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Malpaso Dance Company: 2018 Season

A muscular, sensual dance troupe doing justice to three emotionally and physically challenging works.

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Malpaso Dance Company in Aszure Barton’s “Indomitable Waltz” (Photo credit: Judy Ondrey)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The automobile scene in Havana, Cuba might be stuck in the late 1950’s, but, judging from the recent appearance of that country’s Malpaso Dance Company, the modern dance scene is totally contemporary and excitingly sexy.

Since debuting at the Joyce in 2014, co-founders Fernando Sáez and Osnel Delgado have made the Malpaso Dance Company a stronger ensemble with a fluid, muscular movement style.  During this very short season, the dancers did justice to three emotionally and physically challenging works.

Osnel Delgado provided a duet, “Ocaso” (2013), for himself and Daileidys Carrazana.  This couple was clearly in trouble.  Delgado also designed the costumes:  for him a fancy patterned shirt and red pants and for her a chic short black dress.  The two danced warily about each other, rolling over each other in smoothly undulated movements, supporting each other only occasionally as each slipped away from the other.  They jabbed at each other with sharp elbow movements to jagged music by Autechre, the Kronos Quartet and Max Richter.  They kept facing each other, falling into an off of each other, never quite actually relating. “Ocaso” left the audience with a need to see these two finally join, but never got that satisfaction.

Malpaso Dance Company in Aszure Barton’s “Indomitable Waltz” (Photo credit: Judy Ondrey)

The first work on the program was “Indomitable Waltz” (2016) choreographed by Aszure Barton to dark hued music by the Balanescu Quartet and Nils Frahm.  Barton achieved a graceful, yet dramatic flow for these dancers dressed in Fritz Masten’s black and grey costumes.  Barton knows how to spread her dancers about the stage like a single organism continually splitting apart and coming together again. They danced warily about each other, performed leans and sensual embraces that faded as the dancers melted to the floor.  The work ended on a contemplative note as Dunia Acosta moved with careful steps and twisting hips, in a journey across the stage.  Although the emotions of “Indomitable Waltz” ranged from dark to sensual to giddily physical, it ended up as a head scratcher, beautifully performed by the Malpaso dancers.  The intriguingly moody lighting was by Nicole Pearce.

The final work was “Face the Torrent” (2017) by Sonya Tayeh, a somber, almost scary work to cello music by Colette Alexander and the Bengsons, in which the dancers in a straight line kept walking from upstage to downstage in a misty darkness provided by lighting designer Pearce. The line kept slinking with martyr-like figures rising and being pulled back down.  What caused the dark emotions was unclear—as it usually is in modern, angst-ridden modern dance—but the ending, with the dancers staring at the audience then turning away in unison to slink back into the darkness was quite effective.

The Malpaso troupe is a good sign for Cuba’s art scene and the Joyce Theater is partially responsible, sending good choreographers to Havana to bolster the repertory.  I look forward to their next visit.

Malpaso Dance Company (January 17-21, 2018)

Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-242-0800 or visit http://www.joyce.org

For more information, visit http://www.malpasodance.com

Running time:  90 minutes including one intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (255 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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