Michael S. Rosenberg, the new President and CEO of New York City Center whetted the appetite of the sold-out audience introducing the opening night Program 1 of the long-time New York City staple, the Fall For Dance Festival.
He needn’t have worried. This was an audience champing at the bit to see the three fine, very different, dance troupes.
Ballet BC, the Canadian-based modern ballet company, began the program with The Statement, Crystal Pite’s witty take on a boardroom meeting, a corporate boardroom meeting full of intrigue and tension.
Jay Gower Taylor’s slick set made the ballet with its chic, but spare conference table over which hung an ominous large, chimney-like structure, all lit with sharpness by Tom Visser.
There wasn’t much of a musical score, just some rumblings by Owen Belton, over which a mini-play by Jonathon Young, pitting two couples against each other—one in business casual and the other more formally attired (costumes by Pite and Joke Visser)—became the sound score to which the dancers moved.
The actors speaking the lines were Meg Roe, Colleen Wheeler, Andrew Wheeler and Jonathon Young, himself. The stylish, nimble dancers were Patrick Kilbane, Sarah Pippin, Vivian Ruiz and Rae Srivastava.
Every nuance of movement was connected to the spoken word, syllable by syllable, a combination of mime and acrobatic modern dance. They gestured, made faces, slid on and below the large conference table and displayed great precision and split-second timing. I have a feeling that the entire story—an intracorporate competition between the two couples—would have been clear even if the soundtrack didn’t exist.
Rhapsody in Blue came next, revealing one of the finest pianistic interpretations of the Gershwin masterpiece I have ever heard. As played by Conrad Tao, the orchestra was hardly missed.
Adding to the pleasure of hearing Gershwin’s masterpiece was tap dancer Caleb Teicher’s exuberant, yet subtle choreography, not just responding to Tao’s pianistic glories, but inhabiting the music with his pixie-esque lightness of foot, arm and body. Teicher, tapping on a very small board, slid, moon-walked, raised himself on his toes and tapped out complex rhythms that complemented Tao’s accompaniment. The total effect was joyous, musical and deft.
The very effective lighting was by serena wong.
The final work was the Gibney Company’s Oh Courage!, a dark, worrisome journey choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh to an eccentric score composed and performed by The Bengsons, alternating vocal and instrumental outbursts.
Eight dancers, attired in loose tops and dark pants designed by Márion Talán de la Rosa, inhabited a small structure created by set designer Rachel Hauck and lit with spook house flair by Asami Morita.
They slowly arranged themselves about the stage, their bodies twisting, arms undulating, knees collapsing—a totally hellish vision. No cause for their agonized movement was suggested, just a Hieronymus Bosch nightmare of anger, fear and frustration.
Tayeh’s choreography was exacting in its portrait of a desperate mini-population where the denizens stood about watching others pushing and pulling on each other.
The performers were, to a company member, quite sensational in their combination of dexterity and communication of mood and emotion.
20th Fall for Dance 2023 – Program 1 (September 27-28, 2023 )
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-581-1212 or visit http://www.NYCityCenter.org
Running time for Program 1: two hours including two intermissions