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Works & Process Rotunda Project: “Falls the Shadow”

The draw of the evening was ABT star dancer Daniil Simkin whose creative input was unclear.

A scene from Alejandrdo Cerrudo’s “Falls the Shadow” (Photo credit: Courtesy of Works & Process at the Guggenheim)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The star of Alejandro Cerrudo’s new ballet, Falls the Shadow—part of the esteemed Works & Procress series at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—is the lighting/projection design (created by Dmitrij Simkin) and not any of the four fine dancers who made up the cast—including American Ballet Theatre star Daniil Simkin (who is credited with co-producing the ballet).  When lighting is more imaginative than the choreography—which was repetitious, bland, heavy-handed in its “symbolism,” and immediately forgettable—and the eye follows the ever-expanding circular ripples that rose up the many levels of the famous Guggenheim ramps, it is a sad comment, reflecting on this choreographer’s lack of subtlety and ability to grab the audience’s attention.

The title comes from T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men, the one that famously includes the line: “This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper” – which is exactly how Falls the Shadow ended, the dancers swirling off to the borders of the Rotunda performing space after a series of meetings and partings that too often found them lying in geometric patterns on the floor, their arms spread out in cross forms or moving their limbs in unison to produce a Busby Berkeley effect. (The audience stood above the action on the ramps, looking down.)  The two couples rarely mixed and matched, but did occasionally form lineups that wound up dragging the unlucky fourth dancer who was face down on the stage.  The actual movement palette was limited to walking, soft arabesques, rolling on the floor and some hip-level lifts, all repeated too many times. 

The movement-mimicking shadow idea, the central creative idea of the work, has become a cliché used by such companies as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Nikolais modern dance troupe and even on Broadway.  Its use, however technically astute, seemed to force Cerrudo to eschew real drama, exciting stage pictures and steps that actually reflected the moods of the long list of musical sources—none of which had any rhythmic integrity, consisting mostly of hums, droning sounds and formless light percussion sounds.

The four dancers—the cast was completed by the excellent Brett Conway, Ana Lopez and Cassandra Trenary—were dressed in Maria Grazia Chiuri’s dull gray, body-clinging, sleeveless workout outs.  One would never know that Ms. Chiuri is the artistic director of Dior, costume design.  However impeccably made these outfits were, they were merely functional.

The draw of the evening was Daniil Simkin.  Indeed, for some reason the full title of the event was “Works & Progress Rotunda Project – Daniil Simkin’s Falls the Shadow” even though Simkin’s creative input is unclear.  He and the other three performers were suitably low-keyed and unemotional to match the blandness of their steps.

This was an odd choice for this prestigious series which usually presents exciting and very original concepts.

Works & Process Rotunda Project – Daniil Simkin in Falls the Shadow (September 4 and 5, 2017)

Works & Process Series at the Guggenheim

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue at 88th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-423-3575 or visit http://www.worksandprocess.org

Running time:  35 minutes with no intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (226 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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