program, the company only danced Act II – so the purpose as written in the program was barely indicated: the inspiration of Alvin Ailey and the racial inequality that he faced when he founded the company in 1958.
The stage was full of different body types, and the dancers wore sneakers and an amusing array of basketball jersey-like tops in purple, designed by Mark Eric. The lighting by James Clotfelter was generally bright, so that each dancer was clearly visible, and there was added interest when the backgrounds occasionally changed colors.
Choreographed by Rennie Harris, the African-inspired movement was enormously entertaining and completely engaging. With the never-stopping thumping and pounding sounds of drums, along with recordings by singers like Nina Simone and the spoken word of Alvin Ailey (music and sound by Darrin Ross), it was impossible not to get caught up in the energy and the sheer enthusiasm of the company of mostly black dancers. It was just plain, flat-out fun. Like the company’s signature, “Revelations,” it’s something to be seen and enjoyed again and again.
Fall for Dance: Program 3 (October 5 – 6, 2019)
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, Manhattan
For Tickets, call CITYTIX at 212-581-1212 or visit http://www.NYCityCenter.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission