Karole Armitage of Armitage Gone! Dance, an eccentric, quirky artist in the Merce Cunningham/Balanchine tradition, did not disappoint with her “Donkey Jaw Bone” to traditional Mexican music played on actual Mexican percussion instruments such as the one in the title. A wonderfully oddball and sexy work, “Jaw Bone” examines Mexico’s theatrical wrestling form in which the players take on distinct personalities—ancient mythical creatures, snakes, serpents—in their mostly pre-determined fights. Pilar Limosner’s witty re-creations of the colorful wrestling outfits and Clifton Taylor’s purposely theatrical lighting completed the picture that Armitage’s choreography began.
Watching Armitage’s talented cast of five—Ahmaud Culver, Megumi Eda, Sierra French, Alonso Guzman, Cristian Laverde-Koenig and Yusaku Komori—strutted, grappled, posed, spun and tossed each other about. It was clear that Armitage had done her research and had dug into her choreographic resources—ballet, modern, ethnic—and came up with a charming, yet sensual dance.
Jennifer Muller, of Jennifer Muller/The Works, whose artistic history includes a long association with José Limon, provided “Shock Wave,” a world premiere to a cello-heavy score by Gordon Withers. “Shock Wave,” with its suggestive title, showed how darkness and loneliness can pervade a microcosmic set of people—The Works’ members—as they are stopped in their paths by a loud explosion and have to cooperate to re-group and go on.
The cast dressed in loose, pale outfits by Martin Izquierdo, were first found wandering about apprehensively, sometimes posing quietly. After the afore-mentioned explosion stopped them in their paths, the movements became more frenzied, partnering more sharp-edged. Slowly the movements turned calmer, more balletic and the groupings more constant, displaying Muller’s command of stage movement, until they coalesced into a united whole. The lighting by Jeff Croiter—re-created by Jon Dunkle—sensationally illuminated the dancers’ angst.
“Threshold,” Jacqulyn Buglisi’s contribution to the show (and the oldest work—1991) pitted two mythical-seeming beings against each other, the first a woman, Virginie Mécène, who emerged slowly and painfully from a cocoon-like structure on the floor to be confronted by a handsome stranger, Kevin Predmore who warily stalked her down a diagonal.
A program note, quoting Rainier Maria Rilke, brought into the mix angels, beauty, terror and awe, all evident to some extent in Buglisi’s Graham-influenced choreography, but this could also easily be interpreted as a grand passion between two beautiful, mysterious beings—exotically costumed by A. Christina Giannini and dramatically lit by Clifton Taylor. The two dancers had the technique and acting down and were quite effective, as was the dark, dreary music of the now-ubiquitous Arvo Pärt.
The final work was Carolyn Dorfman’s “Waves” to a commissioned score of exotically orchestrated music by Pete List (beatboxing, shahi baaja, vocals), Jessie Reagen Mann (cello, vocals) and Daphna Mor (recorders, vocals).
Dorfman’s ten troupe members were all costumed in tight, swimsuit type blue outfits by Anna-Alisa Belous, used the music as jumping off points, seeming to breathe with the wind instruments and move percussively to rhythms. True to the work’s title, Dorfman frequently placed the dancers in flowing line formations in which they seemed to ooze over each other making for constantly changing stage pictures. “Waves” was a lovely “total work” that combined excellent choreography, costumes, interesting music, fine lighting (by Stephanie Byrnes Harrell) and imagery.
These four choreographers produced a fascinatingly satisfying program despite differences in styles, techniques and philosophies. All dance programs should be as well organized and curated.
Women/Create! A Festival of Dance (June 12-16, 2018)
New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-924-0077 or visit http://www.newyorklivearts.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission