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ZviDance: Escher/Bacon/Rothko

One of the smartest modern dance choreographers is inspired by three major twentieth century artists.

ZviDance’s Robert M. Valdez, Jr. and Kuan Hui Chew of in a scene from “Escher/Bacon/Rothko” (Photo credit: Nina Wurzel) 

ZviDance’s Robert M. Valdez, Jr. and Kuan Hui Chew of in a scene from “Escher/Bacon/Rothko” (Photo credit: Nina Wurzel)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

ZviDance, the modern dance company directed by the inventive Zvi Gotheiner returned to the New York Live Arts with a new work following the success of last year’s brilliant Surveillance.  This time his inspirations were the artists of the title, Escher/Bacon/Rothko, three giants of twentieth century art, each with his own unique vision of the world.

The scores for all three sections were composed by Scott Killian whose music ranged from plinkety piano to moody moaning sounds, all supporting Gotheiner’s constantly shifting stage pictures.

It was hard to discern just how each artist inspired him.  In other works similarly based on painting—most famously Martha Clarke’s Garden of Earthly Delights—color schemes, poses, costumes, projections, etc., made the connection between dance and artwork clear.

Although it’s unreasonable to expect a choreographer as astute and original as Gotheiner to work in such an obvious way, duplicating elements—graphic or autobiographical—of the works or lives of these three artists, the fact is that the three sections were filled with similar movements, the same fluid partnering and also were drearily costumed (by Mary Jo Mecca who did provide some blue costumes for the Rothko section).  Even Mark London’s stark lighting, virtually colorless, made it difficult to discern just how each artist affected Gotheiner.

Full Company of ZviDance as they appeared in a scene from “Escher/Bacon/Rothko” (Photo credit: Nina Wurzel) 

Full Company of ZviDance as they appeared in a scene from “Escher/Bacon/Rothko” (Photo credit: Nina Wurzel)

Certainly, the ceaseless energetic intertwinements of the Escher section could allude to his eye-popping, busy canvases and the large rectangles of white light just might allude to Rothko’s famous wide bands of impeccably applied colors.  In the Bacon section, dancers kept distorting their faces and bodies in modest approximations of the bizarre images in Bacon’s portraits:  unsymmetrical, shockingly colored and ugly.

The dancers, a refreshingly eclectic group, were terrific, as usual.

Escher/Bacon/Rothko, programmatic considerations aside, was fascinating to watch from beginning to end because Gotheiner knows his stuff, but the fact remains that he didn’t make it easy to associate or connect his art with theirs.

ZviDance: Escher/Bacon/Rothko (June 24-27, 2015)

New York Live Arts, 119 West 19th Street in Manhattan

For tickets call 212-924-0077 or visit http://www.newyorklivearts.org

For more information visit http://www.zvidance.com

Running time: one hour 40 minutes including one intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (241 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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