Performing Arts: Dance
February 19, 2018
Jessica DiMauro asks questions concerning time, primarily in the realm of our desire to control it. From these questions stem very physical answers, linguistically speaking – images of changing, chasing, forcing, moving, and catching up. These ideas, however, don’t fully make it to the surface of the nine separate pieces that comprise I’m not done yet, in which what largely reads as a themed recital nonetheless harbors some promising moments.

DiMauro’s movement, performed by a refreshingly diverse array of age groups and skin colors, is rooted in classic modern dance vocabulary, though with an emboldened rigor. In her solos, DiMauro meditates on a motif of running in place, in a variety of facings and speeds, maintaining her raised leg in attitude arabesque. A piece for sixteen women, borrowed from the Montclair dance department involves speedy unison dispersed in different directions, crisp execution allowing the harmony of the facings to be clear. While the power is exciting, it goes overboard with militant floorwork sections that turn the floor of St. Marks’ Church into a drum set, desensitizing us to indiscriminate intensity.

The final movement concludes with a rich canon, looped in such a way that small hand shapes that would get lost in a continuous phrasing emerge in temporal frames. Defaulting to customary structures, the clean ensemble ending betrays the ungraspable nature of the piece’s subject.

Hints of interests beyond dancing prowess break things up nicely. In the same conclusive moment, DiMauro continues to loop the phrase while the rest of the company takes on her running motif in a satisfying imbalance. A solo performed by Crystal Lynn Rodriguez is a complete genre departure, toying with dance theatre tropes, Rodriguez reacting to disembodied voices commenting on beauty standards before she rolls herself up in a long white fabric.

The peak of this adventurousness is performed by Alexandra Williamson. It is the only piece to actually shift category within itself, toggling between sharp physical activity, gentle reaches for help, and jarring distortions of pedestrian actions such a loud, strenuous panting. Fed up, she leaves without a sense of completion, leaving us wanting much more.

Lessening any impact made in the work is the insistence that between every piece there be a black out, a set up in dim blue, followed by another blackout before the next piece begins. In this time, every surprise is spoiled for the sake of being in the correct place. Rampant in the work as well is an exhausting amount of breath cues, a way dancers stay in sync when there’s no clear relationship of metric movement to the music. Meant as a stealthy, sparingly done cheat, they are explosively loud and frequent – the illusion spontaneity never has a chance.

The combination of micromanaging each piece’s setup, making obvious dancers’ attempts to stay together, and hitting every move with the same dynamic are symptomatic of the piece’s thrust – the need to control time. The material affectively seems to suggest it is not worth it, however the execution can’t seem to shed the compulsion.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

Ronald K. Brown Evidence
February 18, 2018
In a moment rife with both intense minority resistance as well as simultaneous backlash against and commodification of it, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence’s Joyce season is a peacefully subversive offering, celebrating blackness in a studied and curated way, that does not preach so much as situates itself, as itself, into a contemporary art modality.

Brown’s ultimate challenge is retaining the communal energy of the traditional African dance forms from which he draws in the intense spatial segregation of a proscenium theatre, for which Come Ye is the perfect opener, beginning boldly in the formation few contemporary choreographers dare to sincerely stage – the horizontal line – from which solos and duets emerge and return to the negative space held by their fellow dancers, suggesting invariable connectivity despite diaspora. The dancing maintains isolation, yet is elegantly designed to sync in and out with events happening across the space.

Dancing Spirit closes the program with an alternate use of line formations – a diagonal conveyor belt containing a long, cannoned loop, of which every dancer gets to be both follower and leader / child and elder. After exiting, they reenter, renewed, surrounding the initial procession’s completion like a cell membrane, a self-contained physical system.

Such elegant composition metaphorically joins together the artistic results of the African diaspora into a fluidly focused movement language, a mixed bag of riffing actions from traditional African forms, jazz, hip-hop, and their resulting impact on contemporary dance. Den of Dreams features Brown along with Associate Artistic Director Arcell Cabuag, perhaps the only two dancers who can make mirrored unison look conversational. The actual choreography is hidden – a sequence of internal impulses, inciting their flesh to idiosyncratically spiral and melt around them accordingly.

Come Ye, on the other hand, has quite an external vocabulary – a series of physical snapshots of celebratory tropes such as social dancing, miming of urban pedestrianism, cartwheels, and absorptions of the earth’s energy. They notice when there is a syntactic shift, stopping to ponder the rapturous grand battement that interrupts the group’s grounded flow, before willingly joining in.

Similarly pluralist are musical juxtapositions. Come Ye ties together three manifestations blackness in a steady exposition of traditional African movement to Nina Simone jazzifying a southern folk tune. It connotes the spiritual, which serves as the soundtrack to slavery’s horror despite an often joyous sound. There is similarly rarely physical angst in Brown’s work, but he actively disallows these movements from becoming the dance of 21st century racism, insisting instead on their ability to speak to the totality of the black experience, for all to understand.

There are occasional moments of forced relevance. Come Ye’s second half, featuring a red backdrop behind Black Panther-esque costuming, feels unnecessarily decorative. While incredibly convenient in timing, 1995’s Lessons: March has audience members whooping in agreement not so much to the dancing, but to the excerpt’s soundtrack of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech on white supremacy and privilege. Nonetheless, Brown uses these tactics sparingly to aid in the work’s accessibility, all the while demonstrating himself as fully capable and successful at achieving full embodiment and clear communication of his subject matter.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

February 13, 2018
The sound of weighted, bare feet upon a smooth, cool stage. Earth tones rooted in airy garments. A careful silence. These sensations open the work of Dana Reitz’s Latitude and conjure a grounded presence infused within the life of the piece from start to finish.

As the work unfolds, the dancers methodically displace long wooden dowels across the stage with a carefulness akin to the precise strokes of calligraphy executed by the paintbrush of an artist. Magic tricks of light and shadow grace the floor with transparent honesty and patient intention. These luminous illusions are results of deliberate decisions and attentive artistry which retain a wit that is both satisfying to the eye and filling to the soul. Through her play with darkness and light, Reitz reminds the audience that it is not always the light alone that casts the shadow, but the shadow that may also draw the light.

Latitude is performed entirely in silence by Reitz and her two dancers, Elena Demyanenko and Yanan Yu, a decision which has a profound effect on the atmosphere of the performance space and the audience members within it. With the lack of external sound, the audience becomes scrupulously aware of the minute noises it produces and immediately transforms into an almost collective organism, seemingly newly aware of itself, and freshly trepidatious with each audible breath it draws. This hyper-awareness brings a sensitive focus to the energy of the room as well as to the meticulous nature of the performance onstage.

The floor becomes a koi pond whose tranquility is gently disturbed by the placements of the dancers’ bodies as well as by the wooden objects into which they infuse their energy. This serenity will not be disturbed by the natural follies of the rapt audience, but rather breathed in and diffused through respectful witness to such languid waters.

Within the hour-long piece, there is a moment in which the swaths of light strewn along the floor begin to shrink, reducing to a thin, rectangular shape resembling that of a coffin. As the length of these lights decreases, so increases the awareness of the finite nature of earthly time. As humans, we are drawn to light and ever aware of its presence, its heat and its absence. Reitz is clearly aware of this human attraction and possess a crystalline talent for using the magnetism of light to weave relatable and kindred human narratives.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Brandon Kazen-Maddox

February 4, 2018
A brightness born of youthfulness and hope floated over Peter Walker’s premiere “dance odyssey” by Peter Walker. Drawing in a NYC Ballet creative team, the cheery turquoise blue and lavender leotard and tights by Marc Happel were complimented by the equally long-term company lighting designer Marc Happel.

Simple in approach, but satisfying in delivery, the ring leader Tyler Peck whipped her legs in and out of perky struts, spinning and stopping on a dime -- and doing it all in musical stride. Zacahary Catazaro gamely supported the self-sufficient Peck and Adrian Danchig-Waring was a comparably game partner to Ashley Laracey elegantly embracing the lyrical, romantic role.

Soon eight dancers stretched across the stage and coupled up. At times the women’s’ legs hooked-up under men’s’ thighs tango style only to break apart and clump into a humorous body sculpture suggesting a multi headed, armed and legged Southeast Asian deity.

More wit was on display in the jokey duet between Devin Alberda and Anthony Huxley when the talented men nodded, and teased each other. Like magnets, they moved towards and away from each other, even sliding backwards in a cool moonwalk, knowingly nodding at one another. In the final moments, Laracey—dressed in a filmy grey dress- lingered inside a duet of warmth and pleasure with Danchig-Waring.

What a well-tuned work from an up-and coming young choreographer. And again, let’s remember that this remarkable stable of young choreographers coming out of NYC Ballet for over 18 years are the product of the NYCB New York Choreographic Institute established by Peter Martins and funded by Irene Diamond. Thank you.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 3, 2018
CITIZENS OF HERE AND ELSEWHERE choreograhped by Alexandra Amirov and Amirov Dance Theater, is a multi-faceted reflection of the complex cultural background of the Artistic Director herself as well a diverse exhibition of the company members involved. As the audience files into the space, they are witness to a room covered in thick, translucent plastic, an apron, and a half-finished bottle of Ketel One vodka; a scene reminiscent of the murderous Showtime series, Dexter and one that creates a vignette of items whose relation to one another is bound to be an intricate one. In dance theatre, setting the scene is of top priority, a feat accomplished by Amirov with sleek and simplistic grace.

The first act, The Coop, begins to unfold with six female-bodied humans appearing in couples and on their own, their uniquely-patterned shirts and uniform pants calling to their countries of origin and to their presumed newfound independence. They arrive to a world where they must present invisible immigration passport marks on their wrists and clavicles and mandatorily expose their threat-less, empty hands to customs after momentarily relieving them of the weight of the suitcases they’ve managed to bring to their new home.

The dance that springs from these bodies is thrust into the air with the same fury as the air-raid siren and red flashing lights that cue it to begin. After a synchronous European club-scene rocks its way across the stage, a torrent of tomatoes, hurled by the dancers at the plastic-covered wall, leaves a scene of carnage along with the sweet smell of garden vegetables that lingers in the air like the ring in ones ears after the alarm of a passing potential threat.

The Order of Pearls, another notable slice of time, blooms from all corners of the stage, each dancer clad in beautifully-tailored burlap, backless tops and richly-colored, weighted bustles of fabric. The choreography of this work is a mixture of classical ballet, modern, and contact improvisation-inspired partner work that washes the audience with breaths of fresh, billowing air, stirred up by the sweeping motions of the dancers’ movements. This is a work that proves how satisfying motion can be when the costume and the dancer inform the movement of one another.

CITIZENS OF HERE AND ELSEWHERE is a well-orchestrated and sensible work, with each piece leading the audience to a different part of the physical world, and by proxy, to a different time and space of Amirov’s psyche. The company is well-invested in the story they weave and their commitment to their Artistic Director is evident. The work is also well-lit and the present of the dance film a_SymMetrics was a lovely piece of technology set alongside a romanesque, columned stage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Brandon Kazen-Maddox

January 31, 2018
The Roots is nearly a ballet, stuck between romantic and neoclassical sensibilities with its set of stylized living room furniture by Olivier Borne, danced on by a cast of eleven men, all looking vaguely distressed in a space made ghostly by Fabrice Crouzet’s lighting at the Joyce Theater. The single-gendered piece may tempt one to call The Roots the French contemporary hip-hop answer to Balanchine’s Serenade, especially given choreographer Kader Attou’s musical choreography, yet the movement refuses to settle on being simply pure, and, clocking in at ninety minutes, takes considerably longer to make its case.

As contemporary ballet has solidified into a genre, contemporary hip-hop swiftly follows. Abstractly, it is a fusion with the potential to bring out the best in its components. While the shorthand for contemporary movement has become indulgent noodling, its advanced formal sensibility is not necessarily what hip-hop needs, but maximizes the way we see hip-hop’s precise movement onstage. The Roots, however, instead takes shortcuts that leave us entertained in several irreconcilable ways.

Many idioms of hip-hop are present in Compagnie Accrorap. Each dancer, unilaterally proficient, excels in particular at one or two. From tutting’s hand gestures through the complex body sequencing of waving and popping/locking to full-bodied breaking, no movement can be done without a crystalline process of execution.

A link that emerges between hip-hop and ballet is their elemental vocabularies, that, of course, contemporary would want to futz with. The difference is that, hip-hop often requiring complete bodily investment in any movement, there is not as much room for motivic variation in spinning on one’s head as there is in fouetté turns. We know we are seeing the movement again when it repeats, but as a carbon copy we begin to view it as one would a gymnastics routine. Attou’s composition adheres with contemporary ballet companies far and wide – a slide show of spatially meandering solos and duets with frontal unison at the beginning, sometimes in the middle, and definitely at the end. Recognizing his exhausting use of unison, that is admittedly wholly captivating when it comes to hip-hop’s intricacy, Attou will spit an odd man out, which, too, becomes laboriously expected.

We are often charmed by circus-influenced physical craftiness, such as a slapstick game of musical chairs with a chair that breaks down, and a meta game of continuing to move after the piece has ostensibly ended. They serve as a breather for the performers, save the most memorable scene – a lone tap dancer in a spotlight atop a table, luring the rest of the company to join him like moths to a light bulb, each dancer physically responding to the sound in their personal vocabularies.

After doing well in each department, Attou ends the piece with a high-energy jam session. It is celebratory and beautiful unto itself but, in context, reads as an apology for anything that may have been not as entertaining until then. The Roots’ roots are all very apparent, but each scene is a potential piece unto itself; we can only climb one branch at a time.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

January 30, 2018
In this imaginative reflection on gender politics within the dance world, Catherine Cabeen / Hyphen extends to the Theater for a New City audience three delicious morsels of commentary and offers the audience a full palette of sensations to savor.

The work opens with Glitter in the Gutter, performed by Kristina Berger and Catherine Cabeen. Both dancers set the stage for a traditional, cattle-call audition, in which they sit in neutral black leotards, one festive ostrich feather pinned to their tight bun-headed hairdos, and titleringing ‘Give me more’ expressions on their faces. This satire of dancers attempting to wedge their foot in the industry door is a familiar one to the dance community and the comic relief provided in the ensuing dialogue sets the tone of humble character and quick-wit from the company members.

After the dreaded ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you’ is delivered, the dancers dive into their work, sharing a volley of cheeky, eloquent phrases filled with anatomy vocabulary and movement quality analysis. Their lighthearted repartee regarding exponential costs of studio space and overextended body parts strikes a sentimental chord to those familiar with the dance world, as does the reality of exploitation of dancers by one-trackminded directors and having to bite the artistic bullet to work in corporate America in order to ‘live the dream in New York City.

Through yogic centeredness, contemporary extensions and elongated extremities, Cabeen and company exhibit brilliant use of speed and dynamic juxtaposition in their work and allow the audience to settle comfortably into the knowledge that resides within the bodies of each dancer, The choreographic composition is well-organized, leading the eye in a logical manner to and from the various focal points set by the actions of each of the dancers, whose command of space and control of exertion have a wonderful working relationship with the recorded score of the pieces, each informing the other of the dynamics needed to set the tone of the poignant messages of each piece.

In the work’s second piece, This American Koan, a mass of poly-blend stretch clothing makes its way onto stage, each garment sewn together to offer a seemingly endless array of options, which the dancers efficiently use to create a multifaceted gem of social commentary. Within this clever paradox, the dancers defy gender binary roles by donning various articles of clothing and create new physical dialogue with each swap of ownership of every genderless article. The orchestration is seamless, as is much of the stitching that must have been involved in creating such a massive piece of art.

The final piece, …yet again, pits the domineering, chauvinistically-charged male director personae against the rational respiration of the female-bodied counterpart, exercising her human strength in an expression of defiance and self-assured confidence. Cabeen’s fluctuation between the traditional male and contemporary female brings with it a conversation of tension and release with a through-line of truth and a woven theme of strength from beginning to end.

Cabeen’s musicality, lyrical energy and respectful acknowledgment of both the male and female energies that humans possess holds the attention of the audience with a gentle yet attentive security and reminds those watching that no one has power over what we think, and to have strength to disagree with those who feel they do.

That humans are more than the sum of our parts is made manifest by Catherine Cabeen / Hyphen’s work ‘Give Me More’ and the responsibility of honoring all aspects of the human soul is met and excelled by the talents of each performer in the company.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Brandon Kazen-Maddox

David Vaughn
January 28, 2018
In memoriam.

January 18, 2018
The Joyce Theatre hosted Malpaso Dance Company featuring Indomoitable Waltz (2016), Ocaso (2013), and Face The Torrent (2017). Within a five-year spam, this Cuban contemporary company co-founded and directed by Fernando Sáez, Osnel Delgado, and Daileidys Carranza has gained acclaim because of its impeccable technique, expressive heartfelt emotion, and a refined state of the art production aesthetic.

Indomitable Waltz, created by Aszure Barton, opened the evening. The curtain was gently removed to reveal a black box stage. Bathed in a subtle diamond and champagne lighting design by Nicole Pearce, a slow feed of dancers approached the proscenium from the up-stage center. A shoulder roll of the leading dancer set off the trajectory of dense movement traces that seem to flow from an internal yearning.

Building form a weight-driven spiral motif, the complex commendable movement discourse was built through transparencies of Afro-Cuban isolations, aerodynamic capoeira dexterities, sharp gymnastic off-balanced transitions, and classical dance. As music from Alexander Balanescu, Michael Niman, and Nils Frahm intertwined, the eight company dancers took the stage to converse in an interplay of duets and group gatherings gliding away in suspended portés.

The audience was drawn into the conversation as the dancers reached out with delicate gestures that broke into a syncopated flick while fixating their eyes intensely through the house.

Among the most memorable images echoing through the evening was the revolving spinning trajectory of aerial transitions through which the dancers would fly over each other or the nostalgic weight bearing embraces where a dancer would lean on their partner to listen to their heart while being welcomed by a kiss.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

January 4, 2018
Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener’s Tesseract never explains what exactly a tesseract is. A Google search will explain it is to a cube what a cube is to a square, moving from three into four dimensions. Motivic to the piece is its image - a cube inside of a cube, connected by diagonal lines as though suspended in a web. When rotated, it takes on an Escher-esque ambiguity, the very sense of spatial non-fixation the choreographers championed dancing for Merce Cunningham. Otherwise, however, comparison with the pair’s parent choreographer sets one up for disappointment. Mitchell and Riener forge deep connections between the piece’s various elements, which, like the rotating titular form, suggest and dismantle whiffs of narrative and abstraction, rigorous structuralism underpinning every moment.

First comes Atlas’ film, instructing us to put on our 3D glasses in a spacey chrome font. If it weren’t enough to watch a 3D film about a 4D shape, Atlas renders many forms 2D, rotating lush facades into flatness. Choreographic inventiveness is reserved for the sake of Atlas’ manipulation. The lens opens and closes with a will of its own on the dancing life forms, swerves over them writhing in hot green bobs, settles into a circular peer through a foggy room surrounding two robotic creatures, and ventures onto a Mars-like planet with a collection of orange shapes. A kaleidoscopic venture through reversed prancing precludes Mitchell and Riener in a forest of tubes where time skips forward without warning.

Atlas spatially situates scattered movement, which becomes more organized onstage, beginning with a decumulating running pattern that follows the tesseract’s form. Often in solos and duets, the ensemble occasionally joins together in rotating conglomerates with outstretched arms. Video remains integral as Ryan Thomas Jenkins, in a pink velvet onesie and glittery sneakers, wanders through their space like a rover, projecting details via his steadycam, a choreographic intrigue all its own. Deadpan performance generates an awkward humor on film. Onstage it becomes solemn, as though these beings do not quite feel at home upon making their visit.

Bouts of concentrated camp are dissolved among the formidable rigor of the dancing. A Star Wars-like opening gives way to distinctly unconvincing realism, the foggy room resembling a Hollywood set of a spaceship, and the orange scene’s static horizon connoting a stock desktop background. It’s even not so much that 3D filming serves the material, as it is a gestural component to the sci-fi experience.

Tesseract is clear in creating bits satisfyingly short of impressiveness via the use of impressive equipment. Beyond nodding to sci-fi’s imaginative ambitiousness, however, is the result not of bringing us closer to such imaginativeness, but illustrating how it is nearly among us. Mitchell and Riener speak on camera in an alien language with their natural speaking voices, as though a cosmic neighbor could sound like a next-door neighbor. At intermission, the set change is as exposed as BAM Harvey’s aesthetic, making audible the technical staff’s correspondence like a NASA reconnaissance. When the performers vacate the proscenium, one emerges into the house, breaking at last all technical barriers for the sake of human connection.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jonathan Matthews

January 4, 2018
Trisha Brown Dance Company’s Joyce Theater presentation of three proscenium works all completed after 2000 demonstrates the diversity of product that can come from a choreographer whose singularity in movement language carries over to their dance-making, all the while, in Brown’s case, maintaining an awareness of its creator’s site-fluid roots.

Brown’s movement refuses to be made grand by an elevated platform. We instead are privileged a standardized view of her chains of inevitable function that do not hide their need to be recharged. In these spaces of physical breath are simple actions that regenerate momentum, though sometimes, as with L’Amour Au Théâtre’s chain of women held aloft in an eternal back and forth swing, the regeneration is the event itself. Groove and Countermove keenly freezes and unleashes body parts such that one’s own body has thoroughly studied itself before handling anyone else’s.

We can learn a thing or two from how Brown’s dancers touch each other. They gather each other’s physical information in what seems like merely caresses. As though aware of our current climate’s need for physical intervention, Brown’s partnering composes eye contact in such a way that most of her duets could not have been made without a referee. Fingertips extend so receptively that seemingly accidental brushes will join bodies together with consensual consistency. In every interaction is support and assistance, from the demonstrative handholds in the opening penchés of Geometry of Quiet, to the pervasive systems of lifts and rolls in which each participant has an equal experience of power and yielding.

Gestural Easter eggs offer breaks, extra toppings, specific sensations, and the awareness of Brown’s point of view extending beyond her inarguable physical ingenuity. For L’Amour, this supports the depiction of imagery from the libretto of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera Hippolyte et Aricie. After sections of physical strategy, an elevated archer unaffectedly mimes the shooting of an arrow, abstracted enough that we do not need to catch a reference, but are energetically situated in the period. This notion extends to duets as in L’Amour’s brief liaisons of upside-down pattycake, played by women dangling behind the backs of the men lifting them.

Compositionally, physical function manifests in a relational construction, sections often being sneakily modified versions of each other. L’Amour’s unison double duets are rich in spatial variation – swarming around each other, shifting fronts and axes of symmetry, or remaining staunchly side-by-side. Geometry’s centerpiece is a much less sneaky reprisal of a long duet with the blatant insertion of a third body, making sense of the original duet’s vulnerable spots, but also other times getting charmingly in its way like a toddler sleeping between its parents. Groove and Countermove focuses on juxtapositions of speed and dynamic to personify the multitude of solid colors the company wears.

Proscenium rarely stops at spatial considerations. It implies a specific approach to costume, sound, and décor, as contained by a theatrical frame. In preceding Geometry and Groove with L’Amour, a stand-alone piece taken from a fraction of an opera, Brown’s proscenium works honor tradition, but do not let us forget what lies beyond the border, nor what else can go inside.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jonathan Matthews

December 19, 2017
Though Liz Gerring’s Horizon (2015) is the second in a trilogy of proscenium works, it holds its own presence. Concerning simply ideas of “multiplicity,” the sizeable but intimate Joyce Theater supplies the ideal space for the work to takes its time, and for us to appropriately peer.

The already abstract concept is most identifiable in movement composition. There is no continuous phrase for one body. Dancers repeat actions, build potential energy into unfortunately brief outbursts of motion, slowly phase through shapes, maintain single shapes, and locomote peculiarly. They have but sequences – prime forms of data that, through delicate spatial and temporal arrangements, create aggregate phrases across multiple bodies to the engaged viewer.

Unison is not taken for granted. Grouped dancers will quickly de-synchronize, modify one component of their material, or break off to join other groups, achieving the aggregate effect via an emphasis on separation – whether with human pathos, or cellular inevitability. While multiplicity is certainly present, the dispersal tactics generating such multiplicity asserts itself as the true subject.

Such methodical arrangement contains notes of Cunningham, reinforced by Gerring’s use of “independent media elements.” Michael Schumacher’s score has too much time on its hands, however – a collection, not nearly as organized, of autotuned voices, aimless electronic noodling, and an occasional beat that un-ironically places the ears in a gym locker room.

More successful is Robert Wierzel’s lighting design. A Robert Wilson-esque gesture, an appropriately horizontal line of light slowly ascends the skrim, occasionally eclipsed by outstretched limbs. An added screen, angled obtusely above, creates a psychedelic tanning bed, colors periodically changing to highlight a particular dancer who might be wearing a complementary color, uncomfortably similar to Doug Varone’s ReComposed, made in the same year.

While structurally compelling, the physical material disappoints. The company touts its use of “natural gesture,” which, for Gerring, means exercises. Most of the piece’s vocabulary consists of yoga poses, neither presented to suggest exercise as physical inspiration, nor abstracted enough to organically lead our mind to ponder exercise among the requisite infinite alternate associations. In a given shape, they often reach, ostensibly to the titular horizon, though, their unmannered performance practice, albeit often how similarly abstract dance is performed, prevents such reaching from striking our imagination to care about what might be out there.

“Cause and effect” is additionally listed in how Gerring constructs physical sequences, though the choice of clinical movement over motion in a cold, sured execution makes this imperceptible. Some movements are very difficult – a backwards strut through consecutive penchés, log rolls into buoyant straddles – other times they simply walk from one wing to another. What renders the dichotomy unimpactful are the dancers’ guaranteed success in execution and their experience of movement kept unperformed. A movement vocabulary intensely contrasting ease and difficulty requires either more humanity in execution or more inventive movement to engage, as long as we’re talking proscenium.

We can’t buy into the illusion of seeing ideas collaboratively articulated across several bodies over a period of time when the movement is safely familiar, dispassionately performed, and performed by human bodies. As such, what becomes the crux of the piece is Wiertzel’s actual horizon, rightfully subjugating everything else as a participant in its neon sunrise.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

December 18, 2017
New York/Pacific Island Time took place at the 92Y Harkness Dance Center, embracing contemporary, modern, dance theatre, different styles of Polynesian dance, as well as dance-animation on film. The works featured were curated based on the Polynesian heritage of the choreographers who portrayed questions about sustaining cultural values and migration through contrasting works whose diversity was aptly represented by the artists involved.

A warm ancient chant by Kristopher Minami Kato opened the snowy evening with E Kanaloanuiakea/Kanaloanuiakea, smoothly transitioning into Keawaiki, a contemporary hula auana with a jazzy air created by Michael Pili Pang; elegantly interpreted by charismatic John-Mario Sevilla.

Trio followed with an interplay of relationships in an effort-shape composition authored by Kensaku Shinohara evoking his Japanese heritage. Signed by Pele Bauch, A.K.A. Ka Inoa incorporated theatre dance with of hula auana motifs, interweaving silence, sound, text, and music inspired by a Hawaiian goddess ritual. Departing from a task-oriented approach to the items she found in a brown bag, Bauch delineated a box on the floor which she later inhabited. Indulging hula figure-eights hip motifs that grew in exertion drove her to immerse her head into the brown bag, retreating from movement and clothing into mute obscurity.

Hepa!, a short film came as pleasant surprise combining footage of capoeira dance and percussion, edited with animation created with acrylic painting effects. Pöhaku portrayed Hawaii’s native people story of loss and struggle. Interactively, Christopher K. Morgan directed the audience to find twelve labeled rocks placed under their seats, which revealed landmarks in his aesthetic journey. Morgan’s piece took off, oscillating between ancient hula kahiko and modern dance accompanied with his chanting, augmented by electric cello played by Wytold. This was joined to a traditional chant underscored by a percussion performance of kumulipo and hula kolani by Elsie Kelehulukea Ryder.

Intent on echoing the conflict she experienced in the Philippines under martial law, 21st Night was constructed and deconstructed at length by Paz Tanjuanquio. She transited through space rearranging thin boards painted with the same design found in the background. A second wave of color came with Rolling Down Like Pele, a short film created by Laura Marguiles which captured Hawaiian dance groups performing hula auana and kahiko filmed in location with super-imposed animation.

Island brought a flux of contemporary discourse choreographed by Kun-Yang Lin, masterfully interpreted by Jennifer Rose under a single beam of light. Te Aho Matamua a Te Taata closed the evening narrated with delicate traditional ori Tahiti and hula discourse a Polynesian story of the creation of man; eloquently interpreted by Kaina Quenga, Ashley Inguito, Arikka Rin, Virginia Lin and Anthony Aiu, who shared creative ownership with Maori composer Pioro Jerome Kavanaugh and artist Kaina Quenga. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

December 12, 2017
St. Mark’s Church framed two works under Teresa Fellion Dance’s Body Stories. Opening with the world premiere of Rose Walk Green Ice choreographed by Theresa Fellion, six female dancers in the foreground altar drifted in slow motion while patrons were welcomed into the venue. Six audience members were directed to take “immerse seating” in the center of the performance space on stools placed over a stream of a silver linoleum-like surface.

Inadvertently, the performers gathered in a tight standing formation as they vibrated in delicate convulsions interrupted only by sudden broken torso drops or arm extension. As the piece progressed, dancers spilled down the altar into the performance space. They slid through the “immerse seating” into a diffuse free-flow space exploration, call and response, and a combination of contact improvisation dotted with a few slightly out-of-sync duos or trios.

Eventually, the performers directed the immersed audience to rearrange their stools to flank the linoleum silver stream, proceeding to inhabit it as a frozen river through which duets glided dragging each other while the remaining dancers explored four micro-spaces delimited by foldable wooden structures which they inspected, snapped, and reshaped.

During the closing section, the immersed audience was led to sit in a circle in the center of the space, framing the dancer’s reduced dancing arena, with spurts of sequences taken to the periphery. A stained glass-like projection moving transversely across center stage indicated a sense of climax over the diluted piece nurtured by live piano highlights over a predominant monotone synthetic music background.

Contrasting high-energy, contained effort-shape themes, eight strong athletic dancers rolled in a line formation onto the performance space to present Trashed. Choreographed by Winifred Haun in collaboration with Emma Serjeant Performance, a string of short micro compositions in a theme variation pattern exchanged angular gestures, curving spines, and geometrically shaped leaps. Reminiscent of Horton’s modern dance aesthetics, the movements were all combined with risky circus-like acrobatic studies.

Throughout, the gentle rolling progressions, themes dialogued with intrepid colliding embraces. This built up into clusters of dancers climbing over each other swerving into acrobatic over- the - shoulder standing portée statements. In the midst of this tour de force, a gamut of percussion instruments accompanying the cirque themes was interwoven with middle-eastern music adorned with flamenco hand flourishing gestures.

In counterpoint, a central pas de deux diverges from a blues-rock song and strands of comic relief to solos interpreting a series of poems about “clutter." As artistic work, Thrashed had a clear well-rounded discourse, and concise presentation. This was achieved thorough attention to detail in dance performance, lyrics, and costume design, as opposed to the more eclectic clashing aesthetic, extensive investigation, and improvisation which took place during the opening Rose Walk Green Ice. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

November 30, 2017
With the exception of one work, a common thread throughout Chase Brock’s 10th Anniversary evening at the Clurman Theater is a sense of whimsy.

At once adept at costume design and choreography across platforms including musical theater, opera, TV and video games, Brock incorporates traditional and musical theater dance forms.

A quirky design sensibility is evident in all the pieces, where men frequently remove and replace their shirts. Brock’s costumes underscore each performer’s individual personality and style.

In the first piece, “The Song That I Sing; Meow so Pretty” (2014) Caleb Teicher, a stellar dancer with a natural comedic presence, stands out. A string of songs by the New Christy Minstrels suggest home-spun movements drawn from Appalachian dance as much as contemporary dance.

The most serious contribution was the world premiere “Men I’ve Known” to music by Erik Satie. Four men stretch away from each other in a line, until a gravitational pull draws them back together, and one after another drops into open, supportive arms. Simple and direct, the choreography suggests a sense of male unity and support--reminiscent of the days when so many died of AIDS in the arms of their loved ones. However, that image of a tangled relationships, culminating in a human embrace is universal.

In all of the remaining pieces, Broch demonstrated his talent at constructing engaging choreography to hummable music. And oh yes, his dancers actually acknowledge each other on stage.

Although Brock’s strong dancers add to the evening’s easy-going dances, the choreography doesn’t necessarily stay with you—but the ambiance does.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 14, 2017
Choreographer/composer Hofesh Shechter is at home with death, so at home, he finds it amusing. Midway in his production Grand Finale at Brooklyn Academy of Music, three men swung three limp ladies in waltz time, flopped their limbs on the floor with the nonchalance of a necrophiliac, and then, after being dragged off, the ladies revived.

Grand Finale opened with the chaotic energy of a war-time musical, with the period undetermined. Ten dancers, dressed in soft pants, shirts, and socks, paired in twos and threes moved in ways that suggest fighting or protesting. When they were not fighting, the dancers found corners to sink into or showed some spunk by doing a high stepping, down thrusting folk dance.

The piece closed with a series of black outs, in between which, the dancers appeared between the towers as though they were crowded in an elevator, or sat on the floor watching a couple kiss.

Six excellent musicians played throughout the work, always blending into the shifting scene by changing their location. Five towers made by Tom Scutt to float in and off the stage created the illusion of alleys in a cityscape. This macabre, cinematic work was blessed with Tom Visser’s lighting design, softened by smoke. At one point, five lights from upstage right crossed with a strong central pool of light, one of many striking patterns.

Born in Israel, Shechter collected dancers for his company based in Brighton, England, from around the world: Chien-Ming Chang, Frédéric Despierre, Rachel Fallon, Mickael Frappat, Yeji Kim, Kim Kohlmann, Erion Kruja, Merel Lammers, Attila Ronai, Diogo Sousa with Associate Director Bruno Guillore. The musicians are James Adams, Chris Allan, Rebekah Allan, Mehdi Ganjvar, Sabio Janiak and Desmond Neysmith.

Grand Finale leaves one feeling that Shechter found a way to make us exhale in these crazy times.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY — Deirdre Towers

November 13, 2017
In a vision that is at once gentle still-life and vast roiling landscape, sensually alive and blissfully calm, Abanar presented two short films, titled Saltwater I and II at Symphony Space. Directed and choreographed by Abe Abraham and featuring a stellar cast of dancers that included artists such as Desmond Richardson, Gabrielle Lamb and Megumi, the Salt Water experience is both achingly beautiful and perplexing, keeping us in a constant state of search, for what is already there.

Deliberately circumventing our innate desire for narrative, Salt Water I challenged our perceptions and swiftly annihilated any possibilty of linear drama, other than what we felt from the ubiquitous Philip Glass music. Close-up camera angles that scan over parts of naked bodies bathed in a moonlit blue light juxtaposed with sudden, rapid camera cuts, demanded a certain kind of patience, keeping us in a constant state of wonder and uncertainty. Scanning the layers of dancers' bare backs pressed close together, we watch them go from absolute stillness, to softly swaying, to breaking out into sudden sharp movements that are only occasionally attached to a particular dancer; rarely do we see enough of a body to make out the whole figure or relationship.

The main fascination of this thirty-minute mediation is our altered mode of perception, coupled with the heightened eroticism that emanates from the fleetingly revealed bodies. As Walter Benjamin said, “By close-ups of the things around us, by focusing on hidden details of familiar objects, by exploring common place milieus under the ingenious guidance of the camera, the film, on the one hand, extends our comprehension of the necessities which rule our lives; on the other hand, it manages to assure us of an immense and unexpected field of action.”

In Salt Water II, we see more of the individual dancers - sometimes moving solos, yet never seen for long, to mixed score with jazz-inflected music by Eric Clapton and earth sounds by JT Bullitt. The more sophisticated lighting and a willingness to show the full body made this section more interesting from a movement-as-dance standpoint; it was less about our perception and more about the individual dancers, all of whom made us want to see more.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 10, 2017
Garth Fagan, who brought his company to the Joyce Theatre to celebrate his 45th company season, has a knack for stillness, as much as for Afro-tinged jauntiness. He trains his dancers to hold seemingly impossible poses, jump and jive with the same ease. No one in his current company, however, could beat Natalie Rogers at this, although Adriene B. Hodge runs a close second. A company member since 1989, a teacher of the Fagan technique worldwide, and Fagan’s choreography assistant for the creation of the Broadway smash “The Lion King,” Rogers radiates an intensity and strength. In her opening solo in “Evidence of Failure” a piece performed to music by Monty Alexander, that premiered in November 2013, this tiny, taut dancer thrust a leg up to a 100 degree angle, held it there like a dog sighting a prey for an absent-minded hunter, while floating her arms asymmetrically with a nonchalance that could be saying (to that hunter) - “don’t rush - take your time…”

No piece on this anniversary program was as joyful and infectious as the closing excerpt from “Translation Transition,” a company piece set to music by Jazz Jamaica All Stars and intriguing costumes by Mary Nemecek Peterson that premiered in November 2002. The dancers were smiling, we were smiling. How could we not? Bessie Winners Steve Humphrey, particularly natural and free, and Norwood Pennewell flew into the space, making this party multi-generational.

Pennewell who provided two choreographies, both NYC premieres: “A Moderate Cease” and “Wecoo Duende” can not be accused of being too literal. The lush concerto of William Walton provides an auralscape in “A Moderate Cease” that counters the pace of the dancers who spark upward and turn like surreal grasshoppers on a lonely plain punctuated by a sole cellist. The music by Doudou N’Diaye Rose Orchestra and Seckou Keita again creates more of a mood, than a conductor in “Wecoo Duende.”

Two images from this program linger for this viewer: a couple moving in a downstage diagonal, while maintaining the stance of a woman’s head lying on the chest of the man whose arm arcs over her head. Another one, equally romantic, is the pause that Fagan takes to let us absorb the harmony of a couple standing in near proximity, sensing each other.

Lutin Tanner provided the lighting design, with original design by C.T. Oakes for “Translation Transition.” Along with Peterson and Fagan, Keiko Voltaire and Zinda Williams costumed the dancers. Vitolio Jeune, Guy Thorne, Wynton Rice, Andrew David O’Brian, Davente Gilreath, Sarah Herbert, Nina Price, Le’Tiger DeAnte’ Walker, and Rishell Maxwell complete the great cast.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers Deirdre Towers

November 6, 2017
Music has always had the power to paint emotional landscapes- breaking through our hard exterior and reaching into the heart. Music and emotion were central to this evening at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival. Before Jessica Lang Dance took the stage, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, conducted by Speranza Scappucci, performed Mozart’s Divertimento in F major. Though this was not the portion of the evening dedicated to dance, the movement of Scappucci as she directed the small chamber group through the piece captured the feeling of the music. She embodied each note and phrase of the movements, concluding in an electric finale.

With palettes whetted for an emotional journey, it was the perfect time for the curtain to rise, revealing a large tree-trunk structure mid stage with a woman draped in a cloth standing alongside. It was a striking image that only dug deeper into the music of the titular opera, Stabat Mater. As a crowd of dancers began to fill the stage, two voice rang out from the crowd, Andriana Churchman singing Soprano and Anthony Roth Costanzo as Countertenor. Positioned on stage among the dances, the voices and music became integral to each movement. The earth-toned flowing costumes grounded the feelings as the vocalists sang of Mary watching her son on the cross.

The cloth that was draped on the first woman was seized by different dancers with reverence.Soaring and digging, the work settled into a solemn flow, inducing an gasp when the second huge tree trunk descended from the ceiling. Marjorie Bradley Kellogg's two set pieces , white and earthy, continued to change positions throughout the work, dividing the stage in new ways for the dancers and vocalists to interact with and at one point taking the sacred cloth.

The movement itself existed through a whole range- matching the music at every step. Solemn and controlled to joyous and staccato, it gave depth to each note sung. As the work built to the climax, the performance, costumes by Brandon McDonald became shades of blue under the ever-shifting lighting design by Mark McCullough, giving a lightness to match the feel of the movement and emotion. When the choruses of Amen rang out in the final section, the audience was so overcome that the applause spilled out as the best form of release.

Jessica Lang’s "Stabat Mater," used all possible connection points- music, dance, costume, set- to create a piece of work that demands to be felt, not simply watched.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller Click here to Reply or Forward

November 5, 2017
Many young girls went mad for ballet after watching the beloved 1948 Powell and Pressberger classic film The Red Shoes.Known for re-tooling classic ballets, Matthew Bourne returns to City Center with his stage version of The Red Shoes.

Unable to re-create the filmic magic – especially in the central Red Shoes ballet, Bourne crafts a successful theater ballet that captures the heart of the film while leaving the sweeping, large screen strokes in the wings.

His company, New Adventures, is composed of polished, classically trained dancers with a strong theatrical bent. In the lead role made famous by the fabulous Moira Shearer, Ashley Shaw shares her part with NYC Ballet principal Sara Mearns. Red hair complements the bright red shoes that carry the ballerinas towards their greatest love -- dance, and then to their doom.

An old fashioned gold drop curtain suggests the opening of the 1948 film as well as the gilded European concert theaters. All sorts of well-attired, vacuous swells preen and dip on their way to a grand soiree. Little things make a difference in Bourne ballets, like his attention to detail when placing a cigarette dangling from a cigarette holder in the mouth of one of the supercilious men.

Forced to witness an impromptu performance by the Countess’ niece Veronica Page (Shaw or Mearns), Boris Lermontov (aka Serge Diaghilev) expertly performed by Sam Archer, disregards the young, female dancer until he can’t.

Ultimately, he invites her to an audition as well as the young male accompanist, Julian Craster (nailed by Marcello Gomes). The amazing set and costume designer Lez Brotherson, conjures up the sweaty rehearsal studio, perfectly decorated with dancers in individualized rehearsal clothes and headgear. The music by Bernard Herrmann as well as the sets, establishes the mood for each highly melodramatic section and over-the-top visual jokes.

When the fictional ballet company lands in Monte Carlo, Bourne—who adores dance history—fashions a seaside ballet that nods to the very popular Train Bleu costumed by “Coco” Channel and choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska in 1924 for the Ballets Russes.

Although the central relationship between Paige, Lermontov, and Craster is demonstrated through broad strokes, it’s clear that the two men love Moira in different ways, and both want to control her. Sadly, she cannot live by those rules.

After the ecstatic response to the “The Red Shoes” ballet, the company members celebrate at an outdoor café by the beach in Monte Carlo. Dancers in seaside attire nod to Branislava Nijinsky’s 1924 “Le Train Bleu” a ballet costumed by "Coco" Channel for the original Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Large, colorful beach balls roll around the stage and as the dancers, run and flirt while frolicking in the sun.

Already heralded as one of the great ballet actor dancers, Marcello Gomes proves his charisma as the temperamental composer who scores Lermontov’s new ballet The Red Shoes and falls madly in love with Page. Perfectly suited to the leading man role, women (and likely men) in the audience actually swooned over him. Completely understandable.

Bourne originated the starring role of Veronica Page on Ashley Shaw. And not only does she bear an uncanny resemblance to Moira Shearer, her interpretation feels very natural, particularly in the scenes before The Red Shoes Ballet.

Newly inserted into the role, Sara Mearns might not exude the same ease, but once the production steps into The Red Shoes ballet passage, Mearns excels. A generous performer, her pliant body slides luxuriously over the classical sequences. On top of that, there’s evident chemistry with Gomes plus she’s sensational at visibly portraying profound anguish when struggling with the choice of staying with her husband or returning to the ballet.

Matthew Bourne’s “The Red Shoes” delivers fine ballet theater entertainment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 3, 2017
The lovely and youthful dancers of the Dresden Semperoper Ballett brought a breath of fresh air to a cool fall evening at the Joyce. Although the repertory was uneven, it showcased the company’s command of both classical and contemporary ballet, and it was a pleasure to watch them dance.

The program opened with “5,” a work for three women and two men choreographed by David Dawson, to music by Adolphe Adam, the famed composer of the 19th century ballet Giselle. The dancers came bounding onto the stage, dancing classical ballet steps – jumping, turning – but often with a contemporary twist embedded in the transitions, or added to the steps themselves, reminiscent of William Forsythe’s now classic Vertiginious Thrill of Exactitude.

Wearing white tutus with a halter back and bare legs, the women attacked the quick, difficult sequences – including a series of double fouettes – with a playful ease, while the men (in tights and casual black t-shirt) showed off their command of the mixed classical/contemporary technique. Almost like watching ballet dancers play around after class, everything but the kitchen sink built up into a frenzied climax, starting the evening on a high note.

In “Ganz Leise Kommt Die Nacht / The Night Falls Quietly,” a world premiere by Joseph Hernandez – who also designed the lighting and costumes – two men and two women in casual street wear walked upstage, alone, eventually engaging in fraught, conventionally gendered partnering – men lifting, and sometimes pushing the women by the neck – signaling an underlying angst-ridden narrative thread that never quite cohered. The contemporary movement itself, often with the women in unison, and marked by swift, swinging arm movements, spoke of friendship and fear, but the electronic music with by Bohren & Der Club of Gore, a 1990s band that described their own music as an “unholy ambient mixture of slow jazz ballads, Black Sabbath doom,” made us feel just that.

David Dawson’s second work on the program, “On the Nature of Daylight,” a pas de deux to Max Richter’s music, gave us another opportunity to watch the fierce Alice Mariani, a lithe and confident dancer with the ravishing combination of a strong technique and fearless abandon. Partnered by a more reserved Christian Bauch, they strived to express a longing for “pure love… and a soul mate,” according to the program.

“Vertigo Maze,” the final work of the evening by Stijn Celis to the well-known Bach Chaconne for Solo Violin and Four Voices, made the influence of Jiri Kylian loom large (even the program had a picture of a moment in Kylian’s “Petit Mort”). Lots of reaching, contracting, and lunging in bare feet and corsets, this “mysterious labyrinth of the human soul” seemed to be an homage to that master, but lacked his exquisite musicality and breathtaking partnering. Nonetheless, the dancers made something of it, and an angelic, mournful quality shone through.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 30, 2017
A Letter to My Nephew voluntarily admits a difficult truth – familial ties do not guarantee personal comprehension. The program notes that choreographer Bill T. Jones’ uncharacteristic working with Nick Hallett’s web of club music and hip-hop infused movement is an attempt for uncle Bill to gain an understanding of the circles nephew Lance has run in and what they reveal about the state of the world. Knowing Lance, though, is none of our concern. We must instead view the piece as its creator made it - a frame in which our own disparate senses of the personal and political connect in a contextualized identity.

Bjorn Amelan’s neatly kept set in BAM’s Harvey Theater consists of a highlighted intersecting runway, a fold-up hospital bed, some poles, and a large white square. There is an ant colony-esque group efficiency in handling these props. Systematic formations of pole structures seamlessly displace the people holding to move forward – a sense of continuity, perpetuity, and sustainability of time and population as more pressing than any moment or individual. Still, there is the bedframe, which largely serves as Vinson Fraley’s territory, assumedly a specter of Lance, a dancer/rapper who has struggled with addiction and illness. The company’s line of gestural offerings to him makes Lance out to be a figure who challenges the other props’ required selflessness with a stubborn sort of contrary individualism, rendered frail.

The white square serves as a large piece of blank stationary to receive Janet Wong’s projections. It, too, is seamlessly handled by the group – held in space as bodies reposition around it. Its lightness gives it a physical ease that doesn’t make it so much a dancer as it renders dancers as textiles contributing concentrated sets of data in the greater collage.

This kinetic data originates from each dancer’s individual method of strutting, mostly falling under a hip-hop umbrella except Christina Robson, who jitters uncomfortably as though she both doesn’t belong but has nowhere else to go. At any moment they will walk to the edge of the proscenium and pose, asserting physical presence to no true consequence.

This unfolds after a long, unprovoked fight scene, after which solos draw out the physical blip of each strut into a complete character sketch – Carlo Villanueva, for instance, projecting a nimble blend of elegance and aggression to a rap portraying a tough sissy. A second look at the initially shocking fight, repeated verbatim halfway through, shows that each member of Jones’ diverse company is equally made out to be a victim and aggressor, developing more sympathy for the event than the individuals inside, as though watching a tape instead of physically witnessing. With additional vocabularies ranging from classical, to postmodern breakdancing and vogue, we find ourselves amid constant physical code switching, a schizophrenic contrast to the comparatively utopian prop work.

Projections reduce loaded sentiments to pure language, allowing a similar perceptive distance as the repeated fight scene for contemplation. Fraley sings a haunting rendition of the Black National Anthem while across the back wall traverses the standard Star Spangled Banner. It takes a moment for the juxtaposition to register, partly because nothing in either set of words about liberty actually conflicts; tensions lie fully in the associated sets of bodies.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 30, 2017
Ballet West’s Joyce Season presented the company as a collection of habits on the verge of breaking. In a bill where no two piece shared the same choreographer, the resemblances, performatively and compositionally, were troublesome, but the moments of distinctiveness, hopeful.

The dancers love to arch. Dancers’ neutrals will often actually be slightly arched because of how far out their chests project. In partnering, women love to arch down men’s bodies like a swirly slide. Duets are typically a combination of unclear drama, reactions to an unknown backstory, performed for us instead of with care for each other. The movement vocabulary largely rounds the edges of classical vocabulary, though sometimes with more priority on shape-making than in classical ballet itself. Every so often a purely classical movement will break in. In Africa Guzmán’s Sweet and Bitter, though, the pattern reverses, with much more earthbound contemporary impulses filling such lapses of stylistic continuity.

The exception to this, making such habits all the more apparent is the inclusion of Balanchine’s Chaconne on the program. The arched spines may help with hyperflexible contemporary movement, but throw off Balanchine’s nimble verticality and pelvic shifts. In a program of otherwise 21st century works, it was the one piece from 1976 that actually showed any alternate approach to partnering than male dominated transporting of passive women.

The piece that broke the most habits was Val Caniparoli’s Dances for Lou, set to Lou Harrison’s Pipa Concerto to celebrate his centennial. In this piece is the only instance of same sex partnering in the whole program, even if it only happens in one short section of Lucas Horns and Jordan Veit arching around each other, neither one taking a lead. Caniparoli often assigns gender to musical textures - an all male section to the movement featuring only percussion, as well intrusive male outbursts to the women’s string-connected smoothness on percussive blasts in the Estampie. This pattern refreshingly breaks up in the Neapolitan section. Oliver Oguma’s slow poses ostensibly connect to the pipa’s trills while Jenna Herrera flits about to the string melody. When it repeats, it becomes equally possible that Herrera captures the pipa’s individual articulations while Oguma encapsulates the larger melodic phrase structure.

The piece that comes closest to having a subject matter is the piece that features the most sophisticated composition. Nicolo Fonte’s Fox on the Doorstep involves a use of counterpoint that goes beyond the established default two sets of sharp movement on a grid. Dancers are spread more loosely in space, each with different speeds and vocabularies. Stark tempo contrasts as well as ticking sounds elect time as the piece’s concern. An abstract opening gives way to dancers at their most human in the entire program. While lone bodies are instantly met with a partner, this ensemble then turns on two differently costumed dancers, keeping them separate until Chase O’Connell is left alone at the end. There is not so much a story but a shift in perspective – from time, the phenomenon, to time, the meddler.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 28, 2017
The fourth Fall For Dance Program scooped up dance forms from all corners of the community pelting the audience with a dynamic world premier from Kyle Abraham, a whimsical duet with Sara Mearns and Homji Wang completed by a driving ensemble dance by Sharon Eyal and gai Behar.

By returning to some earlier movement roots, Abraham’s “Drive,” performed by Abraham.In. Motion, is a sleek, compelling modern dance piece that balances on top of club/hip-hop/urban dance conversations. Urgency and cooperation fuel “Drive” with a powerful rhythmic engine to body-moving music by Theo Parrish and Mobb Deep. A solid opening work that generates a sense of community and darker outside forces “Drive” was commissioned by NYC City Center and will return during Abraham’s Joyce Theater season.

It’s not a new idea, hip hop or club artist dances with pretty ballerina, and at City Center, NYC Ballet principal Sara Mearns and club/hip hop dancer/choreographer Honji Wang shared time together in a make-shift ballet studio. After demonstrating some of the basics of each form, the two sweetly and humorously share moves, assuming each other’s steps and attitudes. Commissioned by Fall for Dance “No.1” is light fare wrapped around two striking dancers.

Unitard-clad dancers fan out across the stage executing unison choreography that underscores the masculine element and militaristic sensibilities in “Bill.” High contrast lighting by Omar Sheizaf adds to “Bill’s” mystery. The block of Ballet BC dancers, dominated by men, break into smaller groups and dynamic solos, but the overall atmosphere created by Sharon Eyal and Gal Behar suggests one of urgency.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 16, 2017
The line up for the last Fall for Dance program 2017 delivered an interesting mix of balletic and contemporary offerings. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Solo Echo (2012) by Chrystal Pite started out with the usual dark stage, a man in black standing in a spotlight, and snow-like confetti drifting down from the rafters above him. As soon as the dancers began to move, one forgave these clichés, awed by their athletic, cat-like fierceness and grace.

Pite’s signature movement of mass groups that flow from one end to another and then freeze into simultaneously amorphous and architectural configurations were punctuated by solos and duets of astonishing contemporary virtuosity. But what separated this from other similar contemporary works was the powerfully human feeling that released through the dancing. This is not your distant, aloof strain of contemporary dancing; rather, it embodied the mournful Brahms music, infusing the movement with an unexpected humanity and drama.

Helgi Tomasson’s Concerto Grosso (2003) initially appeared antiquated by comparison, with four sincere and well-groomed men, wearing solid bright-colored unitards, dancing classical ballet steps in simple configurations to baroque music. Yet as each dancer appeared in a solo tailored to his abilities, we get to know each one, won over by their skill and charm. Concert Grosso ends up being an enjoyable and tasteful showcase of the talented men of San Francisco Ballet.

We have missed David Hallberg in New York – he just recently returned home after a debilitating injury and several years recovering abroad. Mark Morris’ well-worn humor in Twelve of ‘em (a 2017 FFD commission) made a little meditation of Hallberg’s classicism. He starts out in a perfect fifth position, wearing a short Grecian tunic – one has to think of Balanchine’s Apollo – but then he shot out a tendu (extended leg with the toe on the floor), with stiff arms, looking straight down: quite the opposite of the heavenly deportment we’re used to seeing from him. He continued to dance short intricate sequences and then walks around, wiping the sweat off his face. Although initially clever (Colin Flower, on the piano, wears a hoodie, and has a coffee cup on the piano), the silliness wears thin pretty quickly.

In Matria Etnocentra (2015), Danza Contemporanea de Cuba blew a hole through our stereotypical expectations of Cuban dancing as joyful, free, and erotic, by presenting a work where a large group of dancers moved as one, in militaristic fashion, with deadpan looks that bordered on seething. The khakis and combat boots, later with primary colored dresses and shirts pulled over them, did little to assuage the feeling of anxiety. The aggressive dancing to ominous electronic house music (by Nacional Electronica) was a mix of hip hop and other popular movement, as well as marching, running, and martial art-type moves, that called forth ideas about freedom vs. repression, individuality vs. community, government action and power to the people. An unexpected Cuban contemporary dance with a political edge, was a surprise and a call to think about our shifting relations.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY-- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 12, 2017
Celebrating the community as much as the individual, the Bessies Awards Ceremony returned for the 33rd year. Awards were handed out in a variety of categories at the NYU Skirball Theater. The lifetime achievement award shined on Jawole Willa Jo Zoller and her forceful push to amplify, through dance, basic truths surrounding women of color.

Dianne Mc Intyre paid tribute to Zollar, a young woman she met in the 1970’s who was determined to learn from her sisters, honor her elders and mentor the future. Near the end of a stirring acceptance speech, Ms. Zollar pleaded with dance critics to refrain from insulting dancers in their print and on-line reviews. "Please, do not insult us." Words everyone should consider.

For most of the evening, the two MCs, James Whiteside—looking nothing like an ABT principal – strutted across the stage in a bevy of skin-tight, bejeweled outfits flanked by the sassy Shernita Anderson.

Two large ensembles – -the skeleton architecture, or future of our worlds and Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd-- received awards filling the stage with a rainbow coalition of makers and performers. In fact, one of the presenters dubbed the 2017 ceremony the #(hashtag) bessiessoblack.

The award for outstanding Service to the Field went to curator and writer Eva Yaa Asantewaa who called on review outlets to invite more writers of color. Of course, this cry for greater balance is not new.

And although the majority of those honored came from the downtown and modern dance community, ballet took a few bows as well with the Outstanding Performer nomination of Diana Vishneva, Outstanding Visual Design nomination for “Whipped Cream” designed by Mark Ryden and choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky as well as Outstanding Emerging Choreogrpaher nomination to Katarzyna Skarpetowska. For a complete list of all the very deserving nominations and awards please click Bessie Awards.

All in all, the evning was a well-produced event that continues due to the hard work of the Lucy Sexton, her able staff including Heather Robles, supporters and volunteer committee members. It’s always a good time to stop and pay tribute to the dedicated work force forging the NYC dance community.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 10, 2017
The LEIMAY Ensemble only features five performers, yet choreographer Ximena Garnica has carved out a civilization of personalities in her latest installment of the Becoming pentalogy, Frantic Beauty. We quickly forget we are in the smallest of the BAM spaces when spiraling about the threads of the company’s energetic tapestries; woven in a language all to themselves, we have nothing to hold on to but unintelligible fluency.

Frantic Beauty’s sections fall into three main categories – speech dominated movement, movement dominated, and light dominated. The company slaps themselves, shuffles on the floor, and vocalizes. While visual intrigue is not the point, bodies are nonetheless captivating when constructing of their sonic ostinati.

All the elements rise in intensity together until voices literally carry bodies through space. The behavior alone is not dissimilar from a group of kindergarteners showing off their self-made skills, but on grown bodies we helplessly watch psych ward patients who are dangers to themselves, but curiously not each other. Violence is never inflected beyond the self, and, even still, the origin feels from elsewhere. Later we hear semblances of conversation, vocalizations increasing in tonal variety to the point that Jeff Beal’s score, despite a glorious beginning explosion of arpeggios actually decreases in feeling integral to the piece.

The more purely danced sections share the vocals’ dutiful impulses beneath an even more reckless veneer. Performers push beyond their bodies’ capabilities, taking rudimentary dance and acrobatic vocabulary and stretching them to cartoonish proportions, individual proclivities remaining clear underneath. Masanori Ashara in particular keeps a insect-like invincibility, experiencing his revolting physicality with unfettered calmness.

Above all other media, Frantic Beauty is a light show. Garnica and Shige Moriya take what we are theatrically used to being subservient and give it full control. Just as the verbiages evolve, light is first seen as purely interactive, but by the end reveals itself as a sadistic puppeteer, illuminating the performers into submission.

A small source of light upstage sends forth expansive rays. All we see of the dancers are kaleidoscopic humanoid eclipses. Horizontal beams segment the space into a sea below, an atmosphere in the middle, and a cosmos above, between which body parts submerge and float.

It proceeds to brand the performers with two primary looks – an aquatic sort of full body tattoo and small subtle stripes encasing everyone in fishnet - while picking and choosing who we are able to see, often shining on stillness while we only hear activity. Other times pools of pure darkness form a time out space for bodies to take refuge. Visibility becomes an imposed gesture of exposure, whether one is ready or not.

The full power of the light culminates in an infestation of roach-like shadows scurrying about the bodies, which slowly collapse under the increasing density. A single ray, as though from a lighthouse, cuts through, briefly showing serene acceptance underneath their affliction.

These creatures come off as savage, but are held captive from the start for no apparent reason. They never harm anyone, yet exercise a string of coping mechanisms from resistance to surrender, consistently experienced as a matter of fact. While ostensibly senseless and unjust, the equal distribution of such struggle aligns the light more with the great levelers of time and nature, yet nonetheless sensitizes us to manmade structural harms that try to disguise themselves as natural, unavoidable, and futile to oppose.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 9, 2017
Over the past decade, classical Indian dance has taken a foothold in NYC. Not to say there weren’t highly admired dancers in the past like Ritha Devi and Indrani, but now the form has become quite familiar to the contemporary dance audience.

Unequivocally demonstrating a strong technical base, Sanjukta Sinha premiered a Kathak based dance “Kin-Incede” to live, improvised music. High leaps in a diagonal line, and rapide fire turns—invocing whirling dervishes—referenced contemporary inflections in a piece that coasted over evocative, emotional themes.

Dancers from American Ballet Theater shone in Alexei Ratmansky’s “Souvenir d’un lieu cher” (“in memory of a dear place) to a violin and piano score by Ilyitch Tchaikovsky. Clarity of line and musical phrasing make this a compelling work that speaks more directly than many of Ratmanksy’s more step-bundled ballets.

By the end of the evening, the audience was ready to cheer the final two entries. Ronald K. Brown is a perennial audience favorite. His seductive blend of contemporary and club dance with West African traditional dance forms builds on a slow burn of movements the build to a pitch of eye-popping body undulations, isolations and community.

Finally, Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo performed their fractured version of the 19th century “Paquita” after Marius Petipa, by taking the demanding ballet technique and turning it on it’s tiara. Where once the Trocaderos included one-maybe two men capable of dancing on point, now, they are almost in a league with their ballerina counterparts. There’s no end to the mirth when the single male danseur noble flirts with one of the ballerinas, while another storms off in a huff and they are all engage in a battle of pirouettes, ballet becomes at once humanized.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 4, 2017
Tap dancers and a sprinking of street dancers spread across the stage in a commissioned dance by Michelle Dorrance during the opening night of City Center’s popular – and now fall mainstay—Fall For Dance program.

Running nearly 45 minutes, there were flashes of brilliance in between expanses of noodlings searching for a center that will likely come before it is repeated in the winter at the Joyce Theater.

Michelle Dorrance’s “Mylelination” shifts a large crowd of dancers through the center, forward and back. However, the choreography only comes into focus about 20 minutes into the piece when appealing tap solos and duets cleverly mix rhythms with the jazz combo. Dorrance’s choreographic instincts are particularly satisfyingly in the arrangement of dancers in inventive frames around featured dancers.

Although she passed away this year, the Trisha Brown Dance Company continues to present the post modern choreographer’s eye cleansing dances. “You can see us” positions one dancer upstage, back to audience and the other downstage, facing the audience. They mirror rippling movements that trickle down from the head through flexible, articulated feet in a series of movements that exude a sensual coolness as performed by Cecily Campbell and Jamie Scott.

Shoulders twitch upward, body parts responding to the inaudible sounds in the air in Vincent Manotse’s “Gula.” Completely assuming the spirit of a bird, Mantose enters, white T-shirt over face. Soon, through impeccable joint isolations, Mantose’s torso becomes a fully animated bird interrogating the lush environment.

In a return engagement, the Miami City Ballet presented Christopher Wheeldon’s 2013 “black and white” post modern ballet “Polyphonia.” Pairs of dancers reflect the music by Gyorgy Ligeti, capturing the terseness and tenderness that form the choreographic seams. Initially, the company was to premiere a piece by NYC Ballet dancer and choreographer Troy Schumacher, but evidently, it was cooked enough for the season. Stil, the technically capable company demonstrated fine form on the opening night of Fall For Dance, 2017.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 1, 2017
The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, announce the lineup of special guests for the 33rd annual Bessie Awards. The ceremony, hosted by performance artist/entertainer Shernita Anderson and American Ballet Theatre principal dancer James Whiteside will open on Columbus Day.

This year’s Bessie Awards presenters include notable members of the dance and performance community including Reid Bartelme, Paul Bartlett, Yanira Castro, Gray Davis, Thomas DeFrantz, Lauren Grant, Carl Hancock Rux, Jerron Herman, Dianne McIntyre, Ron “Prime Tyme” Myles, Pamela Sneed, and Cassandra Trenary.

The evening will include performances by Bessie Award-winning choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar in an excerpt from her 1987 solo Bitter Tongue, the Trisha Brown Dance Company in an excerpt from Groove and Countermove (2000), with a score by jazz composer Dave Douglas, and a musical tribute to Baba Chuck Davis, performed by Abdel Salaam and Forces of Nature.

As previously announced, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar will be presented with the 2017 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance, and writer Eva Yaa Asantewaa will be presented with the 2017 Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance.

September 30, 2017
“If I hadn’t danced “The Cage” (by Jerome Robbins) I would have never had the courage to choreograph.”

And by the looks of it during the NYC Ballet Fall Fashion Gala, it’s a good thing Lauren Lovette discovered a different vocabulary of movement in The Cage -- ugly, deformed, threatening -- that allowed her to investigate choreography. Not that any of those asymmetrical movements materialize in her newest work Not Our Fate handsomely costumes by fashion designers Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim of MONSE to a melodic score by Michael Nyman, but a sense of self does emerge.

Lovette joined another young woman, Gianna Reisen as well as Troy Schumacher and the now “established” Justin Peck in premièring works during the NYC Ballet Fall Fashion Gala that pairs fashion designers with choreographers. What has become a hallmark of this event is the showcasing of young ballet choreographers, many of whom are alumni of the New York Choreographic Institute.

Geometric designs in pastels by Jonathan Saunders covered Schumacher’s upbeat ballet The Wind Still Brings to music by William Walton. Ballet technique is infused with modern dance style “fall and recovery” making the floor a partner in the ballet. A sense of youthful buoyancy prevails, but there’s still a search for the central focus.

The eighteen year-old SAB graduate Gianna Reisen delivered a bright entry Composer’s Holiday to music by Lucas Foss plus material-heavy costumes by Virgil Abloh of Off-White. She demonstrated a good understanding of the craft, establishing kinetic tableaus reminiscent of reunion photographs and then splitting the image into fluttering parts.

In Lovette’s “Not Our Fate” movement fluidly opens from one couple to a group, effortlessly pairing two women and two men in between mixed couples. Although there is clear evidence of her Balanchine upbringing, Lovette also injects an urban flair suggesting “West Side Story” or young people flexing their vigor. White, full back-drop skirts synched by black corsets flattered the women flanked by men in simple black pants and white shirts.

In a smart move, Martins separated the ballets by pauses and no intermissions. The audience responded enthusiastically to the well-paced and curated program that closed on Justin Peck’s Pulcinella Variations to Igor Stravinsky’s well-known score and Diaghilev/Bauhaus inspired costumes by Tsumori Chisato.

Unlike the other choreographers, Peck cast many company principals—but in fairness, he grew up with these dancers -- they are his friends. Each duet was encased in its own texture and personality highlighting the talents of each dancer. The luxurious Sara Mearns and Jared Angle danced the “Serenata” that featured long arabesques and pensive holds, while the musically plucky Tyler Peck and an athletically clean Gonzalo Garcia bounded through the “Gavotte.”

Peck is not the first to look back at ballet’s historical roots for inspiration, and it served him well because he pulled back and focused on a single, unifying idea driven of course, by the music. Already a sharp craftsman, Pulcinella Variations shows him as a more settled, confident choreographer.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 23, 2017
Congolese choreographer/dancer Faustin Linyekula ambled downstage left with his face painted white in his production In Search of Dinozord at NYU Skirball with the air of someone going to work. He sat on the floor behind a wood frame and looked into a lap top computer. His pace, paint, and computer gazing signaled to us that his show will be unusual. The seven actors in this production, two with heaven sent voices, also painted their faces mid-way in the production and some their stomachs as well. The rectangle on the back wall framed shadows of the men moving each other tenderly, a sharp contrast to images of prisoners we see later.

A text laden show, subtitles for the spoken and sung French were projected on the back wall which has also had a vertical strip of red and a large rectangle of brown. Much of the text is provocative, for example, “I am a pebble in the boot of the General.” “The last member of the tribe is a seed.”

The contents of a trunk, papers twisted and gnarled, are spilled over the stage, gathered up, stuffed back into the trunk, a cyclical pattern made three times. His six actors calmly gyrate their hips for 5 minutes (or more) or stand still in a line or tremble. Towards the close, Linyekula and another actor entertain us with striking solos with isolated, asymmetrical gestures.

Part power point presentation, concert (excerpting Mozart’s Requiem), ritual, In Search of Dinozord,Linyekula weaves grief for a friend around information on tortures and injustices, made within the justification of maintaining government stability.

The creator of Kenya’s first modern dance company in 1997, Linyekula has toured widely with his company, collaborated with Raimund Hoghe to create a work for Ballet de Lorraine and Portugal National Ballet Company. In Back to Kinshasa, a documentary about him shown in Dance on Camera Festival 2006, Linyekula was then based in Paris and he spoke about his disconnect with the continent where he was born. Eleven years later, Linyekula is clearly back at home, committed to spinning work off the threads of traditions, traumas, and issues in the Congo, and perhaps trying provoke change.

The cast included Faustin Linyekula, Papy Ebotani, Jeannot Kumbonyeki, Yves Mwamba, Papy Maurice Mwbiti, Antoine Vumilla Muhindo, Serge Kakudji.

The premiere was presented as part of part of BRIDGING, An International Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts, as part of the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)’s Crossing the Line Festival. A new initiative launched by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations and FIAF, BRIDGING explores issues of cultural equity across cultures.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Deirdre Towers

September 22, 2017
Despite the nagging memory of original casts performing innovative works by Twyla Tharp, a new generation of audience members will do well to experience two Tharp revivals and a premier work at the Joyce Theater.

Opening night, folks got to witness two vintage dance, Raggedy Dances (1972) and Fugue (1970) as well as an Entr’Acte and the premiere of Dylan Love Songs.

Most striking is Tharp's sophisticated interaction with music. Her choreography interacts with a score the same way a sophisticated jazz musician explodes a jazz standard by layering rhythmic dynamics over the melodic base.

In Raggedy Dances, smoothly performed by Daniel Baker, Dellie Drobnick, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Kara Chan and Matthew Dibble, the nonchalant Tharp style is there to see favoring a cool attitude, mobile heads, liquid knees and agile torsos sliding over hips lowered to the ground. Another Tharp hallmarks features lightening quick facing changes punched into a still shot. Antony Tudor as well as other great choreographers understood the power of stillness, something today’s choreographers might note. Pianist Joseph Mohan mirrored the dance by sliding effortlessly from Scott Joplin’s rags and Charles Luckeyth Roberts jazz, to William Bolcom and Mozart.

The current cast is accomplished technically and well versed in Tharp technique, but one can see their minds working -- calculating the next step, phrase or pattern. In fairness, that's because frequently Tharp demands all parts of the body move in counterpoint, so arms go one way, while heads swing away from legs twisting into and from torsos.

By flipping her sequences forward, backward and inside out—particularly in Fugue, performed in silence by three dancers, Tharp dances demand as much from the mind as the body. Like others of her generation, Tharp builds mathematical movement compounds around musical structures, but in these early compositions, Tharp’s dancers imbued the compositions with heavy doses of personality.

The Entr’Acte brought Tharp to the stage in a pair of sweat pants and shirt in a mock rehearsal. That led to a quippy dance with vintage Tharp dancer John Selyea that was part vaudeville, part soft shoe and campy drill. By the way, in her youth, Tharp was a compelling dancer and still exudes that indefinable “something.” Early company members who inhaled the Tharp style, like the Selyea, still expresses an ease and breath through the form.

Some years ago, Tharp choreographed The Times They Are a-Changin’ a short-lived Broadway show to a score of Dylan songs. She returned to Dylan in her premiere Dylan Love Songs. Both Gilliland (former NYCB dancer) and Reed Tankerseley (Juilliard graduate) soared in their respective solos bubbling with balletic steps joined to Tharp slides and woozy spins. Additonally, Selyea slithered out wearing an outsized, long black coat, back to audience casting a shadow over the proceedings – a nod to Dylan? However, the overall choreography performed over Dylan’s abstract poetry lost focus and the usual Tharp punch.

Long time collaborator, the lighting designer Jennifer Tipton imbued all the dance scenes with a subtle emotional depth and Santo Loquasto designed the loose, body flattering costumes.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 18, 2017
Pina Bausch, the German choreographer whose highly theatrical, emotionally charged dance-theater continues to inspire artists and audiences, once said, "I’m not interested in how people move but what moves them.”

Years after her passing, the impact of her work is undiminished. Her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, now under the direction of Adolphe Binder (formerly director of the Göteborg company and the first non-Bausch dancer to direct Wuppertal) is presenting two iconic Bausch works at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The performers range in ages from their 20s to their 60s, a wonderful and rare thing to see in dance.

In Cafe Muller (1978) chairs and tables are minor obstacles that get dragged, bumped into, or quickly removed as the dancers wander, move, run, and dance, alone or with varying degrees of interaction or isolation, seemingly trapped inside the grey walls. Moments of confusion, pain, sorrow, and sometimes physical violence are strung together, in seamlessly repetitive sequences, to the mournful 17th c. music of Henry Purcell. A woman in a long white satin dress, stayed mostly pressed against the wall, eyes closed, or stiffly and slowly walking with her arms reaching forward and out-turned, in an eerie state of perpetual vulnerability. A couple takes turns slamming each other against the wall, only to recover and embrace again and again. Bausch brilliantly connects heartbreaking moments with impermanent gestures of reconciliation, and we feel complicit when the initial shock wears off. Café Muller remains a stunning portrait of the paradox of human despondency and the resilience it continually engenders.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is a monumental work, originally premiered with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky by the Ballets Russes in 1913, a dance performance that famously caused a riot. Bausch is one of the very few choreographers since then to have successfully equalled the music’s legendary intensity. The stage is covered in real dirt, and soon becomes populated by women and men who dance in clearly gendered groupings, until one woman is chosen to be sacrificed. Bausch kept the original scenario but got rid of that production’s ancient Russian pagan costumes and décor: large baggy costumes exchanged for revealing the body, with the women in silky slips and the men black slacks and bare torsos.

The gut-wrenching, convulsive choreography for the women seems propelled by a pervasive fear, while the men surround them, at times even stalking them, making sure that the ritual comes to pass. It is uncanny to see the similarities between Bausch’s choreography from 1975 and the reconstructed work after Nijinsky, premiered by the Joffrey Ballet in 1987.

The same feeling of anxiety consumes both, and each builds to the inevitable climax, through its amorphous gendered groupings, circular patterns, and heavy, earthbound choreography, although they inhabit different stylistic universes. Nijinsky’s jagged, sharp, inward movement contrasts with Bausch’s more flowing, highly emotional and expressive modern dance vocabulary. But in both, the chosen one’s individual’s sacrifice for the community, through a final gut-busting solo dance, releases us from the gripping tension and delivers the cathartic moment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

September 15, 2017
The "Soaking WET" series curated by David Parker and Jeff Kazin opened at West End Theater with a focus on duets. Once again, Jay Ryan dazzled with his lighting design in this seemingly ceilingless space for each work.

Coming from Providence, Rhode Island, Doppelganger Dance Collective, Artistic Directors/Performers: Shura Baryshnikov, Danielle Davidson, made their NYC debut with Paul Singh’s Oracles 1 & 2 set to Entr’Acte by Caroline Shaw, recording performed by the Calidore String Quartet. Dressed in black, loose jumpsuits, the two handsome women have an easy connection to their bodies and each other. Davidson often dances with a twinkle, while Baryshnikov, the daughter of Mikhail Baryshnikov and actress Jessica Lange, generally is more intense. Singh choreographed his dancers with gentle isolations, in frontal and side facing juxtapositions. Initially grounded and erect, Oracle evolves with light jumps in place, that brought a “Wow” from the 4 year old sitting next to me.

The Brooklyn based Sarah Konner and Austin Selden Dance performed their Etude, with music being Hamilton Circuit by Carter Scholz, Windmills of Your Mind by Noel Harrison. Beginning and closing entwined on the floor, Konner and Selden drew our attention to the logic of somatic movement. Etude never digresses from a study of harmony; these two always agree and maintain their synergy whether in contact or a few feet apart.

The third choreography, an excerpt from The Queen's Dream by Heidi Henderson, introduces a live cellist, Adrienne Taylor performing Unchained Melody by Alex North, Andante from Mozart String Quartet No. 4 in C Major, K 157. The choreographer, considerably larger than the Doppelgangers, joins Baryshnikov & Davidson to slowly circle the cellist with a pensive, downward gaze. The three might be pondering their fate as idle guests in an Elizabethan establishment, dressed in layers of off-white collars, undergarments and skirts. Henderson got a giggle when she broke from her musing to snack, and then plopped on the floor, leaned on the back wall to do needle work on her long train, while the other two plodded on.

As Doppelganger Dance Collective was just founded in 2015 as a repertory company offering choreographic commissions each season, it will be interesting to see how their repertory grows.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

September 14, 2017
Dance Now Festival rather successfully snaps dance performances onto a cabaret format at Joe’s Pub. This concept was circulating around the downtown dance community in the 1980’s and 1990’s but Dance Now formalized the funky structure that regularly attracts sold-out house.

The series of acts vary from “serious” dance to intentionally goofy pieces that ruffle conservative feathers and prove dance has humor. In keeping with the cabaret concept, a “master of ceremonies” or emcee guides the evening by toying with the audience and knitting together the disparate acts.

The most recent event was led by the spunky TruDee (aka Deborah Lohse). At total ease with the audience, she coerced folks into engaging in a couple of on-stage participatory gags and gave shout-outs to the performers.

Acts ranged from an intricately choreographed duet (the stamp size stage is restrictive) by Kate Weare to an Jordan Isador's intentionally wacky dance (he wore a floppy short haired wig) composed of bizarre movements that morphed into acrobatic sonnets. The evening’s strength came from the splicing of virtuoso dancing next to fractured stories and bump and grind antics.

For the most part, it’s a marvelous way to stretch an artist’s perspective—unlocking untapped creative resources and locating new ways to reach audiences. The next scheduled Encore Dance Now performance features 12 choreographers on Sept. 28.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 10, 2017
The American dance guild celebrated diversity for its 60th anniversary festival at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. Honoring Garth Fagan, Martha Myers, and the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, the American Dance Guild put together a program highlighting different nationalities, bodies, and backgrounds. Beginning with a video by Lisa Giobbi, the night was off to a great start. Giobbi’s video dance, Fight or Flight expertly created a vastness through lighting and space that engulfed her two dancers. Through the use of modern music and brilliant rigging, the piece built another world for the dancers to exist in and break out of. Smartly using the piece of film as an opening act, a welcome by American Dance Guild president Gloria McLean followed.

A jump immediately back into the night, Incommunicado by choreographer Catherine Meredith proved to be a great piece full of energy and breath. Meredith showed that choreographing for differently abled dancers adds texture and motion otherwise inaccessible, creating a fluid and powerful staging. Bringing the focus and mood to a wholly different realm was the following piece, The Voice of Light created and performed by Nancy Zendora. Her use of lighting, set and vocalization brought a different world onto the stage. Sometime lower in pace, Zendora was always focused asking the audience to join her on an inward exploration.

In a suite of drastic mood changes, Molissa Fenley’s Sargasso Sea appeared next on the bill. Danced by herself and Holley Farmer, the two removed emotion from the picture as they cut lines across their bodies and the stage. The last piece before intermission was a stand-out by Julian Nichols. Figment of Imagination was performed by young dancers of color trying to discover an identity. Holding each other in place, or acting as puppet masters, the dancers struggled against gravity and stereotype fighting their way to create something powerful and moving.

After a short intermission came Tobi Roppo courtesy of Rioult Dance NYC. Fwo movements the powerhouse dancers filled the stage with their bodies and presence, capturing audience attention. Septa by Lucas Melfi had the hard task of following. What was clearly a personal and emotional piece for Melfi had smart moment, but the clear desire to elicit emotion was the downfall of the piece. Though Melfi was personally invested and affected by the work, the movements didn’t quite translate that emotion set against the other works of the night.

Concluding the dancing portion of the evening was No Evidence of Failure by Garth Fagan danced by his longtime colleague Natalie Rodgers. Fagan’s use of stillness and percussion was a strong reminder that sometimes the most powerful emotional on stage is joy. From moving across the space to holding an arabesque for minutes, it was always clear that Rodgers and the second dancer Vitolio Jeune were happy to be dancing and it made me thankful for dance as an artform.

Awards were presented at the end of the night after introductions by creator and producer of Eye on Dance Celia Ipiotis. Showing clips from her show that are an important record in the collecting of dance history, she provided a glimpse into how important and instructional each of these honorees were to creating dance as it is today.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

July 31, 2017
It is a bold move to create a full-evening work in contemporary ballet style, where storytelling does not rely on the usual balletic modes of conveying narrative. Inspired by Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise to the poetry of Wilhelm Muller, Amy Seiwert’s Wandering (2017) was an admirable attempt at interpreting this dramatic monologue’s journey that ultimately lost its way.

It began conventionally, with a dark stage and a chair downstage left with an old record player on it. A dancer in a red robe enters, starts the record, and dances a gestural solo, with balletic extensions thoroughly mixed with contemporary vocabulary. A group of dancers emerges from the back, dressed in leotards and bare legs, slowly walking downstage, eventually surrounding him, pulling him in different directions. Throughout the evening, different dancers don the red robe, becoming the central focus of the choreography.

This trope works well at the beginning, but once we realize each dancer will get their moment, and there is not enough difference between one journey and the next, a bit of tedium starts to set in. Choreographically Seiwert relies on the same material, and together with Schubert’s mournful, and sometimes difficult, music (especially to non-German speakers), the ballet becomes too monotone and repetitive. Each of the dancers has a moment to shine, both technically and artistically. One wishes there was more for them to develop with depth and difference.

The disjunction between the words of an ambiguous wandering hero of the Romantic period, and the fierce sexiness of barely costumed contemporary dancers is interesting to contemplate, but when the feeling remains essentially the throughout, one is left wishing that the wanderer would find home.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

July 31, 2017
Oh the vagaries of men and women in courtship, particularly in an era when older sisters were required to marry before any other females in the family tied the knot.

Particularly stressful for Shakespeare’s Kate, because this was an independent woman. Left to her own devices, Kate might have never married, had children out of wedlock, and been King of a province. However, that was not what society deemed “correct” for this sharp tongued beauty faced with the face of being stuffed in palace forever with her parents or breaking out—albeit with some distasteful man.

Plumbing the great theatrical talent inherent in the Bolshoi ranks, Ballet de Monte Carlo choreographer and director, created a ballet “Taming of the Shrew” based on Shakespeare and Bolshoi verve.

In the opening night cast, Olga Smirnova (who made quite the stir in “Diamonds”) played the sweet, virginal Bianca, while the spitfire red-haired Katarina was gamely portrayed by Ekaterina Krysanova and her handsome rascal, Petruchio featured Semyon Chudin. At the opening of the ballet, a woman (the widow) teases the audience, pulls on her toe shoes, and shakes a finger at latecomers. Her comic timing is refreshing, but the logic impenetrable.

Most of the action is built into the first half of the ballet. Choreographed to a bright score by Shostakovich, the ballet lacks dramatic drive and choreographic complexity. Granted, the dancers, particularly the men, were shown off to the great delight of the audience, as were the gifted women who added character shading not evident in the choreography.

The second cast suffers because technically and dramatically they were not on a par with the first cast and without the force of major performances the ballet diminishes even more.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 29, 2017
The Cirio Collective at the Joyce was an evening full of excellent dancing and choreography – a rarity in today’s ballet climate, so beholden to productions for the under-ten set. Although the Collective’s lineage is in the Forsythe/Kylian mold (both have work in the Boston Ballet repertory, where many of the dancers hail), each work had its own take, a creative twist, not to mention committed and talented dancers that made it an absorbing to watch. This Collective began as a summer residency for dancers to experiment without the pressures usually associated with creating dance works, a model that has served them well.

Artistic director Jeffrey Cirio, now a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, choreographed four of the six works presented, danced in them, and also included works by Paulo Arrais and Gregory Dobashian. In Cirio’s Fremd, he danced with slicing precision as a solo man weaving in and out of couples who flicked their fingers, or their feet at the end of a developpe, moving from smooth to sharp angles, from mechanical to more romantic, cued in part by the electronic sounds mixed with Chopin. Cirio traveled in and out mysteriously, sometimes joining them, but never giving up his independence.

In Paulo Arrais’ Sonnet of Fidelity, associate artistic director Lia Cirio, who made a great impression performing at Lincoln Center with Boston Ballet a few years ago, once again displayed her riveting artistry backed up by a fierce technique, well partnered by Paul Craig. From a broken puppet to a mournful ballerina, she continually transformed and drew our attention to her every time she appeared onstage. All the dancers stood out for their focus, commitment, and belief in the movement. In particular, Whitney Jensen’s solo in Cirio’s In the Mind: In the other Room was disturbing, as she channeled anxiety through dislocation. And Blaine Hoven was especially fun to watch in Dolbashian’s Tactility, a world apart from his respectable performances in Mozartiana with ABT just a few weeks ago.

The “world premiere video” by Sean Meehan was a smart move to break up the evening and also speak to this flat screen image driven generation. A burning, yellow light revealed the three dancers lying on the floor, on what looks like garbage at first, but is actually shredded newspaper, looking like discarded corpses. One gets up, with chunks of newspaper covering his body, as if dressed for a journalistic prom. Trapped inside some discarded (fake?) news, the other dancers seemed to control him, but then separate. When the word “preying” appears, all sorts of associations emerge.

If one were to quibble with something in this program, it would be a general over-reliance on electronic soundscape mixed with classical music, and too much dark, “moody” lighting. These staples of contemporary work, when seen on a program back to back, tend to diminish the impact of the choreography itself. But Jeffrey Cirio and his Collective are ones to watch – if you’re looking for confident, fresh, dancer-driven energy in ballet today.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

July 28, 2017
What a night at the Joyce: watching artists from American Ballet Theatre dancing fresh, inventive ballet choreography on a program with only three works. This means that the ballets had time to develop, to mean something, and to make us want to see them again. Gemma Bond’s choreography has grown and deepened, as dance making art.

Gemma Bond is a senior corps member of American Ballet Theatre, and she first tried choreography at the age of 13 – unusual for a female ballet dancer. She has a wonderful sense of structure in the service of developing an idea or multiple subtexts that emerge naturally out of the movement. In Then and Again (2016), first work of the program, a lone woman dances to a soulful cello as others come in and out; at times she seems an outcast, and we followed her interactions with other dancers with curiosity. An exchange of partners in a trio gives a glimpse of complication, then dissolves. At one point, Luciana Paris appeared, dancing a playful duet, in a stark contrast to the other’s melancholy. She was so startlingly fresh and innocent that I thought she would make a lovely Juliet.

In The Giving, Christine Shevchenko and Cory Stearns danced a heart-rending duet where she, trapped in a square of light that gets smaller, struggles with something that keeps her from her loved one. The gorgeous costumes by Kyle Edmund, with a tied corset for her and vest for him, that had with dramatic assymetrical cuts, evoked a contemporary Giselle. The dancers alternated from romantic interludes to being on their knees, hands clasped behind their backs, unable to free themselves from a painful destiny.

The last work Impressions showed off Bond’s expert handling of ballet vocabulary in inventive ways: when was the last time we saw three garguillades (a jump where both feet circle in opposite directions in the air) look natural? Every gesture and step seemed imbued with meaning. The excellent cast incuded Skyler Brandt, Tyler Maloney, Calvin Royal III(, Gabe Stone Shayer, Devon Teuscher, Cassandra Trenary, and the incomparable James Whiteside, who also designed the sleek costumes.

What a treat to see all of these dancers up close, dancing good choreography uninhibited by spectacular costumes and effects. We look forward to Bond’s next venture.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

July 28, 2017
Ballet was born in the French Academy, spread across Europe only to gain an unrivaled status in Russia until the young upstart, America challenged them all through the brilliant choreography or George Balanchine, his school and ballet company as ABT -- the rival NYC based company led by the heiress--- and home to many Europeans.

With this in mind, the merging of the Paris Opera Ballet, the Bolshoi, and NYC Ballet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Balanchine’s Jewels was a an affair to behold. Performances alternated companies in the three sections: Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds. Each night brought varied, deeply personal interpretations.

The evening I attended, the Paris Opera Ballet exquisitely performed Emeralds. Amplifying the liquidity of their torsos, the POB ballerinas magnified the section’s lyrical airiness and romance. In a touch of true, understated glamour, a ballerinas turns her back to the audience, puts one arm behind her back only to have her hand cupped by her attentive partner.

Rubies - to the jazzy, modernist music by Stravinsky -- caused some consternation within the Bolshoi ranks. The most angular of all the pieces demands crabby arms, walking on heels, flexed feet and all sorts of physically dented turns, and leaps. Unable to fully keep up with the musical pace or the form, the Bolshoi dancers spent the majority of Rubies chasing behind the steps.

In the final section, Diamonds, the home-team glittered. Sara Mearns, exuding a natural grace and voluptuous aura led the Americans in a sterling performance. Technically clean, musically fulsome, the performance demonstrated a dignified majesty that moved through Balanchine’s courtly, grand-scale patterns and physical extensions.

Most marvelous about this experiment is the ability of each company to project a distinct personality. Regardless of skill, the dancers spoke ballet in their particular accent, and wearing their own costumes. They employed contrasting arm carriages, body facings-- more opened or closed to the audience -- feet trained for speed or languorous presentations, and legs that whipped through the air forming different angles.

All these variations are part of what makes ballet an art form.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 26, 2017
UNA Projects’ Deserts is a unique mode of dance presentation – a grouping of four dances that have all been constructed at about the same time, brought together for no more than this reason. As such, it reads as an EP, or a collection of essays – each segment at once complete and limitless in potential.

Atacama begins after a slow pre-show of ten bodies emerging on the Tisch Dance stage, calibrating us to take in the subsequent complexity – an ebb and flow of grid deviation in which tender accidents blossom before dissolving back into structuralism. Familiar music selections from The Velvet Underground and Morricone shift viewer perspective to a cinematic one for the two duets comprising Bronco without satirizing the musical choices. Choreographer Chuck Wilt subjects himself to himself with Cadet, and joins immediately after for Fatima, a recapitulation in retrograde of everything previously seen on fewer bodies, replacing the tender energy of Atacama with agitation.

Each work possesses distinct character, but shares a physicality of doing simple things non-simply. Heavy abandonment is evident in the vertical jumps of Atacama that occasionally spin, repeated as though the floor were a trampoline. Adherence to motion is interrupted in sudden departure from wherever we are. Every movement in Bronco’s first duet is initiated by either Wilt or Kyle Filley pouncing to take the lead, away from and back into free floatation. Others are parenthetical and pedestrian, wackiness notwithstanding, such as Atacama and Fatima’s insect-like foot-rubbings, or Rebecca Margolick’s brief bout of high-released salsa walks in Fatima.

The synthesis occurs at the end of Fatima. Gradually, the five bodies link arms. They are at once the tightrope and the walker, buttressing themselves for balance. After cooperating in different organizations – in unison, in canon, and in free counterpoint, they rise with goalpost arms that drop to a neutral empowered by the preceding rigor.

The characters emerge from different logics applied to the common physicality. Atacama begins with bodies falling away from and faithfully returning to the grid. A few rounds in, those holding space in stillness peel off on their own, such that they and we must remember where the skeleton stood. Individuals then switch groups mid-peel off, spinning a web of oblique activity against their static starting point. The first part of Bronco relies on replacement. Wilt and Filley take turns circling each other in different variations until towering Wilt perches atop compact Filley’s back. When they partner, the same logic is applied to replacing whose body part’s turn it is to hold the other up. Cadet takes a collage approach to sharply shift between modes of the one constant that is locomotion. The reprisal of all these in Fatima begets an investigation in shedding oneself to add to someone else, culminating in the aforementioned compound body.

Amid the varied characters of each Desert is a benign sort of violence – the inconsequential kind common in cartoons, seemingly impervious to pain. Humor is one sort of violence, seasoning the overarching solemnity and injecting humanity into abstraction. The disparity in size between Wilt and Filley in Bronco, while inherently funny, makes their equal sharing of dominance and submission all the more profound. Wilt’s body revolts against itself in Cadet, as though at the hands of an invisible sibling accusing him of self-harm while hitting him with his own hand. Fatima is most direct; its twisted arms, sudden punches, and shaking attacks are equally potential transgressions or retributions. What Atacama lacks in playful assaulting, it has in the grid itself. Whether it serves as a haven from the violence of randomness, or the violent imposition over freedom in space, the final tableau obliterates it, asking us, “What now?”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

July 24, 2017
Billed as “A musical celebration of a man’s life and his music," the New York City Tap Festival, a project of The American Tap Dance Foundation celebrated Tap Ellington at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. The Duke Ellington Center Big Band and an array of extraordinary percussive dance artists welcomed the community of dance and music lovers to the concert site delimited by a wooden platform and an Indigo Mood lighting bathing the band against the glass wall background with the foggy view of Central Park’s Columbus Circle corner surrounded by city lights.

The evening opened with Caravan interpreted by the exquisite band led by Eli Yamin at the Grand Piano: Steve Little (Drums), Cole Davis (Bass), James Zollar (Trumpet), Michael Rorby (Trombone), Jason Curry (Alto Saxophone/Clarinet), Jessica Jones (Tenor Saxophone), and Claire Daly (Baritone Saxophone). Ayodele Casel’s carefree a cappella singing tap proceeded with her choreographic interpretation of Fleurette Africaine.

Acknowledging the curating collaboration of leading dance historian in Jazz Tap dancing, Constance Valis Hill, Master of Ceremonies Tony Waag delighted the audience with the comic twist of his vocal performance of I’m Just a Lucky So and So. Caleb Teicher and Sarah Reich brought an endearing theatrical narrative to Black Beauty followed by Lisa La Touche Ensemble with a nonchalant sextet interlacing rhythmic games within soft-shoe themes to Ellington’s So.

Sweeping the stage with gales from shows of the WWII era, Joseph and Josette Wiggan left no spot untouched dancing to Dr. Ellington’s Ko Ko. Josette whirled through rampant turns en manège. In contrast, Joseph's leisurely style winked at Jimmy Slyde with some additional signature accents like the fedora hat tricks.

Mercedes Ellington, Duke Ellington's granddaughter, joined Mr. Waag and led the audience in a participatory, finger snapping game to her grandfather’s delightful Dancers in Love. Giving way to original Ellington’s band drummer, Mr. Steve Little magically transported the musical quality of tap dancing to his art form caressing his drums with his brushes in Tap Dancer’s Blues. Musical intimacy was further elevated by Sam Weber who mesmerized the house with his fizzy concert tap virtuoso performance of Money Jungle.

Artistic refinement, and synergy with the band kept the audience in the sole of Brenda Bufalino’s taps. Co-founder of the American Tap Dance Foundation, the dazzling octogenarian tap master, brought the audience to their feet with her masterful four-section theme and variations to a Lush Life Medley. The program closed with the New American Tap Dance Orchestra ensemble’s elegant choreography by Bufalino to Rockin’ in Rhythm, joined by the whole cast in a Shim Sham grand finale.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

July 24, 2017
The Joyce’s Ballet Festival presents small dance groups in mixed bills, with Claudia Schreier and Company featuring Ms. Schreier’s choreography. When the dancers are principals from New York City Ballet and Dance Theater of Harlem, and you have a live music quartet, a choir onstage, and the Joyce Theater as your venue, expectations will be pretty high. Yet the evening suffered from a pretty conventionalism in the Balanchine mold that took little risk, but was nonetheless warmly received by the audience.

Wordplay, a world premiere duet for Unity Phelan and Jared Angle of NYCB, recalled moments in Balanchine’s Agon more than once; one can always find precedents, but then something new should emerge; here I kept missing both the word and the play. In a duet for Wendy Whelan and Da’Von Doane of DTH, aptly titled Vigil, Doane mostly lifted the willowy Whelan while she looked angelic, to music by Tomas Luis de Victoria and Sergei Rachmaninoff, sung on stage by the choral ensemble Tapestry. It’s always a joy to see Whelan dance, but on the heels of her evening with Brian Brooks (and if you’ve seen her in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain), this pas de deux seemed a bit hackneyed. And in a later solo, Whelan meandered around the stage with an upright balletic look, made “contemporary” mostly by the socks on her feet.

Everything about the program was polished – especially the wonderful lighting by Brandon Stirling Baker, which signaled mood changes with subtlety. The costumes by Martha Chamberlain were pleasant class wear leotard and tights with skirts, some with geometric designs and flattering mesh backs; Kelli Haase’s renditions for the last piece were similar in style.

The best ballet on the program was Charge (2016), a propulsive closing number with a large cast. Here Ms. Schreier seemed to let herself go, creating something less dependent on the stars in the cast than on an idea that she developed and followed through. Group patterns melted in to lifting couples and rushing movement patterns. The best dancing in this came from a central couple in Charge, wearing white and blue: she was especially confident, and relishing the moment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

July 24, 2017
It is known that an image is worth a thousand words. Likewise, the poetic images signed across Emery LeCrone’s choreography spoke eloquently during the evening dedicated to her works within the 2017 Ballet Festival at the Joyce.

Beautiful, languid lines were expressed by Megan LeCrone in In Memory. In the opening number, her flowing strawberry-red cocktail dress fanned through her chaînés radiantly illuminated by the pearl cyclorama.

Beloved presented three ballerinas dressed in voile thin pants and contemporary cut tops in tones of light gray, peach, and beige, that drifted through the air when carried by their partners wearing shiny white tops and tights. The imagery interplay culminated with Time Slowing, a chiaroscuro duet that featured Corey Stearns dressed in black and accompanied by Stephanie Williams, in an elegant cut leotard with a long organza skirt. The off-centered pas de deux integrated with the lateral angled lighting in an infinite illusion against the black back drop.

Paradoxically, as it is often said: “less is more,” the five independent works in the program restated LeCrone’s aesthetic. This included a reiteration of motifs, which became more evident with the recurrent monotone lyrics in Beloved beautifully performed by LeCrone's company, and accompanying sopranos and musicians.

In spite of the contrast with the rest of the program, movement theme tendencies came through The Innermost Part of Something, presented with electronic music and contemporary athletic attire which permeated through the program’s closing in the world premiere of Radiant Field.

Nevertheless, the beauty of Emery LeCron’s proposal in movement and color pallets, as well as the artist’s plasticity, generated a pleasing, albeit extensive program, endorsed by the generous applause of her following audience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

July 21, 2017
Patrons fill the lobby of New York Live Arts in anticipation of Jody Oberfelder’s The Brain Piece. Once given a colored sticker, we compare hues, predicting our viewing fate, until we hear Oberfelder, a meek voice from a petit body in a space-aged dress. Her language is quirky, modifying familiar phrases ever so slightly, prepping us not to “wander off, but to wander in.”

We are dispersed to color-coded representatives, beginning a track from different points in a preliminary expository cycle. In the NYLA house, the stage is bare and only two rows of seats are filled. A voiceover begins an anthology of famous quotes on the brain. It, too, partakes in quirky wordplay. “Do you mind? All the time.” It’s all very cute, until the etymology of the word “empathy” is explained: “feeling into.”

The factoid spawns the curious hypothesis of “tactile empathy,” before veering off track in a combination of stimulation for stimulation’s sake and arbitrarily cute aesthetic choices of bright colors and glitchy music that cannot draw clear boundaries as to when it intends to depict brain activity or activate ours.

For a dance piece concerned with physicalized cognitive process, the movement falls too short. When there is dancing, arms are interlocked with other arms or heads in a behavioral motif of connection. In a stairwell, arms reach for other bodies, but in a feigned sort of way that motivically frames their dare-devilish execution of non-thematic movement. The finale uses technology as a crutch, avoiding the possibilities bodies and space alone offer by letting a projection of alternate perspectives do the work instead, among cheap interactive illusion.

The participatory bits, primarily stimulating in nature, come closer to wholesome brainy experiences. In the empty theater, we are ambushed with head massages that, while consent was neither asked for nor given, are admittedly enjoyable. We return to the lobby to find a carnival of activities of clinical cognitive exercises, dressed up to seem exciting. A circle of subjects must toss a beanie and remember the order in which it was passed. A segmented mirror is rearranged to distort our reflections. Other moments are completely decorative, such as a bartender serving tequila-infused “brain juice” alongside a slew of insufferable brain puns.

Highly regimented audience corralling goes directly against Oberfelder’s wish that we have an adventure. The company does not let us complete one task in such a way that it is unclear weather we are to process as much incomplete stimuli as we can or they simply don’t realize we aren’t finished having one complete experience. Before returning to the theater, we are given blue booties. Looking medical, perhaps it’s in preparation for something epic. The subsequent realization that it is simply to not scuff the stage’s floor is wholly disheartening.

Nevertheless, they are necessary for the intersection of movement and interaction that situates performers and spectators alike on the NYLA stage. In an irksomely one-sided buildup, dancers tediously place us to frame pathways through which we watch some unremarkable frolicking. Afterwards, the connection motif reemerges in a group sway that fails to synchronize because of how dependent we have become on instruction and expectant of interruption. This is the only time, however, we know we exist, de-personified, as neurons. Shedding our humanity begets peak engagement, far more than the brain personification that pervades much of the work.

The Brain Piece simultaneously goes too far and not far enough. Within effort taken to create projections that rely on optical illusions is the potential to simply understand illusion. Stimulation, while inevitably interesting, only tells us that our brain is working, not the sort of work our brain is doing. As such, it is no more than a playground, and the initial directive to “wander in” is unachievable. This is not a bad thing; it simply needs a title that doesn’t claim aesthetic authority on something utterly unaesthetic.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

July 20, 2017
Dances by Dancers is the third iteration of a collection of work by performers of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. It is a privileged peek into what doers of a major figure’s work are thinking about when given a shared outlet to make. Among widely ranging aesthetics, the compelling phenomenon emerges of each piece’s elephant being in another room. This is to say that the impulse generating the piece is never explicitly depicted, but sequestered just outside the doors of NYU Tisch Dance’s Jack Crystal Theater, commented upon in safely constructed dialogues.

Many tactical avenues arrive at this result. In the realm of movement, Christina Robson modifies her orientations to be responsive to a landscape that is not physically present in Nestor and I. Her face becomes imperative in providing clues of where she is or whom she is with. Her head cocks with a smirk towards her circled arms as though to say, “Wanna go in? No? Alright, suit yourself.” Her physical existences of dancing, miming, and doing are not segregated, but welcomingly combined on the same body in the same space.

Shane Larson comes to “Again, move on when you’re ready” disturbed and fidgeting as though rushing from work, spending the rest of the piece spinning it off in sleek floorwork flurries. In “Repetitive and Indulgent” or “…kill the Buddha,” Talli Jackson’s Adonis figure is clad in a summer dress, sun hat, and large sunglasses as he perpetuates a loop of concentrated undulating motion, impervious to the frivolity imposed atop it.

Others subject themselves to pure task. Collaboratively created Untitled (Performance for Five) is a series of games in which movements are pieces that come with the set, allowed to distort as long as verbal signals to change are obeyed. This is hardly a solemn endeavor; shifts happen so unpredictably that dancers break out laughing or jitter in playful frustration. Cognitive rigor and lightheartedness are equally welcome in the work’s arena.

Clothing offers critical information. Jenna Riegel’s as you are/soaked in bleach features three women, mostly clothed save their breasts, exposed through unbuttoned blazers, moving to highlight the very thing you try to pretend does not feel strange, prompting you to ask yourself why when it inevitably does. Untitled and Antonio Brown’s MOOD involve hyper-plainness – the former in gray gym clothes and the latter in all white. The former’s teamwork gives a sense of awkward gym class uniformity. The latter, discussing the entertainment industry, strips the big personalities we hear in the soundscore to condensed essences.

Words, ostensibly the easiest element to comprehend, are obscured in suggestive intrigue. Larson’s sound collage culminates in a voicemail by a loving, older female figure. She doesn’t say much. The two are obviously close, so she doesn’t have to for her intended audience, who makes himself less visually apparent to make space for the sound. Untitled features a recorded voice teaching a phrase the players follow. Some words can be said faster than bodies can represent; others must go to great lengths to describe a moment that only takes a second to execute. Talking and dancing take turns catching up with the other while the voice constantly self-edits for directional clarity, disallowing any true authority figure.

Sound is the most immediate atmospheric signifier. All we hear from Robson’s landscape is her own grunt of exertion navigating it. The shabby recording quality of Larson’s collage is a constant reminder of the piece’s lack of illusion. Jackson’s movement and Liszt, seemingly paired for the sake of incongruity, actually do the same thing – a simple tune taken through ridiculous variations, embodied by simple movement, ridiculously clothed. Riegel’s musical reminder that “I don’t have a gun” in the folksy rendition of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” is chilling against the calm orchestration, suggesting a rageful existence packaged under a trained, polite veneer.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

July 15, 2017
Black and white are the two dominant colors in Saburo Teshigawara’s “Sleeping Water” performed by the Japan-based company KARAS. Movements weighted inside fully choreographed lighting and design environment reflect images of water in this 70-minute production at Alice Tully Hall. Six dancers slip through gestures that ripple through the body in nonstop motion. Arms windmill framing undulating torsos and loose legs that never form right angles.

At the start of the “Sleeping Water” Mr. Teshigawara sets the tone moving as if by some internal tide that spills into an incessant flow of movement. In the next scene, lights come up on black-clad dancers lying on their sides, heads slightly lifted off the floor—listening and breathing. And from that point on, the movement rarely ceases.

Underneath the dance, a sound score (unaccredited) connects “found sounds,” snippets referencing classical and Baroque music until the audience is hit with the rumble of The Rolling Stones howling “Paint it Black” – a wild song suggesting human loss—but even the pounding beat of the Stones has no discernible impact on the movement quality.

A man of the theater, Teshigawara is equally responsible for the set and lighting that in combination constructs the theatrical atmosphere. Clear square panels drop and rise from the rafters, as do two tubular outlines of chars and tables. Light pops off the clear frames suggesting sunlight breaking off the sea. Now why those items are lowered and raised over the dancers --- is another mystery.

In the program, Teshigwara writes a poem suggestive of his choreographic motives: “Sinking deep down into sleep from the calm surface, The body floats in the air like a boat….A momentary farewell from death…The entrance to another world.”

Mr. Teshigawara’s aim to search for a “new form of beauty” is realized in the satisfying geometry of the movement patterns. Dancers intersect, separate and reform into human units. However, there is a lack of shading. Flow is constant, energy never changing.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 30, 2017
There should never be reason to explain every piece on a program, barring some logistical necessity, which Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company had, as the entire program order had been jumbled. The introductions of each piece went on, however, to include their already printed program notes plus bonus expounding, limiting viewer interpretive freedom, and suggesting a subtler secondary sense of compensation for some self-perceived low quality of movement making.

Said sense became more apparent in disproportionate fanciness in non-dance elements. At the Martha Graham Studio Theater at Westbeth, lighting was used to a distracting degree. Space Oddityand Calligraffiti Variations made extensive use of a horizontal panel of light upstage that may or may not have had dancers in it while Bamboo Rap felt the need to spot light every dancer in the cavernous, but still modest black box theatre, which ultimately framed such choices as gratuitously grandiose.

Nai-Ni Chen’s movement vocabulary is an athletic, homogenous blend of influences from martial arts and contemporary ballet. Often even in dynamic, had just the music been jumbled and the pieces left the same, nothing might have felt amiss. Spatially, Chen shows considerably more intrigue, employing grid configurations, most developed in Calligraffii’s opening tableau. Three dancers phase into a myriad of triangular relationships, every movement clearly affecting neighboring bodies, as though tethered in a web. Sections being neither continuous nor in a purely block construction, transitions become more interesting to observe than the actual material they frame.

Some pieces begin with a compelling concept, but lack thorough physical research. Uncharted intends to comment on human migration, but insists on avoiding specific contexts. Central motifs include running in place (presumably to a new land) and reaching (presumably to the old land). Calligraffiti is inspired by the initial encounter with graffiti by one with an extensive familiarity in calligraphy. A projector displays examples of both forms and how uncannily similar they can be. Physically, Chen can’t seem to get past immediate associations of traditionalism and urbanism. Soft lyrical movement accompanies calligraphy while graffiti projections are met with an instant jump to sharper hip-hoppish movement, setting up a tense dichotomy between the forms as if the piece, intended to be a dialogue, were a battle for superiority in which calligraphy wins because it happens to be the last slide.

Immune to the aforementioned habits was Earth, about nothing more than that. It begins rather literally, rolling child’s poses signifying boulders, slowly countered with comparatively abstract gesture – an arm, upwardly curved like an elegant shovel. The piece begins in a mode that finds people on earth, but as physical dynamics are more deeply mined to touch on clay’s malleability, dirt’s flimsiness, mud’s thickness, and stone’s brittle conglomerations in spatial relationships connoting plate tectonics, people become instead of earth in a demonstration of actual fluidity in solidity.

Nai-Ni’s work, largely fixated on literalism, shines when representing something concrete. Abstract concepts, by definition, cannot be literally interpreted; as such, attempts at literal representations of ideas lacking context or point of view are guaranteed to be vague. Calligraffiti is never physically clear if it’s embodying handwritten forms or their cultural associations. Uncharted is a drama with no plot. Earth, however, soars in its objective handling of something tangible, generating infinite semiotic possibility for those watching.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Jonathan Matthews

June 22, 2017
Parsons Dance’s Joyce season was supposed to include a premiere entitled Hello World, featuring a technological collaboration. Somehow, the piece did not make it to the stage. The resulting last-minute program changes left an exquisitely danced disjointed flow of events.

Curiously, the choppiness derived from too many similarities. David Parsons enjoys opening a piece with music in the dark, raising the curtain, and shining a spotlight before giving way to uptempo group numbers, as in Parsons’s Swing Shift and Omar Roman de Jesus’ Daniel.

Musical selections were homogenized as well. Hand Dance felt like a gestural epilogue to Swing Shift, both employing high-energy chamber music. While one can always depend on Caught to be performed, the electric Robert Fripp score was instrumental in breaking up the regularity, just shy of the evening’s conclusion.

The pieces themselves tend to fall into two categories: movement-focused, and gimmicky. The former bunch shares a vocabulary of flash. Legs go high, as do jumps and women in men’s arms. De Jesus’s Daniel shifts things with a man on the floor having a jittery episode across from a tapper repeating a timestep, accelerating from a glacial tempo. There is additionally hip-hop infusion thanks to Parsons partnering with Ephrat Asherie on Upend. While Parsons seems to recognize collaboration as key to diversifying his work, it comes at the discomfort of seeing a largely white company hip-hopping, and an incredibly able-bodied company appropriating physicalities associated with autism.

The gimmicky pieces charm, but fail to go beyond immediately established novelty. Hand Dance could go on for an hour with its disembodied floating hands, but not in the existing structure of continuous unison sections that each last about two eights. Once Caught gets caught up in strobe light sequences, it loses form and defaults to self-congratulation.

There are occasional bouts of compositional intrigue. Swing Shift gains momentum when the ensemble trickles in, unison against the opening soloist’s subtly altered spatial orientations. To conclude, all the motifs are restated in rapid succession; all that is missing is development between it and the preceding exposition. Despite little variation, Hand Dance employs keen timing of visual composition, every so often breaking up horizontality for diagonal forms, incredibly and pleasurably disorienting.

Partnering and literal musicality are givens. Lifts are often somewhere between athletic and romantic. Daniel breaks from heteronormativity, save its duet for two males clearly denoting who is the “boy” and the “girl.” Musically, there is no movement without a note. This obsession disallows any dance phraseology for sequences of moves that, in their attempt to keep up with melodies, are executed with a pedantic sharpness as though to say “gotchya!” to every significant musical moment.

Caught begs the question – when we clap mid-piece as the soloist executes exhausting jumps, meticulously timed for the sheer purpose of looking like a flipbook in the strobe light’s flash, are we clapping for the light operator, the performer’s actual action, or the achieved illusion? It is important to break apart work intended to entertain. What is easy to watch is far from easy to craft, most especially when engineering the light-hearted.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

June 22, 2017
Founded in 1996 by Gabriela Granados, American Bolero Dance Company presented Flamenco LIC at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City. Addressing different expressions of Spanish dance and music, the program offered a series of variations from Spanish operettas, flamenco, and Spanish dance vignettes including both, Danza Estilizada and Bolero.

The first part of the program featured baritone Peter Castaldi singing Manuel de Falla’s El Paño Moruno and Polo; mezzo-soprano Darcy Dunn interpreting El Vito and La Maja y el Ruiseñor; and flamenco singers Aurora Reyes and Alfonso Cid performing Ojos Verdes and Falsa Moneda, respectively.

Versatile Spanish dancer from Barcelona, Elisabet Torras, displayed the rich gamut of the Spanish dance form recreating a Bolero from Tomás Bretón’s Cuatro Piezas Españolas within the early nineteenth-century style of Escuela Bolera playing minuscule castanets in concordance with the period. Contrasting in expressivity, Ms. Torras later presented a dramatized scene from the opera La Vida Breve, a choreographic variation which Gabriela Granados had created for herself and performed extensively through her career.

Joining Ms. Torras in Alegrías, Erika de Julia and José Moreno evoked the gaiety of the cantiña flamenco genres from Cádiz. Addressing the sorrow expressed in the poetic songs from the miners of the region of Almería, Mr. Moreno presented a pensive Taranto solo, which extended through a series of rhythmic footwork passages within the stances of the letra interpreted by the cante of Alfonso Cid and Aurora Reyes.

The program included two musical interludes contrasting classic Spanish music repertoire like Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, played at the grand piano by William Hobbs, with a lively Bulería Musical performed by the flamenco cuadro: guitarists Basillio Georges and Raphael Brunn, Guillermo Barrón as percussionist, and Alfonso Cid playing the flute. Both closing sections of the program were graced by the elegant baile of Gabriela Granados, joined by the company in El relicario and Bulerías de Cádiz respectively.

In the wake of flamenco’s tradition, the evening closed with pataitas por bulería, where dancers and musicians took turns displaying their signature moves with pellizco.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada EYE

June 20, 2017
Performing at The Joyce Theatre in a gala to celebrate Isadora Duncan’s 140th birthday, Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Dance Company danced 13 works: one (Ode to Joy / Morricone) choreographed by Belilove and one (Narcissus by Chopin, Op 64, No 2) performed by Guest Artist Sara Mearns, Principal Dancer, New York City Ballet. Belilove is undaunted by challenges. She has been carrying on the legacy of Isadora, a complicated artist whose diary, and subsequent essays, books, movies, and countless would-be Isadoras competing for attention, have stoked the imagination of the public. She has toured the world with her company since 1980. Affirming her free-spirit, she shared the stage for this event not only with the ghost of Duncan, but Mearns whose sensuality is breathtaking.

All the dances by Isadora are singular and yet have much in common: the barefoot skips, arms floating high as though submerged, gossamer costumes, and the musical obeisance. In Narcissus, an asymmetrical shoulder roll on the right lifts the left arm, a repeated gesture that Mearns made with an inhale as though she was kissed on the neck. She doesn’t swoon so much as savor the moment, as only a hedonist could.

Belilove has a commanding presence, her lithe frame clearly expressing the emotional waves of each choreography. Each member of her company has captured her approach, her clear dynamic changes, and ease; with one standout: Hayley Rose Brashear whose solo performance of Moment Musical by Schubert was particularly memorable. The Dance of the Furies by C.W. Gluck with its second position clawing of the air, leaps, and red dresses for 6 dancers feels the most contemporary, given our current political rage and frustration.

Featured in the gala were: Nikki Poulos, Emily D’Angelo, Faith Kimberling, Hayley Rose Brasher, Caroline Yamada, Emma Pajewski, Mariel Harris, Becky Allen; as well as the Young Duncan Dancers: Baelee Glasgow, Gloria Hernandez, Madoka Saimaru, Zoe Cardona, Lia Chung, Jackie Harrington, Elaine Huang, Christina Nanos, Jia Navarette, Isabella Offerman, Ever Sun, and Addison Wong.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

June 14, 2017
New York Live Arts hosted an electrifying program fit for City Center or any other world renown stage. First on the bill was Jacqulyn Buglisi’s unforgettable MOSS 1 with live music provided by the composer Paula Jeanine Bennett, voice and percussion, as accompanied by cellist Christopher Lancaster.

Buglisi outdid herself with this ensemble work for eight women, costumed diaphanously by A. Christina Giannini. Supported by the O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation commissioning grant, MOSS 1 was inspired by botanist R.W. Kimmerer’s “Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass,” “a flight deep into the beauty and science of indigenous ways of knowing.”

A gift beyond measure, this dance demands both effortless strength and unaffected delicacy of its dancers, who convey a world in which intuition and respect for something greater than themselves underlies their being. A particular standout among the dancers was Jessica Higgins, whose speed and spark are remarkable.

Karole Armitage next gave us one section from WALLS, “a sneak preview” of a two-part quartet commissioned by Ravello Festival in Italy. In stark contrast to Buglisi’s sensuality, Armitage provides, metaphorically, shot after shot of pure vodka, and stunned stillness. Bare Amazonian legs strike 180 degree splits; male/female couples pull-off each other, and hand gestures around the face suggest disbelief and horror.

The third dance in the program, a revival from 2001 by Elisa Monte, DAY’S RESIDUE, presents eight dancers in an odd tour of relationships, from the formality of Baroque to the brusqueness of independence.

Jennifer Muller stepped out to speak out in favor of choreographers sharing programs, a practice Buglisi/Monte/Muller have been doing for several years, and to tell us that her work THE SPOTTED OWL is from 1995. “Keep that in mind,” she said. What first comes across with this dance punctuated with text by Sharon Begley, Keith Bradisher, Chung Tzu, J. Ronald Engel, Al Gore, David M. Ludlum, Susan Middleton, David Littschwager, Anthony Milne, Vance Packard, Chris Park, Andrew Revkin, Jeremy Rifkin, and Karen Wright is… fun. Muller can throw a great party, with lots of ideas to kindle the crowd.

Tiffany Rea-Fisher, the artistic director of Elisa Monte Dance Company, demonstrated her own craft and polish with an admirable work for 4 men, 1:3:4:1, as set to composer Paul Ukena.

To close the program were excerpts from LIGETI ESSAYS, choreographed by Armitage, as inspired by the songs of Gyorgy Ligeti. This last piece included the image of 6 dancers carrying silver lanterns designed by David Salle. Six pieces, three premieres, thirty-five dancers, five female choreographers, each original and seasoned - a night to celebrate! EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

June 11, 2017
Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) hosted dancer Jenny Campbell, choreographer/dancer Jody Sperling, visual artist/magic-lanterns Amy-Claire Huestis and sonic composition/video artist Omar Zubair for “Book of Clouds: Durational Iteration.” Given her decades recreating and experimenting with the innovative art of Loie Fuller (1862-1928), any of Sperling’s current experiments with movement and projections paled next to the sight of Campbell swirling voluminous gray fabric with hand held sticks, as Fuller did so originally. Being in BAC’s John Cage & Merce Cunningham Studio made the chance slaps of the projected red sun on the fabric that much more magical.

The 10 or so attendees or were asked to lie on the floor during the projections of children playing a game similar to blind man’s bluff on a center projection, sided by two projections of clouds topped with a layer of sticks, as though you were seeing the clouds, obstructed by foliage of some kind.

Departing from the cloud imagery, a black scribbling came up on the three rectangular projected space while Campbell and Sperling walked calmly in a shin length dresses punctuated with three stripes of black, white and grey. Their silhouettes merged as one when their shoulders came into line.

Stripped down to white tights and a white fur jacked, Sperling held a rectangular image at hip level while passing in front of the three projectors and then going behind to slip it into view. This oddly ceremonial choreography was enacted with each barefoot dropped heavily, like a cow girl going about her chores. The audience was invited to witness the creation of the images, much as we sit to watch a sushi chef. As the color wheel spun, so did our imagination as to just what can be done with light, color, movement, and shape.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Deirdre Towers

June 10, 2017
BAM Fisher is not the ideal space for flamenco. The large blackbox cuts off its guest contents with a proscenium fence. For an artform as social as flamenco at a venue with a demographic such as BAM’s, the primary danger is captivity of a folk form. Being a much worse scenario for an audience not used to flamenco to behave like a seasoned flamenco audience, there was thankfully one savvy woman in the audience, shouting the customary cheers the performers thrive on. Even without her, however, Flamenco Vivo would have felt far from captive. They reel viewers in, hold them tenderly by the collar, and do not let go until the final jam session.

This imperviousness to museum-ification is a testament to the duality of flamenco – at once so extremely of the people, but also requiring stage presence with a dictator’s command. It is probably the most democratic artform there is, incorporating seamless and open interplay between dancers and musicians, blessed with unworldly skill, presented without elitism.

The only limitation involves access. There is an incidental privilege of having been born into a “flamenco family.” There is of course no eugenics at work here, but an organic pathway of a tradition’s lineage. Founder Carlota Santana spoke of the company’s outreach program, and the need to share flamenco even if a career is not the goal. Packing its third BAM season with a multitude of choreographic voices, Flamenco Vivo repackages certain tenants of the form – empowerment, pride, teamwork, etc. – as broader life skills studying flamenco can hone. They additionally feature pieces that take on a more concert dance presentation, but simultaneously avoid the trap of losing flamenco’s essence in such fusion for the sake of palatability it already possesses.

Dancers keep a calm torso over raucous feet. Their hands touch their bodies as though to hold themselves together, preventing fiery energy from spilling out of their bellies. When soloing in Sentio, Charo Espino shamelessly holds herself by the back of her pelvis, hips swaying underneath her firmly pressed knuckles. The men wrap their suit jackets tight around their ribs; women, in form-fitting colorful dresses, cocoon themselves in large shawls. Through so much fabric, sensuality remains at the forefront, though sexuality is rarely expressed, just as aggression is rarely the point of rapid-fire feet. The primary emphasis is on the joy of physicality – awe at one’s own body’s ability. As such, there is never exact unison; each performer expresses their individual experience of a shared impulse.

Composition is kept simple as to keep a transparent lens to the complexity of the technique itself. In Andaluza: Tangos Flamencos, balletic presentation is borrowed with a chorus of women in black, using lush arm positions to create a series of bouquets to support percussive soloists. Soloists carry space with them, but groups will be set more architecturally. Structurally, there is a sense of not wanting to finish. Almost every piece ends with a strong button and an abrupt lighting change, followed by a brief epilogue, post-applause.

Expanded from the usual set up of guitar and voice, Flamenco Vivo additionally has percussion and wind instruments filling out the texture. Every player maintains a percussive approach, from fingernails tapping the body of a guitar, to powerful gusts sent through a flute. A harmonica player, rattling off flurries of pitches, is met with exact responses from the feet of a dancer, not dissimilar from the call-and-response sessions of a Bharatanatayam dancer and her tabla player.

Flamenco does not lump people into categories. Beyond clearly gendered costumes (leaving us wondering how many gallons of sweat is accumulating beneath), women are not fetishized with a special sort of shoe, nor is there any partnering that aggrandizes male strength.

Age is similarly not a discriminating factor. This is partly thanks to the technique being anatomically sustainable beyond middle age. There is an obvious reverence to seasoned performers, as seen in the extended solos of Espino and Angel Muñoz, though neither suggesting that older is better nor that older is expected to be watered down. In a program change, Espino actually joined the younger women of the company in A Solas, age disparity barely noticeable.

This reverence for older dancers does not mean youth is undervalued. It is, rather, nourished as the population invested with carrying on the tradition. Caminos has Isaac Tovar, a generation or two younger than Muñoz and Antonio Hidalgo, not competing, but coexisting. A surprise guest from the audience hopped on board for Fin De Fiesta, barely a teen, showing off her still forming body’s firm grasp of the vocabulary to cheers from the company.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

June 5, 2017
Voices echo through St Mark’s Church as the audience enters and chooses which side of the stage they wish to view the evening's work. Dancers from Valerie Green/Dance Entropy litter the space off stage, saying unimportant phrases as they move their colored felt pieces around the floor to step on.

Reminiscent of 'The Floor is Lava Game' played by children, the dancers create their own movement area while moving onto the stage floor. The conceptual thesis developed in the work’s title "Impermanent Landscape" rushes to the forefront in this choreographic exploration. Once the whimsical, dinging music starts and the dancers begin to move more energetically, the piece picks up.

Brief explorations of changing spaces fill the rest of the evening, accompanied by sharp and bold choreography. Stepping through moving legs, touching, building pathways with bodies are all ways that the dancers draw new spaces into the blank wooden floor.

Off-center or firmly planted, the landscapes of the body was whimsically manipulated over the course of each new phrase of movement. The charismatic performers and electricity that filled the church created an engaging work, but levels of mental engagement were not enough for Green who engaged the audience by asking the everyone to switch their seats and view the dance from new angles. Though an interesting take on malleable landscapes, having the audience change seats felt more flashy than integral to the work.

There were many awe-inducing sections that fell throughout the evening's work. The most outstanding section occurred when one dancer began to climb on, step through, and traverse the bodies of her fellow dancers. Catching a breath with each step, the audience was surprised by each fluid step, journeying the suspended dancer through the space. Kinetically satisfying arm motions carried across sections, hypnotized the viewer and smoothed over transitions clarified by the luminously brilliant lighting design.

As the piece concludes, the performers go their separate ways, some freezing and some rushing off the stage. Lights fade with the exception of one bright line. Lights fade while the final dancer walks the lighted pathway.

Green's decision to employ such cliche image to end her work was strange given her ability to form such strikingly memorable pictures. Despite the soft ending, "Impermanent Landscapes" strikes a chord, masterfully presenting beautiful images and a whirlwind of heart-racing moments.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

May 30, 2017
Conceived and directed by Tina Croll & Jamie Cunningham, curated by Rajika Puri, the 14th Street Y presented this presentation of From the Horse’s Mouth, dedicated to the dancer and musician Balasaraswati. Over 19 years, Croll and Cunningham have stayed true to their instinct to unmute dancers’ voices, to hear their stories (limited to two minutes) to see them dance, and how they respond to a list of choreographic suggestions involving space and/or style, read by the performers on stage, but withheld from the audience.

This fascinating celebration of Indian dance in America goads you to learn more, to see again the rare film footage, videos and multimedia, and understand the references to Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Jack Cole, Balasaraswati, Ragini Devi, and Indrani. The parade of personalities, their costumes, and styles, makes you smile the entire production, giving one multiple options as to whom or what to watch at any one time.The curator Rajika Puri stood out as the most polished performer, because she is an actor, as well as a dancer with a distinctive sense of timing, dramatic punch, and humor.

From the Horse’s Mouth is assembled with only a few rehearsals, which in this presentation, seemed too few for such enormous, talented cast. The logic behind the order and mix of multiple dancers and media was unclear. The frontal presentation of most Indian dance was discarded in the exploration of space assigned to the cast by the directors, so that the dances lacked their usual power.

The overlapping of artists and anecdotes is a reliable concept, especially in its initial form which involved modern dancers who shared a common history. Taking on Indian Dance in all its breadth from Bharatanatyam to Bollywood in this format is equivalent to a live trailer of a fantastic production perhaps to come.

25 dancers, musicians, historians and choreographers of Indian dance, besides Puri participated: Prerona Bhuyan, Madhusmita Bora, Kamala Cesar, Uttara Coorlawala, Joe Daly, Parijat Desai, Angelina Haque, Jonathan Hollander, Mohip Joarder, Jeeno Joseph, Baishali Kanjilal, Aniruddha Knight, Hari Krishnan, Julia Kulakova, Aishwarya Madhav, Roopa Mahadevan, Minal Mehta, Sruthi Mohan, Indra Nila, Shobana Raghavan, Sukanya Rahman, Anita Ratnam, Donia Salem, Sophia Salingaros, Bijayini Satpathy, Surupa Sen, Reena Shah, Prashant Shah, Rohan Sheth , Kuldeep Singh Siddhu, Sonali Skandan, Anjna Swaminathan, Anand Vemuri, Vija Vetra, Jin Won, Sridhar.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

May 26, 2017
When does provocation become critique? Vanessa Anspaugh’s The End of Men, Again is supposed to be an “exploration, a critique, a celebration, and… an exorcism of… a myriad of masculine archetypes” – all in under 75 minutes, and all with a strangely narrow conception of masculinity. Moving from an embryonic, infantilized state to a testosterone-fueled psychosis, the men in this “cis-male” cast are decidedly not your average guys. And although it’s possible to extrapolate critique from what comes across at times as cartoonish parody or worse, it might be hard to take it seriously.

The most interesting image of the evening was the first thing we saw: the choreographer herself, sitting on a bench, roped off in small a boxing ring, hooked up to a double breast pump machine. She sits there motionless, on the altar of St. Mark’s church, looking like a futuristic version of Charity, that lactating muse. For anyone who has experienced pumping breast milk in dirty, ill-equipped makeshift spaces, hiding from American squeamishness about breastfeeding in general and in public especially, seeing that out in the open and on a pedestal was edgy, if not demystifying.

Anspaugh’s exploration of power dynamics started out pretty basic: she unhooked herself from the pump, stepped down and uncovered six partially naked men lying about the floor. As they moved into different positions in slow motion, she commanded them to lower their heads down a few times, and then exited, never to be seen again.

The performers ritualistically helped each other finish dressing, gathering into a small clump, tapping their heels and bare feet, quietly, slowly, building with a gradual crescendo into a deafening herd that eventually exploded. Unleashing a wild energy interrupted by spoken word mostly about the biographical and mundane, in one sequence, two men walked towards each other taking turns stating “what they wanted,” while another told us of what happened to him during his IB high school experience – all with a studied casualness that actually made the confessions less compelling. Later they faced each other in a communal circle, whispering, humming, then screaming, and running around wildly again, enacting sexually charged, occasionally abusive interactions. Whoever was being the most virulent or bizarre got our attention, by slapping each other’s faces, sticking hands in each other’s mouths, climbing on each other, robe-snapping on the floor… very gay Animal House-like antics, but with none of the humor.

In another attempt at reversal of “power dynamics,” a dancer pointed out the New York Times dance critic sitting in the audience, imitating his crossed-legged posture and snickering, “I’m curious what he is going to write about this.” When he didn’t get a laugh, it turned into an even more awkward moment that made the performer seem superficial and insecure. Aimless and constantly changing kooky couplings culminated in one final gross (and gratuitous) transaction: one of the performers retrieved the bottle of Anspaugh’s freshly expressed breast milk, drank it, then spit it into the mouth of the next guy, and yes, they each passed it on that way, white liquid streaming from one mouth to the other, until the last one spit it onto the floor in a puddle. And that perfect baby food was not the only thing wasted.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

May 23, 2017
S Program A: Ellen Cornfield / Cornfield dance. Program B: Boink!, Lorraine Chapman & Bronwen MacArthur, Ben Munisteri, Deirdre Towers David Parker and Jeffrey Kazin presented an eclectic array of choreographic works through two programs encompassed under the title Soaking WET, on May 18-21, 2017 at the West End Theatre. Under the title Close-Up, Program A took the viewers through a photographic perspective of a choreographic exploration of a lenses’ zoom. Departing from a wide-angle shot overviewing counter-balanced body sculptures in dynamic stillness against soloist's variations, the audience attention would be channeled through close-up shots focusing on minute gestures.

Accordingly, as the stage illuminated, costume designs by Andreas Brade revealed the detail printed in the unitards or shirt's fabric which included company photos as well as close-ups of each dancer, structural images of bones or organs, and tools such as maritime ropes. With such detail, the company seamlessly painted the space with ample fluctuating extensions through arabesques, lifts, and port de bras, contrasted with an interplay of shape carving while moving with and around three scenery structures, interjecting pedestrian mime sequences of ordinary tasks such as texting or taking selfies. Close-up stood as a moving collage of dense oil paint over sand, revealing a fully committed vision of creators and interpreters in an aquatic gallery.

Program B consisted of four independent works: Falling, Tin (50), Zemila, and Por La Noche Me Llaman. In this order, Falling revealed a modern dance-mime quartet choreographed by Dylan Baker, Boink!, Tin (50) a brief lyric modern dance duet choreographed by Ben Munisteri; and Zemlia, a choreographic improvisation by Lorraine Chapman and Bronwen MacAruthur exploring Nijinsky’s writings. Program B closed with the world premie`re of Por La Noche Me Llaman, an interdisciplinary contemporary and flamenco dance quartet by choreographer and producer Deirdre Towers.

Inspired by “flamenco’s ‘deep songs’ stemming from experiences of existential doubt,” the choreography responded to the Seguirillas for piano and violin composed by Paul Jared Newman and interpreted by Nelson Ojeda and Brian Ford, respectively. Through five sections (Entrada, Campanas, Escobilla, Saeta and Procesio´n), allusive of the Andalusian Easter processions, two contemporary and two flamenco dancers perambulated through dim-lit avenues, addressing their personal existential statements through weight bound expressive motives, free-flowing classical lines, percussive footwork, or iconic flamenco dance silhouettes.

As the work alleviated from the mournful deep-song departure towards a bright resolution, dance and costumes also progressed from black isolation to unison in group formations, closing with all dancers barefooted, dressed in white flowing skirts adorning the space with air-sweeping sparkling silver-white shawls.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

May 15, 2017
Justin Peck took a decidedly turned towards the neo-classical when NYC Ballet unveiled his newest ballet “Decalogue” for ten dancers. Geometry and long lines combined to form receding and advancing mathematical constructions. Sleekly costumed dancers in leotard and tights of varying muted grey-toned colors by Justin Peck exuded a questioning coolness.

Generally, Peck’s dances convey a strong sense of community shaped around a whispered narrative. This time, the steps to a piano score by Sufjan Stevens were dominant. References to Balanchine classics – Apollo among others, materialized and then dissolve next to sequences flavored by Cunningham, off-center technique. A man is supported by three women, bends his knee and leans off-balance, head (and this is key) looking up to the ceiling instead of straight ahead. Or, the use of the floor—like when two men, arm in arm lowered a women to the floor suggesting a modern dance principle of “fall and recovery.”

Foundationally strong, the polished ballet surfs across steps that aim to connect but miss. This is a departure for Peck, and while it’s always exciting to see choreographers chisel new creative territory, Decalogue eschews emotion for intellectual ether.

A member of the company, Peck inevitably finds ways to feature up and coming dancers he probably watches in class or rehearsals. This access gives him insight into the dance corps less visible to other choreographers. In “The Decalogue” the dancers appeared in ten different sections. Along with the lauded Sara Mearns, Kristen Sedgin, Rebecca Krosh, Claire Dretzschmar, and Rachel Hutsell formed the female cotillion while principals Jared Angle and the sparky Gonzalo Garcia led Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Coll, and Aaron Sanz in the male brigade. Altogether, they were sharp and collected but will undoubtedly grow even more supple with time.

The program began with the very lovely chamber ballet by Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s “Chiaroscuro,” Jorma Elo’s edgy “Slice to Sharp" and Peter Martins’ operatic “Stabat Mater” excellently sung by soprano Mary Wilson and mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 8, 2017
Flashlights announced NYC Ballet’s Spring Gala featuring women in shimmering gowns and men in lightly bedazzled tuxedos. Despite the colorful visual display, the main event of the evening was a premiere by Alexei Ratmansky.

A major choreographic contributor to the NYC Ballet, his Russian roots make his work a natural extension to George Balanchine. Once considered for the role of resident-choreographer, Ratmansky chose American Ballet Theater as his home. But in so many instances, Ratmansky looks most “at home” when he creates ballets for the New York City Ballet.

Up to this point, Ratmansky has displayed a long-winded, fecund choreographic imagination that can be over-stimulating. In contrast to previous works, “Odessa” to a score by Leonid Dsyantnikov registers an internal mystery heightened by Mark Stanley’s lighting.

In a silent, serpentine pattern, the Ancient Greek styled chorus of daners comment on the three primary couples. Each pair expresses an individualized dynamics exuding amour and tension in the lifts and partnering that pulls couples in tight before the sharp release. Tyler Peck gamely springs into action, demonstrating her energized ability to dance on top of the notes while Taylor Stanley, exhibiting a strong stage presence, expertly flips and turns Ms. Peck. Good at mating dancers, Ratmansky pairs the romantically lyrical Mearns who flattens and folds her supple body around her attentive partner Amar Ramasar.

At one point, Sterling Hyltin is passed in mid-air from one man to another, and when she regains her partner, Joaquin De Luz, she slaps him. That catches the audience by surprise, in part, because it’s difficult to determine the root of the slap and in part because suddenly, this dream-like dance rips into a violent, realistic action.

The women wear short, full-skirted dresses and the men sport black pants and shirts by Kesso Dekker that flair nicely when a tango melody courses through the community’s conversation urging legs to flick under taut backs that twist in and around hips.

Moody and deeply touching, Odessa is one Ratmansky ballet that holds onto a strong internal rhythm making the running time feel “just right!”

Surrounding the première was the colorful “Jeu de Cartes” by Peter Martins featuring a strong, upcoming young me Harrison Ball, Joseph Gordon and Aaron Sanz. Christopher Wheeldon’s melancholic “After The Rain” originally created for Wendy Whelan is performed by the willowy Maria Kowroski and Ask LaCour and the trio of dances is capped by the showpiece “Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux” danced with thrilling ease by Ashley Bouder who’s partnered by Andrew Veyette.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 7, 2017
In consonance to the goal of supporting “both process and product” throughout the creative development process, the third edition of GRIT: Gibney Repertory Initiative for Tomorrow hosted Joanna Kotze’s premiere of Already Ready and reimagined signature works by Reggie Wilson presented as Config. Khoum-baye Heah through the first weekend of May.

In this order, the Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center hosted these uniquely distinct works. As the theatrical space opened, patrons were lead into a rectangular peripheral seating. Already Ready opened as the dancers entered the theatrical studio running heavily and with straightforward determination. As they pounded their trajectory, they started shifting mode into attentive alertness towards each other and the audience.

Lead and follow movement motifs evolved into contrasts of heavy gestures colliding through space and dropping to the floor with light direct pedestrian gestures. Observant moments take place as four of the five dancers remain still sitting on the floor or standing on the corner chairs in the audience, just watching the featured solo dancer. The movement text was interspersed with individual frantic stationary repetitious eruptions. The overall abstract choreographic aesthetic was accompanied by electronic music composed by Ryan Seaton and challenged by loud antagonistic costume choices by costume designer, Stacey Berman, as the dancers were dressed in golden sparkling stretch attire or bright summer practice clothes, all wearing golden tops underneath. After a bow to all four sides of the performance space, the dancers ran out with the same heavy pounding air with which they had entered, leading to an intermission where the seating was rearranged into the more conventional one front perspective for the second piece.

For this third GRIT season, Reggie Wilson reshaped three of his signature works: PANG, the Dew Wet, and Big Brick - A man’s piece, into a choreographic unit now titled Config. Khoum- baye Heah. The dance amalgam incorporated music from Pepa Wemba, Fist and Heel Performance group, the Andrews Sisters, Thione Seck, and DJ K. Blaze. The work included the same five dancers as Kotze’s piece: Nigel Campbell, Kasandra Cruz, Amy Miller, Devin Oshiro and Brandon Welch who started the piece standing at, and facing towards, the upstage left corner.

Coinciding with Already Ready, the choreographic discourse was offset by a single dancer initiating the movement by departing and returning to the group through a repetitive motif. As she went on with her sequence, the other dancers would join in movement, fluctuating from remaining in their spots or approaching each other to push against, lift, catch or support. The second part engaged in rhythmic gesture sequences to Afro-Caribean, Congolese, and Senegalese music, dramatically followed by profound chants where a solo dancer remained center stage, while the rest would dance around the stage as a tight group, disintegrated into several regroupings. As the piece came to a climatic conclusion, the beginning sequences were repeated with different movement qualities, one example being a polka performed by an augmenting couple en menage diluted to a promenade around the performance space, fading out through the recurrence of the first movement themes. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

May 7, 2017
The program greets us with Limon work first premiered in 1946, soon travelling through the fifties and sixties, interspersed with the offerings of a couple 21st century dancemakers. This is the new normal among the long-standing companies of modern dance pioneers like Jose Limon. And it’s a win-win approach, giving audiences a taste of the classic alongside the contemporary, and the company a continued, versatile lifespan.

This being Limon Dance Company’s first season under former company member Colin Connor’s artistic direction, it was only fitting that his work make the program. Entitled “Corvidae,” it’s a dark movement homage to ravens and crows. A sleek sextet glides back and forth, spurting up from sections of heavily grounded floor work. Connor and Keiko Voltaire’s varied black costumes add an additional touch of modern and sultriness.

It came in sharp contrast to the program’s opener: “Concerto Grosso,” which reads as a classic. The trio delivers Limon’s joyful visualization of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto #11 in D Major, Opus 3.” It feels vintage from the monochromatic costumes to the elegant, poised movement in perfect dialogue with the music.

The real sense of drama—no stranger to Limon’s repertoire—was presented in “The Exiles.” This 1950 duet emerged as one of the night’s stronger performances, thanks to the excellent pairing of Kristen Foote and Mark Willis. They command in their roles as Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden, meeting both the technical and physical demands of the choreography, and the amped up emotional underpinnings at work.

The seventy year old company made a collective impact in the performances of a suite from “A Choreographic Offering.” Notably, this work marks Limon’s 1964 tribute to mentor and fellow modern dance master, Doris Humphrey. The diversity of movement sections and the sheer number of dancers in the smoothly-executed ensemble phrases give it that feel-good, timeless quality that would have made a strong closer to this program.

Instead, we leap back to present day for the last work of the evening, “Night Light” by Kate Weare. A dozen company members fill the stage, dressed in flowing blue shirts. Yet, it’s pairs that are highlighted in emotional, pull-your-head-into-my-chest moments. The duo’s movement devolves to the rest, who ripple in and out in this energy-fueled, peel-away effect that becomes the work’s hallmark.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

April 29, 2017
There was a buzz in the air at Dance Theatre of Harlem’s performance Friday night: an audience that clearly loves DTH and is willing to come out. The program offered three works, all relatively recent if not all contemporary.

Robert Garland’s “Brahams Variations” began with DTH ballerina Chyrstyn Fentroy and Davon Doane onstage, clad in a short yellow tutu and simple but princely jacket with sparkles by Pamela Allen-Cummings. They mirrored each other as they executed small, intricate footwork with a very regal bearing, in a neoclassical tribute to Louis the XIV. References to court dances were woven into the clean, technically demanding choreography, beautifully and confidently danced by the leading couple. Fentroy’s lovely carriage and line as she hovered over the tricky choreography with grace and authority, and Davon’s solo with a series of brise voles (consecutive beating of the feet in the air, landing on one foot, then the other) were crisp and impressively light.

When three other couples later join them, sometimes in duets or trios, some of the dancers seemed less confident, with strained smiles that eventually settled into well-executed but not transcendent choreography. Garland’s surprise endings for each pas de deux gave the piece its own flair, but overall the work seemed to reveal a slight discomfort with this riff on courtly neoclassical style.

References to the Sun King continued, with Dylan Thomas performing Jose Limon’s solo to Bach’s “Chaconne” (1942), a dance with Spanish/Peruvian origins favored by Louis XIV. Thomas brought a focus and integrity to this historical revival that gave it the right kind of gravitas. Limon’s highly dramatic style and choreography can sometimes seem overwrought, but Dylan did not tip the scale. His bearing and introspection paid proper homage to Limon’s legacy.

Francesca Harper’s “System” (2016) was more than just a system, it had an air of mystery, an underlying fire, and perennial feeling of doom, all continuously cycling without ever finding a permanent resolution. Dancers line up, clump together, looking up at the beam of light shining down through the dark (designed by Nick Hung, with black and glittery costumes by Elias Gurrola), then chainee (fast consecutive turns) or break out into a run across the stage or fiercely technical passages to John Adams’ String Quartet No. 1. Some of these cohere, others seem unrelated to what has come before. Haper’s critique of systemic and oppressive political structures (as she noted in the program) is less visible than the angst and uncertainty they can cause, and the community she hopes will challenge them.

The evening closed with Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Vessels (2014), a work that shows the DTH dancers at their best (with costumes by George Hudacko and lighting by Clifton Taylor). The music by Ezio Bosso is less memorable than the skill and clarity of the choreography. And the anchor of the mysterious central pas de deux gave the work a depth that seemed to speak to them, and us.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 29, 2017
Conceived and directed by Tina Croll & Jamie Cunningham, curated by Rajika Puri, the 14th Street Y presented From the Horse’s Mouth, dedicated to the dancer and musician Balasaraswati. Over 19 years, Croll and Cunningham have stayed true to their instinct to un-mute dancers’ voices, to hear their stories (limited to two minutes) to see them their danced respond to a list of choreographic suggestions involving space and/or style, read by the performers on stage, but withheld from the audience.

This fascinating celebration of Indian dance in America goads you to learn more, to see again the rare film footage, videos and multimedia, and understand the references to Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Jack Cole, Balasaraswati, Ragini Devi, and Indrani. The parade of personalities, their costumes, and styles, makes you smile the entire production, giving one multiple options as to whom or what to watch at any one time.The curator Rajika Puri stood out as the most polished performer, because she is an actor, as well as a dancer with a distinctive sense of timing, dramatic punch, and humor.

From the Horse’s Mouth is assembled with only a few rehearsals, which in this presentation, seemed too few for such enormous, talented cast. The logic behind the order and mix of multiple dancers and media was unclear. The frontal presentation of most Indian dance was discarded in the exploration of space assigned to the cast by the directors, so that the dances lacked their usual power.

The overlapping of artists and anecdotes is a reliable concept, especially in its initial form which involved modern dancers who shared a common history. Taking on Indian Dance in all its breadth from Bharatanatyam to Bollywood in this format is equivalent to creating a live trailer of a fantastic production perhaps to come.

Twenty-five gifted dancers, musicians, historians and choreographers of Indian dance, besides Puri participated: Prerona Bhuyan, Madhusmita Bora, Kamala Cesar, Uttara Coorlawala, Joe Daly, Parijat Desai, Angelina Haque, Jonathan Hollander, Mohip Joarder, Jeeno Joseph, Baishali Kanjilal, Aniruddha Knight, Hari Krishnan, Julia Kulakova, Aishwarya Madhav, Roopa Mahadevan, Minal Mehta, Sruthi Mohan, Indra Nila, Shobana Raghavan, Sukanya Rahman, Anita Ratnam, Donia Salem, Sophia Salingaros, Bijayini Satpathy, Surupa Sen, Reena Shah, Prashant Shah, Rohan Sheth , Kuldeep Singh Siddhu, Sonali Skandan, Anjna Swaminathan, Anand Vemuri, Vija Vetra, Jin Won, Sridhar.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

April 28, 2017
Poor People's TV Room unfolds as the audience enters the theater. Separated spaces fill the stage and are inhabited by the dancers already in motion. Four performers, including the creator Okui Okpokwasili, slink around, under the blanket, in front of the plastic wall, behind the plastic wall, and posed gracefully in a chair. As the soundscape, designed in part by collaborator Peter Born, echos through the theater, it unsettles nerves, particularly when the bass is so extreme, each member of the audience feels the sounds deep in their bones.

As the performance continues, the set becomes clear. Downstage left is a spotlight and two chairs, used to house conversationalist moments between performers. Upstage right, divided from the chairs by a long cord adorned with one suspended sage light, is a more unique space- a vertical living room. Filmed from above and projected onto a monitor, the setup projects the illusion of the performers standing upright on the monitor when they are in fact laying on the set.

It is a truly dizzying performance on all accounts. Often people speak over each other manufacturing unintelligible word patterns, while across the stage this sideway teleplay continues. Cut through by a plastic sheet, the downstage action is mirrored in the blurry figure just beyond the barrier. The lighting changes the shape of the bodies, casting shadows and moving along with the dancers. Suspended between the floor and the ceiling, one stage light is swung around with the bodies towards the end. No fear of darkness, the piece staccatos through the lighting, unnerving and engrossing the viewer.

Rhythm is also a key component to this work. Heavy footfalls reverberate through the empty spaces. Each way of speaking holds a cadence unique and intense. One moment in particular is riddled with sharp angular movements that quickly shift from one way of jutting out arms to another. The chests, always tight whether in contraction or release, form a strong insular energy that radiates with each shift of the body. Angular, decisive movements are reflected in the thematic language. "Oprah," breath, usefulness and other ideas keep appearing as people speak pointing and building towards a larger theme.

Okpokwasili composed and sang some of the musical score and when she did a lightness and air entered into the space. In these moments of lightness, the audience can sink into the performance and see better the dark moments that perforate through the work. A phenomenal evening in a world of it’s own, Okpokwasili has created a work worth viewing.

April 25, 2017
“The French are good at looking,” answered dancer Anna Chirescu to Joyce moderator Martin Wechsler‘s questions as to how Merce Cunningham has found revival in France, most specifically with Compagnie CNDC - Anges/Robert Swinston. Swinston, who was the last assistant to Cunningham, seems to go against his wishes by continuing to set the repertory, and yet CNDC is not Cunningham 2.0, nor is it a museum company. Swinston’s stagings are not revivals, but reminders of the oeuvre’s timelessness. The program, spanning years 1966-77 provide a necessary insight into the boundless variety the consistency of Cunningham’s practice generated.

Conches, neatly arranged on a table, welcome viewers into Inlets 2. The musicians tinker as movement personalities emerge. Strictly sleek and brisk balletic vocabulary in shimmering unitards is infected by self-probing, ecstatic jittering, and seaweed swaying. Sometimes these ideas are kept distinct. Other times, both qualities are embodied in the same space. Most rewarding, however, is when lower bodies point with precision while arms shimmy in different rhythms above pelvic equators. There is an unthreatening ease to observing the complexity, training the eye to manage what is to come.

Place changes gears abruptly as a plagued soloist sharply shifts his relationship to space to the stabs of Gordon Mumma’s electronic score. Gender is highlighted with cartoonish obviousness – men in brown leggings and t-shirts; women in brightly colored saran wrap. The Beverly Emmons set, lacing the background with large floating Chex-Mix and spare polygons, breathes an immediately tangible dramatic atmosphere that suggests a post-apocalyptic crib.

Cage returns in textual form for How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run. John Cage director Laura Kuhn and Gene Caprioglio sit onstage, sipping Prosecco as they read personal anecdotes from the composer at different rates of dampened delivery. The most obviously human element we experience, it is treated just as algorithmically as the physical activity, clumped in various sizes, densities, and timings, laced with poignantly placed panning gazes.

In each, there are no movement melodies, but short recognizable riffs that focus, disperse, and recycle information. Partnering is constructed with the visceral wackiness and fascination-increasing repetition of an amusement park ride. Overlapped material whittles time’s relativity – a solo slowly continues through groups scurrying in and out, yet neither feels subsidiary or dominant; each event has the same merit unto itself when it occurs.

Amid vocabulary and sonic adventurism both iconic and ubiquitous, the spirit of each piece lies in its pacing and ending. Inlets 2 has an ebb and flow that culminates in a meditative series of unison bounces under individually driven arm circles. When, afterwards, they flee, we feel completion. There is one extended phrase in Place that is joined at different times by different bodies, but seen only aggregately by the sum of the group until the frightening descent of the curtain on the soloist stuffing himself into a bag. How To, rarely utilizing unison, gives everyone a chance at every activity at different points in time, such that even as the curtain signals an end to seeing, we feel the merriment eternally unfolding.

Additionally individual is the primary mode of bodily interaction. Inlets 2 resists eye contact for a three-dimensional group awareness. Soloist and ensemble are narratively segregated in Place. When company is present, the loner is kinetically deactivated, interacting more with the illuminated polygons he pulls on a rolling platform to animate the shadows of the suspended grates. The dancers’ shadows are not cast among them, informing their presence as potentially hallucinogenic. How To also incorporates vagrants, but in a way that highlights the group’s dutiful jollity through playground games of jump rope, hopscotch, monkey in the middle, and follow the leader.

The one interaction never meddled with is performatively cross-medium. Sound and image converge from sources who never meet. The simultaneous separateness of the performers and the togetherness of their performed action is a stricture kept invisible by the sense of freedom the nature of Cunningham’s collaborations render ostensibly limitless.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

April 20, 2017
It was opening night for the Dance Theater of Harlem’s season at City Center. The glamorous crowd beamed enthusiasm for America’s African American ballet company founded by Arthur Mitchell in 1969 and now headed by his former star ballerina, Virginia Johnson.

Broken into excerpted pieces, the evening openend on the enticing “Eduqilibrium” (Brotherhood) by Darrell Grand Moultrie. Men wielded windmill elbows cranking out a dynamically earthy piece that kept the weight grounded and the spirits high. This sample insured an appetite for the complete version featuring Dylan Santos, Jorge Andreas Villarini, Jordan Kindell.

In a nod to the 19th century classics, four dancers assumed roles in the “The Black Swan” Act III pas de deux. Ripped from its dramatic core, the “The Black Swan” felt remote and sedate. However, in the Variations and Coda section, Ingrid Silva deployed a steely presence over assured technique.

The much loved vocalist and songwriter India.Aire emerged in a white robed dress and head wrap, elegantly swaying to the “Piece D’Occasion: High Above” by Robert Garland. Surrounded by enthusiastic Dance Theater of Harlem students, India. Arie's breathy voice tapped into the protest folksongs of the past.

Artistically, the strongest entry came when three DTH dancers shared the stage with two Limon Dance Company members in a clear and fluid excerpt from Jose Limon’s “Chaconne” set to J. S. Bach’s Par- tita No. 2 in D minor for Violin, in 1942. Originally a solo, the simplicity of form, and dedication to the curving, lyricl choreography framed the dancers’ potent talents.

Throughout the evening, people paid tribute to the Dance Theater of Harlem and announced the 1 million dollar matching grant bequeathed by the late Alexander Dube. A marvelous gift for a company that, not unlike many other nonprofit organizations, deserves financial security.

In closing, an upbeat performance of “Return” by Garland allowed the dancers to loosen their buns in a tritube to the the two great R&B singers, Mr. James Brown and Ms. Aretha Franklin.
Tumblr EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

April 20, 2017
Fabric and beefcake stood out as a recurring image for the three female choreographers featured in Ballet Hispanico’s 2017 season at The Joyce. “Línea Recta” by Belgian-Colombian Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, opens with a sole woman facing upstage, wearing a red narrow bata di cola reaching downstage. Reducing the volume of the traditional flamenco skirt to a tail, 4 shirtless men in red pants could easily grab it, ensnare the woman, reel her in and out.

Michelle Manzanales's “Con Brazos Abiertos,” a world premiere, plays off the iconic Mexican symbol of an enormous hat, giving each member of the cast a hat so large that it covers their face. Manzanales, who is also Ballet Hispanico's rehearsal director and director of the school, puts her female cast in enormous white skirts that billow around them as they twirl.

“Catorce Dieciséis” by Tania Pérez-Salas, is more about striking movement to Vivaldi and other Baroque composers, than fabric, yet skirts are ripped off to reveal another colored skirt making a bold statement about layers.

Pérez-Salas, considered Mexico’s leading contemporary choreographer, keeps her dancers moving, striking out with energy and precision, rhythms punched out with sharp head snaps and hands by the face. Somehow her style brings out the animal as well as our common humanity. While the program was consistently entertaining, “Catorce Dieciséis” made in 2002 is breathtaking for its propulsion.

Breaking the “mambo identity,” the nation's premier Latino dance organization is offering Latino choreographers a chance to question what is most important to them. Cheech & Chong, along with Carla Morrison, Julio Iglesias, Edward James Olmos, Gustavo Santaolalla, Maria Billini-Padilla, Juan Carlos Marin Marin, and Daniela Andrada are all featured in the amusing score for “Con Brazos Abiertos.” Both "Con Brazos Abiertos and “Línea Recta” were developed through BH Instituto Coreográfico, a choreography lab launched in 2010 by Artistic Director & CEO Eduardo Vilaro. Ochoa’s flamenco inspired, showbiz flavored “Linea Recta” is set to an original guitar composition by Eric Vaarzon Morel.

One of the most memorable images in “Con Brazos Abiertos” speaks for women of any culture, that of a woman beating a man’s chest with her elbows. Manzanales disappointed her mother as a child growing up in Texas, when she expressed no interest in learning Mexican folk dance. She has more than compensated for her early dismissal by weaving folkloric couple dances, including some of the awkwardness between sexes, into her work.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - - Deirdre Towers

April 13, 2017
Dominated by Ashley Page choreography, The Scottish Ballet repertory careens from Balanchine’s “Apollo” and Stephen Petronio’s “MiddleSexGorge” to works by William Forsythe, Richard Alston and Kenneth McMillan. A very fresh – faced company, the Scottish Ballet arrived at the Joyce Theater looking comfortable in the contemporary ballet selections by Christopher Hampson (Artistic Director), Bryan Arias, and Christopher Bruce.

New names to many American dance audiences, Hampson’s “Sinfonietta Giocosa” – originally choreographed on the Atlanta Ballet in 2006—accentuated a dancer’s progression from classroom technique to complex combinations built on the ballet lexicon. A basic black leotard ballet sensualized by the women’s sheer black tights, this served as a primer of the company’s capabilities.

Interestingly, there were references to Balanchine’s “Serenade” when the dancers stood in first position parallel next to those in a turned position, then arms rose, and wrists broke as if blocking a bright sun. Progressively more and more athletic, by the third movement, Bethany Kingsley-Garner and Thomas Edwards amped up the twisty partnering and charged lifts.

For the US premier, “Motion of Displacement” contrasted the dancers in white against a sinister, dark background pierced by white lights, at times glaring, at times pinpointing sections of the stage. Choreographed by Bryan Arias to music by J.S. Bach and “Shaker Loops” by John Adams, the atmosphere suggested a Shakespearean play, where double-doing despots lurked behind heartbroken lovers.

Throughout, an asymmetrical generation of movement combinations threw the whole sensibility off-kilter. Clusters of dancers merged and then stretched out into a stylized image reminiscent of the Parthenon marbles—they struck multiple poses, limbs akimbo with hands connected. “Motion Displacement” succeeds in breaking movement apart into abstract episodes that point to a well-made dance puzzle.

To close the programs, “Ten Poems” by Christopher Bruce turns to the notorious poet, Dylan Thomas for structural inspiration. Over Richard Burton’s (the equally notorious Welshman) magnificently hypnotic voice, dancers dressed in early 20th century clothes by Marian Bruce enunciated the text through their movements. A genial, rustic setting pervaded the vernacular styled ballet vocabulary. Nostalgia seeded the choreography that at times, visualized the words through movement, and on other occasions created arcs around the ideas.

Centuries ago, the Greeks united poetry, music and movement, and closer to the 20th century, Delsarte taught students to express their words through movements. Both these traditions seeped inside the alluring structure.

This US Premiere suited the company’s facility at delineating character studies through dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 7, 2017
New York City Ballet principal dancer Ashley Bouder has taken matters into her own hands. Her program titled, “At the Dance, Women Take the Lead,” comprised of three ballets created by women, included her own venture into choreography. In a recent interview, Bouder added her voice to the growing chorus of dismay over the dance world’s lack of women in positions of power, creative or otherwise. Kudos to her for doing something about it.

And what collaboration! Working with the New York Jazzharmonic, directed by Ron Wasserman (who has played in the NYCB orchestra since 1988), the musicians lined the back of the stage, a force in their own right throughout the evening. Bouder’s choreography for In Pusuit Of, to music commissioned from Jazzharmonic associate director Miho Hazama, was an energizing balletic interpretation of the music inspired by Masai jumping, Polish Mazurek dancing, and Sufi whirling dervishes – although on this last one, Bouder chose to focus on what happens after spinning, in a duet with some turning (chainees with assymetrical arms) but many more off-balance moments and tricky partnering, danced with assured authority by Ashley Hod and Devin Alberda.

In the other movements, the dancers, especially Indiana Woodward, went from lyrical lilt in one moment to jazzy the next, reflecting the playfulness of the choreography and score. Bouder’s fast-paced Balanchinean lineage was clear, with plenty of fleet footwork and symmetrical balletic structure, but she is also clearly developing her own inventive twists on classical ballet. More please.

Liz Gerring’s Duet was another world premiere, for Bouder and Sara Mearns, another NYCB principal who is Bouder’s opposite in ballet type (tall, longer, often cast in slow adagio roles), although this mattered little in the dance itself. Both women danced at the same time, in their own trajectory, sometimes in unison, in a choreography that was a meditation in the modern dance lineage through Merce Cunningham, to music by Anna Webber (that at one point seemed to briefly refer to Stravinsky’s Rite). With plenty of extensions and tilts requiring balance and a grounded weight, she focused on the vast control that these dancers possess.

Gerring’s work can be more athletic, with lots of jumps, running, floor work and freer use of the torso, but this piece was another excellent example of watching dancers and choreographers work in different methods experiment, and challenge themselves in other ways.

Susan Stroman’s Blossom Got Kissed, to the swing sounds of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and revived for this program, had the ingredients of a fun finale: an awkward ballerina who “gets rhythm” after being kissed by a musician. This slight condescension in the plot can be forgiven because of the humor and zest of the choreography, and the fact that there is a whole lineup of ballerinas with rhythm dancing around her. The plucky Ballerina (Bouder) and the Musician, danced with lots of charm by Andrew Veyette, along with the entire cast, gave the audience a light-hearted, if not life-altering send-off back into the cold, winter night, warmed by the fun onstage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 7, 2017
Gracing posters and programs, Krzysztof Pastor choreographic version of Romeo and Juliet is captured as the image of the Joffrey’s New York spring season at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre.

Premiered in 2008 with the Scottish Ballet, Pastor’s unconventional proposal was integrated into the Joffrey’s repertoire in 2014. Framed within a modernist production with set and costume designs by Tatyana Van Walsum, lighting by Bert Dalhuysen, and dramaturgy by Willem Bruls, the production distinguished itself by cinematic Qilm sequences projected against a Qixed city street image in the background over which Qlat glass frames or metal architectural structures interplayed lowering and rising.

Set in a cold and lugubrious 20th-century post-war contemporary aesthetic, Bruls transposed Shakespeare’s Veronese renaissance plot to three dictatorial crumbling moments within Italy’s twentieth-century: 1930’s, 1950’s, and the 1990’s. Accordingly, the movement motifs were contained, restricted, angular, bearing bold and Qinite unidirectional shapes. The bipolar tonality of the costumes designs, most evident in the ballerina’s dresses and black point shoes, fragmented body and kinetic lines in disfavor of the expansion traditionally aspired in ballet.

Unavoidably, the ballet stood shockingly in contrast with repertoire’s choreographic references such as the boundless dynamic Qluidity, and character sensitivity imprinted by Sir. Kenneth McMillan (1965). Instead, recurrent motifs in each character were maintained during the three acts oblivious of Sergei ProkoQiev’s polychromatic composition.

In this sense, the choreographic choices seemed unaffected from the six decades Pastor’s Shakespearean ballet claimed to cover. Through the evening, the talented cast maintained a harnessed timeless aesthetic with the plot development relying more on external stage factors and mime gestures than choreographic character interpretation.

Juliet recited her beautiful arabesques, while Tybalt rephrased his gliding pirouettes with the gesture leg a` la seconde,

An exception in movement, personality, interpretation, costume characteristics, and performance was Derrick Agnoletti in the role of Mercutio who conveyed charisma and comic winks throughout the work. Nevertheless, the theatrical military choreography featuring Alberto Velazquez as Romeo and Amanda Assucena as Juliet was well received by a cheering crowd rising to their feet at curtain call.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

April 4, 2017
In its third iteration, Stephen Petronio Company’s Bloodlines project adds dimension to lineage. Pairing past and present can easily read as a live power-point, but Petronio goes further, finding subtler dialogues. Juggling Judson giants Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton, as well as the west coast’s Anna Halprin, Petronio now traces his aesthetic genes more compositely, transcending his own story to indicate ideology in movement expression.

Opening the program were three of Yvonne Rainer’s early works. Diagonal is a blueprint for instant composition. Movement germs are labeled by spoken numbers and letters, complexifying as the value increases. Numbers denote single movements; letters correspond to short phrases that loop along the titular directionality. When not signaling the group’s next activity, dancers break off into another direction, circle the space, or stop completely until the herd retrieves them. A progenitor of what Trisha Brown would explore in Solo Olos, we see a more democratically dispersed choreography of choice-making, as well as the incentive to obey, protest, and work within structure to get one’s way.

Rainer’s iconic Trio A was performed as a trio, nude except for American flags hanging from the dancers’ necks, and then as a fully clothed quartet. A continuous sequence performed in independent timing, the flags added not so much biting political edge as inventive costumery, at times aprons, solitary pant legs, or ephemeral dresses. The two viewings differ like seeing an X-ray before meeting the patient.

Chair-Pillow is an infectious phrase, repeated strophically to Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” The music’s rapture is offset by deadpan interactions with huge white pillows that are treated not as pillows, but large, fluffy objects. Between verses, dancers scurry in, only to sit and stare blankly out while the previous group proceeds. As they stand to bow, the pillows catapult from their laps to the floor.

Rainer was the choreographer who rejected every dance trope before her. Petronio’s handling of the repertory does not always seem in alignment with the philosophy. In Diagonal, jumping as high as possible takes priority over playing within the infinitely lucrative choice-making structure with the savvy of a master chess player. It is impossible to ignore the immaculate bodies underneath the flags in Trio A, making the clothed second half a relief. As cheeky of a choice for Petronio himself to be seated for the last verse of Chair-Pillow, the ultimate payoff is seeing this company be so successfully and uncharacteristically un-sexy. The Rainer pieces were an honorific nod to Judson’s attitude that gave Petronio a voice. Where we actually see direct connection to this voice is in Paxton and Halprin. Nicholas Sciscione drew the most direct parallel in Steve Paxton’s Goldberg Variations,. It distorts but does not object to balletic forms; lines emerge through jointy sequences and pedestrian poise, physicalizing Glenn Gould’s radical take on Bach. Petronio took to the stage with unusual vulnerability for Anna Halrpin’s The Courtesan and the Crone. Entirely covered in a jester-like uniform, seductively gesturing as he removes gloves, unbuttons his overcoat, and grimaces at his mask, Petronio is poignantly genuine in this comment on aging femininity.

We see Paxton’s kineticism and Halprin’s performative presence merge in Petronio’s Untitled Touch. Touched already by the hands printed on their shirts, dancers explore different connotations of contact – scientific tracings, manipulations, and functional spaceholds the held partner redefines as affection. More full-bodied partnering grapples with weight-bearing points of contact seemingly destined to fail. The common theme transforms constraint into strength, but with a sentimental score that constantly plays through the extended shirtless male duet that ends the pieces as the rest of the cast dissolve offstage, it feels distracted from physical resolution by physical beauty. It is not that Petronio hasn’t learned from his postmodern predecessors; he has taken what is useful to him, favoring investigations more kinetic than theoretical.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

April 2, 2017
What a joy to witness in awe the return of the Joffrey Ballet to Lincoln Center dancing impeccable with a magical aura after twenty years of longing. The Joyce Theater Foundation Gala Performance took place at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre featuring three contemporary works: Bells, Body of Your Dreams, and Fool’s Paradise.

Choreographed by in Yuri Possokhov, and premiered in 2011, Bells shined glimpses of his Russian culture and traditional dances. Inspiring delicacy, character, warmth, and decor in the movement discourse augmented Sergei Rachmaninov’s music interpreted by pianists Grace Kim and Kuang Hao Huang. Finger snaps with prideful carriage of the arms, flexed heel accents, gentle approach in gestures and support, and the three Russian customary greeting kisses were integrated into the breezy interplay of abstract contemporary neoclassical ballet.

Sandra Woodall’s unique design mutated through the variations departing from a coral red tonality base of tights and bare chest for the males and classic cut leotards for the ballerinas by draping over white transparent fabric bringing out traditional Russian-line dresses, shawls, neoclassical skirts or loose shirts. Throughout Bells’ eight themes, liquid shapes evolved through pas de deux and group formations, where impeccable de´velope´s were sprinkled in space against the vast tinted cyclorama. Poetic images dashed as the ensemble was blown from the wings fading back in a timeless vacuum like cherry blossoms drifting in an air curl. Distinctly, the audience gasped delighted as a male dancer quartet tossed a fellow dancer in a feather-like suspension over their line formation.

The centerpiece of the program was the Joffrey’s premiere of Body of Your Dreams,, a comically witty ballet by American choreographer Myles Thatcher which had its world premiere last December in Mexico City. Resembling a contemporary version of Nijinska’s , this short ballet presents an exercise video parody. Highlighted by the lyrics in Jacob Ter Veldhuis’s music, the cast diverted from athletic abstract dance to theatric mimicry gesturing thumbs up, slow motion step climbing, or jogging obtaining compliant laughs and giggles from the Gala’s patrons.

With an architectural set by Penny Jacobus recalling Ben Johnson’s aesthetic of light, transparency, and dimension, the structural rectangular four-panel background rotated alternating its grayish canvas surface radiating light changes to show a glossy mirror interior. Through it, dancers exchanged entrances wearing white unitards with neon gamut patches designed by Susan Roemer, resonating Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondarian designs.

Closing the evening, Christopher Wheeldon’s Fool’s Paradise (2007) enraptured the theater with magical quiet beauty in an enigmatic plotless story. Appeasing the house in breathtaking silence, a cloud of mist descended upon the deep dark scene as two male dancers entered parsimoniously through an opening in the horizon black backdrop while a shower of golden leaves hovered over them. Escalating fantastical dimensions were conveyed by Joby Talbot’s tantalizing pulse and coloristic treatment of The Dying Swan, interpreted by violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, cellist Judy Stone, and Grace Rose Kim at the piano. Platinum white glossy straps delimiting the dancer’s basic white leotards designed by Narciso Rodriguez left traces of their movement strokes in space, while a shower of golden leaves bathed the background creating a mystical effect of fire sparks dancing in the dark. Layers of configurations of pas de deux dipping on the stage surface and jete´ flicks suspended in midair culminated in an escalating multilayered architectural composition center stage into the scene’s vanishing point, leaving the audience in a breath recovering closing applause.

March 30, 2017
In a joint effort, Fuego Flamenco was presented during the 2017 season at the Thalia Spanish Theatre by producers Angel Gil Orrios, and Adrea del Conte, founder of Danza España. Taking pride in serving the community as the only bilingual Hispanic theater in Queens, New York, Mr. Orrios welcomed the familiar audience, introducing the program in English and Spanish, and sharing news of the theater’s development project with the assiduous crowd.

In tune with this air of familiarity, the evening resembled a Spanish peña event, where a group of close friends and family gather to share a flamenco evening in an intimate, rustic stage in a small town in the heart of Andalusia. In this sense, a familiar eclectic ensemble comprised of local dancers Sol “Argentinita,” Gisele Assi, Ana Maria Delgado and Yloy Ybarra, was graced by the participation of guest artists: Adrian Galia, internationally acclaimed bailaor; Curro Cueto, flamenco singer; and flamenco guitarist, Diego Franco.

The program proceeded in a flamenco tablao format, with a brief ensemble opening, and a couple of festive traditional group vignettes such as Tangos and Sevillanas, interspersed with solos. The first solo was a lively Alegrías, danced by Sol “La Argentinita” within the flamenco export polka dot aesthetic, where both, dancer and audience, coaxed each other with Jaleo expressions. Cajoled by undisputed followers, Mr. Ybarra offered a display of gestures within the Soleá por Bulería flamenco structure.

Last but not least, Adrian Galia appeased the house with his impeccable flamenco expressive art and rhythmic musicality in his Seguiriyas. Dressed in a refined Asian design suit in Bengal Tiger tones and lines, the Argentinian-born flamenco dancer paid homage to the lineage of his Maestros: Antonio Ruiz Soler, José Antonio Ruiz, Luisillo, Rafael Aguilar, Cristina Hoyos, and Antonio Gades, whose roles he represented as the lead dancer in his company.

The elegance, sobriety, and measured resonance of his zapateado footwork transformed the theatrical space embellished by his plasticity. Galia’s aesthetic signature is burnished by his introspective presence and his polychromatic musicality, within the bouquet of flamenco’s territory.

Fuego Flamenco closed with Fin de Fiesta as the ensemble took turns in a joyful array of short vignettes leaving the audience back in the hands of Mr. Orrios who encouraged the audience to engage in further supporting the development of the theater’s renewal projects.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

March 29, 2017
Paul Taylor Dance Company returns once again to Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater for its annual New York season. This time, the three-week run brings the world premiere of Paul Taylor’s “Ports of Call,” the New York Premiere of his “The Open Door,” and fourteen company classics. Sprinkled throughout, are the New York Premiere of former company dancer Lila York’s “Continuum,” and works by both Doug Elkins and Larry Keigwin. The “come one, come all” sentiment continues with guest artists from Lyon Opera Ballet dancing Merce Cunningham’s “Summerspace” and live music on every program, thanks to the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

This programmatic diversity is a nod to the company’s 2014 re-branding as Paul Taylor American Modern Dance and its public embrace of Taylor’s prolific repertoire alongside that of modern dance pioneers and contemporary artists alike. In theory, this modern dance mélange will offer audiences a look forward and back, inside Taylor’s repertoire and out, for years to come. The evening of March 16, however, was a trip down memory lane—Taylor memory lane, that is.

The opening performance of “Ab Ovo Usque Ad Mala (From Soup to Nuts)” is a quintessentially Taylor, zany piece. It proved just as amusing last week as it was at its world premiere three decades ago. This is, in part, due to the costume work of Alex Katz, featuring the men in tiny togas, thongs, beards, and body tights covered in excess hair. Their female counterparts, in flowing white tunics, take up the giddy, yet sultry stereotype to contrast the caricatured brawn of the men.

Comedic timing drives the gregarious movement, all to edited music by P.D.Q. Bach (the forgotten son of the Bach family). It’s packed with back-and-forth melodrama, jovial encounters, and a flash of leopard-print. For a true Taylor fan, though, there is another layer of wit to be found: the parody of his own past repertoire throughout this nonsensical Roman-era display. Seeing as this piece hasn’t graced a New York stage since 1988, it enjoyed a welcome comeback.

The polar opposite follows with Taylor’s bleak and dark “Lines of Loss” (2007). The most recent work of the evening, it strings together nine vignettes set the music of seven composers. A sense of melancholy consumes the work, a reflection of the W.D. Snodgrass poem on which it’s based, as well as Santo Loquasto’s abstract, water-like design splayed across the backdrop. Here, simplicity reigns in each encounter of loneliness, anguish, and farewell. Among fleeting solos and duets, the eleven dances rejoin repeatedly to pace along a new (sometimes, familiar) path, their bodies fading into silhouettes.

“Company B,” which has become one of the company signatures, closes the program. First performed in 1991, its content and mix of World War II tunes sung by the Andrews Sisters takes us even further back, historically speaking. The timeless undertone of this work lies in its evocation of the resilient human spirit. Over the course of ten songs, we travel from romance to death, innocence to sin, and everyday life to war. Curious on this particular evening is Robert Kleihnendorst’s atypical, lackluster performance as the “Bugle Boy”—usually a standout solo, sparking awe in the ferocity and vigor it requires.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jenny Thompson

March 27, 2017
Splish-splash! Pool Play was the most recent work presented by This Is Not a Theatre who are becoming known for their unique non-theater locations. With legs dangling in the water of the square and shallow pool at the Waterside Swim & Health Club, the poncho-clad audience waits for the show to begin.

A cannonball by actor and choreographer Jonathan Matthews signals the show to start. Short vignettes of different types of pools are strung together with beautiful and fun dances in between. Though Matthews, the primary dancer, is in the pool almost the duration of the show, it takes the rest of the actors 20 minutes to start using the water to it’s full capacity. Acoustics were an obvious challenge, but the actors worked to articulate and share focus, allowing each line to cut across the space.

Fun in concept and design, Pool Play is definitely an experience any audience member will be sure to talk about long after leaving the Health Club. The dance numbers were surely the highlight of the evening, as were the big moments of splashing and rafting, however the dialogue by playwright Jessie Bear was not as memorable.

Thematically, the idea of water stood out, but since it was composed of a shorter series of vignettes, there was not much connection beyond the similarity of physical location. As the sun went down the room got darker and the lights submerged in the water illuminated the actors, creating a dazzling picture that was emphasised each time the waves rocked the audience member legs back and forth.

Calm and moving, fun and interactive, Pool Play,/i> carved out a new type of theatre-going experience. Oh, and I’ll have ‘Nightswimming’ by R.E.M. stuck in my head for the rest of my life.

March 27, 2017
Old Friends was a soothing evening of ballets presented by the Hamburg Ballet at The Joyce Theater during the spring season. In a unique all-enclosed vision, the choreography, costumes, and lighting were created by the company’s Artistic Director, and Chief Choreographer, John Neumeier.

Old Friends consists of several short choreographic scenes embroidered together with a nostalgic thread. Drifting in a daydream sense of time, Chopin’s Nocturnes prevailed over the two-hour program. Ever so beautifully played by Ondrej Rudcenko at a grand piano accommodated in the orchestra seating area, the variations he interpreted included eight of Frederic Chopin’s Nocturnes as well as excerpts from "Variations on a Theme" of Chopin by Spanish composer Federico Mompu.

Framed in a contemporary aesthetic, the set included a modern wooden bench, a couple of transparent plastic chairs, and a circular white flat surface lit from behind in the background and a section of a light blue cyclorama delimited by the black backdrop.

The lengthy series under the title “Dangling Conversations, Nocturnes” represented glimpses of memoirs of several relationships. Accordingly, ten dancers dressed in loose light pastel attire drifted through the stage, each holding a teacup and a saucer, while a series of pas de deux fluctuated in contemporary and classical adagios alternating couples.

These “conversations” were delimited by two sections of a dance-theatre interplay of contemporary duets titled “Old Friends I, Chopin Dialogues” and “Old Friends II, Opus 100 - for Maurice”, respectively, accompanied by a recording of Simon & Garfunkel’s music.

The first section was introduced by a solo male dancer dressed in black pants, black jazz shoes, and bare chest, sitting center stage in one of the two transparent plastic chairs placed together. Longingly, he reaches to a light brown sweater resting over the backrest of the adjacent chair. A ballerina enters the scene, wearing black tights and a burgundy long- sleeved red casual blouse, with her hair loosely gathered up away from her face. Her nonchalant demeanor is also expressed in her gestures, as she and her partner hesitantly approach and divert from each other, intertwining contemporary partnering and fluid neoclassical ballet.

The scene comes to a conclusion as the ballerina sits on a chair, and her partner sits by her side on the floor reaching out to her, while she responds-- approaching to kiss his hand as the curtain is lowered for intermission.

After the work is resumed with “Dangling Conversations, Nocturnes,” the previous scene presented before the intermission returns with a different setting where two male dancers dressed alike in black pants, jazz shoes, bare chest, and black trench coats, engage in an 80s jazzy duet. Vigorous movement contrasted by gestures clusters is interrupted as the female dancer from “Dangling Conversations, Nocturnes” reenters the scene, leading to a final blackout.

In consonance with Neumeier’s program notes, Old Friends goes through strange and indefinable relationships with profound emotion.

Nevertheless, the opening “Overture, Bach Suite 3”, where dancers in coral pink and orange costumes engage in festive neoclassical play of compositions to the orchestral suite by J. S. Bach, and the many enthusiastic curtain calls led by Neumeier, infused a sense gaiety to the melancholic night.

March 22, 2017
This season, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance (PTAMD) displayed a bright gamut of upbeat choreographic works. The Weight of Smoke (2016) opened the program, choreographed by Dough Elkins in collaboration with the dancers and assisted by Carolyn Cryer. Dressed in Karen Young’s costume design consisting of stretch pants and short sleeve shirts or sleeveless tops, sixteen dancers merged scenes departing from a club-dancing context. Fusing abstract contemporary pas de deux exploring a plethora of inversions and contact improvisation motifs, the collective choreography portrayed a gamut of relationships with explicit gestures, such as mouth-kissing promenades between dancers from the opposite or same-sex. Equally contrasting, excerpts from George Frederic Handel were blended with original music composed by Justin Levine and Matt Stine.

The world premie`re of The Open Door was the main dish of the evening, choreographed by Paul Taylor to Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, with exquisite designs by acclaimed designer William Ivey Long. As the curtain rises, it reveals an ample lavender blue Edwardian room, with an open main entrance door and tall windows, through which a Monet-like countryside appears in the background. A fine gentleman sets the scene entering the pastel ballroom, placing ruby red wooden chairs in a semi-circle for a festive gathering. As the guests arrive, they are welcomed by their host at the door: a young girl with her parents, a sophisticated lady, an elegant gay character smoking a cigarette, an officer, an awkward young boy, an overweight distinguished woman, a gentleman wearing a pleated suit, and a coquettish painter in work attire.

Once seated, the characters take turns displaying their role either dancing center stage or interacting with each other with a comic flair. Eager, the girl takes off dancing and leaping around the guests until she is caught in midair and demanded to remain composedly seated. Following, the distinguished woman in a fat suit shows off in a solo that evolves from flickering hand gestures to light jumps and turning progressions, leading her to fall rolling on the floor, requiring the help of the gentlemen to restore her verticality.

The officer and the awkward young boy get into a fight over the coquettish painter, and the gay character “attempts” to imitate the partnering dancing between the other couples. The ball scene culminates with a group waltz, after which the family members depart, leaving the host alone, rearranging the chairs. Throughout his new work, Paul Taylor excelled in keenly adopting Enigma Variations, to the point it could seem the music was commissioned for his choreography, meticulously designed to enhance every gesture and describe each character’s personality.

Brandenburgs (1988) closed the evening, choreographed by Paul Taylor to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto with costume designs by Santo Loquasto. Coached by rehearsal director and former lead dancer, Bettie de Jong, the company displayed Taylor’s aesthetic signature and glimpses to his mentors, Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Brandenburgs, stands as an iconic work in the repertoire, although the abstract narrative succumbed to the energy display in The Weight of Smoke and the brilliant plasticity of The Open Door. As the season proves, the company’s versatility is highly commended. The upbeat and light-hearted array of the evening’s works radiated a joie de vivre to the copious audience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabrieal Estrada

March 21, 2017
If campy host antics such as a hijacked opening number, an audience Instagram contest encouraging cell phone usage during a performance to win free alcohol, and rotating outfits referencing the numbers between which the changes are dispersed are to your enjoyment, Y Cabaret is for you. However, if serious modern dance, too, be up your alley, you may very well enjoy the show as well.

Bearded Ladies Productions presents, at the 14th Street Y, a periodic program that takes the form of the cabaret, historically shaped by musical theatre types, and gives it to the contemporary dance world for an evening that does away with the community’s usual performative notions of offering and sharing, and demands the downtown dance world to show off a bit.

OR, it makes the community’s small companies’ cries for audiences beyond friends of the artists more obvious than they already are. What does it mean when a full and enthusiastic dance audience is achieved when lured by social media prowess and libations that congratulate audience members and distract from what, at March’s Y Cabaret, was a collection of largely serious pieces that, just as anachronistically as host Clinton Edwards lip syncing “All That Jazz,” tore the evening into a jarring back and forth of earnestness framed by frivolity?

The pattern was not universal. The most successful pieces were those that, in understanding the needs of the casual setting, supplied acts with just enough bite to acknowledge the stakes not being aesthetic achievement, but thoughtful entertainment. Michaela Catherine McGowan opened with a solo not to Top 40 banality, but somewhat-mainstream-indie-rock-feel-good crooner Bon Iver as she cycled between vulnerable prostration, precarious balances, and floor-bound feats of vibrant strength. Chuck Wilt’s UNA Projects stuck true to their cryptic funk, with simple bits to the Velvet Underground and a Morricone film score – mirrored unison, an extended piggyback ride, and a solo that fragmented what would have been flowed movement into snapshots.

Other pieces were perhaps well made or executed, but suffered from a dissonance with the setting’s purpose. Britney Kerr performed a solo by Mike Esperanza, taking off an overcoat as she entered to reveal the standard flesh-toned dance underwear that denotes the edge of family-friendly vulnerability. She then stumbled about dramatically with impressive leg extensions to atmospheric music, succeeding for the wrong reasons – the incidental sensuality of an undulating naked body, asking no heed be paid to whatever message may be embedded. Similarly, Wesley Ensminger strutted into the space in heels, which were taken off to do a dance banking on idle props to color a piece, which already succeeded at being nice to look at, as a polemic on queerness.

Pieces that failed to resonate altogether disagreed with the space itself, treating an audience closely dispersed in the round as a proscenium. Woman, perfect for the program in its fierce riffing on the notion of the “nasty woman” that has remained a charged political sentiment in all demographics, fell flat with flashy movements frontally faced executed with a focus that looked to the nonexistent balcony. Michiyaya Dance was the only group to achieve both the right aesthetic for the setting and audience engagement, entering from the crowd futzing with people who would allow it. Belinda Adam portrayed a mad dance conductor, infecting the rest of the cast with germs of movement, allowing her to direct the audience into clapping more loudly than they might have on their own.

Dances tend to fall into three camps of intention: theatrically oriented, visually formalistic, and purely entertaining. The pitfall of March’s Y Cabaret was dance that established itself as theatrically oriented by giving a sense of character, but then developed in visually formalistic ways that stunted the humans in the space. The cabaret minimizes the things presented in it by collecting them and submitting them to unsentimental variety show flow, and few of these pieces were willing to humble themselves as such, speaking ultimately to the burning desire of artists for any opportunity to show their work amidst an innovative, but oversaturated community. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

March 17, 2017
Olga Pericet might have been fighting against type all her life, and now she has broadened her scope; she has embraced the women’s movement. Pericet’s program at City Center closing the 2017 Flamenco Festival, Pisadas: A Woman’s End and Beginning, shows her many sides: feminine, indefatigable, playful, inventive, subtle, and rhythmically immaculate.

Divided into seven parts, Pisadas begins with Romerillo que naces, with Pericet blossoming with a slow delicacy few dancers of any discipline could emulate. Surrounded by her bata di cola, tinkling bells lacing her waist, Pericet shares the stage with just one guitarist. She finishes with a touch of performance art, an Epilogo choreographed with assistance from Paco Villalta in which she “breaks the mold.” Wrapped in a papier mache skirt and cloak, she briefly assumes the elusive air of a saint, and then unceremoniously tosses the costume aside.

Dancer Juan Carlos Lerida, wearing enormous antlers, offers a comical variation on the deer dances that figure prominently in both Latin and Asian cultures. After his solo to a Garrotin, Pericet enters to alternately dodge (slipping between his legs) and struggle (leaning against Lerida who pushes her across the stage), until she conquers, putting her foot on the antlers.

For the bulk of the program, Pericet sticks to the heart of flamenco - compas (rhythm), matching the intensity of the singers, and musicians. She has a tasteful approach, knowing when to rein it in and when to cut loose. She appears in a black, sleeveless body suit, accented with a gold trimmed bolero with her long hair loose, ready to be tossed and twirled.

In one of the more enigmatic sections, Pericet appears in the light wrapped in white fabric. Once Pericet is unveiled, the cloth rises and drapes fetchingly midway to the ceiling. Another set features large holed netting where copper pots and pans hang. The scenery was created by Holly Waddington during a residency at Sadler’s Wells London for the 2013 Flamenco Festival London.

Also joining her in this imaginative program was Tacha Gonzalez who performs a Bulerias, a traditionally flirtatious party dance; Herminia Borja, a singer with a fierce piercing presence, the singers Miguel Lavi and Miguel Ortega, guitarists Paco Iglesias and Victor Marquez “El Tomate. Marco Flores is credited with choreographing the Alborea.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

March 15, 2017
It’s always a fun to see a program with classic works and a little something newer. The Taylor company has been reviving past gems, premiering new works by founder Paul Taylor, as well as adding repertory from other choreographers. In this program we caught Taylor over time, from 1978 to 2007.

The program opened with the beautiful and transcendent Airs, which is the oldest work on the program, and perhaps one of his most poetic works. Danced to Handel music and costumed in balletic baby blue leotards and skirts for the women, blue tights for the men, it creates another world that is both celestial and earthbound at the same time. As dancers take turns sitting on the floor, others pique in a low arabesque with a swooping arm to the sound of a soulful oboe; in the allegro passages they bounce and split their legs in sissones and Italian changements, all with an un-ironic joy. My eye kept going back to Christina Lynch Markham, whose fullness of movement and expressive use of her head and torso seems the right way to dance Taylor. Dancing balletic movement in bare feet, the effect in Airs is to completely demystify balletic form – these are real, accessible people dancing a highly specific and demanding technique, with both seriousness and humor at the same time. At the end, they settle into a simple symmetrical formation, their last open-arm gesture embracing both the sky, and us.

Lines of Loss from 2007 is based on a poem by W.D. Snodgrass. It is a strange mix of mourning solos with literal gestures and references, such as a dancer that runs in place, checks his pulse, falls and soon gets dragged off the stage by the others. Santo Loquasto's lined, black and white backdrop looms overhead like a heart monitor about to flatline. The dancers enter the stage one by one in silhouettes, starkly lit by Jennifer Tipton, circle and gather as a community that is reminiscent of Tudor’s Dark Elegies, but somehow purged of the deep grief caused by dead children. Jamie Rae Walker stands out in her solo, and the unexpected ending gives the work a gravitas it has built up to that moment. Black Tuesday is a suite of dances to Depression-era songs, mostly carefree and charming, in period costumes by Loquasto, danced in front of a Manhattan Skyline projection by Tipton. Drained of any gritty political commentary, the dances seem to say, “people may not have had a lot then, but they sure knew how to have a good time” – perhaps a striking contrast to our own time.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson - Nicole Duffy Robertson

March 13, 2017
On March 8th, the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center hosted Paul Taylor American Modern Dance’s second evening of the 2017 season. The program featured the world première of "Ports of Call" and repertoire landmarks such as 1980’s "Le Sacre du Printemps" (The Rehearsal), and 1990’s "Company B". The community’s enthusiastic engagement was in tune with the company’s marketing campaign integrating the slogan “This is why we live here!” to audiovisual clips highlighting the artists’ experience as Taylor dancers living in New York City. Nevertheless, the evening coincided with International Women’s Day whose slogan, “Be Bold For Change”, provoked alternative layers of interpretation to the program’s artistic statements, particularly through the lens of our current political discourse.

The world premiere of "Ports of Call" brought attention to Taylor’s leadership embarking in ample company tours at home and abroad reaching his homeland’s fifty states as well as distant places such as Africa and China. In a carefree travelogue parody, the third generation American modern dance icon played with gestures, pedestrian motives, and stereotypical elements in costume added to a plain base of electric blue leotards or dance pants.

Organized in four tableaus, the ports portrayed are described in the program as Africa, Hawaii, Alaska, and Midwest U.S.A. and accompanied by a musical score that hints references from Stravinsky, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Glinka, and Aaron Copland, respectively. Baffled, the audience finally broke silence during the Alaska tableau. In it, three shivering dancers wearing fur Eskimo hoods and collars gathered by an imaginary fireplace outside an igloo were joined by two couples of male dancers wearing furry ear cuffs, who were all displaced by the appearance of a pair of tumbling dancers disguised in polar bear costumes dancing to Spanish music. The closing Midwest tableau portrayed the enactment of the forced marriages of a pregnant young woman with an evasive lackadaisical groom and a farmer dragging a woman to the altar with a rope around her neck; poignant against the day’s principles of woman’s rights.

Through "The Rehearsal", Paul Taylor infused a new life to the groundbreaking masterpiece of "The Rite of Spring", composed by the Russian genius that settled in the United States for twenty-six fruitful years. Drawing from Nijinsky’s bi-dimensional aesthetic signature while imprinting Taylor’s athletic air-bound contained shapes, the work digresses from the original portrayal of the tribal virgins sacrifice. Instead, Taylor presents a two-fold story departing from dancers warming up in a studio lead by a rehearsal mistress dressed in Cossack-like attire, progressing into the reminiscence of a Cops and Robbers silent film, animated by John Rawlings' set and costume designs, accompanied by Stravinsky’s arrangements of "Le Sacre du Printemps" for two pianos.

The evening closed with "Company B" buoyed by swinging bursts to the lively beat of songs performed by the Andrews Sisters. The versatile company succeeded in transmitting the contagious joy of dancing that celebrated the post-American depression era in the midst of World War II. Nevertheless, the closing piece revealed similarities between then and now, in the portrayal of a fragile society candidly celebrating oblivious of the approaching tempest of ideological powers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada M. Gabriela Estrada

March 10, 2017
A white wave undulated on the stage of City Center as Patricia Guerrero simultaneously twirled her enormous blue manton (shawl), while kicking aside her white bata de cola (train). Moments later, another dancer half her size, Olga Pericet arrived in a red and white manton. Guerrero threw her skirt and shawl away from her exploding arc of her movement, while Pericet let the momentum of the shawl’s trajectory encircle her lean frame with stripes resembling a barber shop pole.

Of the five artists featured on this Flamenco Festival Gala, two made their New York debut: Guerrero, born in 1990, who trained with her mother in Granada, and singer-songwriter Rocío Márquez, born in 1985. While Guerrero brings an inexhaustible verve, Márquez was the most touching in the entire program. Never blasting the theatre with angst or anger, she sings with a strong vibrato and such control of her breath that she made us feel as though we were in an intimate cafe.

Jesus Carmona, who came with the festival to New York last year, performed a Cana, traditionally a slow heartfelt song, with his usual immaculate line, but with more of a balletic tornado than was effective. Pericet who has appeared many times in NY’s Repertorio Espanol, seems almost freakishly tiny when she dances with the ensemble. Yet, when she is alone, close to the audience, she expands. Playing her tiny castanets, occasionally rolling a shoulder and letting her head dip insouciantly, she is a complete delight. Juana Amaya, last seen in New York twelve years ago, danced with gitana urgency. She yanked off her hair clip and up her skirt to mini skirt length, faced the audience and drummed her feet as though she was dancing on a table.

Miguel Marin, the founder/producer of the Flamenco Festival now in its 17th season, stepped in front of the curtain of City Center to express his gratitude to the audience. Over the years, Marin has introduced to New York, and subsequently Washington D.C., Miami, Boston, and other cities, flamenco legends. He has alternating between bringing large companies, such as Ballet Nacional de Espana, or that of Sara Baras, with programs centered around solos.

Knowing New York as a bastion of modern dance, he has brought in the flamenco artists notorious for exploring the edge between tradition and contemporary. One of those that straddle the line are Manuel Liñan, who directed the 2017 program. Linan’s inventive touch was disappointingly absent, though he did give a spotlight to a fascinating percussionist Paco Vega.

Always an audience favorite, this year’s Flamenco Festival flew by with no intermission! Also on the program were the singers: Herminia Borja, Miguel Lavi, Jonathan Reyes, and guitarists Daniel Jurado, Victor Marquez “El Tomate” Leadership Support for Dance at City Center is provided by Harkness Foundation for Dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY Deirdre Towers

March 10, 2017
The Sydney Dance Company has been a staple of Joyce Theater seasons since 1997. Under current director Rafael Bonachela, the company continues to attract cutting edge dancers and choreographers, bringing quality contemporary dance to New York City, with a different feel from other frequent visitors. Go see them!

Three New York premieres were presented on opening night, each with its own idiosyncrasies but all with certain signature contemporary dance characteristics: electronic scores, dark, moody lighting, and plenty of intense, spine rippling, body-morphing movement. In Wildebeest, my favorite piece of the evening, choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell to a sound design by her frequent collaborator Luke Smiles, the dancers morphed from animal to human to unknown creature to machine, with the sounds of stormy weather that bleed into an electronic soundcape.

Wearing silky tops and shorts in shades of brown by Fiona Holley, the dancers’ arms, hands, and feet, were often truncated, twitchy, and distorted. Snapping head movements and locked stares led to predatory encounters and separations. Eventually the movement gave way to mechanized precision in distinct, synchronized groupings, taking us from the untamed wild to the “progress” of controlled, synchronized repetitive motion. One duet where the dancers stood one behind the other while sharply moving their arms in different yet complimentary geometric patterns and angles, made a relentlessly coordinated physical attack into a challenge to the notion of human error in an ultimately mechanized world.

Watching Jacopo Godani’s Raw Models, it was easy to trace his lineage back to early William Forsythe, with whom he danced in the 1990s. It was less easy to see that the work is “the result of a war declared against our alter egos, the ones that live inside our minds but do not reflect our real core… and shaped by everyone else’s principles and ideas,” according to his program note. But the dancers looked fierce, preening, wildly slicing, cabrioling, collapsing and then freezing in a hyperextended poses over forced arches, with the flamenco intensity in the hands, a favorite trope of extreme ballet. They also created their own eco-sysem, but one with a less obvious evolution, to another electronic score by 48 Nord, costumed in the now classic/contemporary gear: black shorts, mesh tops, sheer black legs and socks designed by Godani.

I’m conflicted about Bonachela’s work Frame of Mind, a work that simultaneously fascinated and irked me: a stage with maroon curtains as a backdrop walled off a world where dancers walked in and out, and around each other, danced duets and at times in mass groups, always with an extreme energy that cried for release, and often did. The score by Bryce David Dressner went from an abrasive sound, to movie soundtrack, sound to eerie vocals reminiscent of Meredith Monk. In one duet danced on a lit pathway, there was a push and pull where she continually fell backwards and was lifted up and tossed in different direction by her partner.

Again the program notes revealed a complexity in the choreographer’s thought process, his ideas about art as intrinsically subjective, and thoughts on life as a sensory, emotional experience. In my frame of mind, I felt a bit left out of the emotional part, wishing for the acute physicality to be accompanied by a more emotionally engaging (rather than draining) experience, through its complex, lengthy, and admirable structure.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

March 5, 2017
Following her retirement from New York City Ballet in 2014, Wendy Whelan was hardly done. After a fateful meeting during the Fire Island Dance Festival, where she saw contemporary dance choreographer Brian Brook’s work, they began working together. Their first collaboration, First Fall, became part of an evening where she danced three other duets by three other contemporary choreographers, but connection between Whelan and Brooks seems to have initiated something more long-lasting.

They couldn’t be more different: Whelan, a slight, balanced, fiercely balletic beauty that was a favorite principal of the NYCB audiences, moves as if she is skimming the surface. Brooks is a strong, muscular, grounded, earthy mover whose work comes from a modern dance lineage. Yet these two dancers move with a breathtaking fluidity and nearly flawless synchronicity throughout Some of a Thousand Words, the hour-long evening of dance, accompanied live by the euphonious Brooklyn Rider string quartet.

In the first movement, Brooks and Whelan, dance in tandem, a smooth combination of steps that swirl around the stage, and emphasize the circular path of their arms, sweeping up, over and around and through, while they step and turn, shift their weight, change direction together, with an astonishing precision in the angle of their bodies, arms, and timing. Although they do the same thing, there are subtle differences: his fingers will be pressed together and flat, while hers will have the slightest separation.

They seem to effortlessly and simultaneously inhabit each other’s worlds, and one of the felicitous aspects of this collaboration is that neither dancer is trying to subsume who they are, or their dancing past. Brooks is firmly modern, his movement has a grounded, and rounded quality, while Whelan is the ballerina we know, not trying to be “contemporary” or trying to hide her gorgeously arched feet, or her erect carriage of her spine, even as she articulates it in decidedly contemporary ways. The result is an absorbing union of very different dance disciplines that intrigues and articulates something new.

Perhaps the most emotionally moving section is the last: a the reprise of their duet First Fall, where Whelan, standing straight and arms out like a cross, timbers over Brooks in various directions in the classic exercise of trust. As she repeatedly falls on him in slow motion, he folds over and gently lowers them both to the ground. Sometimes he scurries on the ground with her on his back, at other times they walk around each other to a different place on the stage, and do it again. Accompanied by the yearning, melancholic sound of the Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 3, it evokes a fragile vulnerability, and our desperately human need for each other.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 27, 2017
New York Theatre Ballet is known for its revivals of rarely seen historical gems as well as presenting new works by emerging choreographers. This time, the 92 St. Y Harkness Dance Festival presented an evening of Antony Tudor along with the work of Martha Clarke, a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and one-time student of Tudor’s.

The first half began with Tudor’s Soiree Musicale from 1938, which is still surprisingly fresh and the perfect opener. The infectious music by Rossini and the period costumes by Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan matched the series of dances (canzonetta, tirolese, bolero, tarantella), sometimes associated with 19th century ballets. Although the dancers seemed a bit tentative at first – one imagines the floor at the Y might make pointe work difficult – by the time the spunky Dawn Gierling and Steven Melendez danced the tarantella they were all joyful and at ease.

When one is used to seeing versions of "Romeo and Juliet" such as Cranko’s or MacMillan’s passionate, some might say overwrought pas de deux, Tudor’s version, to music by Frederick Delius, might seem a bit restrained. Yet the initially tentative manner, marked by small gestures and averted eyes, captured the innocence of the two young lovers (a reserved Elena Zahlman and unusually shy Steven Melendez), but also built a tension that released beautifully in a tender, very real moment, when Romeo playfully rested his head on Juliet’s lap, and she finally kissed him.

Tudor’s "Les Mains Gauches" premiered at Jacob’s Pillow in 1951, a small ballet “about a man’s and a woman’s fate.” It was strongly danced by Oguri, Joshua Andino-Nieto, and the commanding Amanda Trieber as the fate figure, who continually agitated the couple with her furious bourrees and sharp developpes a la seconde, eventually mirrored by Oguri, seemingly as a cry for help. When a mysterious rose and noose appear upstage from behind the curtain, we know that something will go wrong…

Fast-forward to the late twentieth-century with Clarkes’ eerie solo "Nocturne", to Mendelssohn, heart-wrenchingly danced by Guyon Auriau. A topless ballerina in a long Romantic tutu with a bag over her head, tied around her neck, created a slightly disturbing image, even as she protectively covered her breasts with an arm or a chunk of tulle. As she morphed into an amalgam of her lineage, the Dying Swan and the blinded Sylph, her fluttering hand behind her back movingly evoked her ancestors’ last moments. Denying us a glimpse of her beauty, both face and body, she is achingly poignant, and after a slow collapse to the floor, she wrestled and liberated herself from the tie around her neck, transforming it into a cane that helped her exit, with her back to us and hunched over with age, in the most incredibly dignified way.

Clarke’s "Gardens of Villandry" has a special place in my heart, as I saw it performed by my colleagues at the Joffrey Ballet over twenty years ago. I have never forgotten its masterful play of subtle glances, weight exchanges, explicitly civil nods and softly swirling interplay between two men and a woman, while their clearly tumultuous inner emotional tangle is suppressed, yet made visible. Clarke somehow channeled or certainly honored Tudor, through the beautifully choreographed gestures and relationships, with the woman’s real feelings remaining an enigma, as she seemed to favor each suitor at different times.

Melendez had a heart-breaking moment downstage left, when he slowly and patiently removed and wiped his glasses, after being left alone momentarily. Zahlman was appropriately dignified, pleased and knowing, while Andino-Nieto was handsome but became more vulnerable at times than his role might warrant. But why did Clarke change the ending, and give it an unexpected twist – a specificity – when it used to leave us with a maddening ambiguity about how it would all end, or continue? A choreographer’s prerogative, yes, but why?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 27, 2017
The Martha Graham Dance Company presented Sacred/ Profane at the Joyce In Februrary. Curated by Graham dancer and artistic director, Janet Eilber, this season comprised three distinctive programs integrating Graham’s repertoire and works by four renowned choreographers: Pontus Lidberg, Nacho Duato, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and Annie-B Parson.

Program “C” included the second act of Graham’s Clytemnestra, Maple Leaf Rag, her last complete work, and two world premières: I used to love you, choreographed by Annie-B Parson, and Mosaic by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Graham’s only full-evening work, Clytemnestra, displayed her aesthetic foundations in sculptural drama. Dating from 1958, costume designs by Graham and Helen McGehee remain astounding, in symbiosis with Isamu Noguchi’s iconic sets and Halim El-Dabh’s dissonant musical composition. Evoking the bi-dimensional world of L'après-midi d’un faune, the company revived the Greek tragedy of Agamemnon’s wife.

Promoting contextual programming, Eilber offered an upbeat introduction to the evening’s works with ample references to facilitate the audience’s appreciation of the historic innovations of the company’s founder. Likewise, Eilber explained the process of commissioning choreographer and director Annie-B Parson to take footage of Graham’s 1941 Punch and The Judy and “reimagine” the original comedy.

Dividing past and present, Parson reconstructed Graham’s choreographic work and filmed sections through the lens of contemporary parody. Three dancers dressed in bright colored pleated dresses intertwined movement on rolling chairs with text written by Will Eno, both integrated with microphones held by stands placed at the proscenium. The upstage area hosted a projector and screen showing Graham’s choreography footage, a rollaway bed, and dancers dressed in gray costumes representing the characters in the film. Although entertaining for some, the blunt contrast came across as irreverent to seasoned patrons.

In a swirl of earthy-toned silhouettes against backlight, nine dancers embodied Mosaic. Making a statement of unity within diversity, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s choreography amalgamated Middle-Eastern melodies by Felix Buxton with body paint designs, reaffirming the concept of bonding with straps wrapped around the dancer’s arms.

The dancers gave life to a malleable tree of lacing gestures repeatedly dispersing and returning to a vibrant collective cluster. Absorbing the dim space through boundless flow of contemporary movement, Cherkaoui’s discourse evidenced the connecting thread of Martha Graham’s technique through the evolution of modern dance.

Celebrating the light-hearted side of the American dance pioneer, Maple Leaf Rag, premiered in 1990, featured the full company showcasing Graham’s technique, vocabulary, and aesthetic in a minimalistic and witty wink to her memory. From the point of departure of a female dancer sitting on a pliable long barre placed at the center of the naked stage, the work proceeded in crescendo with dancers gathering to dance on and around the barre, briefly interrupted by a single dancer drawing a twirling line across the stage through a series of tilted turns, or the whole company passing by in prancing cavalcades.

The evening closed evoking Martha Graham’s immortal signature image represented in a dark vacuum. A single spotlight delicately showered lead dancer PeiJu Chien-Pott dressed in a long, plain, white dress, drifting through time in reserved plasticity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY 00 Gabriela Estrada

February 27, 2017
The Graham company, under the visionary direction of Janet Eilber, continually demonstrates how to honor a monumental history, while simultaneously maintaining the interest of a contemporary audience that is increasingly removed from that legacy. Her pre-curtain remarks on each work are instructive and prepare the audience to take in a radical mix of styles and ideas. In fact, these programs end up making the revivals of what might seem dated Graham works into shining gems that will challenge today’s choreographers, seen alongside them, to keep up.

In “Dark Meadow Suite,” Eilber has combined highlights from a longer work to a score by Carlos Chavez and inspired by Graham’s love of the American Southwest and Mexico, as well as loftier ideas about memory, presence, and Jungian psychology.

Unlike her Greek-inspired narrative works of the 1940s, Meadow is semi-abstract, yet it has characters, like She Who Seeks and He Who Summons, danced with fateful attraction by Anne Souder and Lloyd Mayor. The dancing was imbued with a palpable sensuality – the women especially in the midriff-exposing versions of Graham’s costumes. And the moment when Souder leaned forward like Neptune’s wooden angels, softly reaching her eyes and arms beyond, while Mayor sat on the ground, knees apart, holding her firmly planted on the ground, encapsulated the notion of yearning for more while being captive to human nature.

The splendid PeiJu Chien-Pott redefined what a hip isolation can look like in Virginie Mecene’s reimagining of Graham’s “Ekstasis.” Costumed in a gorgeous, tight-fitting cream-colored gown designed by Graham, Chien-Pott curved her body into extreme yet soft shapes to music by Lehman Engel.

Pontus Lidberg’s “Woodland,” inspired by Irving Fine’s score from 1950, created a strange world where Xin Ying, costumed in a high neckline, schoolgirl outfit, is surrounded by a group of animal-like creatures (as their masks by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung indicate), that ambiguously surrounded her and simultaneously seem to accost and protect her. The movement swirls, they fall and recover, and at one point she curls up on the floor, as if falling asleep in the middle of her own dream.

Just when you think they might lose the younger members of the audience, Annie-B Parsons jolted the unsuspecting crowd with “I used to love you,” her somewhat comedic entanglement with Graham’s 1941 Punch and the Judy.

A black and white clip of the original was projected on stage as we entered the theater, which allowed us to see some of the movement and ideas about to be deconstructed. A loud trio of women (fabulously clad by Oana Botez) wryly narrated into microphones and sailed around the stage in wheeled desk chairs; beating their legs in pretty entrechat sixes while some deafening heavy metal by Tei Blow played overhead.

Then the characters from the original appear in wildly distraught iterations, and the problem between Punch and the Judy turns out to be that he’s gay. The humor in this piece veered so wildly from its original inspiration, that it left us with the feeling of perhaps trying too hard, and unsure of what Annie-B really thought of her task.

Even with all the attention getting trappings of the previous work, my very young companion loved Graham’s "Maple Leaf Rag" the best. Although Graham poked fun at herself here – it was her last work – she did so while also choreographing full, robust, energetic, sweet dancing: a nice way to end the potpourri.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 21, 2017
The Joyce Theater welcomed the international Ballet de Lorraine to its stage in what marked its inaugural United States tour. In France, the company’s extensive history begins with its inception in 1968. By 1999, it had earned the Centre Choreographique National (CCN) title, securing its place as one of the top resource centers for dance in the country. Today, the 26-dancer company remains dedicated to the work of contemporary choreographers, under the artistic direction of former Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet principal, Petter Jacobsson.

With such attention on artistic experimentation, one could anticipate the company’s diverse offerings to be delivered in two distinct programs. Through the course of two hours, Program A, took the audience from what felt like lengthy dance competition number, to the rhythmic and gestural world of Alban Richard, and then back in time to a Merce Cunningham classic.

The New York premiere of “Devoted,” choreographed by Cecilia Bengolea and Francois Chaignaud is set to Philip Glass’ “Another Look at Harmony Part IV.” This minimalist piece is layered with similarly structured choreography. The ensemble, en pointe throughout, resolves into cascades of chaine turns time and again.

Heavily contrasting moments of dancehall hips and jumps resulting in abrupt splits embellish the work. Bengolea and Chaignaud’s costumes are curious, conjuring a team of rags dolls in ballet class, a select few donning a fishnet-covered leg.

Richard’s “Hok Solo Pour Ensemble” follows, also a New York premiere. He brings a dozen of Ballet de Lorraine company members to the stage, soon to be bound by every beat of Louis Andriessen’s persistent “Hoketus.”

The performers emerge as an androgynous collective, unraveling from one movement pattern into the next, largely driven by swift arm gestures. Individuals fold in and out of the group as the formations expand and rotate and disperse across the space.

Cunningham’s 1975 work, “Sounddance,” closes the evening, likely a nod to Jacobsson’s early training with him. David Tudor’s intense score “Untitled” (1974/1994) whisks clockwise through the surround sound, leaving us encapsulated in the vigorous, timeless work.

Here, the dancers’ range of talent is at last highlighted. They convey drama, take on occasional animalistic imagery, and give us a glimpse of their technique all throughout the choreography’s demanded momentum. Ultimately, the dancers are pulled one by one through the backdrop and out of site; a sharp moment of stillness reigns.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

February 19, 2017
The Graham company’s gala at the Joyce succinctly demonstrated Artistic Director Janet Eilber’s brilliant strategy for the company as both steward of Martha Graham’s legacy, and as a place for artists doing fresh, current contemporary dance. Although the Graham company had been weathering ups and downs for some time, it seems they should worry no more.

The program, themed “Sacred/Profane,” opened with Graham classic Primitive Mysteries, a deeply moving, ritualistic work she created in 1931 on her then all-female company. Before curtain, Eilber noted that the work is based both on Christian Marian myths and Native American rituals. Danced in three sections, women in long blue dresses enter the stage in scattered lines, slowly and purposefully walking across the stage in silence by extending a flexed foot forward, then stepping slightly beyond it and pausing, all with the same breath and in perfect unison. When the angelic Peiju Chien-Pott, dressed in white, joins in – the proverbial Virgin Mary – the women surround her and in changing geometric patters, plead with angular arm gestures that reveal both pain and hope.

The current Graham dancers are as committed, proud, and beautiful as one imagines they must have been eighty-six years ago. At one point, they each join in a large, rushing circle around Chien-Pott, doing gorgeous, gazelle-like grand jete jumps while their bodies contract over and with both arms clasped together behind their backs, in a powerful image of protection and vulnerability. Graham created Primitive Mysteries a year after working with Leonide Massine as the Chosen One in his Rite of Spring, and I couldn’t help seeing connections to that experience.

No intermission interrupted the flow into Mosaic, the world premiere by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, the artistic director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders. While the early Graham work required strong, erect postures with some contractions, in Mosaic the torsos and spines are fully released, with today's contemporary articulation and flexibility. An impressive flow of complex choreography with transitions that dissolve before our eyes, Cherkaoui’s inventiveness lies in his manipulation of structure, aided by atmospheric lighting by Nick Hung. It was a pleasure to see the Graham dancers, so committed to the historical repertory, also cutting loose in such a different work, baring midriffs (in costumes by Karen Young) and making references to Indian dance, to music by Felix Buxton, giving us a little “profane” after the quite power of the first work, a nice way to reach the breadth of a gala audience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 17, 2017
NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts presented a unique opportunity to appreciate and compare the respective technique, training, and aesthetic signature of American and English ballet. Through an initiative that began in 2003, American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and the Royal Ballet School’s company met to create and present a mixed bill performing both repertoire and premieres. This year, the program opened with Birthday Offering, created by Frederick Ashton and performed by the Royal Ballet School graduates.

Premiered in 1956 by the Sadler's Wells Ballet, excerpts of the ballet conveyed an elegant British signature, accentuated by the flamboyant royal costumes designed by Andre Levasseur.

Kabalevsky Violin Concerto followed, with a poetic interplay of duets from American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, choreographed by ABT’s e´toile, Marcelo Gomez. A magical moment was the fade-out transition between the first and the second movement, where a second duo appeared in the same pose as the former couple, causing the audience to gasp. In a glimpse through time, the romantic flow and delicacy conveyed by Zimmi Coker and Luigi Crispino recalled images of Gelsey Kirkland’s most memorable pas de deux.

The third work of the evening, Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto, framed a serene Royal Ballet School pas de deux in a warm, golden, visual composition of the choreographer’s signature dynamic progressions and spiraling inverted lifts. Comprising the middle of the program, Royal Ballet School’s Concerto Grosso, choreographed by Helgi Tomasson, had aspects in common with ABT’s Studio Company’s Chromatic Fantasy, created by Dana Genshaft. Dancing to Spanish baroque music, the English company danced a Folia and the American company danced a Chaconne, both companies in close resemblance in their display of solid color unitard costumes and plotless storyline.

Sixth in the program was the restaging of "See the Youth Advance!" commissioned last year for both companies to premie`re in their 2016 annual exchange. Choreographed by Ethan Stiefel, ABT’s Studio Company’s dancers, dressed in empire-cut dresses and bolero pants, brought to life Beethoven’s 12 Variations on “See the Conquering Hero Comes” in a display of bright allegro and sense of humor. The evening culminated with the World Premie`re of New Scarlett, created by Liam Scarlett to the third movement of Philip Glass’ Piano Concerto No. 2. Dancers from both companies adventured across enigmatic musical scenes through an interplay of breeze portes.

Having both companies performing together accentuated the strong and clean classical technique of the Royal Ballet School’s dancers and the flowing expressive versatility of the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company. The collaboration between these two leading companies offered an extraordinary opportunity to sense the progression of ballet’s aesthetic.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

February 12, 2017
The “Unknown Pleasures” program by CCN – Ballet de Lorraine at the Joyce is “an anonymous program of mystery,” where no one gets credit for the creative aspects; all we know is that four women and one man ranging in age from their 30s to their 70s have contributed something. This is a fun exercise that also has the (perhaps unintended) consequence of shielding the creative team from personalized critique. It is also a way to avoid losing people when they suddenly realize they will see something to Ravel’s Bolero… but more on that below.

The evening began around a wall of colorful transparent cellophane squares, where one woman did tiny isolations in club dance mode while another caresses her from the floor with her flip-flops. Eventually the wall part and we witness perhaps the most exciting piece of the evening, where a large group of dancers in t-shirts (with one big letter on the front and back) and jeans continually turn in place, in a circle, in a kaleidoscopic patterns, and alternating lines, “step turn step step” in an endlessly repetitive sequence with slight shifts that recalled the work of Laura Dean and Lucinda Childs. At one point they line up horizontally and spell out “The World Is Burning” and half a second later they turn around and if you read fast enough, you can make out some funny advice for dealing with these politically fraught times. It was an absorbing display of stamina and humor that was the highlight of the evening.

Transitions sometimes occurred in silence, and with a duet where a pixie female dancer (who stood out in the spinning piece) was partnered like a ragdoll by a very tall guy that get us thinking about uneven relationships, while other couples later joined in, each with its own dynamic but also individual moments that stood out… the girl in black… The next section began with a group of dancers in bright yellow lycra unitards, grouped in a quartet or standing in the corners, facing them. The movement – full of balletic lines, and square angles and tilts – was reminiscent of Cunningham but without much of the inventiveness or risk, making me wish I had seen them perform his Sounddance, which is on the other program.

When one hears the first notes of Bolero, one automatically braces to witness its famous crescendo and how difficult it is to create dance that can match it. This time was no different than most – a series of dancers jumping, walking, and slouching across the stage, eventually clumping together in the middle, repeating a paddle step with an exaggerated forward pelvic thrust, over and over, while a couple breaks out and rolls around on the floor in a-not-so subtle mating. Eventually the dancers’ exaggerated stuffed crotches – both men and women – become apparent underneath their black pants or shorts, as they shoved their bulges at us for an interminable amount of time, in an absurd gesture seemingly devoid of any interesting purpose.

The CCN in the name stands for “Centre Choreographique National” but this program stood out for a surprising lack of fresh choreographic invention. The dancers were engaging yet flagging towards the end of what seemed a bit of a meandering marathon to them, and us.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 12, 2017
Vicky Shick gives a charmingly hushed opening speech to Another Spell. She greets, “Welcome for coming. Thank you to Danspace.” The syntax switcheroo points appropriately to what we are about to see – combinations and reshufflings of simple material that generate both familiarity and fancy.

Present are two set pieces by Barbara Kilpatrick - textiles hoisted upon metal frames. One spreads tautly, streaked red like a butcher’s apron; the other is a long black tube with two sleeves on either end, never worn. The former is used frequently to shape the space, the latter simply presides. These structures are imperative to defining the spatial sensibility of the piece – primarily and knowingly frontal. The red piece is spun and ridden on by the cast as though it were a time machine. Other times it reinforces the idea of front by blatantly concealing someone we know is there whose feet, visible underneath, take on a personality of their own with every fidgeting toe.

Established conventional presentation makes any deviation incredibly apparent. Later in the piece the two structures form a corner that faces us, creating an alcove for dancers to inhabit, facing away from us, but visible through the metal rods like campers in a tent. Similarly, when material is plainly placed, there is often something happening too far away to be seen equally. An immediate sense of betrayal is followed by an empowerment to choose how to see.

Such spatial specificity informs how we perceive groupings of material. Dancers interact intensely, but there is little partnering that shares weight. Solo material is combined in varying proximities, or traveled as a unit. The notion of partnering becomes one of a simultaneous presence that is either engaged or not. These partnerships carve out unusual nuance in frontal presentation. Dancers facing front are not showing off for you, they are showing you that their friend, however far away, also has something to tell you. Each is an agent on her own track, happening upon another, continuing on.

The movement itself has several qualities – jointy sequencing deriving from Shick’s roots with Trisha Brown, but disconnected rather than flowed, giving a stop-motion approach to release. Also present are references to social dance – jelly-rolls, peace fingers along the eyes, and copious snapping. Technical demonstrations of passés, extensions, pliés and balances contain both the technical rigor and witty referentiality of the previous categories. The three intersect at the junctions of awkward footsteps under oscillating hips.

Another bit from Shick’s opening speech is the classic disclaimer assuring the fictional status of the characters. It is more than simply cute, as the combinations create a sense of character as defined by movement itself. Each dancer has a germ that announces that body’s presence in space. Common to all are wide-eyed deadpans and machismo mugging. From these common characterizations are common modes of interaction – chains of tender spooning, cuddle sessions that don’t resolve, and a swift dragging of another by the upper back, like a mother cat accosting her newborn. From the combination of characters and their relationships comes the character of the work itself – reproductions of themes we are culturally used to seeing separately though an indiscriminating childlike lens seeking not comfort, but satisfaction of restless and ineffable urges.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

February 10, 2017
Vim Vigor Dance Company premiered Future Perfect at Baruch College’s Rose Nagelberg Theatre. Named among New York’s top artists by Brooklyn Magazine in 2013, Shannon Gillen created and premiered Future Perfect last summer through a choreographic residency with DANCEworks at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, California. Leading her company in risk-taking and creative collaboration, engaging parkour movement with emotional complexity through physical theater, Gillen’s production gathered a notable following of avid college dance advocates.

Future Perfect was set in a dim and foggy outdoor mountain scene. The black box space was covered with alpine soil-like rubber fragments, a couple of pine trees, a tent, firewood, and two platforms dressed like shallow hills. Integrating script by dramaturge Tom Lipinski and score by Martin Durov, electronic music, wildlife sounds, and cinematic sound effects interspersed recorded voice with dialog. Along a series of short scenes, characters conveyed doubts, dreams, fears, and intense relationships through shades of tension that oscillated from combat to sexual indulgence. The plot was set by a conversation between three campers standing by the firewood. The entrance of a fourth character into the scene propelled the choreographic pace and dramatic intensity as he discovered what seemed like a buried young woman under one of the platforms.

The naturalistic aesthetic of the movement was finely integrated with brief sections of choreographic unison. Gestures delayed through slow motion detonated darting inversions through space. In a constant flow of acrobatic extrapolation of partner work and contact improvisation, the five dancers conjugated flips, falls, twirls, and dives through surface levels, gathering and scattering the textured ground. Audience involvement was provoked as characters shone flashlights towards the theater’s bleacher seating and attention was claimed through high pitch screeches intermixed within the pulsating score. In contrast, relieving the work’s intensity, humorous breaks played with absurdity mingled in tunes and scenic details.

Through Future Perfect, Shannon Gillen effectively led her company in fulfilling Vim Vigor Dance Company’s mission in cultivating public interest in a contemporary theatre-dance form, bringing the audience to their feet, unequivocally endorsing her leadership in the new dance generation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

February 9, 2017
What is it to be a dancer in Cuba? Sunday Evening’s programing at the Dance on Camera Festival explored that idea. Two films, a short and a feature, presented very different pieces of Cuban dance history. "Wheel of Life," a short film directed by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider caught up with El Oso (‘the bear’) one of the founders of Casino dance. Casino is a pioneering form of Salsa, with a signature Rueda where the dancers move in a circle- a wheel. Desperate for something spontaneous and fun, El Oso and his collection of friends from the early days developed this dance form and watched it catch on and take fire. With pride and no regrets El Oso’s story shows the power that dance can have, being born from one specific place and time and still resonate and reach dancers worldwide.

In stark contrast to the freedom and flow of Casino, director Orlando Rojas pulls us into the dramatic, cutthroat world of ballet in "Queen of Thursdays." Rosario Suárez, or ‘Charin’ as she is know to her fans, is trapped in a cycle of being one of the best and unable to reach the peak of success. First she is stifled in her position at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba by the director Alicia Alonso, friends with Fidel Castro and beautiful ballerina. Alonso refused to give up her role of prima ballerina well into her 60s, even when losing her eyesight. Because of this, she kept Charin in the shadows, barring her from performing during the weekends, keeping her to Thursday nights.

The timeline of the film can be a bit muddled, but throughout the years Charin tried to create her own company and failed. Her fear for the safety of her family eventually led her to seek asylum in Spain, and after being denied she had no choices as a Cuban traitor than to move her family to Miami. In Miami, she tried and failed a few more times to start schools and companies, but due to her fundraising skills and sheer luck, it always fell through. Even now, as one of the great ballerinas of her generation she is struggling to put her skills to use.

Suárez’s ability to captivate an audience is not regulated to the stage- everything she says, each eye movement of gesticulation, draws the audience in more. A dramatic story and a bold personality to match, Queen of Thursdays dives the audience headfirst into a culture both strange and familiar. This tale is harrowing and ongoing, as there is no conclusion to Suárez struggles. The audeince is left with a promise of hope and a reminder that though Suárez’s rock may never reach the top of the hill, it is important to find meaning and happiness in the pushing.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Annie Woller

February 9, 2017
Everlasting love prevails in Peter Martin’s evening length favorite, “Sleeping Beauty” choreographed on Marius Petipa’s framework and Tschaikovsky’s score. A mixture of seasoned dancers and mavericks joined the ballet fairytale; a land where love conquers evil and Little Red Riding Hood steals the audience’s heart.

In celebration of the royal baby’s birth, the king and queen throw a lavish party. Alas, the savage Fairy Carabosse (Maria Kowroski) swathed in a long black gown crashes. She’s really burnt about not getting an invitation. In retribution, Carabosse curses Princess Aurora with her flickering, nail extended fingers condemning her to death once she grows up.

In defiance, the Lilac Fairy (Sara Mearns) transforms the death wish into a spell that spares Aurora. Through gracefully articulate mime gestures, Mearns explains that when Aurora pricks her finger on the poisoned spindle, she’ll fall into a deep sleep until a gallant prince stumbles upon the virgin princess and gives her the kiss of life.

At her sweet-sixteen palace party, Princess Aurora (Ashley Bouder) sails through the demanding balances and coquettish leaps, asserting her independence in front of the band of suitors.

Some of the newer faces on stage made an impression: Gretchen Smith’s convincing Fairy of Tenderness, Sara Adams ebullient Fairy of Vivacity rounded off Kristin Segin’s sharply etched Fairy of Eloquence. In act II, Abi Stafford as Ruby and Lauren King as Emerald shimmer in the Jewels quartet. Bringing some kittenish humor to his part, Taylor Stanley’s juicily lewd Puss ‘n Boots is a stand out. Brashly masculine, the court jesters Spartak Hoxha, and especially Sebastian Villarini-Velez whiz around the effortlessly bounding Daniel Ulbricht.

To the delight of all, Bouder displays her luminous technique and Mearns her unrestrained lyricism while Jared Angle strikes gold during the grand pas de deux. His sharply splitting legs wrap into bounding leaps and unhurried turns while expertly partnering Bouder.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 8, 2017
Out of breath, the New York City Ballet dancers swarm the stage outfitted in a motley array of street clothes and sneakers. Not a toe shoe ballet, Justin Peck inserts himself into his new dance "The Times Are Racing” and stokes the ballet steps with tap swinging through some sizzling urban contemporary dance slang.

That smell of asphalt found in Jerome Robbins' "West Side Story," permeates the chorus. Full out runs slam to a stop, twist and turn into pounding rhythms that rise to waving arms over stumbling hops.

The impeccable Tyler Peck’s urban tautness is juggled by the naturally street smart Amar Ramasar. Not unlike the 1960’s R&B back-up singers, Brittany Pollack, Gretchen Smith, Savannah comment on the central action in dips and hip clicks, pulling away from the swirling crowd and then re-inserting themselves in the tribe.

A combo tap, soft-shoe duet explodes with Broadway style sass and movement bling between Robert Fairchild and Justin Peck. Flipping up on his toes, spinning like the best of the street dancers, Fairchild sprays charisma finishing on a display of tight technique.

Across from Fairchild, Peck shows off his own looseness and cool slides. Must feel fabulous dancing your heart out in your own dance. Not surprisingly, the audience whooped and hollered at a refreshing dance that spoke to the restlessness felt by people experiencing turmoil and doubt.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

NYC BALLET: New Combinations
February 6, 2017
Out of breath dancers swarm the stage outfitted in sneakers and a motley array of street clothes by Humberto Leon. Not a toe shoe in sight, Justin Peck’s new “The Times Are Racing” gamely stokes the ballet vocabulary with tap combinations that swings through sizzling urban contemporary dance slang.

The smell of asphalt found in Jerome Robbins' "West Side Story" permeates the intense chorus moving to the sounds of Dan Deacon. Full out runs slam to a stop, twist and turn into pounding rhythms that rise to arms waving over stumbling hops.

Tyler Peck’s urban tautness is juggled by the naturally street-smart Amar Ramasar. Not unlike the 1960’s R&B back-up singers, Brittany Pollack, Gretchen Smith, and Savannah Lowery comment on the central action in dips and hip clicks, pulling away from the swirling crowd and then re-inserting themselves into the tribe.

A combo tap, soft-shoe duet explodes with Broadway style sass and movement bling between Robert Fairchild and Justin Peck. Flipping up on his toes, spinning like the best of the street dancers, Fairchild sprays charisma, finishing on a display of tight technique.

Across from Fairchild, Justin Peck shows-off his own looseness and cool slides. It must feel fabulous dancing your heart out in your own dance. Not surprisingly, the audience whooped and hollered at a refreshing dance that spoke to the restlessness felt by many experiencing turmoil and doubt.

Although the title suggests another urban scaled dance, “The Shimmering Asphalt” by Pontus Lindberg designs a darker dance that mirrors one group of three men and one woman, Sara Mearns with a quartet of three women and one man, Taylor Stanley. Outfits by Rachael Quarmby-Spadaccini cover the men in shorts and tunics and the women in paneled, one-piece tunics. In a series of combinations, dancers connect in a like-minded ensembles allowing for individuals to separate, push up and away only to return over a terse score by David Lang.

The quiet drama fans over all the dancers who display themselves as individuals and incumbent units, but the piece’s inner musicality rarely reaches beyond the stage.

Dropped into program of world premieres, rose a piece choreographed in 1988, “Fearful Symmetries” reminding everyone that Peter Martins contributed some lasting works to the NYC Ballet repertory. Performed with vigor by a cast that included impressive corps members like Emelie Gerrity, Unity Phelan, and Harrison Coll, it illuminates the company’s ever- increasing dominance as the ballet-company-to-watch. “Fearful Symmetries” taps into Martins’ choreographic strengths.

A post-modern ballet vocabulary strikes into cool, angular shapes engineered into appealing duets and solos that highlight youthful exuberance. Set to a churning score by John Adams, the locomotive undercurrent is reflected in the keenly athletic, technically demanding choreography that takes spins in one direction and flips them into leg snaps and leaps. Partnering is fast, the action is fast, the dance is breathless. One of Martins’ strongest.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 5, 2017
The Batsheva Dance Company never fails to create an alternative universe that can compel, inspire, perplex, and confound even the most seasoned dance viewer. In Last Work, a New York premiere by artistic director Ohad Naharin, we see his stunningly virtuosic dancers enact a series of vignettes that for all their abstraction, culminate in an explosive, explicitly political apotheosis. If you’ve ever worried about the impossibility of peace in the Middle East, this work will make visible that anxiety.

For the entire sixty-five minute duration, a young woman in a blue dress and sneakers runs apace without going anywhere. The sheer physical stamina and determination she exudes while staying in the exact same place, is a simple but disconcerting metaphor. As the dancers populate the stage, we see their signature contemporary movement (based on Naharin’s gaga method) – wildly intense and explosive movement coupled with an astonishing control that oscillates between animal-like and utterly human. Near the beginning one dancer slowly moves his shoulder across, his elbow and arm follow in a wave-like pattern, as his foot moves in the opposite direction. What begins as a methodical isolation accelerates into an inhuman liquidity that distorts our perception and morphs the human body into visualization of invisible phenomena.

The Batsheva dancers are both stunningly virtuosic and poignantly human, but in Last Work, they also go insane. In a steady, methodical crescendo that careens from dance historical and high art references like the ancient Greek Spinario to obscene self-gratification, Naharin juxtaposes poetic subtlety with hitting you over the head in an artistic reflection of the vulgarity of our political moment. Three years ago, in an epic work that was boycotted by certain groups in New York with the headline “there is no art in apartheid,” Naharin – who has criticized Israeli policies towards Palestinians – had his dancers continually leaping into the unknown off a towering wall.

This time, he made sure everyone could understand: after an obsessive-compulsive cleaning of a weapon that bordered on masturbation erupted into a shower of confetti, a dancer came onstage waving a huge white flag, a la Kurt Jooss’ The Green Table, that iconic and explicit condemnation of the rise of Hitler’s fascism in 1932. Yes, yes, yes: we surrender, he seemed to say. Now, we all want to know, will they?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 5, 2017
Close your eyes and picture a painter, a poet, musician. Now close your eyes and picture a ballerina- now picture that ballerina as blind. The world of the blind ballerina is a small one, only existing at The Fernanda Bianchini Ballet Association for the Blind in São Paolo, Brazil. This is the world that director Alexandre Peralta invites the audience into in Looking at the Stars (Olhando pras estrelas).

Being the only school of its kind, the dancers and ballet masters are a tight knit group, revealing in dance and the shared experience of those around them. Peralta invites us into the lives of two dancers who study at Fernanda’s school. The first life explored is that of Geyza, the beautiful prima ballerina and the pride of the Ballet Association who lost her vision when she was nine years old. Poised and graceful, Geyza carries herself as a star. We follow her through many moments in her life- marriage, pregnancy and motherhood. As someone that has an difficult and inspirational life story, we watch her take on the same challenges as any other dancer and we see her face the same hardships and insecurities of new motherhood.

Simultaneously, Peralta brings us into the life of young Thalia, an ambitious middle schooler with a spark for life. Though not focused solely on Ballet, Thalia takes great joys in expressing herself artistically. Also having lost her eyes at a young age, it becomes clear that while she is feisty and charismatic, she has a hard time connecting with her classmates. Talking online with a friend, getting dressed up, and going with her mother to update her glass eyes are only flashes that paint a deeply rich life of your typical teenager.

This film is a gorgeously emotional portrait two young women living in São Paolo. While vastly inspiring, both young women communicate their need to be taken seriously as well. Serious in their art as an expression of themselves beyond the visual impairment. Peralta welcomes the audience to be a part of this world that is both small and universal, and sweetly reminds us that artists, including ballerinas (or authors as Thalia later becomes) can be beyond what we image when we close our eyes. The film is part of the Dance On Camera Festival 2017.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

January 30, 2017
Complexions Contemporary Ballet does something no other American ballet company with an international profile has been able to do, no matter how hard they try: it truly embodies the colorful diversity of our country. The Complexions stage is littered with dancers that are black, white, Asian, Hispanic (looking, at least), with different bodies and roots from everywhere, and more importantly, it doesn’t really matter. Every single dancer on that stage is different, unique, and brilliant. And if that is not enough, Complexions also does something else no one does: it seamlessly integrates the “ballet” in its name – both technique and pointe work – with its founders’ vision of the contemporary. Hence Complexions has an unflagging popularity with young people, but also with dance lovers who feed on gorgeous, intense physicality.

Gutter Glitter, a world premiere by Dwight Rhoden (co-founder and artistic director with Desmond Richardson), began with a lovely sunray lighting effect (by Michael Korsch) and dancers in stretchy dark jeans or shorts breaking out of a line with whiplashing arms and legs in coordinated brash attacks of athleticism and sexy pelvic undulations, sometimes rolling swiftly across the floor into a clump, while Terk Lewis Waters’ solos showed off his sinewy, taut physicality.

Two last minute replacements for an injured Jillian Davis, Complexions veteran Kelly Sneddon and the talented Victoria Santaguida fearlessly integrated into the dizzying matrix with an astonishing command of the complex movement. Moments of classical technique – like Young-Sil Kim’s soulful balletic line – are woven into the fabric of a piece with high octane communal moments and yearning duets. Glitter culminated with Natiya Kezevadze and Clifford Williams, whose artistry turned their encounter into a poetic embodiment of the separateness between long-time partners, as they constantly pulled away from each other, their own individual struggles unresolved, yet still bonded together by time and place.

The NY premiere of Stardust, a tribute to David Bowie commissioned by the Detroit Music Hall, gave the audience a chance to relive some Bowie classics and lesser-known songs. Bowie look-alike Andrew Brader led the cast in a glitter covered, attitude-ridden romp, complete with streaked hair and glam make-up (with colorful costumes by Christine Darch). Each song was lip-synced by a different male dancer who made strong, in-your-face contact with the audience. Tim Stickney and Doug Baum were especially ferocious in this regard, with a relentless energy and swagger.

Another Complexions veteran, Ashley Nicole Mayeux (now with Ailey) and the statuesque Sierra French joined the cast at a moment’s notice with the right look, confidence and fluidity. Yet it was the gifted newcomer Sergio Arranz, whose unique combination of vulnerability as a man on pointe, with a beautiful line, and a budding confidence as an androgynous sexual being, that best captured the strange, enigmatic quality of Bowie himself.

Sometimes Rhoden’s choreography feels long, and has false endings: some sections have a built-in sense of closure in the choreography, or a blackout, and we think it’s done, but then there’s more. This matters less because his dancers, no matter who or where they are, or what has been asked of them, are stunning in their stamina and the power of their sleek dancing bodies – you just can’t stop watching them. Along with those mentioned above, let’s name them: Addison Ector, Anthony Javier Savoy, Gregory Blackmon, Jennie Begley, Kelly Marsh IV, Kylie Jefferson, Larissa Gerszke, Shanna Irwin, Laura Lopez, and Charles Michael Patterson.
Eye on the Arts, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

45th Dance on Camera Festival
January 29, 2017
Festival highlights dance luminaries on screen including Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, and Maurice Be´jart, with in-person appearances by David Gordon, Marcelo Gomes, Marie Lindqvist, and Rosario Suarez, Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, and many more.

Opening the festival is the world premiere of David Barba and James Pellerito’s Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer, an intimate look at the life and career of Brazilian ballet dancer and partner extraordinaire Marcelo Gomes, celebrating his 20th year with American Ballet Theatre in 2017. Gomes and the filmmakers will appear in person to kick off the festival.

Dance on Camera Festival closes with a Special Presentation of Marie-He´le`ne Reb ois’s In the Steps of Trisha Brown, a tribute to the retired postmodern dance icon that follows her original company restagers as they set one of the choreographer’s seminal works.

Additional highlights include Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme’s Justin Timberlake & The Tennessee Kids, an immersive concert film capturing the final two shows of the pop star’s 20/20 Experience World Tour; a double bill of landmark dance film Martha Graham: A Dancer’s World, celebrating its 60th anniversary, and a new restoration of Crises, the only filmed document of Merce Cunningham dancing with his origin al cast; the U.S. premiere of Dancing Beethoven, which chronicles three companies’ monumental dance collaboration to stage Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, choreographed by Maurice Be´jart; portraits of dancers around the world, from two girls at a Sa~o Paulo ballet school for th e blind and visually impaired (Looking at the Stars) to a prima ballerina’s struggle in the Cuban National Ballet (Queen of Thursdays).
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 29, 2017
This weekend the Brooklyn Academy of Music was enraptured by tango. Blind Strength in Vulnerability, a choreographic work directed by Diego Blanco and Ana Padro´n, explored the duality between strength and vulnerability, departing from blindfolded interaction and moving towards gradual revelation.

The black box of BAM Fisher’s Fishman Space welcomed the audience, interspaced with the sporadic presence of eight mysterious blindfolded characters dressed in gray suits who eventually progressed to the stage. Within contemporary abstract patterns, the character’s arbitrary lineal trajectories merged them into four tango dancing couples, led by composer and bass player, Pedro Giraudo.

Breaking from the traditional Argentinean tango embrace, the flow of traditional figures such as boleos, ganchos, and cortes, conjugated pedestrian breaks, falls, and theater-dance narrative. The opening Tanguedia abruptly stopped as the female dancers’ suits were taken away by their partners, gradually revealing subtle cocktail gowns, while the choreography resumed integrating the male dancers’ suits in their respective pas de deux.

Through the program’s eight sections, the company explored a gamat of relationships through different treatments within theatrical and traditional approaches, including references to tango’s original male exclusive dance. The culminating moment of the evening was Desapego, composed by Giaraudo and exquisitely played by the musical quartet consisting of piano, bass, violin, and Argentinean bandoneon.

The melodic blast carried into the last number with the full company reprising highlights from the program. Fading into a gloomy cadence, the company’s reverence confirmed the end of the program.

Nonetheless, on opening night, the directors closed with a few words of gratitude, receiving a shower of roses from an enthusiastic audience. The support of the tango community was especially evident during the dance lessons that complemented the weekend’s performances, where Tango for All invited the audience to try a couple of tango steps on stage.

Blind Strength in Vulnerability’s achievements were challenged in transposing to New York’s Fishman Space such an intimate art, extracted from the heart of La Milonga and El Caminito in Buenos Aires.

After the show, audience comments included debates about the dramatic coherency of the proposal, costume mishaps, and aesthetic decisions, such whether the reiterative exposure of female intimate areas in the second piece was justified. By contrast, the general consensus praised the interpretative finesse among the couples, the references to Argentinean folkloric Chacarera, and the professionalism of the company.

January 22, 2017
Anticipating the presidential inauguration, artists gathered in front of theaters to raise lights and illuminate the way for unity and action while throngs filled the streets in front of Trump tower in Midtown to raise their voices through song, slogans and pronouncements of future action. All this activism led up to my splendid evening of dance at NYC Ballet.

Many people attended NYC Ballet the same evening to see Sarah Mearns glide through the role of Odette in Swan Lake. Instead, Mearns replaced Megan Fairchild in Allegro Brillante, and Teresa Reichlen assumed the role of Odette. In both instances, the dancers drew strong performances.

Typically associated with glamorous roles that plumb lyricism and drama, Mearns comes out blazing in the technically challenging Allegro Brillante partnered by the animated Tyler Angle.

Originally created for the powerhouse ballerina Maria Tallchief, Mearns infuses the peppy, intricate steps with her innate musicality adding expansiveness to choreography that drills into a relatively small piece of stage real estate. With chest high, Mearns extends her arms from the middle of her back over non-stop arabesques that stretch beyond infinity.

The consistently compelling Mearns is not always on the best of terms with pirouettes, however this time; she rips off doubles and triples flawlessly floating over Tschaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 3.”

Condensed into one act, George Balanchine’s Swan Lake compresses the action to showcase the dancing rather than the never-ending pantomime. The young, marriageable Prince Siegfried, Russell Janzen encounters the magical frozen lake designed by Alain Vaes. Into the moonlight, swans roam gracefully revealing their leader, Queen Odette, Ms. Reichlen.

Her long, slender arms reach for the edges of the night until her back registers alarm at the sight of Prince Siegfried. Well matched physically, Janzen nevertheless could use a few more partnering hours because his timing proved a bit hazardous to Reichlin’s balances. Fortunately, Reichlen’s strength saves her dancing despite her partners. A remarkably able dancer, Janzen’s form is noble and getting stronger. Enthused by the strange man, Reichlen glides through the classic choreography, executing crisp footwork and openhearted arches.

One of the many stirring moments arrives near the end when the swan corps, dressed in black and white knee length tulle dresses, zig zag through complicated patterns that circle the perimeter. They form whirlwind, interlocking circles that compound Tschaikovsky’s swirling score until the emotional punch breaks when Odette succumbs to the magnificent, towering, black feathered sorcerer, Von Rothbart (Cameron Dieck.) In this version, the sorcerer overwhelms Odette and Prince Siegfried is abandoned. A satisfying conclusion.

The evening ended on Balanchine’s refreshing The Four Temperaments to music by Paul Hindemith. Again there were a couple of replacements in this spare, black and white ballet. Each section is associated with a different human temperament: Melancholic, Sanguinic, Plegmatic, and Choleric. In an overall strong performance, there were a couple of standouts -- Anthony Huxley in Melancholic and Ashley Bouder in Choleric.

The last time I saw a dancer fully embrace Melancholic was in the 1980’s when Bart Cook held the role. In a similar fashion, Anthony Huxley locates the choreography’s quirkiness but cushions it with a layer of plushness. Arms and legs reach out and contract into the body forming an accordion of limbs.

At the end of his solo, six long-legged women descend en masse, legs extending and crashing to the floor like horses pulling a chariot. Extremely sensual, the choreography inhales the driving music inexorably drawing the women to the single man. At the end, Huxley employs his pliant back to its fullest in a layout over his hips traveling backwards until he disappears in the wings.

Ashley Bouder, famous for her cutting edge technique and vivacity, harnessed those talents to their fullest capacity in Choleric. There were occasions when her feet moved so fast the image blurred. Fiercely precise, somehow Bouder added musical pauses separating sonically speedy steps to make them clearer and more visible than ever before.

In a week of great disquiet, this evening was an oasis of civility and beauty.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 21, 2017
BodyTraffic, a contemporary dance troupe based in Los Angeles, presented three dance works at the Joyce this week: two that fit into the “weird edgy” category, and a very short, light piece to Gershwin music that oddly contrasted with what came before and after.

Anton Lachky’s world premiere, “Private Games: Chapter One” began ominously, with three dancers clumped center stage in the dark, moving slowly to a blasting percussive soundtrack that quickly and abruptly changed to Haydn violins. As one dancer sliced through the air with balletic coupe jetes, the others acted in cartoonish, physically distorted ways, moving disjunctively to the classical music. A glamour girl in a long cocktail dress (played by BodyTraffic founder Lillian Barbeito) stepped forward and broke the 4th wall Pina Bausch-style by talking directly to us about her “husband,” an almost naked dancer that had been particularly bizarre in his way of moving, who physically “transformed” into a dog, pig, candle, and even an “espresso” at her command.

This uncomfortable interlude of control and submission was followed by more wild, intense movement in a quartet, punctuated by some random screaming, and a repeat of the glamor girl monologue, but this time by a man. Unfortunately, this kind of edginess for its own sake does not pack the same punch anymore, and one is left wondering whether the choreographer had a point of view on any of it, beyond in-your-face display.

After a brief pause, most of the same dancers that embodied the strange energy of the previous work reappeared in cute, neutral outfits and proceeded to dance and charm each other with Fred Astaire-like innocense. Tina Finkelman Berkett (co-founder of BodyTraffic) was featured in a sweet duet that evolved into a quartet that she eventually decided to leave behind. Artistically, perhaps the point was to give the audience a break between quirkier offerings, while showing the extreme acting range and thick artifice that the BodyTraffic dancers are capable of conjuring up.

Arthur Pita’s “Death Defying Dances” was a visually absorbing work with plenty of wry humor and kooky moments. A bright yellow lace fabric draped across the back of the stage and on the floor later reveals the words “Love Sucks” taped onto the floor, and we finally see some real connection between the dancers. Multiple moments where someone tenderly kisses another while lowering them gently to the ground, and other lovelorn vignettes, including a young pregnant girl who later reappears with her baby (doll) and abandons it in the corner, only to be picked up by another stiletto wearing, cigarette smoking gal, start to engage us beyond the impressive physicality of the dancers. The possibilities were entertaining and endless, but also somehow did not move beyond the “show” phase into the “tell.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

January 12, 2017
Formerly a member of the Batsheva Dance Company, Sharon Eyal was baptized in Ohad Naharin’s tribal, gaga choreography. Eyal joined forces with Gai Behar, a nightlife scene party planner, to form L-E-V. Their work was on display at the Joyce Theater, when L-E-V performed “OCD Love”, a piece created in association with DJ Ori Lichtik and inspired by Neil Hilborn’s virally popular poem “OCD”—basically a lament about lost love.

Steeped in a dark ambiance, the first couple crumbles and twists around private angst filled tensions that stretch into an hour. Unsmiling, focused dancers draw sharply edged moves that balance between a modern dance vocabulary and a tightly edged jazz dance style. Body limbs lift and entwine in a labored manner until a moment, late in the piece, when two men break into a “challenge” dance, asserting their masculinity in chest bumps and cocky walks.

Of course, these days of political discontent suited the dancers’ dour looks. Anxiety prevails in our nation, and in a way, “ODC Love” suggests the internal machinations of many people unable to accept a political reality—or, a vanished love.

Composed of very distinct individuals tenuously lashed to a larger unit, "OCD Love" individuals travel in separate, impenetrable bubbles that slip mindlessly into disconnected groups. Over the course of the evening, the sound score deepens the curious mix of personal torment and search for some “other” while the lighting by Thierry Dreyfus aids the overall cloud of thinly stretch apprehension.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 9, 2017
As part of The Joyce Theater’s second annual American Dance Platform, the California-based RAWDance and CONTRA-TIEMPO take to the stage in what proves to be an evening of shaking perspectives.

RAWDance Co-Artistic Directors, Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith, open with their 2016 work, “Double Exposure.” Together, they deliver duet after duet, with video-recorded karaoke and conversation during the occasional costume change. In the prologue dance, credited to choreographer Joe Goode, the pair introduces one another and delves into their personal lives, instantaneously shattering the fourth wall. “Can you see the dancing when I’m talking?” one asks.

The collection of following duets are choreographed, respectively, by West Coast talent KT Nelson, Holly Johnston, Tahni Holt, Kate Wallich, David Rouss?ve, Ann Carlson, and Amy Seiwert. Johnston creates a stormy, physical piece, in which the pair stays grounded, their bodies linking and unlinking. Rouss?ve makes a political statement in his work, incorporating footage of the 2015 police shooting of Walter Scott. Video, in the form of stream of consciousness text messages then splay the backdrop, citing dance as a form of powerful emotional expression, ultimately asking if that—dance—is enough. Later, Carlson’s piece transforms the pair into young children, while Seiwert embraces a playful, rag doll-like partner dance.

Though the movement fluctuates in style and tone with each choreographer, Rein and Smith remain direct with the audience. Their performance is aptly “raw,” with costumes changed on stage, props left in plain sight, and the concept of live performance practically discussed as a breathing, real-time art susceptible to dancers’ physical injury and ability.

In the end, the smart movement experiment that is “Double Exposure” calls on us to broaden our viewpoint and think more deeply about what’s happening on stage. We witness a one-work dialogue surrounding the diverse realm of contemporary dance.

CONTRA-TIEMPO (“against the times”) closes the program with “Agua Furiosa” (2016). The company’s focus on social and political activism is as relevant a mission as it is incessant, resulting in works that thrive in their physicality, intense theatricality, and dynamism from creation to performance. “Agua Furiosa” is no different, tackling the issue of racial conflict in this country, to identity and the environment—no small task. And that’s not all; the piece simultaneously serves as nod to Oya (the Afro-Cuban deity of wind and storms) and a counter narrative to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Choreographed by Artistic Director Ana Maria Alvarez, in deep collaboration with an array of “artists, thinkers, activists, believers, dreamers, and fighters,” this work is an aggressive theater piece. It’s sprinkled with Afro-Cuban movement, hip hop, breaking, contemporary dance, and hints of salsa, collectively qualified by Alvarez as urban Latin dance theater. Throughout, talented vocalist Electra Weston adds a calm yet commanding presence.

However, the movement falls second to the busy contextual themes and visceral production elements: strobe lights; the tossing of plastic water bottles; the drumming, stacking, and knocking over of buckets; water dumped centerstage. It’s the angst, the sense of urgency, the chaos; these sentiments are undeniable. Still, we’re left overwhelmed. With evident artistic passion and such important messages at stake, it seems less would be more.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

December 20, 2016
New Dances is a guest choreographer’s dream – an entire class of Juilliard students at your disposal. It takes us in rising seniority through each class, paired with a renowned choreographer to make something entirely new. Dream though it may be, practical considerations arise from having a cast of twenty-four, evenly divided in sex, process and showcase teetering on the performative scale.

The blend of choreographic voices was unified by the just intention of achieving full instrument use in students at one of America’s top dance programs. John Heginbotham’s First did so most straightforwardly, maintaining a largely classical vocabulary. Expansive développées, battements, leaps and overhead lifts conveyed little beyond establishing the freshman class as one of formidable technique, which can only be expected to increase from class to class. It and Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s The Saloneers shared the balletic vocabulary, but while Heginbotham indulged his cast’s technical proclivities, Skarpetowska took the sophomore’s class still raw virtuosity into new territories, crafting elegant partnering sequences at times with three participants at once.

Each choreographer demonstrated similar tactics of managing a large group, a rarity in American concert dance today. Unison passages easily built excitement. Other times, soloists emerged within a landscape of bodies, best used by Matthew Neenan in Walk Me Through. While Heginbotham and Skarpetowska drew focus easily with a frozen ensemble, Neenan had his fleetingly independent seniors interacting with their environments, making a motif out of manipulating and modifying the poses of those around them.

Heginbotham made up for his cast’s overly apparent flexibility by challenging them spatially with sweeping curved flocks looping from wing to wing in strict musical timing. For smaller groups of solos, conveyor belting is the go-to tactic, shoving a few onstage at a time to dance the same solo another group will execute, sometimes immediately, later. Neenan manages to use these large groups of people in a way that goes beyond pragmatic body storage, using his ensemble as a secondary focus to the soloists to remind us of communal interconnectivity instead of how many classmates they have who can also dance really well but will get their turn later.

Pam Tanowitz subverted most of the above in thunder rolling along afterward. She exploited the junior class’s technique, yes, but with her standard extreme distortions of classical vocabulary – clunky pas de chats repeated like jumping jacks, burly lifts on which momentum cannot be relied, locomotion via deep lunges, and balances held so long as to seem frozen in time. She additionally dealt with her ensemble in a more dispersed manner, feeding in different jumbles of dancers (curiously using women disproportionately more than men) with a variety of material, difficult in which to find one focal point, likely to the dismay of many a parent looking for their shining star.

The pairings of class and choreographer ultimately distilled particular strengths. Heginbotham highlighted the freshmen’s pure athleticism. Skarpetowska crafted sensitive contact and fluid chains of motion in the sophomore class. Tanowitz proved that the juniors could accomplish a Tanowitz piece. Neenan, at long last, pulled out honest and joyous emotional radiance in his seniors.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

December 20, 2016
The Joyce celebrated fifty-three years of Lucinda Childs choreography with a two-part retrospective. Program A surveyed Childs’ development from the quirky solos of the sixties through the seventies’ rigorous studies in additive process, into her softer, though just as diligent, commissions of today. Program B, however, contained only her magnum opus, Dance. A supergroup collaboration with Philip Glass, and Sol LeWitt, a pinch of everything in Program A is synthesized in this mental and physical marathon of a performative and choreographic endeavor.

Dance Ispends twenty minutes laying out one sideways traveling phrase in four accumulating branches. Childs keeps elemental sparseness unwaveringly engaging via subtle shifting of how many people enter from which side, and how long before more pummels in. Dance II, a solo, develops surgically, inserting movements in a sturdy spatial pattern of forward, backward, and ménage. Dance III spatially resituates the same material into a kaleidoscopic grid. Each commences after music and video start, but ceases together without so much as a goodbye.

Childs’ movement language is essentialist, devoid of affect. Stripping ballet to runs, turns, pivots, hops, and leaps, she nevertheless maintains authorship of the vocabulary in her spatial exposition, her art truly being directional patterning, intelligible only through such a bare, though conveniently beautiful, lexicon. Epitomized in Dance III, events in their simplest form involve an A and B person. In multiplying couples, ratios increase complexity, reworked into a new simplest form where four dancers rotate roles in a cycle of two simultaneous variations layered amid a traveling phrase while one waits patiently for his/her turn. Once established, partners shuffle, such that an A and another A become a new A and B, and the process continues.

Projected over is Sol LeWitt’s film of the original 1979 cast. It sidetracks from synchronous wide shots with still images, close-ups, birds-eye views, pans, split-screens, and double exposures. For Dance II, LeWitt tranposes Childs’ spatial strictures, projecting a side perspective perpendicularly as well as a frontal one that shifts axis along the horizon against the centered Caitlin Scranton. His filmic counterpoint avoids the spatial inverse of what is danced, generating insistently forward visual motion.

Additionally From LeWitt is Dance’s humanity. The original cast’s fixed temporality among new generations connotes shadows, ghosts, memories, and superegos. It measures development of company fluency – projected dancers in sneakers don balletic port de bras and epaulement while onstage a more honed unmannered delivery is danced in white jazz shoes. Ms. Childs herself is a colossus in Dance II while Scranton frolics in her heart center. While Scranton maintains a fierce focus, 1979 Childs consistently averts her gaze upon approaching LeWitt’s lens. The contrast is heartbreaking – the valiant spirit within the bashful giant.

Dance and film meet in musical juncture – Philip Glass’s fluttering score of keyboards, winds, and soprano, from which Childs physicalizes rhythmic structures over notes with direction over movement. Against asymmetrical metres are sneaky weight shifts that come out the other end in sync. As such, movement becomes another instrument in consort with sound and image as a composite composition of pure abstraction across media. Compared to Childs’ silent pieces that achieve developmental extremity, choreography, fully aware of its formal possibility, is tamed to try its hand at companionship.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

December 16, 2016
Pilobolus makes their performance space (in this case NYU Skirball Center) home by warming up onstage. A piece unto itself, there are moments of diligent conditioning and virtuosic play. The company concludes by hitting one another on the head with a fist through another fist, cracking eggs on skulls. Connoting both delicacy and intensity wrapped in wit, the gesture encapsulates the extremes of work the company continues to offer.

The inner pieces of Program B – Wednesday Morning 11:45, and The Inconsistent Pedaler – showcased theatricality, stretching single moments into physical situations. Wednesday Morning chronicles the making of eggs in a groggy daze, while Pedaler depicts a birthday party, sustainable only if one pedals an exercise bike as a time generator. Next to Shawn Fitzgerald’s kitchen setup is a screen representing the inside view of the box on his counter containing two ostriches who have suspiciously beautifully sculpted dancer legs. Copious exposition gives way to the punchline of ostrich copulation resulting in the eggs that Fitzgerald cooks. The entire work is otherwise decorative buildup of shadow puppet mugging.

Pedaler has more heart, stemming from the struggle of the pedaler only being able to see her family if she pedals, keeping her from ever actually participating until a mysterious tricycle rider ends up entering the scene to give her a break an a moment to join her family in celebrating the birthday, before a fantastic flying sequence leads to the birthday boy receiving the gift of his mortality. Both pieces make up rules as they go along, such that anything seems to be possible. Twists and developments are too convenient, and dramatic tension can never materialize where everything works out for the sake of a good bit.

On either side of these pieces were works that solely showcased virtuosity. Gnomen follows four men testing each other’s limits. Between these spotlights, group partnering portrays them as one composite body, rolling like tumbleweed. The soloists are somewhere between tested and tormented by the rest into walking using only an arm and a leg, and being hoisted upside-down by the arms to resemble a corkscrew. The question of innocence or antagonism becomes irrelevant as each dancer is equally singled out. The overarching exploratory sense is, however, compromised by the rehearsed perfection of the performers themselves, leaving no risk for failure in crystalline calculation.

Day Two, a curious note to end on, takes the abstract bravura exemplified in Gnomen and expands it to include women and vaguely (ergo offensively) tribal imagery set to David Byrne’s riffing on African music. Costuming for both sexes is identical, leaving the women’s breasts unfairly free. Sections for men are obnoxiously hyper-masculine, and women have little agency, especially when the men hoist them on sticks, at the expense of functionality, as some men are shorter than some of the women whose feet are meant to avoid the ground. The piece manages to both showcase the immense strength of the women who deal with such situations, but also depicts them only in relation to men.

Among repertory with multiple choreographers credited to each piece, there is an overarching commonality of the use of incredible skill to divert and please. They may challenge themselves, but they serve the results to us on silvery, heteronormative, and appropriative platters. We are thoroughly entertained, though starved for challenge.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

December 2, 2016
Lucinda Child's early works emphasized endurance and a stark simplicity that wrapped itself into a complex, rhythmic environment. She broke into the downtown scene as a member of the Judson Dance Theater and then famously in 1973, choreographed that monument to post modern opera, Einstein On The Beach.

A well-earned reputation for intensely mapped out patterns animated through sleek movements that surge forward in a continuous melody of motion was on view at the Joyce Theater. In Program A, the early days of Child's youthful determination appeared alongside current works pointing to a mellowing of form.

Never shying away from technique, Childs challenges dancers' physical and mental concentration. In early pieces, arms hang against an erect body (like step dancing) while the eyes follow the dancers’ legs and feet.

In Pastime, the first piece on the program created in 1963, Caitlin Scranton stands coolly on one leg and extends the other, pointing and flexing the foot. This seemingly simple feat belies its difficulty. The body is bare. One wiggle of the ankle, wobble of a leg, or tilt of the torso mars the view.

Next Katherine Helen Fisher glamorously wraps her body in a white stretchy tube material. She sits on the floor and extends one leg out like a chorine in a tub, pulls it back repeating the leggy peek-a-boo. Something about the cheeky timing makes the visual tableau totally alluring.

Child's uncanny ability to create tension and urgency through geometric augmentations sings in the following two group pieces. Women dressed in white unleash a series of turning and leaping sequences in the 1978 Katema. Then a male group peels into running walk steps that trip into a hop, skip, and leap sequence. Radial Courses (1976) is oddly reminiscent of the urgent corps passages designed to exit dancers in Swan Lake and other 19th century ballets.

The earlier, tightly executed dances lean into a new body of choreography in the most recent Into View set to music by Collin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld. Here the pace slows, arms become expressive and men and women actually touch. Couples wearing ballet slippers bond in lifting and turning partnering sequences that include pirouettes, arabesques and other decidedly ballet steps. Because the breathless quality is quieted, there’s a good deal more space between the dancers and the balletic, lyrical steps.

Excellent lighting by John Torres sets the mood throughout an evening of surprises.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 29, 2016
“Sorry I Missed Your Show” presents
Featuring EOD Video Guests: Marlies Yearby and Laurie Carlos
Thursday, Dec. 15 from 6pm – 7:00pm FREE
*Space is limited. Please RSVP here
Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 at 6:00pm FREE
Gibney Dance Center (280 Broadway) Enter 53A Chambers
TV Episode #315 (recorded in 1991)
Seeking African-American Values by Embracing Racial and Cultural Identities
Celia Ipiotis
EOD Episode Guests: MARLIES YEARBY, choreographer of Rent
Laurie Carlos, performance artist, writer, director
How artists maintain and develop a racial identity in the face of institutionalized racism and integrate voice, drumming, and movement in African art versus the separation of similar elements in Eurocentric art.
Dance Excerpts:
Urban Bush Women’s “Praise House” (from a film by Julie Dash), Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s “Monkey Dances,” and Yearby’s “Pushing Through a Tight Place.”
Post Video Screening Conversation Moderated by Celia Ipiotis
Mariles Yearby
Cynthia Oliver, choreographer and Graduate Program Director, University of Illinois

November 23, 2016
Note: I asked Jonathan Matthews to write a small piece on how he (as one of Ms. Carr's musicians and dancers) approaches a new dance versus a repeat performance.
Celtic Jazz Tryst: a reflection on the art of dance making
Darrah Carr Dance is full of isms – inside isms that comically comment on the M.O. I, having my toes dipped in a diverse array of small companies, have yet to experience elsewhere. The Darrah Darrah School of Tap and Jazz is a Montessori situation where every participant goes about their task load in the technique of Mark Conte (or Conte Mark…the protagonist of a book who is registered in school by both names, allowing him to multitask between two inverse identities and graduate school in half the time, being in two places at once…go figure).

What this actually translates to is a cyclical kind of choreographic resourcefulness and collaboration. Being a gigging company, we are always figuring things out on the fly, but what is usually an in the moment decision has colored the entire three-month process of working with Tara O’Grady and her Black Velvet Band, which provides the jazzifications of Irish standards and original O’Grady compositions to which we dance.

Having her music has inspired a reconsideration of material that has long lived in our repertory, to the point that the act of taking any piece of existing choreography and swinging it up-tempo may well become our newest ism. New material invariably is made as well, especially as Tara writes us new music, resulting, almost in the style of the found-narrative process of a jukebox musical, in our performative ability to trace storylines between each of our roles in these short bursts of percussive lilt that string back to back.

Tacked on to this is the joy of dancing Seán Curran’s On the Six. Over the years, Curran has added to our repertory his own spin on the blending of Irish and modern techniques that Carr begun in what is known as ModERIN. In a way, the piece, which has been under our belts for some time now, foretold the collaboration with O’Grady, which partners seamlessly with it.

Said joy is ultimately what makes every pre-Thanksgiving November so special for me. Amid my grungier downtown performance work, there is one time of the year I get to put on my tappy shoes and bear a smile I do not have to force. Even now as many in our community worry for the next four years, laughter and lightness are necessities more than ever, and who better than from the culturally collaborative and blithely rebellious and Irish?
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Jonathan Matthews

November 20, 2016
Ballet Hispanico's program Reshape/Reverse/Replay delighted the Apollo Theatre’s audience in a blend of contagious rhythms, swirling images, grounded passion, and boundless joy.

The show opened with Flabbergast by Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, originally created for Luna Negra Dance Theatre in 2001.

Inspired by his first experience in America, Ramírez Sansano’s theatrical contemporary dance humorously addressed contrasting stereotypes, extrapolated by Juan García Esquivel's infectious music by and comic voiceover recordings knitted into the choreographic narrative. Lively vernacular movement resonated through sharp whirls and bound-driven motifs highlighted by the flair with which the dancers connected with the audience.

After the first intermission, the house was enthralled as the stage illuminated the silhouette of a bailaora in a ravishing red flamenco-like train dress against the pearl cyclorama, introducing the world premiere of Línea Recta.

Commissioned in part by the Apollo Theatre and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, this piece by Belgo-Colombian choreographer Annabelle López Ochoa enraptured guests with a visceral flow of contemporary dance connectivity indulging in the dynamic flow of the red train’s fabric.

In a crescendo of duets, pas de trois, quartets, and a final ensemble, López Ochoa defiantly approached the exploration of contact generally absent in traditional flamenco, sealing her statement with stylistic floreo hand gestures, an artistic signature of Ballet Hispánico’s recurrent choreographer. The company, immersed in the rhythmic expressiveness of Bulerías with the live performance of flamenco guitarist Eric Vaarzon Morel, percussionist Peter Bagdanos, and the cantaora voice of Aurora Reyes, brought the audience to its feet.

The evening mellowed down to an elegant closing with Danzón, a repertoire icon from Ballet Hispánico’s Artistic Director and CEO, Eduardo Vilaro.

The blend of Caribbean compositional references with a display of Latin Son instruments resonated through contemporary and classical dance elements within the refined bouquet residing in traditional Danzón social dance contexts. Through Reshape/Reverse/Replay, the company honored founder Tina Ramirez’s legacy, giving voice to Latin and Hispanic artists whose work amalgamated cultural roots with versatile choreography, embracing traditional theatrical dance elements with contemporary dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Gabriela Estrada

November 19, 2016
Netherlands Dans Theater artistic director Paul Lightfoot and artistic advisor Sol Léon have developed a sleek, athletic, and intensely theatrical profile for the company since taking over in 2011. Both worked under Jiri Kylian, NDT artistic director from 1975-2000 (continuing as choreographer until 2009), who brought the company its international renown. Kylian banned them from reviving his choreography until September 2017, forcing them to find their own aesthetic: a precise, sensual, but straightforward contemporary ballet language often framed within complex theatrical sets and lighting that add intrigue but can also overwhelm the dancing. Based in The Hague, they boast an international roster of dancers and choreographers; this program includes two of their collaborations, and new works by the German choreographer Marco Goecke and the Canadian Crystal Pite.

Pite’s The Statement searingly captured the byzantine backroom deals of today’s corporate culture in a deliciously slick critique reminiscent of Kurt Jooss’ deliberations around The Green Table (1932). The dancers embodied a disconcerting dialogue heard over a loudspeaker, their razor-sharp movements and spatial relationships around a table reflecting repeated references to “escalating situations,” and truth versus what is “on the record.” Goecke’s Woke Up Blind (seen in NY at Fall for Dance this year) once again blew away the audience with its rapid-fire, quirky, shaking hands and heavy breathing (I wrote about it here), perfectly in sync with Jeff Buckley’s fierce electric guitar and improvised skats. Haunting in their originality and ruthless engagement of our senses, these two works made the evening.

The program opened with Lightfoot and Léon’s Safe as Houses (2001) where a trio in black suits is joined by a larger group in white (pants for the men, leotards for the women). They alternate dancing near, around, next to, and appearing and disappearing behind a huge revolving wall, smoothly handling the obstacle with an upright, very frontal contemporary ballet movement. The NDT dancers played with dynamics and sometimes stared at us as they swung their arms swiftly, contracted their torsos or lifted into a still arabesque, seeming to float or hover like birds. In one indelible image, a line of dancers slowly shuffled backwards, slumped over with their heads on the wall, evoking the more famous wall in Jerusalem.

Lightfoot and Léon’s Stop-Motion (2014) closed the evening. Dedicated to their fifteen year old daughter Saura as they watched her transformation into womanhood, her slowly rotating, larger-than-life image was projected on a screen (a teenager’s nightmare?!) while dancers moved in and out of a white powder dropped midway onstage (reminiscent of Nacho Duato’s White Darnkness from 2001, but not). Highly charged dancing in several duets and solos teetered between strangely moving and overwrought, and eventually we lost an overall sense of purpose. But in one solo, Jorge Nozal’s sensual, broad and brazen movement quality encapsulated the beauty and fearful fearlessness of the NDT dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 17, 2016
THE BLUES PROJECT premiered in 2015 to wide acclaim for Michelle Dorrance's choreography and Toshi Regan's splendid musical collaboration. Now it's a popular touring vehicle and re-sets a standard for tap dancers as jazz musicians. This fall, The Blues Project returned to the Joyce Theater and although the outline remained set, the sections tightened up. One complaint, it ended too soon, meaning, it called for an "encore" tag. Below is the original review from the 2015 program.

By gathering together an undeniably winning combination of artists, Michelle Dorrance wows audiences in a reprieve of “The Blues Project.” After befriending her life-long musical hero on Facebook, Dorrance sent Toshi Regan a “happy birthday” tap dance shout-out that sealed their future collaboration. Well, more or less….. Live roots music bent through the distinctive warmth and intelligence of Toshi Regan shapes the tap and sound journey from Southern plantations to contemporary times.

The quintet called BIGLovely sit on an elevated strip behind the performers who execute dances found at indoor and outdoor events. What’s immediately noticeable is the level of choreography. The strong sense of group construction and musically motivated, energetic patterns. Of course, the solos generally originate with the performer, expanding on that individual’s movement personality.

The music’s deeply funky bass informs the earthy movements that dig feet into the earth while allowing the torso mobility. It’s a fusion of tribal connections and the passage of time broken into different songs that morph from the rhythms of plantation hollers, to church music, blues, jazz and oh, so much more. Shaped into an hour, the multi-faceted dancers spring into action slipping into outfits that reference the 1940’s or 1950’s. Each section tells its own story of defiance or love, sharing and competition.

At one point, dancers couple-up and break into a frisky Lindy Hop. Dorrance in particular excels in this style due to her slinky, loose-limbed style and facial expressions that resemble a female jazz bandstand singer.

The three main dance creators execute individual solos. Different in weight and approach, Dorrance projects a jazzy swing style, knees easily bending, feet feathering out in mid air and taps that skitter lightly but with a variety of color. Grant joins a witty demeanor to a heavier, funkier format, flipping up on his knees, gamely clicking his air born legs. And finally, Sumbry-Edwards carves out a highly individual, be bop style, leading the musicians into abstract and surprising improvisations.

In the program notes, Dorrance notes that she collaborated on the choreography with the impressive Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Derick K. Grant along with the company members. However, the idea originated in the Dorrance’s desire to speak tap in larger dance circles. And she did.

The choreographic integrity keeps the steps in exchange, and the time is right Overall, the piece draws a loose thread from plantatian to now. An undeniably winning concept matched Michelle Dorrance and Toshi Regan in a reprieve of “The Blues Project.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 12, 2016
Serene and sensual, Kate Weare's choreography employs contact improv elements -- a kind of physical call and response – built on top of strong contemporary dance structures. Men and women in flowing tops and loose pants by Brooke Cohen, drop and swing open arms, stretching backs into long planes expanding the liquid flow. Dancers are framed by Clifford Ross’ scenic design of a tall windowpane looking out on darkness and clouds.

Figures form silhouettes against Mike Faba’s atmospheric lighting scheme that highlights body edges and adds to the meditative ambiance established by Curtis Robert Macdonald's musical score being played live.

At one point, a woman taps a man's chest and they shift into a sinewy duet. His torso curves over her touch, and they connect in a fluid trajectory that is echoed by the man at their side. Over and over, movements form and dissipate inside two or three dancers working in tandem. The movement’s arc skips for the central actors to the outer perimeter.

There are no edges. Curves, swings, and easy dips space out in curved lines. At one point, two women face each other and run in opposite directions, never turning away until one fades into the wings. Again, simple and suggestive, the shape- shifting patterns draw the eye then let it float around until another, unassuming human figure commands undivided attention.

The talented members of the Kate Weare Company include Julian De Leon, Kayla Farrish, Douglas Gillespie, Thryn Saxon, Ryn Rouland Smith and a sterling Nicole Diaz.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 7, 2016
The Akram Khan Company presented NYC premiere of “Chotto Desh” aimed at children ages 7+ at the New Victory Theater. The piece is an investigation of Khan’s autobiographical coming of age as a young teen--his struggle to break away from his father’s traditional wishes for him as a Bangladesh/Philippine immigrant to London, and his own desire as a modern free thinking individual to become a dancer and artist. Along the way, it encourages a young audience to become independent thinkers.

“Chotto Desh” which means “small homeland,” was marvelously danced and acted by soloist Dennis Alamonos. Acrobatic, sinewy whole body use of the space in the opening solo represents the young Khan battling the noises, traffic, and confusion of modern day London, and his immigration from a less urban environment . This segued into a dance using more precise mimetic actions. In a brilliant segment, Alamonos uses his bald head, painted with the face of “the father” to a sound score of the father’s patriarchal voice, as a means of exploring reactions to parental authority, tradition, and his father’s self righteousness. This was all uniquely designed through abstraction that remained accessible enough for a young audience to comprehend.

The turning point in the work came half way through when the mother’s voice soothes him and also reprimands the father for meddling into the life of his son. She reminds the boy of stories she told him as a child, taking him into the world of myth, imagination, and creativity. The boy, (through Guy Hoare’s clever lighting and Tim Yipp’s animation), is carried from his real world into that of the “The Grandmother’s Fable,” taken from the book “The Honey Hunter.”

Visual Designer, Tim Yipp, artfully creates computer animation on the back screen, in black and white, as if looking through a beautifully designed book of cut-outs. The scene moves as the boy travels through waters on a boat trip, enters a forest, with butterflies, birds, a crocodile, an elephant, a bee hive, a serpent, a tiger, and a large tree that he eventually climbs, and sits atop in order to see the vast world… and imagine life beyond the dangers below.

A small chair and a very large chair are props used throughout the work to represent the boy’s development from child to creative artist. He eventually partners with the large chair, expressing the artist’s ability to express metaphor and “the world beyond” through imagination, taking the world of play from childhood into the world of the artist.

Kudos to all involved in this magical production: Akram Khan, Artistic Direction and Original Choreography; Sue Buckmaster, Direction and Adaptation; Jose Agudo, Assistant Choreographer; Jocelyn Pook, Composer, Leesa Gazi, “Bleeding Soles” Lyrics; Tim Yip, Original Visual Design; Damien Jalet with Akram Khan, Painted Head Sequence; Nicolas Rfcchini, alternate dancer; and many others.

November 1, 2016
Many choreographers are known for their specific relationships to music. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s latest appearance at BAM continues her uniquely multifaceted musical functioning. Vortex Temporum is a thesis of approaches. Choosing the simplest relationship of dancing to music, she uncovers richness in possibility through Gérard Grisey’s score of the same title.

The first sub-relationship of dance and music is listening. Chamber ensemble Ictus enters the pre-set space and plays alone. Shrill arpeggios slice from piano and woodwinds. The onset is loud, followed by a fizzling decrescendo, during which a stringed instrument seeps in one tone at a time to initiate a new explosion of dissonance, increasingly diced into asymmetrical subdivisions. De Keersmaeker may not have her dancers onstage, but sensitizes us to movement in how the ensemble, already focused on heightening awareness to sound’s behavior in space, plays. Their bodies manage technical difficulty and spatially represent their sonic presence. Once a solo begins, the rest depart. Jean-Luc Plouvier continues to rage on the piano, hunched over, brutal, yet infallibly precise. He finishes with a swing of his left arm down and behind himself, rising to leave before his arm returns to his side.

Having sonically sculpted the space, the dancers of Rosas enter, one body per instrument, standing at their corresponding musician’s seat. They proceed to dance in silence, embodying two relationships – matching rhythms and motifs, and maintaining the spatial arrangement of the musicians’ bodies. Certain physicalities are borrowed, such as the long friction-laden arm swipes of bows, and Plouvier’s loose shoulders, working between mime and rhythmically precise pure movement. This does not mean every note is represented. Flurried gestures manifest in slow encompassing gestures that make the texture more digestible and trigger our memory of the music more effectively. Movement itself is simple with minimal technical flourish, as to most clearly visualize the musical element at hand.

After Carlos Garbin dances Plouvier’s piano tantrum, Ictus re-emerges with their instruments, phasing into a third behavior – dancing with music. Players walk along chalk circles on the stage. Extended techniques, such as wind players amplifying their breath by blowing through their instrument but not generating a pitch, draw on physical relationships to instrumentation and blur roles while dancers faintly count along their pathways, no longer tied to their sonic counterpart. Dancing now focuses on polyphony via level shifts. Visual representation of dissonance does not necessitate visual dissonance, but more charged spatial relationships, capturing the harmonic act over aesthetic impact.

A reprise of the opening texture brings lights up and dancers in motion while Ictus stays back with conductor Georges-Elie Octors, crafting the curious problem of the musician who only moves in a dance where dancers correlate specifically to musicians. Despite Vortex’s clear organization there are some inevitable speedbumps that come from a this sort of process involving an extant piece of music versus one that was created along with the dancing: The choreography invariably appears caged, unable to recreate a full kinesthetic correlate to the sound, alternately making it feel all the more alive via its sole nature of reactivity.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 19, 2016
The 32nd Annual NY Dance & Performance Awards (the “Bessies,” named after the esteemed dance teacher Bessie Schonberg), returned to BAM this year, produced in partnership with Dance/NYC, introduced by the Bessies executive directory Lucy Sexton, and hosted by the very funny choreographer and comedian Adrienne Truscott, whose wacky costume changes were themselves worthy of an award.

The New York dance scene is so rich, so diverse, so wildly broad in its scope, that even if one is an avid dancegoer, it is impossible to take it all in. Although the lineup feels impossibly like comparing apples and oranges, the Bessies nonetheless are a useful roundup of the year, with a strong emphasis on the downtown scene. The viral video of Mikhail Baryshnikov speaking about being an immigrant and “leaving a country with walls” opened the show, announcing a strong and unsurprising political stance from the start.

Live performance highlights included a work by Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Joya Powell, an excerpt from an Outstanding Revived Work, Donald McKayle’s classic Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder, performed by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and a joyful group tap dance number in honor of Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Brenda Bufalino.

Awards were given with dances, speeches and videos interspersed between presentations, including four for Outstanding Production (Souleymane Badolo, Pat Graney, Maria Hassabi, Ralph Lemon), four Outstanding Performer (Ephrat Asherie, Kazunori Kumagai, Molly Lieber, Jamar Roberts), Outstanding Music Design (Dan Trueman in collaboration with So¯ Percussion and Mobius Percussion), Outstanding Visual Design (Holly Batt), and a Juried Bessie Award (Pam Tanowitz).

A Special Citation was given to Eiko Otake by Meredith Monk, and Ayodel Casel presented Brenda Bufalino’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Both of these women received touching tributes and well deserved praised for sustained contributions to the NY dance scene and beyond. Two awards for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance were delivered to Alex Smith, for his work supporting African-American dance, and the women at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, for its unique role as the largest dance archive library in the world.

It is wonderful to see dance artists being celebrated, and each nominee even received $500. Still, it seemed a bit odd to witness the obvious divide between the “uptown” and “downtown” NY scenes, in terms of the work itself, audiences, resources, and recognition, even with recent gestures such as the collaborations at Dancespace between contemporary choreographers and New York City Ballet dancers.

Decades ago, dancers and choreographers started crossing the dance genre divide, in terms of training (or not), creating, presenting and surviving. That cross-pollination greatly benefitted the art form as a whole, but it seems that in recognizing dance achievement, we still mostly stick to our own side of the equator.

Nonetheless, a wide range of dance was represented, including break dancing, house, tap, black dance, modern, jazz, ballet, and that enigmatic catch all, “contemporary,” as well as performances that, as Outstanding Production Award recipient Ralph Lemon put it frankly about his own Scaffold Room, stretched the idea of dance altogether.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 17, 2016
Nancy Allison opened American Dance Guild’s Celebration at 60, a weekend event at 92nd Street Y, with her insouciant solo, walk, breathe, dance. In silence and then with music by Lou Harrison, Allison made her barefoot stroll, a bemused bow to Erdman’s affirmation that everything begins with walking. At the close, Allison, a long time interpreter of Erdman’s choreographies, glanced over the shoulder at the audience, a casual gesture of inclusion. She also closed the Friday event concert with her stage-to-screen, studio-to-woods adaptation of Erdman’s 1948 solo Hamadryad featuring Miki Orihara.

The two next solos, as similar as siblings, took us into feminine realms, both private and poignant. Alvin Mayes’ While Waiting with music by Leslie Adams’ Etude in G Minor brings Adriane Fang in and out of a chair, as she slips through a loop of listening pensively, a prisoner of suspension, loosing her cool in a momentary frazzle. The chair, a symbol of patience or resignation, faces up stage left, while she continually seems to itchy for an exit in the opposite direction.

Tonia Shimin’s solo “Pilgrim,” performed beautifully by Kate Rast, with music sung by Jessye Norman, brought goose bumps. Her continuity of line is not so common now, nor the swells of feeling, off-center stretches, falls, and fan kicks. Shimin, who performed with Martha Graham, Pearl Lang, Jose Limon, Mary Anthony, among others, paints the space with an energy that lingers.

The rest of the program jacked up the heat with Isadora Duncan’s timeless Dance of the Furies (1905) as staged by Lori Belilove, and performed by the long limbed and haired Kim D’Agnese, Emily D’Angelo, Beth Disharoon, Kaith Kimberling, Nikki Poulos. Their claws never relaxed, dragging poison out of the cosmos as the women flew across the stage like desperate evangelists.

Christine Dakin brought her startling exactitude to Erdman’s 1942 The Transformations of Medusa, with a commissioned score by Louis Horst, played live by pianist Amir Khosrowpour. The costume, complete with a snake hat, and long, leg hugging skirt by Charlotte Trowbridge ideally suited this dance which has a signature, rapid shift of weight with the torso facing front, the legs in wide parallel plie.

May O’Donnell’s Dance Energies (1959) showcased the terrific training of the Marymount Manhattan College Dance Company, with the 5 men being particularly striking in their jumps. This work seemed the most bound to the earnest, early modern dance days of little public or private support, though admirable for its spatial design. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

October 15, 2016
Doors open an hour early for Jennifer Monson/iLAND’s in tow at Danspace Project. Not your usual preshow, the performers scatter about the sanctuary in disparate investigations. Bodies, covered in fur, give restorative bodywork while others partner clunky shapes and dangle things from the balcony above a woman in a lab coat running between two harps. There is no main focal point; moments ebb and flow on their own. One emergence is Monson herself, who explains exactly what we are observing. To see such lucidity before such abstraction is an exercise in democratizing stimulation.

After these “pre-attacks,” the piece proper is largely the same, albeit more spatially refined. At certain points, everyone works with the same objects in a glacial parade from St. Marks’ vestibule to wherever they wish to spread. Carol Mullins’ lighting segments continuous action into digestible chunks. It divides the space for a solo by Monson, dark save a stripe encircling the horizon, catching her tossing head in snapshots of abandon.

Monson explains early on that the piece is an experiment in performance and meaning. “Disciplines” of movement, singing, drawing/writing, touching, and speaking occupy performers who, each night, have a different focus, the one in question being “material.” What quickly becomes apparent is how these disciplines are not islands.

Objects amplify singing; voices and movement are drawing utensils. Objects speak, animated through movement, and bodies become canvases. The tasks seem intentionally set up to collapse in harmony only noticeable through their established segregation.

One might imagine watching this to be intensely alienating, but as some lucky spectators were lectured, Monson views performance as an exercise in seeing for the outsider. Audience engagement is actually the only thing to justify such a piece’s existence. The doer only discovers action; the viewer processes.

An audience’s presence additionally questions of the role of training in an environment where we pay to see people venture beyond their own skill-set. It simultaneously seems inconsistent, as harpist Zeena Parkins is the only performer who touches the instrument on which she so happens to be a virtuoso. Considering she also dances, the balance of exploration seems unequal; however, without people and their specific skills, the performative experiment, already so multifaceted, would implode in generalities. Objects and actions are purely an extension of the people involved. What matters is the willingness to dismantle conventional ideas of how to use their expertise.

Many have used chance operations to achieve a concrete product. Here we have a concrete operation that generates a completely aleatoric result. Monson, however, allows her science to still be art. The senses of being “in character” and “work mode” are synonymous. Movement invention being a fallacy, discoveries beget a kind of repertory. The scientific acceptance of failure is a poetic expression of letting go. Cataclysms of silliness permeate the diligence. Satisfaction with one’s investigation is a visceral emotion. When we learn that this performance is the final chance for everyone to cram in final exploratory desires, we develop a sympathetic, if preemptive, missing of the act of doing in a piece that is only process.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 15, 2016
The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, today announced the host and presenters for the 32nd Annual Bessie Awards. Award-winning choreographer, writer, and comedian Adrienne Truscott will host this year’s ceremony. The 32nd Annual Bessie Awards will be held on Tuesday, October 18, at 7:30pm, at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House.

The illustrious lineup of presenters includes Tei Blow, Katy Clark, Ayodele Casel, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Judith Jamison, Alastair Macaulay, Joan Myers Brown, Amar Ramasar, Regg Roc, and Carlota Santana.

This year, the Bessies will honor Eiko Otake with a Special Citation for her expansive and transformative A Body in Places platform, presented by Danspace Project. Acclaimed composer and director Meredith Monk will present the award to Ms. Otake.

As previously announced, the evening will also include special presentations to Brenda Bufalino, recipient of the 2016 Bessie for Lifetime Achievement in Dance, and to The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and Alex Smith, Executive Chairman of the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center, both recipients of awards for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance.

The Bessie Awards ceremony will feature a performance by Joya Powell, recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Award, Donald McKayle’s Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder (2016 Bessie for Outstanding Revival), performed by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and produced by Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, and an all-star tap tribute to Brenda Bufalino.

October 14, 2016
A deep sense of serenity surrounds George Balanchine’s classic “Serenade.” A perennial favorite, much of its glory emerges from its simplicity. Now performed with women in long tulle skirts, “Serenade” opens on rows of women in some mysterious ritual. Arms rise, hands flatten, as if to shield the eyes from the sun, and feet in parallel split open. Set against Tschaikovsky’s melancholic “Serenade for Strings” the dance opens against three lead women, Megan LeCrone, Sara Mearns and Tiler Peck and later, two men Jared Angle and Justin Peck.

Outstretched legs and arms float over the music, pulling into puffs of turns and frisky skips. Mystery is embedded in the dance, and it’s that mystery most graphically expressed through Mearns back and Peck’s airy elevations.

Two more Balanchine dances formed the core of the evening, “Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux” highlighting Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette as well as the all-American “Western Symphony.”

Bouder and Veyette rip through the bounding duet. Only recently back on stage after giving birth, Bouder is a technical wonder. Her feet ripple in little outward peddle-pushing moves and she moves faster than a mosquito targeting lunch. Assured in his role, Veyette allows Bouder (who hardly needs a partner, and if she could, would lift herself) all the space her dancing demands.

Once the music starts, everyone relaxes because it’s Hershy Kay’s lilting, Americana strumming score to Balanchine’s “Western Symphony.” One couple after another arrives to tick off a few choice toe prances and square dance passages. Despite its humor and seeming cartoonish simplicity, “Western Symphony” challenges a dancer’s ability to balance, twist forward and back over one leg and swing around in split-leg leaps into a dead run.

Christopher Wheeldon’s tribute to Americana “American Rhapsody” with music by the inimitable George Gershwin captures the romantic air of a time gone by, when love was in bloom and dance could fix the world.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 14, 2016
Inherent in the word “quadrille” is the sense of four, reinforced by one of its definitions being a square dance between four couples. At the Joyce Theater, however, the NY Quadrille, set in the middle of the house, actually has two functional views – front and back. Tere O’Connor’s work as installed in this format exploits this limitation to sensitize us to the vast perceptual differences within the two orientations.

The scene for Undersweet is set, paralyzing expectation through elemental tension via anachronism. Silas Riener and Michael Ingle strut lightly to Jean-Baptiste Lully’s French baroque flair. The arguably baroque stepping lasts so long that it more connotes runway modeling, mismatched all the more by disjointed costuming that feels individually incomplete – Riener in brown leggings and Ingle in a gray T-shirt and gym shorts.

The pairing is as students forced into working together. Ingle maintains a deadpan and vertical postural clarity while Riener’s face is all flirtation with the slightest pomposity of an upward cranial tilt. Even as they partner privately, their expression is one of public assimilation, giving no sense of personal preference, yet still achieving intense intimacy. Ingle hooks his leg over Riener’s shoulder from standing to reclining. On the floor, they maintain interlocking straddles, rolling over pelvises. Other moments, including a fleeting kiss, feel more distant, even when physically close.

The entire piece is a chain of setups, expanding our imaginations to construct different stories for the same imagery. O’Connor accomplishes this with musical pacing, starting or waiting to re-color a silent scene. Between Lully, concrete sounds of water and scratching contain ambiguity unto themselves as to how they might relate to, initiate, or be the result of the geometrically pure vocabulary, if at all.

Transcendental Daughter spotlights movement more than the people executing it. From the opening moment of Riener, Eleanor Hullihan, and Natalie Green lying as leafs of a clover, they maintain a sense of being the edge of their space, even as pathways tangle. Michael O’Connor’s lighting expands and contracts, setting spatial boundaries on a journey outward from a central point, kept from extending beyond the edge of the Quadrille by gestural inquiry.

The opening tableau activates from continuous back and forth motion. Movement teeters side to side, front to back, up to down in binaries to explore motivic possibilities. In space, each section is either high or low and pitted near to or far from the viewer, facing toward or away. Such binaries imbue otherwise imagistically simple (though undeniably rigorous) movement with varied textures while the articulation itself flows continuously at a steady pace in a phrasing binary of repetitive movement pairs that change their rhythmic pattern at the moment of perceptibility.

These binaries are anything but dichotomies. In the ever-shifting perspectives of the Quadrille’s two fronts, the endpoints set up a spectrum in which the average between the two is the direct front. If we imagine any spectral point as a possible direct front, however, the spatial binaries become similarly flexible, creating a perimeter around the quadrille that is not so much square as it is circular.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 13, 2016
Loni Landon Dance Project closed week two of The Joyce Theater’s NY Quadrille with the revelation that a four-sided view just might be how the company is meant to be seen. Presenting repertory and a premiere, Landon’s ensemble and its audience often met each other at the stage’s lips.

Rebuilding Sandcastles may have been made in remembrance of Hurricane Sandy’s ravaging of homes; however, the piece’s focus is invariably human. A man sends a woman arching back by merely approaching her. She plunges deeper until deciding to leave, another woman taking her place at the same altitude. There is a dutiful acceptance to such situations. Fresh off of a complex chain of group partner work, a dancer is left in a headstand, sternly maintained amid surrounding fluid whirling in which every shape lands, lasts, and dissolves from our eye, creating a meatier choreographic texture than the hazier counterpoints in vogue today. In a nod to the classical shoulder-sit, a body straddles slightly farther down its carrier’s arm than is typical, which continues to extend as a perch. For the rider, there is nothing to see, only space to travel. While Landon’s work maintains a keenly architectural sensibility, it, here, speaks more to a grasping of momentary presence and the rehabilitation of self and community.

The stage is left bare for Fast Love, as an overture of overdriven guitar chugging sharply contrasts Sandcastle’s gentle harmonics. Like the peal of church bells, four guitarists interlock Jerome Begin’s increasingly complex rhythms, yet it precedes no grand entrance, but a slipping onstage to embark on a process of scattering, displacing, and reforming. Concerned with increasingly digitizing relationships, Landon’s flow is infected with choreographic second-guessing. Violent gestures vary in effect. Charging runs stop immediately into a tender embrace with no airbag necessary, but when two men link their forearms, another is knocked to different levels by an image somewhere between a limbo stick and a trash compactor. While partnering is constructed through an investigation of avoidance, the movement itself is imbued with the avoidance of an indiscriminate acceptance of momentum.

Seeing both pieces for the first time on the Joyce’s Quadrille, one would not think that only one was made specifically for the stage. Landon’s work is suited well to a multi-perspective view, even when intended for a frontal presentation, largely due to her use of space, which relies not on patterns, but on composed scatterings that harmonize all the while lacking a definite primary focus. Within this, the (mostly dancer generated) movement falls into categories of swirls and soft impacts, which manifest in partnering as space holds, chain reactions, manipulations, and record-player-like spins. Unison is rarely pure, but suggested with synchronized timing of movement embedded with slight discrepancies such that it is unclear which phrase might be the original and which is the variation. Landon’s language is a spatio-temporal one, in which motifs are situations stretched over multiple people and periods of time, revealed in sequential relationships.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 11, 2016
The Fall For Dance is a New York phenomenon: a dance festival that sells out, year after year, with a popularity that shows no signs of abating. It is the brainchild of Arlene Schuler (CEO of City Center, and a former Joffrey dancer herself) who combined two simple yet brilliant concepts: diversity of programming, and low ticket prices. For two whirlwind weeks each fall, audiences can choose from several excellently curated programs that showcase concert dance from around the world, all for the affordable price of $15 per ticket.

The second program this year included hip-hop, tap, ballet and contemporary aboriginal dance. The France-based company CCN de la Rochelle/CIE Accrorap presented an exciting and propulsive work choreographed by artistic director Kader Attou, “inspired by street dance and acrobatics.” A large group of dancers take turns break dancing, doing variations on flares, the six-step, and the windmill, with their moves woven into a simple choreographic structure, all to an extremely loud electronic score that later dissolves into pulsating digital strings. Dressed in neutral colored pants and shirts, sometimes they move in gentle unison or amble around the stage slowly between sections, looking like the Walking Dead. But when they break out into jaw-dropping hip-hop moves, they impressively bridge street and theater.

One way the line between “art and life” was erased by artists beginning in the 1980s was through unabashed references to their autobiography. Ayodel Casel’s solo, preceded by a video of Gregory Hines talking effusively about her talent, was also overlayed with her speaking about her personal journey. Heard over the sound system as she tapped away, we learn, for example, that she is Puerto Rican and black, and “fully connected to both cultures.” She is an extraordinary dancer, and it seemed unnecessary for her to insist on this fact, in ways other than her dancing – and a quick Google can tell you everything personal you might or might not need to know (including her predilection for key lime pie). The many spoken declarations ended up detracting from, rather than enhancing, her impressive skill and artistry.

The Hong Kong Ballet, a group of lovely balletic, well-trained dancers, looked uncomfortable but tried their best to execute Jorma Elo’s awkward choreography and seemingly pointless tricks. Immediately following that tiresome display, we see dance nicely deployed for something beyond flash by the Australian Bangarra Dance Theatre, in a neat mix of aboriginal and modern dance. In one particularly haunting image, an “aboriginal” woman holding two burning pots of incense encounters a lone “modern” man during her wanderings. Their interaction ends in an embrace that is neither saccharine nor clichéd; instead, it is an eloquent image that, in its own small way, seems to make amends for the devastating history between them.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 11, 2016
The nature of Fall for Dance programming is introductory, a sampler, a tease… so it was completely unexpected when Netherlands Dance Theater torpedoed our senses, our bodies, and our minds with Woke Up Blind by Marco Goecke, a new work that was sandwiched between more conventional fare on the fifth and final Fall for Dance program.

Goecke’s choreography created what felt like a new, alternative universe, with a fierce movement vocabulary that looked like no other. Reflecting and amplifying the intensity of the music by Jeff Buckley – a rock, funk, skat fusion – he deftly avoided the awful temptation to either slavishly mimic or entirely ignore the lyrics; instead his dancers wrap themselves in and around and through every note and breath in the music with Goecke’s intricate, rapid-fire movements. Hands and arms that shake so fast they blur, and wildly flexible backs, spines, and joints that move in unpredictable ways with a blazing speed and precision, are embedded within a series of solos, duets, and groups in a choreographic structure that, together with the music, make sense out of the off-the-charts frenzy. One duet was such a precise and intense embodiment of Buckley’s skat that audible gasps were heard in the audience.

After dancing at a higher decibel than we thought humanly possible, a dancer will stand for a long time, just looking at us: no attitude, just being. Bits of humor surface – the stillness of a classical pique arabesque could morph into a different kind of extension, monster hands with spread-eagle fingers, tense, like switchblades. The next instant, the dancer briskly disappeared offstage, monster hands swinging, after loudly hissing at a partner of just moments ago. What just happened? Before you can answer, the next exchange attracts your attention like a magnet, each episode adding to the whole. The NDT dancers are a gorgeously sculpted species – ripped torsos with the flexibility, agility, and the slippery yet nuclear intensity of an electrified snake in a thunderstorm. A strange satisfaction emerges from witnessing their musical precision, communion, and their wild self-possession.

It was a hard act to follow, and even consummate artists like Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo had trouble salvaging what felt like a sadly flaccid duet by Wayne McGregor, after the high intensity roller-coaster of NDT. Nonetheless, any opportunity to see these two dancers has its rewards – their tenderness of their duet conveyed the knowing steadiness of mature love. The Taiwanese dance troupe Cloude Gate 2 followed, with a similar challenge: it was difficult to shake the feeling of cliché during what seemed an interminable amount of time, another group of lovely yet subdued dancers swaying, swirling, moving in unison, in the low pliés of modern dance. Although inspired by Taiwanese street dance according to the program, it felt more like a journey through a meditative garden, without an exit.

The evening opened strongly with Shantala Shivalingappa’s Shiva Tarangam, a devotional Kuchipudi solo in southern Indian classical style. Shivalingappa is a superbly gifted dancer, whose clarity of movement in the architectural poses etched her body in space. With the intricacies of her hands and feet punctuated by her intensely agile and readable eyes, Shivalingappa can entrance even the most uncommitted observer. Perfectly in tune with her excellent live musicians, she later danced around the stage while standing on a copper plate. We felt the ups and downs of the complex narrative she weaves, and even if we don’t know exactly what it is, we know that Shiva must be pleased.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 10, 2016
The fourth installment of Fall for Dance was the least eclectic program of the series, with two contemporary ballets and one work by the revered British ballet choreographer Frederick Ashton. Ailey’s Cry was the decidedly different note, making it a somewhat conservative evening.

Jessica Lang’s Tesseracts of Time (2015), the evening’s most imaginative work, is a New York City Center commission in collaboration with the architect Steven Holl. A quirky meditation on spatial perception and temporality, Lang merges the three-dimensional with video projections onstage, and keeps us constantly guessing about what we see. A bit literal in its melding of dance and architecture, real or projected dancers interact with the “scenery” by sitting, lying on or dancing in or under monumental geometric shapes. At first, the screen is lowered only halfway, with black and white projections of enlarged, concrete structures – cubes, spirals – that are difficult to discern. Underneath, on the darkly lit stage, a group of dancers costumed in black move in unison and vigorously crawl, roll or cartwheel on the floor as others run, leap, and soar superman-style over them, landing like feathers, and running off, to a strong percussive beat.

When dancers begin to appear in the projections, sometimes mirroring a dancer who is actually onstage in “real” space and time, our perspective shifts. At one point, the entire image seems to move closer toward us, again throwing our perceptions off balance. Eventually projections give way to actual scenery – three-dimensional renditions of “tesseracts” (four-dimensional analogs of a cube), hanging from the rafters. The music and dancing become more uplifting and “heavenly” – blue-lit dancers reach skyward with their arms, moving lyrically and doing big sweeping lifts, buoyed by sweet choral voices – perhaps we have witnessed a minimalist dance version of an ascent from down under, but without too much soul-searching.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui choreographed Fall (2015) for the Royal Ballet of Flanders, which he has directed since 2015. In typical contemporary ballet style, everyone wears minimal clothing in neutral beige, with the women in flesh-colored pointe shoes and bare legs. In the first duet, the gorgeously statuesque Drew Jacoby danced the crawly, leggy tangle of choreography, resisting with her commanding presence the banality of the lyrics and back-walk-overs she had to execute. More intriguing to watch were the trios where two men smoothly partnered each other as much as the woman; a rare gender balance in partnering that evolved fluidly from the choreographic structure. More traditional partnering to screeching violins then gave way to a duet that found a stride, a deeper resonance that quietly overpowered the relentless athleticism.

Alvin Ailey’s Cry is such an iconic and epic work, and our memory of Judith Jameson (the original dancer) so strong, that it must be a coveted but daunting challenge for any Ailey woman to dance. Demetia Hopkins-Greene gave it her all, with an intensely articulated spine and searing eyes that blazed into the house. Yet she seemed to lose intensity towards the end; the stamina required eluded her.

A strong dose of 19th-century melodrama can be a good way to end an evening, and Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand, a succinct retelling of Dumas’ La Dame aux Camelias, captures all of the twists and turns of the doomed heroine in short order. Alina Cojocaru (Marguerite), a principal with the English National Ballet beloved by NY audiences, had a wonderful sense of drama and a delicacy that was complemented by the handsomely virile yet naïve-looking Friedemann Vogel (Armand), a principal with Stuttgart Ballet. Both dancers passionately delivered the distilled, emotional choreography, elegantly surrounded by members of the Sarasota Ballet. But it was Johan Kobborg as the calculating, satisfied father of Armand, whose cold, stiff spined exit, for a fleeting instant softened by the slightest hesitation, made my hair stand on end.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 7, 2016
RoseAnne Spradlin’s Joyce Theater debut was utterly memorable. One of four choreographers presented in the two-week NY Quadrille engagement, Spradlin arrived with a storied history in the downtown dance scene. And in seventy long minutes, she made her mark at this esteemed dance venue unlike many ever have, or—dare I say—will.

Conceived and curated by Lar Lubovitch, NY Quadrille serves as the Theater’s 2016-2017 season opener, receiving a recent New York Times preview entitled “The Joyce Theater Confronts Its Own Staleness.” A platformed, rectangular stage temporarily transforms the space into a theatre-in-the-round. It’s both a nod to 18th century dance performed in this manner and an effort on The Joyce’s part to present differently. Lubovitch charged four artists to choreograph new contemporary dance works for this specific stage and type of audience experience.

Spradlin created “X,” a trio exploring “body consciousness and structural form.” The world premiere began with dancer Kayvon Pourezar out of sight, not quite beat-boxing, but certainly noisemaking. He hops onto to the stage and falls into a bout of rolling, flailing, and audible convulsing. Connor Voss joins, lying on top of him, slowly pushing down his body. It’s a surprisingly tender moment, quickly forgotten as Voss flips upside down and Pourezar’s nervous hair pulling becomes frantic. Dancer Asli Bulbul then enters, unraveling in a solo of angular, slicing arm movement. A free-standing, metal bar is carried into the space, followed by three others, which the dancers balance on, run laps between, and straddle and dangle from.

Meanwhile, visual artist Glen Vogel’s sound design is stark. Each section layers one or two repeated sounds with that of another, intermittently broken by silence. Connor Voss’ costume design is subtle, simple—high waisted, wide-legged pants; Bulbul wore a shirt at one point, but it was stripped off early. Joe Levasseur’s lighting design fares the same, but ends up taking on the (likely unanticipated) role of highlighting an increasingly agitated, impatient audience.

Everything changes when the trio begins The Movement Phrase. In short, their task becomes carrying a bar across the space, then a fellow dancer upside down, who is flipped to be perched on the bar. An excerpt of “Love’s Theme” repeats each time. Over and over this movement continues with the four bars moved back and forth, from one side of the stage to the next. Its painful repetition very much becomes the essence of the work.

The dancers’ focus and dedication throughout this movement, which evolves into a trying, physical challenge, is to be commended. The same cannot be said for the audience. Many began to leave, some loudly and visibly frustrated. A patron in the back yelled, “Stop!” at the performers, causing laughter and talking. I was asked to stand mid-performance so that the majority of row M could exit.

Of course, the dancers continued and the show did indeed go on. However, most of us remaining were faced with the inability to give the work our full attention, myself included. It truly was a challenge. At last the lights went out. The diminished audience, in solidarity, expressed sweet relief. I imagine the dancers felt the same.

Spradlin’s knack at crafting challenging work is not new; in fact, it’s her forte. This time her work, coupled with the experience of its performance, highlighted many timeless issues of the arts. I left contemplating audience expectations and behavior and the divide between downtown dance and the more “mainstream,” concert dance housed uptown. I even considered the broad and ever-debatable questions like, ‘What is art?” Those who gave up on Spradlin were clearly reconciling with some of these topics as well, knowingly or not.

One thing is certain: “X” succeeded in making an impact, for better or worse.

To harken back to The New York Times article, if The Joyce is in fact confronting its own “staleness” with this program—and the work of RoseAnne Spradlin—perhaps so too should all of us, as audience members.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

October 7, 2016
Certainly "Neither", as premiered at BAM, offers an experience that stretches the imagination, and tantalizes one with a series of enigmas. The audience in the Howard Gilman Opera House first encounters Shen Wei’s black and white Untitled No. 1, an oil and acrylic painting on a linen that extends the length of the stage, as commissioned by BAM and the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College. Three white currents surge up on the left, charge down in the middle, and thrust up again on the left of this stormy canvas, fanciful and rich with implications. Wei’s design talents gush throughout this hour long work, encompassing a set with nine arched doors, three to a side, that once opened throw a half moon light, his costumes, the final ones being plastic tents that rose to a cluster, and his choreography for 11 dancers.

Morton Feldman’s 1977 score with a searing soprano solo and orchestra and Samuel Beckett’s 87 word libretto, projected periodically on the back wall of the set, carry this impressive work. At times, "Neither" feels nightmarish, with two of dancers, Cynthia Koppe at first and later, less frantically, Zak Ryan Schlegel, trapped in a tic, with their long loose hair and limbs flaying. Koppe seems cast as the victim left to squirm in an endlessly repetitive cycle on the floor while the others march as one past her. A man finally gives her hand to pull her back into an upright rhythm, but he then pulls her back slowly into the light. Emerging from stage right, encased in plastic, she floats upward until she drops at the top of the set, whereupon a near naked man appears.

The choreography astonishingly evolves with the dramatic turns of Feldman’s “anti-opera,” with the dancers often moving in unison in threes or noodling on independent paths with a limpid, boneless flow. Founder of China’s first modern dance company in 1990, Wei designs with an almost impersonal remove as though literally following the words of Beckett “till at last halt for good, absent for good from self and other,” the dancers having surrendered to an unknown.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Deirdre Towers

October 4, 2016
Fall For Dance’s programming turned New York City Center’s iconic venue into a template, briefly defined by whatever filled it. Opening night, a hype-man blasted beats amidst an industrial Ferris wheel. Streb Extreme Action prepares to perform Airslice, commissioned by the festival, which manages to draw out one of the most satisfyingly diverse audiences in New York today with an autumnal energy: a momentary cross pollination of a motley crew summoned from their usual habitats.

A quartet slams into a padded ramp from every possible point of potential energy. They call out maneuvers like football plays, between showmanship and solidarity. Red unitards connote action figures; their physical feats and the accompanying explosive sound effects suggest their owner being a hyperactive toddler playing Godzilla in a bathtub.

Within this spectacle is an intensely geometrical experience of shapes shifting from solo into composite situations. Simple coordinations are combined and spatially futzed with to their logical completion. Commands such as “kiss” and “spoon” interject, as if to categorize affection as an analogously extreme form of action. After an interlude involving T-shirt cannons, the company inhabits a ladder, secured in a scaffold, perpetually spun by the collective physical result of swinging, ejecting, and narrowly avoiding decapitation.

Consistency was not as strong as eclecticism. Dada Masilo/The Dance Factory followed with Spring. Stravinsky’s legendary bassoon calls the lights to rise on what begins as a feminist Afro-centralization of the Rite of Spring, sidetracked into an Arvo Pärt finish. Vignettes suggest ritual and sacrifice with no connecting throughline. The tribal atmosphere is disappointingly general, illustrated by an unremarkable movement vocabulary that, though fiercely executed, is only performed as such, rendering even high energy dull. Between textural counterpoint and vocal cues too frequent to feign actual joy, the work suffers from a “sort of” sense that never fully realizes. Dances often insist on filling music longer than the dance should last; here music changes arbitrarily, with nothing accomplished to warrant the change or reconcile the tension of a Black experience danced to two towering institutions of European music.

ABT offered Frederick Ashton’s Monotones II, a trio of white bedazzled unitards. In contorted promenades Veronika Part rotates between Thomas Forster and Cory Stearns, dispassionate manipulators testing her limits. Despite uniformity, they maintain traditionally gendered partnering roles, subverting any potential androgyny or complex physical interplay. Passages of insufficiently coldly executed academic movement spatially stagnate frontally with an odd man always out, similarly “sort of” in effect.

Reviving the evening was flamenco virtuoso Farruquito’s Mi Soledad (Solea), exploring his Farruco lineage of training. His musicians are equals, each body exchanging representation or completion of another at some point. Farruquito, however, most directly projects this internal unity, building up steam, circling his platform until catching a beat that he stamps to the rim with subatomic subdivision. Sung in a foreign language with no apparent representational imagery, the driving impulse of the work remains palpable due to the extent it exploits its vocabulary. Such ineffable certainty brought City Center to its feet through the multiple improvised encores the curtain had to eventually quell.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

September 30, 2016
Before the show started, we had the option to stare at a projected graphic for Dance Now underscored by Joe’s Pub and a slogan A Catalyst for Change. One might wonder whether Dance Now, in its 21st season, offers a platform for advocacy. But only Jane Comfort took the opportunity by juxtaposing two recordings, one of Trump’s vitriol “I am your voice!” with Amazing Grace. A chill went through the audience as Comfort and her dancers quietly signed the words of the hymn.

Gus Solomons, Jr., looking dapper in his suit, tie, and shoes, dapper in his suit, added a poignancy to the evening with his spoken word, thigh slapping shuffle “Used to be (pause) taller.” His last line “I used to be (pause) Whiter” ended the solo with quiet affirmation. Matty Davis and Adrian Galvin, an electric duo, start their enigmatic Boomerang, from 2012, with frantic air punching and end with their backs to the audience.

The gifted Sy Gaskin could have stolen the program with his white gloved, beguiling, “don’t you know, dahling?” charm in Yma’s Dream, as spoken by Anne Bancroft, and choreographed by Amber Sloan. In Once upon a time between the heart region and the amygdala, Wallie Wolfguber captivates us with her solo that begins with her crouched on a bench finger-walking her thigh to Zarka Jovanovic’s haunting music and closes with her stretched high. Meredith Fages, in a macrame white dress designed by Susan Obrant, sliced the air holding one spot with her hands taut and legs swinging with balletic ease, offsetting the brooding pace of David Horman’s score. Nicole Wolfcott had the courage to simply dance, without thrashing, to Nina Simone’s Got It Bad.

This year’s Festival Encore with 12 five minute works was a tad more sober than previous years when gags laced the program, though the first duet See Dick Dance, performed with sass and precision by Jordan Isadore & Edward Sturgis was in that vein, as was the campy home video hosted by TruDee from her backyard in California, and Faraway, a doll’s romance sealed with a kiss by Satoshi Haga and Rie Fukuzawa. Able-bodied Megan Williams, backed by three men dressed black, wobbled around the fringes of spoof in her One Woman Show. Similarly, Active Listening, choreographed/performed by Cori Marquis and Jordon Risdon in the aisles by-stepped hilarity, due to poor site-lines and timing. Poking fun at high art, Andy Warhol’s Rite of Spring is a prancing romp set to Ravel’s Afternoon of a Faun and Bolero that closes with a banana-peeling victim being carried off by a mob.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

September 25, 2016
At the Japan Society, Takao Kawaguchi conceived, created and performed an evening dedicated to the esteemed Kazuo Ohno. a founder and pioneer of Butoh, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 103. Butoh began in Japan as an avant-garde dance form in the late 1950s, partly in response to the devastations of WWII, but also as a way to challenge the restrictive mores of Japanese society.

It often features white body paint, nudity, and extreme expression through the body at a slow, deliberate pace. Kawaguchi’s tribute featured a pre-show, site-specific sequence in the lobby, followed by an onstage performance of a work by Big Dance Theater, followed by the loving recreation of several Ohno solo masterworks, danced by Kawaguchi.

A large group of people clustered outside on the sidewalk in front of the Japan Society, facing towards the entrance, several cameras held aloft. As we slowly made our way in, we caught glimpses of Kawaguchi through the crowd, lying on the floor in the lobby, wearing just gym shorts and slowly rolling back and forth, apparently trying to pick up a motorcycle helmet with his toes. As people arranged themselves around him, he crawled, walked, ran and climbed on and around various structures, surrounded by bits of trash, empty cans, cardboard, and garbage bags.

At times he threw some objects angrily, or playfully swung through the crowd while tying a long streamer of rags around the space. He then wrapped himself up in the detritus – bags, Christmas tinsel, a leash, a broom – and covered himself completely. Slowly ambling towards the auditorium, he looked like a homeless creature trapped inside all his worldly possessions. We obediently followed him inside.

As we found our seats in the theater, Kawaguchi disappeared up the aisle as Paul Lazar of Big Dance Theater appeared onstage, wearing a large tattered coat, while he walked, made stiff-armed gestures, and sometimes posed. Tymberly Canales joined him onstage for Resplendent Shimmering Topaz Waterfall, a dance based on notations by Tatsumi Hjikata, another Butoh pioneer and Ohno’s frequent collaborator. A plastic jug that hung from the rafters occasionally “dripped” water into a tin tub (we hear rather than see this) as the performers shuffled slowly and deliberately around the stage, at times interacting, but mostly inhabiting different spaces, while snippets of music came in and out. It was a bleak rendering of two tired, seemingly downtrodden souls that don’t ever seem to connect.

The rest of the evening is dedicated to the Ohno masterpieces, danced with pathos and without interruption, including onstage costume changes, in a moving homage by Kawaguchi. His fascinating recreation of excerpts from Ohno’s performance in Admiring La Argentina, inspired by the famed Spanish flamenco dancer, brought to life a delicate grotesqueness that is strange to our Western sensibilities, and expands our understanding of beauty.

Kawaguchi’s “literal copying” of the master from video has caused controversy in Japan, but here the audience was rapt. As he explains, “The closer [the copy] gets, however, the clearer the gap becomes, minimum but inevitable no matter how hard [the imitator] tries to diminish it.

The paradox here is that the gap, nonetheless, highlights the very distinct characteristics of the copier. Copy is original.” Typically considered taboo for artists, the notion of “copying” is given a respectable status, and in the process we experience, live, a meeting of past and present, and something that would otherwise be irrevocably lost – condemned to fading videos and memories.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

September 23, 2016
Even before all the juicy red tomatoes have fallen off their stems, autumn’s dance season arrives. On a warm, humid evening, NYC Ballet's Gala inaugurated it’s pre-Nutcracker season by celebrating young choreographers. In a departure from previous years, two of the four choreographers were women. All in all, the evening was an uplifting view of a ballet company that has done more than any other in its league to promote a new generation of ballet choreographers.

Engaging film clips introduce each piece by offering a glimpse into the collaborative process between selected fashion designer, choreographer and the indefatigable Mark Happel, NYC Ballet's costume master.

One of the company’s fast rising ballerinas, Lauren Lovette struck first. “For Clara“ set to Robert Schumann features seventeen dancers in light, fluid costumes by Narciso Rodriguez. Choreographically pleasing, Lovette finds novel patterns for the corps. Bodies float up and down when men lift their partners in contrast to the lead couple. Repeated in various ways, it forms a compelling stage architecture that speaks to a lively mind.

Now a choreographer of note, NYC Ballet member Justin Peck scaled down his ballet “The Dreamers” to match two excellent principals, Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar in dowdy costumes by Dries Van Noten. Clearly a capable craftsman of regenerative talent, Peck’s sweeping arcs wrap the couples together, forming a rousing sense of familiarity and excitement to a score by Czechoslovakian composer Bohuslav Martinu.

In the introductory film clip, NYC Ballet corps member, Peter Walker expresses a strong personality that emerges in his choreography. The black outfits lined in white stripes by Jason Wu, suit the contemporary ballet executed in toe shoes and soft slippers. Legs spread wide-apart stretch into pointed then flexed feet punctuated by pop-up jumps peppered by women spinning and dipping in soft slippers. Rather than looking like a self-conscious merging of forms “then in seven” was a smooth, confident investigation of modern and ballet’s commonality set to a spunky, modern jazz score performed on stage by Thomas Kikta, Arkadiy Figlin, Raymond Mase and James Spaorito.

In comparison to the first four, rather brief but satisfying pieces, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s contribution nearly filled the second half. Her choice brought her in contact with the animated Rosie Assoulin. The attractive, supple black and white outfits designed either as vests or jackets with a swing skirt add to the dancers’ appeal. Working mainly in duets surrounded by corps, the hearty ballet allows the dancers to shine in breathable choreography that was expansive, yet local.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 22, 2016
The first image we see in John Jasperse “Remains” presented in the BAM Harvey Theatre is striking; it serves as a prologue to his hour long work. He contrasts lines and curves, stark and smooth, the durability of steel and the ephemeral nature of being, a shout and a purr by lying a dancer on her side with her back to the audience, her bottom twinkling in sequins in a grey space empty except for a gleaming three- sided beam. When the dancer finally begins to move lazily, Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World” comes to mind, but instead of its evocation of estrangement and longing, we feel the woman's sensuality. Jasperse plays on our memory of other paintings, such as “The Three Graces” by choose your favorite artist; Regnault, Botticelli, Raphael, or Rubens.

Jasperse employs an architectural approach that makes the viewer feel they have encountered something solid, even while he abruptly stops playful outbursts, heats up the set beam through a succession of colored gels: from yellow to red to white to yellow, and side-steps sentimentality by never implying any lasting relationships. How he shapes the whole is what makes you appreciate why he has enjoyed a reputation as a choreographer for 30 years. He shares the visual design credit with Lenore Doxsee who did the superb lighting design.

The movement is often familiar - walking steps for six: Maggie Cloud, Marc Crousillat, Burr Johnson, Heather Lang, Stuart Singer, and Claire Westby, moving in two lines that repeatedly criss cross each other suggesting the harmony we can imagine of 19th century ice skaters or dancers jumping into each other to be flung or briefly cradled. Costumes and poses are shared by the three men and women. First, three women take the iconic pose of “The Three Graces” and later three men appear wearing short dresses assume the same positions, though slightly more effeminate. Towards the close, Jasperse relaxes his formality to throw in a bit of dead-pan voguing, and play with syncopation in a side by side duet.

John King is credited with the music, which often supports a sense of nostalgia or humor, but its the timing and length of the silences that are most effective, just as the moments when the dancers are prone seem the most lush.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

September 18, 2016
Tethered to a long white bungee cord, she strains against her harness, taunting the crowd seated on sides of the boxing ring arena. This is Nora Chipaumaire’s new work dedicated to her father—or more to the point, understanding her father. A fierce performer in her own right, Ms. Chipaumire always exudes the courage of a warrior. This was no exception.

The first entry in BAM’s fall season, audience members crammed the Fisher Theater to watch Ms. Chipaumire. Text, driving music and movement spring from the trio’s criss-crossing patterns and gymnastic feats. Born in Zimbabwe, Ms. Chiapaumire collaborates with another beguiling performer from Senegalese Kaolock as well as the evening’s restless M.C. Shamar Watt.

Tackling stereotypical ideas about men, particularly black men, Chipaumire’s “Portrait of Myself as My Father,” restlessly stalks the stage space with Chipaumaire stridings, hitting power poses as Kaolock transforms into a wild animal, growling out fevered sounds.

Mr. Watt, gamely shouting out comments, and re-positioning floor lights, takes off at one point racing across the stage and I kid you not, leaps over the boxing ring ropes like an Olympian clearing hurdles, then jumping up and grabbing the pipes just under the balcony for a couple of pull-ups. This typhoon action continued for about 12 crossings. That breathless action, as well as Chipaumire’s sly grin sum up the evening’s production. Near the end, when the molecules start to settle you hear “What is this about Nora?” …..”It’s the manifesto.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

jill sigman/thinkdance
September 14, 2016
Of the tiny tidbits, sweeping issues, and overarching ideas in Jill Sigman’s Weed Heart, the most effective convergence is plant conversation. Sigman sets up Gibney Dance Center’s downtown space appropriately for audiences to take up the practice. On the second floor, pillows intersperse with plants. At once a meeting ground, meditation center, and library, one easily hears the sheer presence of organisms used to being chopped away. Tracing the dignified history of plants we have learned to consider pests, Sigman preps us to tackle analogous issues of racism without diminishing the botanical content of her metaphor.

Downstairs in the Agnes Varis Performance Lab, doors open to a hanging garden: a fishing cage sheltering bundles of sprouts in soil-filled t-shirts, ruined siding perfectly arced to cradle grass, and a bedframe holding more bundles in its springs. Welcomed with tea brewed with a weed once known as loveage, we connect biologically to the performance’s elements.

Though wearing a large leaf as a mask, the proceeding fiery accumulation of articulations is the same person who greeted us with a cup of tea. Sigman lightly traces a circle, between a jig and a spar. Her weight gradually increases, feet widen, and chest drops to slowly descend a wall, stiffly planked for the duration.

Accompanying this journey is Kristin Norderval with a computer and additional found objects. Electronic drones underpin live vocalizations – tribal yodels, angelically soaring tones, and gruff ornamentations.

The test of interdisciplinary work is the intersecting of media. Katrina De Wees, functioning as an acolyte, places bundles onto Sigman’s sternum and waters them, as though the roots could pierce down her torso. Norderval steps in to hum on her throat – at once the jaws of life and the bite of a vampire. Sigman herself vocalizes, facedown, increasing volume and pitch to invigorate what lies below. This downward yearning is no accident.

It just so happens Gibney sits over a fraction of grounds designated for African burials in colonial New York. Across the street in City Hall Park was the Commons where one could forage and practice rituals openly and safely (until it was later privatized), meanwhile City Hall itself was for rebel executions. The layers of the land are so loaded, the only direction to go is down, and deeply so.

Sigman’s costume becomes all the more charged: a hoodie clenched tightly around her face, acknowledging those endangered for strolling in a comfortable article of clothing. Wearing the greenery parallels advocacy for weeds and Black Lives alike.

As an audience, we are offered, invited, but never pressured with participation. We remember collectively. Bypassing the problematic recollecting of something not experienced through someone else’s interpretation, Sigman proposes a definition of reversed dismemberment (“re-limbing”) with the help of a soup additionally made with the installation’s leafy components.

Such tender interaction generates consent for a post-show trip to the parking lot, situated above more bones, home to the tree bearing the masking leaf. Sigman waters it despite the asphalt’s stranglehold around which whose mere existence is a feat.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

August 18, 2016
Philadelphia’s BalletX returned to the Joyce for it’s third visit in recent years, offering up a varied program of three works. The company, which strives to mesh the classical pillars of ballet with new age forms has set itself apart with its niche market of repertoire and dancers. They aren’t ballet dancers attempting contemporary or vice versa, instead they have a relaxed and easy approach to ballet with a bit of an edge or dare I say…an X factor.

Matthew Neenan, a co-founder of the company as well as resident choreographer to the Pennsylvania Ballet presented ‘Show Me’. Quartets formed the base groupings, mixing sexes naturally and effectively. Neenan breaks some ballet ‘rules’ inventively in a way you don’t think twice about.

The occasional overused idea comes into play (speaking on stage, breaking the ‘4th wall) but those minor moments are more of an afterthought. Each step flows into the next, as the dancers literally whisk themselves into filed lines before blowing away into the wings or into new groupings center stage.

The ease, the breath is enjoyable to watch. Neenan still leaves room for development and exploration- the core of his choreographic practice however resonates progressively.

Jorma Elo’s ‘Gran Partita’ follows and is pretty but lacks depth. It’s neoclassical ballet at the core without feeling or excitement. Again, there is the motion of unspooling lines and groups that unravel into solos and duets- the format being something not new for Elo.

Trey McIntyre’s ‘Big Ones’ closes the program, set to an array of Amy Winehouse songs. McIntyre is a true master of the contemporary ballet. Everything he does from music choice to costume selection (by the creative Reid Bartleme & Harriet Jung) is original and most importantly entertaining.

Large bunny like ears are worn by the cast of 10 that curve high above their heads. As they begin to undulate their bodies, accordion style images call our attention repeatedly. Gestures make up the base of much of the movement. At once casual and technical, one swipe of the arm leads into a full body motion that adds the kick of a leg or a jump that drops to the floor.

Neenan is on his way to develop a strong voice in the field, McIntyre has established his and I only long to see more of it put to action.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

August 9, 2016
The week of August 1 st marked American Dance Festival’s New York City presenting debut at The Joyce Theater, opening its run with the captivating Russian performance group, Provincial Dances Theatre. Under the innovative artistic direction of choreographer Tatiana Baganova, Provincial Dances Theatre began in 1990 as one of the first avant-garde performing groups in post-reform Russia. Now, over 25 year later, the company has built a repertoire of 25 productions, an array of “independent dance/movement miniatures,” and an internationally renowned reputation.

The program featured two contemporary works, each earning the audience’s awe and attention in their own right. Baganova’s choreographic voice is clear in both, hinging on fluid phrases, punctuated by bouts of full-bodied movement, and ultimately grounded in intense theatricality. No narrative is present; Baganova appears to favor the abstract and intentionally push the bizarre and disconnected.

“Maple Garden” is haunting from the start. Flashes of light highlight a dancer perched atop a tree branch upstage, as the whistles and hushed animal sounds (Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung and the Moscow Art Trio) consume. The dancers don white clown-like face paint and warm-toned costumes (by Olga Pautova and Viktoriya Mozgovaya). They quickly prove their competence as dance technicians, but also theatrical performers. Recurring gestural phrases, soft bobbing, and rapid unraveling movement ensue. In particular, Aleksandra Stoliarova stands out in her delivery.

And yet, it’s the sporadic, theatric encounters that rise to the forefront—perhaps due to their unabashed peculiarity that is nothing short of memorable. A lone performer scurries across the stage, trapped in a butterfly net. A male dancer bites and pulls a string from his partner’s mouth, skirt, and top. Each time, another cuts the string with a pair of scissors, triggering an eruption of laughter. Later the women find themselves tied to the tree by their hair, succumbing to a rag-doll type fate. By the end, it’s as though we’ve witnessed some sort of mysterious and scrambled up folk tale.

The 2010 work, “Sepia” closes the double bill. Inspired by the atmosphere described in Kobo Abe’s book, “Woman in the Dunes,” a monochromatic tone defines all production elements, from Nin Idrikson’s soft lighting to Anastasia Sokolova’s sand-colored costumes and large hourglasses suspended above the dancer’s heads.

The movement carries this quality as well. It’s largely sensual, complementing the slow, lingering sounds of Avet Terteryan’s “Symphony No. 8.” However, the hallmark of this work, becomes the use of the hourglasses. Each is opened one by one, releasing a waterfall of sand that the dancers slide through, whip from their hair, and even bathe in. The work is an image of time elapsing and it’s truly alluring in visual effect.

Of note, though not surprise, is that Baganova holds the Golden Mask award – the most highly regarded national theater award in Russia – for both of these works.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

August 5, 2016
Presented by the American Dance Festival, Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre at the Joyce is a glimpse into Herrera’s unique repertoire. Two works were shown, the first being the New York Premiere of Carne Viva, a duet driven piece that feels like a work in progress. As the lights fade up at curtain, the male dancer lifts his female counterpart into the air then proceeds to hold her there for as long as he can. Time after time his strength runs out and he falls onto his knees until he is ready to go again, with each lift straining his lower back a little more. During this painful to watch cycle, a light and airy pop song plays giving the image some life, but not much meaning. Finally as the song ends the two dancers onstage begin to move fluidly together through lifts and circular patterns so complete silence. Interesting patterns are broken up by lengthy pauses, that seem to stop any momentum of the movement, which would eventually become the theme of the evening.

It is a relief when a third dancer enters the stage to break up the continuity. A fun continuous beat spurs the stage to new life as these two dancers proceed to what can only be called "dance fight." Pushing, reacting, connecting across the stage, it is exciting change from what has proceeded, however as the song continues in that same rhythmic pattern so do the two dancers. Though each image is intriguing in the way it hits, after a while it all starts looking the same. Silence once again follows as the two women stand facing each other in what feels like a power struggle. They walk towards and back away from each other continuing for an absurd amount of time until finally connect and the piece concludes. A strange end to a scattered piece.

With the second piece of the night, energy is high as the stage reveals an opening image of small vignettes, all with elaborate costumes and staging. Herrera’s 2009 work Various Stages of Drowning: A Cabaret promises life and delivers muddied vision. The strong images uptop include a pinata and a beautiful man in a bathtub. Each dancer does their own thing until suddenly the couple downstage left causes a commotion. While on a date, the man sprays the woman with the violent burst of water. She seems annoyed and rushes off stage only to return in a brand-new outfit. Movement once again fills the stage until, BAM, the hose hits again. This continues two more times with no variations in pacing, which is funny but like a lot of ideas to come the humor doesn't quite land. The stage fades to black and the piece continues one; the pinata and the bathtub man are never to be seen again…

Another example of comedic miss is in a section where three men are carrying a young female dancer around the stage, lowering her onto cakes that have been place onto stools, ten cakes in total, which is at least three cakes too many. Only cake three holds variation in timing, which make the whole section feel like an exploration of monotony. All this being said there are still a few really nice moments, like a section where she has all twelve dancers moving in unison or the section where a drag queen lip syncs to Celine Dion’s memorable “My Heart will Go On,” wind in hair. Tragically, many of the movement phrases that start to form into gripping sequences are cut short by Herrera’s love of the dramatic pause. Maybe the strangest part of the entire evening was the decision to end the work with a video, featuring the same dancers on stage plunging from a raft into the ocean depths. That being said, the video’s use of close up and boring cinematography (with the exception of the final gorgeous sequence) relies on the audience caring about these characters, even the ones that had almost no stage time. Unfortunately for the work, the characters were not strong enough to elicit emotional connections.

Blackouts served to transition between each section, perhaps because there felt like no unity or singular vision to organically lead from one section to the next. Ideas were clearly present throughout, but it was difficult to distinguish those ideas. It does seem clear that Herrera’s voice is something new, however her compositional language does not yet feel fully formed.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

July 19, 2016
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer have been collaborating since 1978, working with video technology and live performance. Their two New York premieres at the Sheen Center, Remembering What Never Happened and Voyeur, brought up so many ideas and questions about representation, time, space, illusion and reality that my head was spinning – in a good way – for most of the evening. Although the use of video and projection in dance has precedent as far back as Massine and Tchelitchev’s Ode (1928 for the Ballets Russes), and put Robert Joffrey’s Astarte on the cover of Time magazine in 1967, its use has not become commonplace in concert dance. After seeing Bridgman and Packer, one wonders… why not? The melding of actual corporeality with flat, moving three-dimensional images that are a window to the world, into one integrated whole, seems to expand both art forms. And what better way to interest today’s screen-saturated generation in a live performance and its possibilities?

Two dancers sitting in chairs on a darkened stage, looking into the wings, are soon bathed in a blue light, while projections of them – whether on the scrim behind them, or on their bodies, dance and move as they do. We become absorbed in the game of discerning precision: is this happening in real time, or are the dancers flawlessly synced with a previously filmed image? At one point, a small time-lapse emerges, with the projected image mimicking the dancer one count after she moves. In another section, he sits in a chair downstage and as he moves, his image is projected in multiples across the screen. At other times, the movements and projections recall Herbert Migdoll’s time-lapse photographic experiments of the 1960s.

Bridgman and Packer’s loose contemporary style recalls some of Trisha Brown’s quality, but the movement itself is not the focus; instead we think about its relationship to the flat image, or to the other dancer, or how the bodies move from one circumscribed illusory space to another. In one particularly eerie passage, she is projected walking around what looks like the side of a rocky cliff, as he watches her from the stage. They simultaneously inhabit two different worlds, and it feels like peeking inside his head, witnessing his memory or imagination or both. Each aesthetic shift, unobtrusively accompanied by different optical illusions and soundscapes – from percussive to bluesy to violins – becomes a new question, a new story, and an increasingly more absorbing moment in time. Walter Benjamin wrote about how film could expand our visual and cognitive space; these artists literally embody this notion. Yet they also turn Benjamin’s “distracted viewer” of film on its head: we are compelled to pay attention.

During intermission the audience is invited to walk around the stage and examine the flat cardboard cutout façade of a house, which will later transform into different homes, street scenes, and even a gorgeous seascape, through projections. Although the program tells us the paintings of Edward Hopper were a point of departure, at different moments I was also reminded of Dali’s Girl at a Window, of 1925, the works of the 19th-century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, and the grit of Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire. Through their choreography, the dancers magnify a strange nostalgia, and a feeling of unease, with repetitive and sometimes violent encounters between them that occur through a window, or between a doorway, or in an alley, sometimes “real,” sometimes projected, but constantly changing time and place.

These dance artists, along with their many collaborators – Philip Gulley for technology design, Frank DenDanto III and Andrew Trent for lighting design and operation, John Guth for sound, and Gil Sperling for technology engineering – have taken the merely optical or corporeal and by fusing them together, created a coherent, forcefully engaging aesthetically whole.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

July 17, 2016
Way chill was the mood Tony Waag, MC/Film Editor/Executive Director of American Tap Dance Foundation (ATDF) set for their program at The Duke. It showered affection on the tap dancers of yore, and acknowledged through stills and clips eight New York institutions that presented tap dance through its evolution. Waag wore a straw hat that manifests his predilection for the period when dancers charmed us as much with how they set up and closed a phrase, as with their own enjoyment.

After Waag’s collage of period footage, Viennese born Max Pollak opened the show, shouting “Buster Brown, Ruby Keeler, Fred Astaire, Don Draper” and other dancers making us look for clues of their individual tap styles in his limpid, unaccompanied solo called “Body Percussion.”

With the exception of the style mash-up for Fascinatin' Rhythm, music by George and Ira Gershwin, with Waacker Richard James (too brief), Hip Hop floor spins by Rokafella (just long enough), body percussionists Lynn Schwab & Samara Seligsohn, the show held back on razzle dazzle. The flat frontal style, with the torso quiet, the head and arm movement minimal primed our ears to focus on the music of the feet. Easy does it seems to be Waag’s caveat. Let the audience consider an era before crazy fast and loud becomes our expectation from percussionists.

Caleb Teicher stepped in and out of sand for a respectful, reserved solo in tribute to Sandman Sims. Melinda Sullivan sang Bye, Bye, Blues and then tapped with balletic grace. Members of the Tap City Youth Ensemble performed cheerfully a unison standard, originally choreographed by Gower Champion, adapted by Randy Skinner.

The best melding of media and live dance came with The Stair Dance/Doin’ the New Lowdown/ShimSham, solo and choreography by Leonardo Sandoval. A five-tierred, symmetrical stair provided the simple set for the dance set against a split screen (4 colored squares) of a film. Playing live occasionally was Jess Jurkovic on piano, Joe Fonda on bass, Josh Davis on drums.

Thank goodness we have so many of the tap masters, John Bubbles, Bojangles included, readily available on Youtube. Who could come close to catching their invention, variety, and spontaneity, their unforgettable personalities? Between live homages, teaching, and videos, the Tap Treasures are safe!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

July 8, 2016
Earlier in the season, James Whiteside proved a gallant and attentive partner to Veronica Part. When paired with Isabella Boylston in Romeo and Juliet, there was less chemistry and more concentration on the actual steps. Choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan to the heart-thumping score by Sergei Prokofiev, the male roles are extremely demanding requiring assured multiple turns, leaps that spread into dead stops and fleet footed passages. On top of that, there are those tricky sword and fight scenes that could use stunt-doubles.

In the telling of Shakespeare’s tragedy of star-crossed lovers, MacMillan stages a number of large group scenes that can drag. There’s ton’s of detail that a camera might capture, townspeople in the background chatting, flirting, but for the audience the staging sags.

Although the two great love duets between Romeo and Juliet, lovers falling breathlessly into each others’ arms, only to rise in exaltation are extracted for galas, some of the meatiest choreography goes to Romeo and Mercutio (Danil Simkin) as well as Benvolio (Calvin Royal III) and Tybalt (Patrick Ogle). Camaraderie, a key ingredient uniting the three Montague fellows, was muted. Royal’s strong personality guided his interpretation but like Simkin, who whizzes through the knotty turn and leaps, they embraced the audience instead of each other.

The desperate love at the heart of this production grows by the end. Boylston’s enthusiasm undermines expressions of vulnerability and in the balcony scene; Whiteside and Boylston rush through the choreography, skipping over the throbbing passion. However, their amour grows by the final bedroom scene.

Charles Barker conducted the well-calibrated orchestra.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 27, 2016
Thelma Hill Performing Art Center (Thpac) celebrates 40 years of supporting dancers and choreographers of color at the Actors Fund Art Center this last week of June. After a short welcome by Executive Chairman Alex Smith and Artistic Advisor Walter Rutledge, the evening’s program began with a video and then choreographed tribute to the late Loretta Abbott. Thpac’s 40th anniversary is dedicated to Loretta Abbott, whose death is still making waves in the dance world by all those who were recognize her importance and greatness. Emotions ran high, and Jamal Story Loss: Remixed did not let up. Virtuosic movements lead Story across the stage, taking moments of breath as he explored the feelings of loss simply and elegantly.

Mayra, be strong! Presented a less emotional, but incredibly interesting piece. A photographer and a dancer performed on the stage. The photographer took pictures throughout the wild and energetic piece. One by one the pictures taken at those moments appeared projected on the back wall. Dance and documentations happened simultaneously. Observing frozen moments from the alive dance still ongoing was a fascinating contrast; highlighting how dance is captured in stills. The intensity of the dancer was absolutely present in her movement as well as the photographs.

The fun really begins as the HSA Dance Ensemble performs their group routine Sweet’s Sweet Suite. A group of youth, including two very young dancers, performed a latin fusion dance, dripping with rhythm and playfulness.

Post intermission, there could not be a more varied cross section of dancers making work. First, Ronald K Alexander presents his heartbreaking Tribute to Orlando, letting the pain ripple through each accent of his body and his solo to the familiar Clair de Lune. As the audience was gathering themselves from the power of Mr Alexander’s performance, they were invited to come stand on stage in the round for the next piece, A Walk in Our Heels.

Abdiel Jacobsen presented his work that showcases ballroom style dances where both male and female partners wear heels. It was stunning the way Jacobsen and his partner Kelsey Burns moved in perfect synchronization, but the two who really stole the show were the percussionists and vocalist, Meredith Butterworth and Greg Osei.

Finally the last piece feature dancer Bones, who is a ‘Flex Dancer.’ Using contortion and quick muscle contractions he made the piece Bones the Machine feel like an appropriate title. Moving in ways the inspired gasps from the audience, he created interesting pictures, elevating the street style of dance to appear comfortable in the concert venue. The audience was raucous after his performance, cheering for Bones, but also for the full night of dance which was illuminating, emotional and a true celebration of the work Thpac is fostering.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

June 27, 2016
In their tenth season at the Joyce Theater, RIOULT Dance NY returned with a dramatic interpretation of Euripides’ iconic Greek tragedies in WOMEN ON THE EDGE...Unsung Heroines of the Trojan War. Like much of Rioult’s work, this program was a total theater experience, complete with stunning sets, dramatic lighting, multimedia projections, live music and narration (by renowned film and stage actress, Kathleen Turner) and of course, powerful execution of his Graham-inspired choreography. For those who are fans of this classic modern aesthetic, this work is sure to please: Rioult showcases his dancers’ agility and athleticism in choreography that emphasises precision, attack and a preference for bold shapes and lines above all else. For those who appreciate a more subtle, nuanced performance, however, Rioult’s liberal use of anguish-ridden-contractions and chests-clasped-in-despair may seem slightly melodramatic.

While the first two pieces, Iphigenia and ON DISTANT SHORES...A Redemption Fantasy were both well-received, perhaps the most anticipated moment of the evening was the unveiling of the world premiere of Cassandra’s Curse. Of the three works, this was the most engaging as it was the only piece to feature live music (in addition to live narration and dynamic projections,) which had the effect of evoking more expressivity and finesse among the dancers. Suddenly, the movement and bodies appeared less rigid, more alert, and more supple-spined.

Cassandra’s Curse was also especially poignant because it was the most adept at conveying the timelessness of Euripides’ message about the futility of war: by projecting images of modern-day combat, Rioult draws a direct parallel to current conflicts across the globe. I did, however, question the overwhelming portrayal of brown women and children in headscarves, especially projected against an all-white cast. In a country that is currently engaged in three of its own wars (yet enjoys the privilege of remaining relatively unaffected on a day-to-day basis,) this skewed depiction of war-torn communities as ‘other’ was rather unsettling.

Nevertheless, this collection of dance dramas was entertaining to watch, thanks in large part to a powerful message delivered by a solid cast. Through them, Rioult was able to explore and celebrate the oft forgotten role of women during wartime, drawing attention to their grace and resilience in the face of social calamity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Karina Ikezoe

June 21, 2016
Eye on Dance Named America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasure Monday, July 13, marked the celebration of the newest additions to Dance Heritage Coalition’s esteemed collective of American’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures, among them Eye on Dance.

It was back in the fall of 1999 when the Dance Heritage Coalition first solicited nominations for the first 100 America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures to recognize the rich heritage of American dance and heighten public awareness; over 900 nominations flooded in. Selections were made through a three-stage committee process.

Those honored had made a significant impact on dance as an art form, demonstrated artistic excellence, enriched the nation's cultural heritage, demonstrated the potential to enhance the lives of future generations, and shown itself/themselves as worthy of national and international recognition.

From 2003 to 2009, the first 100 Treasures were celebrated in a national, collaborative touring exhibition, which opened at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Following the acclaim surrounding the exhibition, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Dance Heritage Coalition support to create an Online Exhibition of the Dance Treasures, and soon after,13 new legendary American Treasures were named.

The recent celebratory evening evening honored these newly named Treasures, including Josephine Baker, Ann Barzel, Joan Myers Brown, Clark Center for the Performing Arts, Eye on Dance, Michio Ito,La Meri, Lar Lubovitch, Isamu Noguchi, Pilobolus, Ginger Rogers, and Urban Bush Women. The special guest honoreesof the event featured Joan Myers Brown (of Philadanco), Celia Ipiotis and Jeff Bush (of Eye on the Arts), Chanon Judson (of Urban Bush Women), Lar Lubovitch (of Lar Lubovitch Dance Company), and Jill Williams (of the Clark Center for the Performing Arts).

Each was recognized in a speech made by an affiliate and short video/imagery segments highlighting the work, history, and impact they had made on the dance field. Following, a lively panel discussion among the honorees ensued. Most profound was the interconnectedness among all of the honorees and their organizations, highlighting the true sense of community that grounds the dance world. To learn more about the Treasures and view the Online Exhibition, visit
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

Monte/Molissa/Margo/Muller - LIVE!
June 19, 2016
A multi-choreographer evening of dance can be a dynamic experience. By nature, however, it also holds potential to unfold in an episode of unavoidable compare and contrast, often revealing a key stand out from the rest. New York Live Arts’ Monte / Molissa / Margo / Muller LIVE! Program was no different. With four female choreographers presenting a total of five works-- including 3 premieres-- and 25 dancers, one came out on top: Margo Sappington’s “Entwined.”

Created in 2012 for Ballet Next, Sappington’s work is a balance of serenity and sensuality. Various phrases, set to Erik Satie’s piano solos, create building cascades of movement, occasionally finding a breath in a recurring moment in which one arm drapes over the head, the other reaching elegantly upwards.

Most outstanding is the pas de deux; here, Dance Theater of Harlem’s Chyrstyn Maariah Fentroy mesmerizes. She and her partner glide from one seamless lift to the next. One moment she’s en pointe, lunging forward in arabesque, as if defying gravity, and before long they find their way to the floor in a tender suspended pause. It’s a beautiful dance to see in such an intimate setting, where each dancer’s emotive performance further adds to the energy created.

The evening began on a far tamer note with Molissa Fenley’s world premiere of “The Third Coast” and New York premiere of “Mali” (both sections of a larger work entitled “Water Table”). The choreography rings literal at best, shifting through slow, stoic, and simple patterns, meant to present the qualities of water. In “Mali,” Fenley herself takes to the stage in a solo very reminiscent of the first work, heavy on the gestural movements. Her years of technical training are evident, but we don’t witness the work build. It remains on an even, almost meditative, plane.

Elisa Monte’s “Dextra Dei” follows. It’s a re-envisioned version of her 1989 response to the AIDS crisis. The dancers roll on from the wings swiftly, and sometimes more delicately, moving another dancer above the group in a momentary pose. Once on their feet, others rush on and jump into the collective’s arms. There’s a sense of momentum that continues, juxtaposed by sporadic stillness. When the men become the focus, it’s Thomas Vavaro who shines in his strength and control. The all-female section (an addition to the original work) has ferocity brewing as the women travel through patterns of repeated phrases.

The evening closes with Jennifer Muller’s world premiere of “Working Title.” It’s a storybook dance of relationships and the associated emotions that ebb and flow. Violinist Yut Chia and cellist Shayne Lebron Acevdeo join the dancers on stage, performing live alongside electronic pop music. The music draws attention at times away from the dance, which by comparison feels lean. A great deal of focus is on the dancer’s emotional interactions, some more convincing than others. Each couple and trio ultimately retreats to the now scattered chairs upstage to sit, alone.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jennifer Thompson EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

June 19, 2016
Veronika Part emerged victorious in the dual role of Odette (pure)-Odile (evil) at the Metropolitan Opera House. Partnered by the animated Robert Whiteside, her slim, broad shoulders extended the line of her avian arms. A steely elegance pervaded her deeply personal interpretation of the woman transformed by a magician into a swan.

In search of his soul mate, Prince Siegfried (Whiteside) leaves his hunting buddies only to discover Odette, the woebegone shimmering beauty lakeside. Part’s musicality is most clearly expressed through her rich pantomime. Fingers flutter under downcast eyes depicting tears and profound sadness. In previous viewings, Ms. Part’s technique proved unsteady, but there were no signs of weakness. This was one of those nights when she was “totally on.”

Besides the difficult interpretive task facing any ballerina in Swan Lake, there are many tricky passages and on each occasion, whether it was rotating backwards on one leg raised in attitude, suspending balances or negotiating those niggly 32 fouettes, Part conquered.

Part of her strong showing could be attributed to her able partner. This season, Whiteside has come into focus. A tall, lean dancer he’s tightened his dance technique and partnering skills while broadening his dramatic chops.

Another dancer who continues to grow and deepen in his roles is Marcello Gomes. Right now, he’s the most magnificent Rothbart/Evil Sorcerer. Dark eye make-up outlined his darting eyes magnifying his seductive spell. As his dagger-like legs flash out to the side and back corralling his prey.A couple of other recent standouts include Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, Katherine Williams and in particular, Catherine Hurlin.

The ensemble achieves its ephemeral beauty, supple in form and clear in design. Swan Lake, choreographed by Kevin McKenzie after (sort of) Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov and set to the heartbreaking music by Tchaikovsky, lures the audiences into American Ballet Theater’s season.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia IPiotis

June 18, 2016
Jessica Lang offers a link to our modern dance pioneers with their spiritual ethos and, simultaneously, to the architects of classical ballet. No wonder she has been commissioned so many times; she leaves you feeling optimistic about the future of American dance, moved by her themes, her inspired collaborators and marvelous dancers--her clarity is infectious.

For her fifth year as artistic director of her own company, Lang opened her season at The Joyce Theatre with Patrick Coker dancing Solo Bach, an absolute delight created in 2008. Clifton Brown and Eve Jacobs, on pointe, performed Among the Stars, (2010) with its signature regal use of a long swath of fabric.

Nine dancers came together for Thousand Yard Stare (2015), that shows the comfort of company, the merits of military precision and uniformity marked by rhythms broken, solos taken, stillness. Beginning in silence and ending with stomping, this piece takes on theme of battle fatigue, with limp bodies carried by others, as Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 Third movement Adagio sets the tragic tone.

Sweet Silent Thought (2016) opens with a stirring solo by the long limbed Milan Misko who is later joined by John Harnage, and two women Kana Kimura, and Laura Mead whose white costumes by Bradon McDonald, cut to thigh top in front and below the knees in the back, waft as they are carried as briefly as a deep breath. This dance is not as immediate as the other dances, primarily because of the demanding, original score by Jakub Ciupinski inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets 30, 64, 40, 105, and 71, with vintage radio-sounding recitations by Nilanjana Bose-Ciupinska, Chukwudi Iwuji, and Chris Myers.

Shinichi Maruyama’s for video art of i.n.k (2011) is an utterly compelling complement to Lang’s choreography for seven dancers, with its central duet, in which a man catches a woman who keeps collapsing. As the two stand side by side, an unknown slowly descends ominously on the back wall; its inevitable fall creates a liquid crown sculpture. Lang swings the mood back up with an ensemble romp for the close.

All Lang’s dances are brilliantly lit by Nicole Pearce, matching Lang’s elegance. In i.n.k.she throws a strong white light from high, downstage, the dancers appear to be dancing with their alter egos on the back wall. In Thousand Yard Stare, Pearce throws a side light on the heads of dancers all facing the audience giving the impression of an oppressive, black frame, and later, she zaps the dancers with a violent flash, in sync with Beethoven’s punches.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

June 13, 2016
Dance Heritage Coalition and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will present a public program honoring artists and organization named to the Dance Treasures list in 2015. The distinguished guests, who will participate in an evening of conversation, videos, and celebration, are: Joan Myers Brown, founder of PHILADANCO (The Philadelphia Dance Company) and the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, and an internationally recognized advocate for expanding opportunities in the arts.

Celia Ipiotis, co-founder and host of Eye on Dance, an influential television program launched in 1981 to help propel dance literacy and explore a wide variety of contemporary topics through the lens of dance.

Chanon Judson, Associate Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women, a Brooklyn-based company with the mission of revealing stories of the disenfranchised through dance, exploring women-centered and African-diaspora perspectives, and seeking social justice.

Lar Lubovitch, contemporary dance choreographer and company director who has demonstrated remarkable versatility in creating works for major ballet companies, ice dance shows, Broadway, and film.

Jill Williams, founder of Clark Center NYC, preserving and sharing the legacy of Clark Center for the Performing Arts, a diverse arts community that incubated many significant dance artists and works.

The program will include a panel discussion, video excerpts, tributes from dance scholars, and audience Q&A. The event honors a diverse and outstanding group of individuals and organizations who have made enduring contributions to America’s dance heritage, and whose achievements have been recognized by their peers in the dance community through their nomination and election as “Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.” Join us to celebrate their legacy! Imogen Smith Acting Executive
Bruno Walter Theater

June 13, 2016
Dance Heritage Coalition and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will present a public program honoring artists and organization named to the Dance Treasures list in 2015. The distinguished guests, who will participate in an evening of conversation, videos, and celebration, are: Joan Myers Brown, founder of PHILADANCO (The Philadelphia Dance Company) and the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, and an internationally recognized advocate for expanding opportunities in the arts.

Celia Ipiotis, co-founder and host of Eye on Dance, an influential television program launched in 1981 to help propel dance literacy and explore a wide variety of contemporary topics through the lens of dance.

Chanon Judson, Associate Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women, a Brooklyn-based company with the mission of revealing stories of the disenfranchised through dance, exploring women-centered and African-diaspora perspectives, and seeking social justice.

Lar Lubovitch, contemporary dance choreographer and company director who has demonstrated remarkable versatility in creating works for major ballet companies, ice dance shows, Broadway, and film.

Jill Williams, founder of Clark Center NYC, preserving and sharing the legacy of Clark Center for the Performing Arts, a diverse arts community that incubated many significant dance artists and works.

The program will include a panel discussion, video excerpts, tributes from dance scholars, and audience Q&A. The event honors a diverse and outstanding group of individuals and organizations who have made enduring contributions to America’s dance heritage, and whose achievements have been recognized by their peers in the dance community through their nomination and election as “Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.”

June 13, 2016
Ballet Tech Kids Dance once again showcased the hard work of their talented young dancers this past weekend at the Joyce theater. Grades 4-8, Ballet Tech offers a full scholarship ballet program for a select group of students who have talent and are eager. In Program A performed on Saturday evening, the company presented 4 works, including a delightful solo by young dancer, Johnson Guo.

The opening piece was the accurately named Quickstep, featuring 15 young men moving through the space in different patterns and movement variations. Using interesting movement visuals that are easy to follow, focus could be given to the amount of work and technique these young men had put in. As the dancers collapsed to the floor at the pieces end, the tension in the room released and the audience of family and friends reared with applause.

After a quick set change to a half cyc, the next piece A Yankee Doodle, showed off the older students’ talent and Artistic Director, Eliot Feld’s whimsical yet simple choreography. Snare Drums and classic Americana music set the sound for the dancers, dressed in stars and stripes. Up, down, through, and in, the dancers move in sequences around the stage, sometimes as a group and moments that highlight each dance. At the height of silliness, one dance re-enters the stage with a Yankee Doodle hat, holding behind him a horse’s rear, swooshy tail and all.

Ending the night was Upside Dance, an eight section piece performed to Scandinavian folk music. This time around it was the young kids moment to shine, in a joyous rampage of oddity and fun. Pounding feet and screaming voices fill the space throughout the piece. Both quirky and technical, the students are able to present fully realized choreography with technical difficulty, while still having fun and soliciting excited reactions from the audience.

The dedication the the dancers show truly matches the dedicated mission of the school, to provide intense dance training to inspired students at no cost to them. Ballet Tech continues to create and build up a new generation of dancers filled with spirit and ability.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

June 9, 2016
Alexi Ratmansky dips back into the archives of Diaghilev’s “Ballets Russes” (1909 – 1929) to reiminagine one of the eras innovative choreographers Michel Fokine’s production of The Golden Cockerel.The good thing about dance’s lack of universal dance documentation in the era before video, is that a choreographer can re-imagine a ballet that only exists in photos, film snippets and biased reviews.

Tapping into a magical time, the Astrologer—engagingly played by James Whiteside, hungers for the capture of a fantastical Queen of Shemakhan (Stella Arbrera). His secret weapon is the magical Golden Cockerel (Cassandra Trenary).

Traditional, pre-Russian revolution towns emerge in fairytale book style populated by men and women in a riot of colorful outfits, wide fitting skirts, vests, fur rimmed hats topping flowing robes, crowns weighed by long beards, and a shimmering gold cockerel. The eye-catching scenery costumes are by Richard Hudson inspired by the remarkable Natalia Goncharova and the sumptuous music is courtesy of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Dance reconstructions are difficult because of course the audiences are different as are the dancers and their training. Imperial School trained dancers were technically quite capable, but they are also master actors. Today’s dancers are expressive, but frequently lack dramatic depth and heft.

Meanwhile, in a neighboring kingdom, Tsar Dodon (veteran Victor Barbee) and his sons, Prince Guidon (Aaron Scott) and Prince Afron (Alexander Hammoudi) fear the constant incursions of barbarians. Ready to assist, the Astrologer presents the Tsar with the gift of the Gockerel, whose crow warns of insurgents.

Thrilled they celebrate, but soon the cockerel crows and the sons are off to war. Word comes back they are slain. This spurs the Tsar to action. Off he goes to retrieve the sons only to encounter the seductive Queen of Shemakhan (Stella Abrera).

Seduced by the queen, the silly Tsar claims her as his queen and returns to his land. There the wily sorcerer demands the Queen as his bounty for the Golden Cockerel. Refusing to obey, the Tsar kills the Astrologer and in turn, the Tsar’s us gruesomely pecked to death—shades of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds?”

Totally suite to mount ballet spectacles, American Ballet Theater nonetheless does not have the detailed theatrical training that initials each individual character. In addition, Russian stages are raked, allowing audiences to see through large throngs of dancers, appreciating the patterns and rhythms.

Despite all the action, the drama is relatively subdued. Ms. Treneary excels as a limber and flashy avian, while Abrera indulges in sultry passages. Exhibiting a new-found dramatic vein in his dancing, Whiteside valiantly whips his robes around, drawing the audience in to the story. Caught in the roles of kind hearted, robust brothers, Scott and Hammoudi managed their heroics in the repetitive sequences.

Still settling, The Golden Cockereloffers a fascinating window on the ballets that broke ground and feed today’s ballets.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

June 3, 2016
Next to me sat two young men. They kept reading the synopsis and wondering how a ballet would depict pirates and pashas. Turns out, “Le Corsaire” manages this feat quite wittily. Based on the visually opulent 1814 full-length ballet by the great Marius Petipa and Konstantin Sergeyev, and staged by Anna –Marie Holmes, “Le Corsaire” pits love against a miserly father, wealthy pasha and unsavory slave owner.

Performed to lush music by Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes the ballet benefited from clearly defined characters portrayed by Herman Cornejo as the lovesick pirate, his love Maria Kochetkova and her friend Sarah Lane topped by the speedy Daniel Simkin and hilarious Victor Barbee.

Ballerinas decked in harem pants, bare midriffs and diaphanous scarves cozy up to pirates brandishing swords, and bubbling bazaars conjure up the production’s “oriental” exoticism.

Crazy about the gorgeous slave Medora (Maria Kochetkova), the pirate Conrad (Herman Cornejo) whisks her away from the slave owner, Landendem (Danil Simkin) who is about to get top drachma from the portly pasha, boisterously portrayed by Victor Barbee.

Medora’s youthful friend Gulnare (Sarah Lane) remains at the palace wit the Pasha and nearly steals his heart and the audiences with her shimmering balances, sprightly leaps and teasing beats.

A general sadness or contemplativeness pervades Kochetkova’s performance, which is distinguished by a curvaceous foot that consistently initiates all her steps. Quite a marvel, but Lane’s talent spills out her open chest and lighthearted personality. Agile and lean, Simkin’s turns can dazzle but unlike in the past, (very likely to save his knees) he doesn’t dip into a deep knee bend and then pop back out. This move was perfected by a previous ABT dance, Vladimir Malakhov—but it’s brutal on your knees.

Craig Salstein continues to find bright nuances in his characters—on this occasion he’s both loyal and treacherous—and Cornejo retains his strong characterization fueled by clean, sparkling technique and attentive partnering.

In the traditional dream sequence, the ABT corps demonstrates the power of the onstage dance community, breathing as one while maneuvering through complex patterns, and intricate steps.

Not surprisingly, the swashbuckling ballet ends after a chaotic skirmish. Conrad escapes with the beautiful maidens to the pirate ship only to be swallowed by the sea.

As for the two young men, well, they couldn’t believe a ballet could be so “crazy action-packed!”
EYE ON THE ARST, NY – Celia Ipiotis

May 29, 2016
Margaret Beals’ following consists largely of friends. Stepping into the Cloud House Studio, I never heard of her; stepping out, I was offended I hadn’t studied her in dance history, though newly befriended. Margaret Beals: Films and Stories highlights pieces prefaced by gymnastic recollections. Known for sidesplitting improvisations, Friday’s screening was both set and no laughing matter – dances to Sylvia Plath’s final poems.

Beals’ opening remarks, spiced with preemptive comic relief, spoke casually of a way of working that is today endangered. On a convenient detour to Plath’s estate while visiting England, a dismissive “Let her have ‘em” from Ted Hughes resulted in Beals obtaining the rights to Ariel for five years, used fully to create the piece with Lee Nagrin and Brooke Myers.

Appropriately titled Stings, the 1978 film features Beals, 30, temporally between Nagrin, 40, and Myers, 20, performing in an audience-less studio shot by Ping Chong on 16mm. Despite archival purposes, Chong choreographs his single camera’s continuity, centering on a body part and zooming out, eschewing shot establishment.

The cleanly organized suite assigns one poem per section. Choreography is neither melodramatic nor cold, distilled with motifs of tip-toe walking, sweeping bourées under limp torsos, slow-motion whiplashes, spiraled sit-ups, and determined limb extensions within elegant épaulement, distorted by sharp directional changes. Angst festers under the surface as poise is portrayed atop rickety foundations.

Three generations of bodies generate a sculptural approach to partnering in which weight is rarely shared, but layered. In silence, Beals and Myers share unison so close in proximity they are equal parts body and shadow. Motifs, however, hardly vary. The work is a sternly naïve fugue, on a circular assembly line that juggles prime forms. In Ariel, Nagrin speaks sitting upstage center in a straddle, tessellated in Daddy, where she and Beals do the same, silently behind one another while Myers takes the text, unwaveringly intelligible thanks to physical restraint.

The trio wields poison dart voices, harkening to, but not impersonating, Plath’s iconic delivery. Through rigorous movements and backwards facings, vocal clarity is such that one might suspect lip-syncing if that weren’t actually more difficult. Beals finds voice and movement equally kinetic. The face is kept neutral such that the voice can do what it needs; the words’ sounds resonate in space just as concentrated movement allows meaningful resonance to words themselves.

Much of Ariel is externalized self-loathing – attacking others in a reversely vicarious fashion. Plath does not seem to loathe her “self” however, but the situations to which her physical manifestation subjugates her. There is a performative conundrum when dancers with livelihoods depending on bodily construction and preservation are tasked with expressing the destruction of another. The trio, however, is not meant to be Plath. All three drop into her mental arena, seeking understanding without succumbing to the same compulsions that led the poet to put her head in an oven. Beals’ dance, told through bodies, is not about the body at all, but, rather, where else the spirit could reside.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 29, 2016
Frederick Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée (The Unchaperoned Daughter) is one of those works of art, a flawless confection of the classical ballet repertory, that one can return to again and again, and be completely absorbed, moved and entertained, all in one breezy evening. ABT’s restaging of this 20th–century classic (a 1960 reimagining by Ashton based on the original 1789 libretto by Jean Dauberval) captures the innocence, wit and charm of one of the oldest and most popular ballets of all time: a lovely vehicle for Misty Copeland (Lise) and Herman Cornejo (Colas), two beloved ABT principals who relished the opportunity to dance and be funny at the same time.

The bucolic countryside mood is set right from the first scene, when four chickens and a rooster awaken to dance a vaudevillian-inspired routine with tap shuffle steps and entrechat quatres interspersed with wing flapping and scratching for worms. To tell the story of a young girl in love, whose domineering mother wants her to marry for money, but in the end marries for love, Ashton weaves technically demanding solos, group dances, and bits of pantomime into a clear, fluid dance narrative that both challenges and showcases Copeland and Cornejo’s considerable abilities. But in this Fille, everyone dances hard – the men’s stick dance has more double tours than you can count, and Lise’s friends must have crystalline footwork – and the ABT dancers took to Ashton’s incomparable use of the upper body, directional changes, and intricate choreography with technical clarity and an infectious joy.

The beautiful line of Copeland’s legs and feet and her use of épaulement are a lovely antidote to the slapstick runs and silliness that ensues as she constantly attempts to escape her mother, the Widow Simone, larger than life and brilliantly played by Roman Zhurbin. Together they expertly captured the tensions between a young woman and her mother, with the constant clashes tempered by touching moments of unbridled affection. The boyish Cornejo tossed off the technical demands packed into his first solo, all managed while holding a big stick. Ashton uses props throughout, with ribbons as both literal and symbolic gestures. In one of many poetic moments, Lise’s friends promenade her as they run in a circle while holding ribbons she is using to balance in attitude on one foot – friendship ties. As she lets go of them, Colas, her true love, comes in to support her, in a poetic transition from girlhood to womanhood in full bloom.

Copeland’s spunky Lise tries to avoid everything from boring chores to marrying Alain, the unattractive rich man’s son, goofily danced by Craig Salstein. Salstein, who went from the dorky, lumbering postures to the speedy petit allegro in his solo with ease, strikes the right balance between character and caricature. Copeland came into her own in Act II, especially during her tenderly pantomimed longing for marriage and children. And in the final pas de deux, where the choreography and music meld into a sweetly moving expression of love, she and Cornejo beautifully projected the fullness of their feelings through simple gestures and fluid dancing.

Speaking of Fille, Ashton said, “There exists in my imagination a life in the country of eternally late spring, a leafy pastoral of perpetual sunshine and the humming of bees – the suspended stillness of a Constable landscape of my beloved Suffolk, luminous and calm.” And this is the gift he has given us, an ode to life’s simpler charms, a romp with a good dose of humor, touched by nostalgia and told through heartfelt, poetic dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

May 28, 2016
The program at New York Live Arts presented by Joffrey Ballet Concert Group (JBCG) gave several fine choreographers a chance to shine, as well as demonstrate the range and virtuosity expected of young ballet dancers today. The first challenge was Valse Fantaisie, choreographed by George Balanchine, with the original lighting by Jean Rosenthal recreated by David Moodey. So fast and precise with hints of romance indicated by the head dipping back as the girls fall out of their battements, this dance feels like a rite of passage, a test that few young ballet dancers can avoid. Immediately after, JBCG Artistic Director Davis Robertson stepped out to say he thinks of his company, not so much as a student company, as one comprised of professional dancers without a job, willing to work for low wages and experience.

The dancers looked their most polished in two commissioned choreographies: Confianza, a duet seamlessly choreographed by Roger Joffrey to music by Benjamin Brown, Steven Stern, Erik Satie and Max Richter, performed by Sergio Arranz & Victoria Santaguida in ballet slippers, and Tessellations, a fun ensemble work performed in socks, choreographed with steady invention by Gabrielle Lamb set to infectious music by The Amestoy Trio and Cat Power. Confianza opens with a solo for Arranz -- one to watch out for -- followed by a duet with Santaguida with whom he has a strong connection - re-confirmed during their dancing in Gerald Arpino’s Suite Saint-Saens that closed the program. Lamb plays with levels within her ensemble, fingers and floor work, and the image of the lone outsider quietly acting as a catalyst. Her innovative approach is oddly calming.

Dwight Rhoden’s And So It was, a world premiere (as was Confianza and Tessellations), starts with bare-chested men whose deep contractions set us up for an exhausting experience. Set to Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor, And So It Was is as fast and detailed as Valse Fantaisie, only more dense in its note by note attack.

Robertson re-appeared at the close to praise the commissioned choreographers who took no compensation, and to honor the recent passing of dance advocate and artist manager Alex Dube who had studied at the Robert Joffrey School of Ballet.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

May 15, 2016
In collaboration with dramaturge Kay Cummings, choreographer Tiffany Mills and her 15-year- old company create what’s described as an urban dystopia in “After the Feast.” Within the stark space, the performers’ energy and haunted stares achieve a foreboding atmosphere of abandonment, scarcity, and at times, confusion. But, do they exist together? Or is it every man for himself? The sextet frequently bands together only to break apart throughout the work’s nine vignettes, each distinguished by Jonathan Melville Pratt’s original music. His score welcomes softer moments that soon build to more aggressive, percussive sections, are overlaid with techno rhythms, or dissolve entirely to make way for more recognizable sounds – sirens, rain, and an echo of a church organ.

Silence and stillness offer brief interludes within the often full-bodied and sweeping movement. An underlying sense of fury brims throughout, most powerfully embodied in dancer Emily Pope’s technically strong, committed performance.

All the while, a lone brick wall upstage remains a focal point; the dancers are repeatedly drawn to it. They move across it, seek its support, push off of it, and reconnect with one another. It becomes a place of familiarity for them midst an otherwise desolate and unpredictable landscape.

Mill's aesthetic is best captured in bouts of partner work and other intertwined movement interactions. The dancers appear to unravel at points in what resembles contact improvisation. Other moments highlight smoothly choreographed shifts of weight, leading to fleeting and occasionally bizarre positions, lifts, and suspensions – apropos for this world. By the work’s end it is clear we’ve witnessed a journey. But where we’ve arrived or if, in fact, anything at all has changed is a lingering uncertainty.

The world premiere of “After the Feast” was presented as part of La Mama Moves! 2016 Dance Festival.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

May 15, 2016
La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival: Al Son Son Flamenco Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernandez May 12, 2016 Flamenco can strip its performers naked. Often its simply the tilt of the head, the shift of the eyes that unveils. Twenty-one brave students joined Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernandez, his son Bola, his mother, and guitarists Hector Jose Marquez “Gordo” and Raphael Brunn on the stage of The Downstairs space of La Mama. Four members of this year’s junior company had astoundingly strong presence: Isabel Estrada-Jamison, Natalia Sanchez, producer Shigeko Suga, and Pete Manon. With an age range from 20s to 70s, these ladies and two men represent the cultural mix of NYC; they’re Latinas, African, Japanese, Greek, Russian, Taiwanese, and Filipino. If you only heard the audience, you’d think you were at a baseball game, with a hearty response echoing every move. The evening felt like an affectionate family gathering.

Olla & Fernandez are fierce carriers of Flamenco Puro; they demand clarity of intent, and they also just happen to be beautiful. Who cannot be captivated by them? Olla is part gypsy, Fernandez, full gypsy. They share a deep part of themselves, all the time. Joining Fernandez to sing in one break from the group dances were his mother whose joy could be felt in the next block and Bola whose raw energy makes his father seem mild by comparison.

Of the various styles presented: Jaleos, Tientos, Tangos, Bambera, Martinete, Fandangos, and Bulerias, Olla showed her strongest choreographic card with the Martinete which had been presented at the 2015 student show. Her distinct challenge is to ask her company to stand with a vibrancy of a hawk ready to pounce and then pounce with percussive attack and full body swing. She veered from unison choreography for the group to give a few measures to two or three dancers at a time, giving a moment for everyone to shine.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

May 10, 2016
Back in Brooklyn, Gushue Moving Arts joined with Triskelion Arts in their new space to showcase an evening of dance. Husband and wife team Charles Gushue and Rebecca Sproul Gushue present an engaging program with works they have been creating through residencies and MFA program. To begin the night, Rebecca stands at stage front in a show stopping red dress and sings along with Elle King’s cover of Khia’s famous “lick my neck, my back, lick my pussy and my crack.” While Rebecca sings this dreamy rendition, two dancers in shining unitards move in repetitive sequence; so starts the female-centric Hen Haus. At the song’s conclusion Rebecca asks the dancers a series of questions about being female and gender self perception. Meanwhile the repeating sequence has grown more intricate that the dancers keep checking in with each other to make sure they know where they are in sequence. Forcing the dancers to self examine while already being asked to continue in a dizzying array of swirls and counts speaks to the way women move through the world.

One Lap moves at a very different pace. Choreographers Rebecca and Nicole Kaplan jog on-stage. Lap after Lap the run until the moment the music kicks in, when they jump into movement phrases that cover space. Weaving in and out of each other, stopping where the other one stops, finding rhythm in a jumbling score by Brian Eno, this piece picks you up, carries you along and then gentle and exhausted, lets you go.

The Augur and the Amateurs presents energy and thoughtfulness to a pounding club score. Ranging from heavily athletic choreography to small experiential moments like striking up conversations with the audience, this piece zooms through fields of exploration. Charles’ unique uses of sound and vocalizations asks the audience to contemplate how we contextualize noises. One example of this is a solo scored by a basketball court. The sounds sequence had been played earlier in the piece, but now by adding precise choreography that familiar noise it changed the way we understand each sound. Cartoonish and funny at some points, while breathy and full at others, sound is made to match to movement rather than the more common alternative.

What stood above all else in The Augur and the Amateurs was the use of the audience. Asked to stand on stage in place for the first section, members of the audience watch as dancers move through them. As they are placed back in their seats, they are far from done being involved. We are talked to, sat on, pulled up to socially dance, never left feeling like we should disengage. Mostly being used as a tool to set the stage or create an atmosphere, it once again gave new context and forced a new lens with which to view what we were watching. The new work is extremely entertaining, leaving never a dull moment. Gushue Moving Arts kicked off to a promising start and whatever they have coming next will also grab us by the hand and hang on tight until we are dancing along, uninhibited yet thoughtful.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

May 5, 2016
The Department of Dance at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts places unusual trust in its student body. Beyond an annual faculty concert and guest pieces for the graduating class, every show is student choreographed. This is no recklessness, as every piece is closely advised by invested faculty. This especially holds true with the Composers, Choreographers, and Designers Workshop, conceived by Kay Cummings to birth innovative meshes of original scores from Graduate Musical Theatre Writing, sets, costumes, and lighting from Graduate Design, and movement by the MFA’s and BFA’s of the Dance Department. For her final year after nearly twenty at its helm, each work testified to Cummings’ rigor as a mentor of the collaborative endeavor.

Choreographers today mostly dream of handmade sets. Naturally, this is the one of the concert’s most alluring features. A___ walks into a ____ and says _____ featured three boxes on wheels by Melanie May. Each box’s hollow was uniquely handled: emptiness, a billowy curtain, and suburban blinds through which dancers scurried until lights inside abruptly shifted the peaceful landscape to a glitchy discotheque. Kelvin Pater’s large shapes dominated considerably more in Held Apart, Pulled Together, tumbled about by bodies that mostly draped and rolled among them.

Original costumes equally tantalize. Specifically tailored for dance, their interactive potentials are choreographically taken from the theoretical to the physical. Terra/Marea’s showcase of lines was enhanced by Chritelle Matou’s aquatic garb – a reef-inspired top over a draped skirt, vibrantly reactive to Stephanie Buchner’s lighting. Santiago Orjuela-Laverde’s set of translucent tarp joined Susanne Houstle’s flesh-toned unitards in Layers via wrapping and rolling movements.

Hye Young Boren and Adam Ray Dyer kept movement as centerpiece, predetermining Lorenza Astengo Fefer’s set of suspended ropes for Anything Can Be to showcase fearlessly executed aerial dancing. While it left little room for choreography a terre, the task of keeping someone in the air at all times sufficiently engaged.

These pieces tend to be memorable for a shtick, yet some managed more behavioral identities. Katya Lazor, Tiffany Ogburn, and Owen Prum made a living room a universe in Then pleasant sunset, using Lynchian visuals from Andrew Muerdyk and a Robert Ashley-connoting score by Wes Braver, Nina Kauffman, and John Allen Watts. Dancers thrashed about a sofa, trembled before screens and mirrored a feminine apparition in a window. Veneer constantly reformed, shedding cloaks to reveal hemorrhaging flowers, only to be rewrapped and cast in shadows that multiplied and divided the cast of three. Environmental spacings in sleek costuming made Bound’s movement inextricably linked to its set, clinging to shifting frames like koalas and spilling from them like a clown car into spatial equilibrium.

A show and a school project, CC&D’s lessons are double-sided; we experience performance with curiosity into these young artists’ educations. Visions can be grandiose, tending to overstuff the eight allotted minutes with “arena rock” dance; however, through the stage fog, the true nature of complexity remains: to combine pure simplicities. While the ideal achieves balance, the more common result does not necessarily signify power struggle, but a need to converse.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 2, 2016
In “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow,” the Youth America Grand Prix uses the fast-paced gala format to showcase the competition finalists in the first half, and then show us what their future might look like, with many guest artists that include YAGP alumni dancing in the second half. With little time and many moving parts, the evening was uneven and had several sound or technical mishaps. Nonetheless, the level of technique and polish in many of these students is impressive.

A young man whose Broadway-like pizzazz and strong technique (three double saut de basques in a row) encapsulated the feel of competitions and our fast-paced, sound bite world: getting everything in, in sixty seconds or less. Another winner (who also looked to be maybe 12 or 13 years old) from Portugal delivered a dynamo interpretation of Le Corsaire, with an ease and control recalling the incisive abandon of Peter Schaufuss. (Dancers’ names are easy to miss: announced, or sometimes projected on a screen but not printed, presumably because they have just been selected). But the most mature performance came from a dancer from Fernando Alonso’s school in Cuba, in Don Quixote. His double inside passé tour hung in the air, with a sharp rotation but soft landing, all with style and confidence. The programming smartly alternates between classical variations and contemporary pieces, and the two young women that performed an excerpt by Ohad Naharin showed an understanding of his quirky use of the spine while embodying the intriguing animal-like movement with full commitment.

The gala was hosted with humor by Irina Dvorovenko, and Angel Corella, two much-admired former principals with American Ballet Theatre (a company that hires frequently from YAGP). A very touching film tribute to Shelley King, an administrator and mentor of the YAGP community, brought a reflective moment to the line-up. In the second half, Ms. King’s daughter, Rebecca King (a soloist with Finnish national) danced a contemporary ballet duet by Peter Quanz dedicated to her mom, with Amar Ramasar of New York City Ballet, with lots of turns and fluid, emotional lifts.

Technical difficulties, lack of context, and a series of last minute replacements made for some uneven dancing and choreography throughout the evening. A short acrobatic number opened the second half with dizzying flips and head spins that also featured ABT principal Stella Abrera, but did not showcase her gifts. Stuttgart Ballet principal Daniel Camargo danced well in an overwrought contemporary solo but had trouble partnering Sara Lane in Diana and Acteon. Hannah O’Neil and Hugo Marchand of the Paris Opera Ballet seemed a bit tense for their New York debuts, while Bolshoi principals Ekaterina Krysanova and Artem Ovcharenko delivered an excerpt from Marco Spada in front of a projection of Versailles.

Michaela DePrince and Edo Wijnen were charming and a bit winded by the end of Balanchine’s Tarantella. The high points of the show were Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet, in a high-flying solo that took us beyond technique, and Carlos Dos Santos’ intricate and charming choreography for over two hundred YAGP dancers of all ages, who impressively managed to enter, cohere into gigantic formations, and exit, all with joy and aplomb, reminding us of dance’s cross-generational appeal as a labor of love, with intangible rewards.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Roberts

NYC BALLET-Bournonville, Moves, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux
April 28, 2016
Ask any male New York City Ballet dancer of a certain age who was their most important influence, and they might agree with Edward Villella who pointed to Stanley Williams as his mentor during an interview on EYE ON DANCE (1988). Born in London, but raised in Copenhagen, Williams was steeped in the Bournonville tradition of the Royal Danish Ballet. A renowned teacher, George Balanchine persuaded Williams to join the School of American Ballet faculty in 1964 where he held a premier position through the 1990’s.

Returning to his roots, Peter Martins, another Danish Ballet alum tapped his son Nilas Martins to stage Bournonville Divertissements choreographed by August Bournonville and originally staged by Stanley Williams in 1977. Very close to the Balanchine technique, Brounonville style demands feathery quick feet, crisp, tight beats, an effortless jump or balon and utmost charm.

Trained to be fleet of foot, the company nevertheless pushed through the steps with more effort than élan. Broken into four sections, the “Ballabile” featured Erica Pereira and Troy Schumacher. A fine dancer and budding choreographer, Schumacher’s length dragged behind the beat and did not assume the technique’s buoyancy.

In the very popular “Pas de Deux” from the Flower Festival in Genzano,/i> Sara Mearns partnered by Tyler Angle suffered from the same malaise surrounding Schumacher. Always attractive with her expansive arms and mobile back, Mearns steps were weighted and not levitated by the mirthfully braided steps.

The “Pas de Six” fared better with a particularly bright India Woodward and the "Tarantella" closed the sunny piece that should gain more brightness as the season progresses.

Danced in silence, Jerome Robbins’ Moves,/i> (1984) is an experiment in modern forms for ballet dancers. Despite the lack of a music composition, the ballet travels over a percussive score played out by the dancers' feet. Sharply constructed, groups move in mirror formation, separate and snap back into clean poses, arms flashing up, and hands mysteriously covering eyes in asymmetrical groupings.

To close the opening night program of the spring season, NYC Ballet offered Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux with the sparkling Tiler Peck and Andrew Veyette. Although choreographed by George Balanchine (1960), stylistically, Peck and Veyette delivered the bright, technically demanding duet with a musicality and guileless execution missing from the Bournonville Divertissements. Sandwiched in the middle of the program

April 20, 2016
Miami City Ballet has enjoyed successful seasons in New York City in recent years, but this visit has really made a mark. Lourdes Lopez, the former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet who took over from company founder Edward Villela in 2012, has brought the company to her old stomping grounds, and they look great.

To dance the Balanchine repertory in the house of Balanchine requires an absolute confidence in the technique and stylistic integrity of the company, and this group has it in spades. There is a thrill that comes with seeing that impossibly long line of women in white leotards as the curtain rises in Symphony in Three Movements (1972) – modern-day "wilis" about to unleash the power of their dancing to Stravinsky’s eponymous score. There is plenty of strident, propulsive movement, sharp angular arms interspersed with leg swings where the foot almost touches the back of their heads. These women kick, lunge and casually jog around the stage in straight lines, like a highly choreographed army on the attack. The three solo women, Nathalia Arja, Patricia Delgado, and Ashley Knox wear different shades of pink, but it was easy to distinguish them through their dancing: Arja has a sharp attack and a jump that hangs in the air; Delgado is more lyrical, and Knox is petite and precise. The whole company danced the work with assurance and panache.

Twyla Tharp’s Sweet Fields is utterly different in feel – meditative rather than action-packed. The music (hymns from William Billings, the Shaker tradition, and the Sacred Harp) gives it a spiritual atmosphere, where they dance with a tame, modern dance vocabulary. The Norma Kamali costumes – loose, open white silk shirts and pants for the men, and flowing open robes, with tight shorts and tops underneath for the women – are sexy and free, not what we would associate with the devout, celibate Shakers. Nonetheless, there is some communal or religious imagery here, as one man is held aloft by other men, arms extended out, and of course, shaking hands and happy dancing for a finale.

Sweeping drama and large crowds run through Alexei Ratmanksy’s Symphonic Dances, to Rachmaninoff’s Opus 45, commissioned by Villela in 2012. From the use of grand symphonic music to the semi-narrative driven choreography, one can’t help but think of the influence that Leonide Massine has exerted on Ratmansky (Ratmansky revived Massine works while he was artistic director of the Bolshoi). Ratmansky seems to have an endless supply of imaginative movement and complex structures to draw on, but this ballet was infused with a dramatic undercurrent that keeps your interest, but never crystalizes. The strange costuming by Adeline Andre and Istvan Dohar (hoodies with black smudges on the back for a group of men, baggy dresses for the women, or two different dancers that were marked by a red star bulls-eye on their backs, at different times) confused rather than clarified the drama; only in the second movement can we tell they are at a ball, with diaphanous dresses and outsized corsages as clues. Nonetheless, this ballet is a wonderful vehicle for Jeanette Delgado, whose dramatic dancing and abandon were riveting, and the electric and exciting Nathalia Arja, (spoiler alert!) whose dive into the arms of a man from halfway across the stage at the end gave the ballet a satisfying, exhilarating conclusion.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Niciole Duffy Robertson

April 20, 2016
This past weekend the 14th Street Y presented, Rhythm in Motion, a celebration of the work being done at the American Tap Dance Foundation over the past year. With a total of six very different works in Program B, this performance was a whole lot of fun.

The evening began with a traditional behind the scenes video made by the Artistic Director, Tony Waag. The video went on for a bit too long showcasing the same things, but all is forgivable since the dancers were clearly having fun being in it and you can see that Waag had fun creating it. What the video didn't prepare you for is the passion and ferocity Kazu Kumagai emitted when he stepped on stage. With a manic yet controlled energy Kazue tapped a song in the silence. Joined later by dancer Max Pollack, they brought the audience to attention.

Max Pollack’s work, Nu was next in the program, including musicians to help him in his very music focused work. Inspired by Jewish culture as well as Cuban, he showcased a number of works that took up the longest slot of the evening. However broad its musical and stylistic footprint, it didn’t seem to have a clear direction. Nu felt more like a music concert than a dance piece, which in fairness I think was intended.

The following dance, Roots, started with a brief technical hiccup-- the amp for the musician’s guitar did not work. Dancer Leonardo Sandoval plugged on like a professional, but not before long Tony Waag jumped onto the stage. “I hate when people pretend these things aren’t happening,” he declared and paused the piece until they got the technical glitches fixed. Leonardo seemed a bit embarrassed but with a determined shout of “Let’s go!” He jumped right back into his piece that ended up being well worth the wait.

Jungle Blues was next with a Tap take on a Jazz set. Each dancer embodied a different instrument taking their solos and matching the style of the sound. Group tap numbers can often suffer from the sound becoming muddled through all the bodies, but the structure of this piece lent itself well to the group and even got a few good laughs along the way.

Finally the last two pieces were a hip-hop tap routine with an accompanied music video from Apartment 33 and a couple's piece that resembled country dance, simple and blithe.

Tap is always impressive, but if the dancer loses the rhythm for even a beat the audience can hear it. To our good fortune and the dancers credit each dancer held to the beat like it was bursting from inside of them, intrinsically linked to the music. It was a satisfying night of music, dance, and as the title states, "rhythm."
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

April 18, 2016
There is something uniquely pleasurable about watching young, talented dancers test their mettle on a New York stage. American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company dancers are handpicked for their potential and are on track to join Ballet Theatre or other major ballet companies. This group stood out for the refinement of their upper bodies, and their elegant, if at times tentative, stage presence.

Say what you will about the nineteenth-century Petipa repertory, it is still some of the hardest choreography to master – a rite of passage equivalent to knowing your Shakespeare. In the pas d’action from La Bayadere (staged by Susan Jones and Nancy Raffa) initially one is struck by the sheer body length and height of the corps women and men (whose outsized turbans added another six inches). They all seemed to get across the Joyce stage in one grand-jete, and with time their transitions and footwork will become more crystalline. The principal couple was danced with authority and clean technique by Breanne Granlund and Carlos Gonzalez – both have buoyant jumps and lovely line.

In a high point of the evening, Ms. Granlund was expertly partnered by Satchel Tanner (replacing Naazir Muhammad) in Marco Pelle’s Libera! to Anton Bruckner’s Ave Maria. In minimal nude colored costumes, the dancers run toward each other and he catches her midflight in a square pool of light. As she reaches away from him with longing, he partners her with ease, in daring overhead lifts that seemed to come from nowhere, and morph into numerous images referencing the cross – even one moment upside down that reminded me of Caravaggio’s St. Peter. If this was a last-minute substitution, the dancers showed no qualms or hesitation, only abandon, but also the softness befitting the spiritual music.

Three other works on the program were by artists with strong Ballet Theatre ties. Current corps member Gemma Bond choreographed Third Wheels, a trio to music by Jennifer Higdon and costumes by her ABT colleague James Whiteside. Bond uses classical ballet vocabulary in inventive ways, adding a circular arm motifs, tricky jumps, and pedestrian runs that the elegant Xuelan Lu executed with ease, flanked by her impossibly tall and coltish partners Elias Baseman and Ilya Kolotov. An excerpt from former ABT principal Ethan Stiefel’s Bier Halle provided a sweet interlude, reminiscent of Flower Festival at Genzano, complete with lots of flirtation and lederhosen. Zimmi Coker and Aran Bell showed promise as they tackled the technically challenging passages. Coker was especially charming, as she teeter-tottered in chainees at the (real) end of her variation.

The evening ended with Alex Ratmansky’s interpretation of Ravel’s Bolero, another brave attempt to choreograph this music. A group of six dancers (with numbers on their chests) alternate in solos, duos and other small groupings, with many lunges to the floor and rapid circular arm swings that recall certain Olympic events. Bolero is always ends up being a sort of marathon, for both dancers and audience. In this case, what starts out as a promising “race,” devolves into a series of split legs and canons that ultimately end up treading water rather than crossing the finish line.
Eye On The Arts, NY – - Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 18, 2016
Ninety years is a long time, and a major feat for any dance company. This year the Martha Graham Dance Company celebrates this milestone by continuing to honor its past while deftly remaining relevant to a new generation of dancegoers. On opening night, Artistic Director Janet Eilber programmed two Graham classics, Night Journey (1947) and Cave of the Heart (1946), and two new works: Swedish choreographer Mats Ek’s AXE (2015) – his last work for the stage – and a world premiere by Canadian choreographer Marie Chouinard titled Inner Resources, along with an eye-popping, rapid-fire film montage, “90 years in 90 seconds” by Justin Scholar.

During intermission, we heard loud banging noises coming from backstage, like falling blocks or construction rubble. When the curtain went up, we realized the Ek piece had already begun: a young man (the handsome Ben Schultz) stands center stage, casually and confidently chopping wood with an axe on a small tree stump (the audience actually hooted and hollered at his skillful swing!). The exquisitely intense PeiJu Chien-Pott enters in a galumphing sideways walk with her back to us, dressed in a grandma-like skirt and top, and little laced shoes. Moving dejectedly around the stage (to Albinoni’s adagio in G minor), she seems invisible as she reaches, turns, pushes, and does a tilting side “attitude” while furiously shaking her arms and head: in Ek’s signature movement style, she uncannily evokes strength and vulnerability at the same. When she leaves for a moment, he lies down limply on the stump, but her return coaxes him to move chunks of wood around, and to dance not only with her, but like her. The interaction has the feel of a mother with her grown son – perhaps Ek’s way of referencing his debt to Graham, or to his own mother, Birgit Cullberg, with whom he co-directed the Cullberg Ballet before succeeding her.

Programmatically, the contrast with Chouinard’s Inner Resources is brilliant: a backdrop lit blood-red, with dancers cat-walking on the tips of their reinforced dance sneakers, vogueing and street-improving solos to an electronic score by Louis Dufort. With their blue button-down shirts pulled up over their heads, the eight women look like a battalion of modern-day Lamentation figures or a group of gym bunnies in burqas. Eventually they strut downstage and reveal their faces, each woman wearing a different kind of moustache – modern-day Duchampian Mona Lisas bursting from the frame. The dancing is energetic, frenetic, and fun, with lots of shaking limbs, jazzy kicks, Chaplinesque mugging and even references to jookin’. At the end, we watch them all disrobe in slow motion, lifting each other as they remove articles of clothing, always staring right at us, in a yet another challenge to societal restraint.

Last but not least, the two Graham works, which book-ended the program, were given very strong, focused performances by the entire company. Blakely White-McGuire was a cold and convincing Jocasta in Night Journey, the Oedipal story danced in flashbacks, surrounded by a fabulously strident and anxious Greek chorus of women led by Xin Ying. And in Cave of the Heart, Graham’s distillation of the story of Medea, PeiJu Chien-Potts again revealed she is a consummate heir of the Graham legacy.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 14, 2016
Dance Theatre of Harlem presented a program by ladies, Elena Kunikova, Helen Pickett, and Dianne McIntyre, for ladies, pausing for an understated Black Ballerina Magic: A Tribute, and then closing the evening with Coming Together, choreographed by Nacho Duato, set to the music of Frederic Rzewski. While the first three dances are distinctly feminine and soulful, the final work with its polished ensemble is strikingly impersonal and masculine. Duato’s piece includes spoken text written by Sam Melville. If you hadn’t known that Melville wrote while incarcerated at Attica Prison a year before he was killed in a riot, you might think the text described the current state of DTH.

“I am in excellent physical and emotional health,” writes Melville - ditto for DTH. Later he writes, “…I can act with clarity and meaning.” Couldn’t this be the words of DTH Artistic Director Virginia Johnson? When Virginia Johnson joined DTH in 1969, the founders Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook had a mission to prove that skin color does not determine the ability to dance ballet. Mission accomplished. When Johnson returned to take the helm of DTH, she had to deal with its debt, and low moral. But now, DTH offers a company that is arguably as technically proficient as Alvin Ailey American Dance Company and as handsome, with a leader proud to be a black, accomplished artist with a sure vision.

Black Ballerina Magic: A Tribute offered no hoopla, beyond raising the curtain on a stage filled with elegant dancers in street-clothes. Johnson announced the names of the dancers, one row at a time at which point they regally departed, and another line stepped forward to enthusiastic applause. The last two dancers on stage were Raven Wilkinson, the first African American ballerina permitted to join a ballet company, the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, under the condition that she paint her face. Then came Carmen de Lavallade whose career still flourishes as an actress and dancer. she danced with the Metropolitan Opera and American Ballet Theater, choreographed for the DTH, Philadanco, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and productions at the Metropolitan Opera.

All the choreography for DTH might not be memorable but the overall evening was memorable for its grace, risk-taking, and prowess.The program opened with the appropriately named Divertimento choreographed by Kunikova, set to Glinka’s “Divertimento Brilliante” and costumed with tutus and tunics. Sweet and flirtatious, this dance features 3 couples. Just as a sweet, with more ardor followed When Love, a duet by Pickett set to the music of Philip Glass with partnering so seamless, that the two seem inseparable. McIntyre made her first dance to be performed on point with her ballet for three women, Change which premiered on February 2, 2016. Performed by Alison Stroming, Chyrstyn Fentroy, and Ingrid Silva, this piece had a wildness the other dances lacked. Eli Fountain wrote the music, drawing on his percussion background mixing in rather oddly, the Spelman College Glee Club. A veteran choreographer of stage, screen, and Broadway, McIntyre showed what is necessary to make a change - drop your burdens, catch people off guard and believe in yourself
EYE NO THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

April 9, 2016
Ballet Hispanico is transforming into a cutting-edge contemporary dance company with a point of view, right before our eyes. Under the able artistic direction of Eduardo Vilaro, in recent seasons the quality of the choreography and the caliber of the dancing have reached a new level of excellence. Most interesting is to see the way the company redefines itself as a laboratory for contemporary dance while celebrating Latino culture without restricting it to stereotypes.

In Flabbergast (2011), choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano creates a fun-filled riff on the idea of place, with dancers dressed in 1940s everyday wear, carting suitcases around the stage to music by Juan García Esquivel. Starting with a darkened stage, each dancer in their own downpool move, twist, and flail in place as we hear a voiceover announcing disparate phrases like “la primera Guerra Mundial” (World War I), and “el cine tiene la culpa” (the cinema is to blame). As they peel off to dance solo or in small groups, they sometimes mime, or use pedestrian movements – in one cheeky section, a woman flirts with three men, and as they vie for her attention, she ends up leaving the stage with another woman. Ramírez Sansano blends humor and kitschy nostalgia with his distinct contemporary dance language, in a strange yet very appealing mix of past and present.

Ramón Oller’s Bury Me Standing (1998) is a work to traditional gypsy melodies and flamenco music by Lole y Manuel, where the oppression and struggle of the Roma people is danced with an emphasis on communal bonds. In one memorable section, women file onstage two by two, shuffling on their knees and kvetching loudly at each other, then suddenly cross themselves at high speed multiple times. We see flamenco–inspired zapateo in bare feet, and the twisting flamenco port de bras – references absorbed into a contemporary language. And in a stunningly poetic sequence, two dancers performed a duet with the man mostly on his back, constantly lifting and lowering his partner gently to the ground with his feet while she hovers over him weightlessly: a floating love duet bound by the earth.

The evening closed with Pedro Ruiz’ Club Havana (2000), an energetic, balletic interpretation of the “glamorous Havana of the 1950s.” With sections to different traditional rhythms (son, mambo, cha cha cha, bolero and rhumba, conga), one wishes for more technically “authentic” or red-blooded renditions of these dances, rather than the many pirouettes and pas de chat lifts. One sparse section with three couples and a disco ball reminded me of my recent visit to Cuba, where empty grand hotel lobbies and guilded ballrooms with peeling paint remain as a testament to that glittery but seemingly irrecoverable past. May the confetti-littered finale of Club Havana not just evoke that period frozen in time, but instead, be a sign of things to come.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Robertson Duffy

April 9, 2016
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s program this season showcases an enviable diversity of repertory – some ballet companies stick to themes or single choreographer evenings, which make it more challenging to appeal to broad audiences. But eclecticism can be risky…

In Divertimento (2016, music by Glinka) beloved teacher, repetiteur, choreographer (and former Mikhailovsky principal) Elena Kunikova created a tricky classical showcase for three couples, with plenty of amusing references to the classical repertoire. Although a bit academic – at times the dancers looked like they were executing combinations in class – Kunikova deployed an unusual structure and imaginative transitions between section while challenging the dancers’ classical technique. This cast seemed a bit tentative and in need of more time to sharpen their footwork and transitions, although Anthony Savoy showed spark with his buoyant and razor-sharp jumps.

Helen Pickett’s When Love (2012) was beautifully danced by Chyrstyn Fentroy and Jorge Andres Villarini. A duet that joyfully exudes the feeling of young people in love, to music and text by Philip Glass, they dance together, and then for each other, with the innocence and playful feel of a contemporary Romeo and Juliet. Fentroy’s artistry continues to grow with each season: it is easy to become absorbed in her ability to inflect any material she is given with quality and meaning.

In Change (2016), choreographer Dianne McIntyre celebrates “Black, Brown, and Beige” women for being “warriors for change,” according to the program notes. Danced to traditional music recorded by the Spelman College Glee Club, and original music Eli Fountain, three gorgeous women, with big hair and strong wills, managed choreography that was meant to aggressively showcase their beauty and strength but was frequently awkward. We see this as they yell out while dancing – a difficult feat that sometimes went from a bark to a whimper – or in the ambiguous ending – an unintended irony in a dance made to honor women of color.

A quote from Sam Melville, a political activist prisoner who died in a riot at Attica in 1971, is relentlessly repeated in Frederic Rzweski’s minimalist score Coming Together that accompanies Nacho Duato’s 1991 choreography of the same name. It begins with a dancer facing upstage in a downspot, pointing to his brain as we hear the words, “I think…” while a mysterious El Lissitzky-style yellow triangle is suspended on a black backdrop. From then on, we witness a veritable riot of dancing, with athletic jumps, turns, partnering, and a trio of women reminiscent of the Supremes dance in front of a gold curtain. Although a deeper connection between the dancing and the text isn’t made clear, we can’t help but be swept away by the sheer stamina and propulsive energy of the DTH dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 7, 2016
Thirty-two years ago, on September 25, 1984, I witnessed a remarkable performance by Dance Theater of Harlem’s principal ballerina, Virginia Johnson as Giselle in Frederic Franklin’s Creole Giselle. Today, the celebrated ballerina leads the Dance Theater of Harlem into a new age.

Greeting the opening night audience in a scalloped, floor-length red dress, Ms. Johnson expressed her delight at returning to City Center for the 2016 season. Without an intermission, the evening sandwiched dance performances in-between awards and a thanks to funders.

Ms. Johnson selected two women choreographers, one from the ballet world, and the other from the modern dance community to create new works for the first program.

Best known for her re-staging of classical repertory performed—rather sensationally—by the all male Les Ballet Trockadero, Elena Kunikova choreographed Divertimento to the music of Mikhail Glinka. Intent on paying “tribute to classical choreography” the three couples competently coursed through the modest piece.

Considering Ms. Kunikova’s background, it was not surprising to see witty winks infiltrate the sextet, like a nod to Swan Lake’s “pas de cygnets’ and Giselle’s daisy peeling scene (perhaps signaling Ms. Johnson?).

Smartly, Ms. Kunikova featured the male dancers’ athleticism and high-flying jumps. Occasionally, two of the female ballerinas, Ingrid Silva and Lindsey Croop, faltered (in fairness, Ms. Silva was a last minute replacement for Nayara Lopes). However, Chrstyn Fentroy retained an animated compsure throughout the piece.

A much adored teacher, Dianne McIntyre has been racking up honors upon awards. One of the early contemporary dancers to take up residence in Harlem during the gritty 1970’s, Ms. McIntyre has developed a highly personalized choreographic and performance style that emphasizes her very long lean arms, legs, and voice.

By far the most adventurous work on the program, McIntyre’s Change was set to traditional music performed by the Spelman College (a historically black institution in Georgia) Glee Club. Three dancers --- Alison Stroming, Lindsey Croop and Ingrid Silva – represented three different women reflecting three different eras. Rising up and down on pointe shoes, the dancers’ torsos hunched over, and unlike the controlled ballet arm, their limbs freely swung up over their heads, and serpentined down functioning as part of the body’s conversation. Occasionally, a hand was placed on a hip suggesting a cleaning lady bent over the floor but that image flashed against defiant women shouting, legs spread apart in deeply rooted knee bends.

Resident choreographer Robert Garland brought his fine brand of ballet and funky, popular dance to the fore in his tribute to Gladys Knight ((Arthur Mitchell Vision Award Honoree) featuring the always delightful Dance Theater of Harlem students and Return set to James Brown, Alfred Ellis, Aretha Franklin, and Carolyn Franklin. Finally, the dancers--particularly the impressive and flirtatious Da’Von Doane--broke out their “moves” proving ballet dancers can move—really move ahead.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis
(photograph by Jeff Cravota)

April 7, 2016
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery unfailingly proves itself to be a space most malleable for the range of work Danspace Project presents in its sanctuary. The opening artist of its spring season, Enrico D. Wey, welcomes his audience into a living daguerreotype of an early 20th century operating theatre colored by a child in his latest work, to warring states, a useless tool. Tinted rays of light beam diagonally downward crossing a diamond of white floor bordered on all sides by four front rows before stripes of pink, yellow, and teal. At the center of this displaced alternate world, sectioned off by hoisted pink ribbon, is Wey, dark locks draped over his face – a mint-condition action figure, tantalizingly off-limits. This season, Danspace looks to understand connections traced by new generations – Wey’s setup being an apt examination.

Our aesthetic moment loves head-scratching pre-shows; Wey chooses to stand. Sitting so close for so long, our awareness widens to the tiniest responses of his bare chest to his glacial breath. His legs, unshakably rooted, and his arms, present and devoid of tension, branch from a torso wrapped in a vibrant textural tube by Oksana Meister. Standing bleeds into bending over for half an hour. As Wey hinges, his arms hold their space, rising only by virtue of his sinking spine. Legs compensate with a deeper bend to make room for downwardly circling arms. The hands approach but avoid contact twice – nearly folded in prayer in front, and almost clasped as though shackled behind.

Following this extended execution of one task is an extended repetition of another. Wey bounces to each side of his audience, rotating facings with the thoroughness of an altar boy with incense on a feast day. The tempo of this lyrical head-banging is actually quite moderate, but the energy nonetheless jolts from the preceding slowness. Borrowed from an aboriginal Taiwanese dance performed by females for the departure and return of sailing ships, Wey transcends the textbook subversiveness of cultural drag to turn a prefatory ritual into a main event – the centerpiece of a work where his body similarly holds the spatial center.

Where before his stillness was enlivened by breath, this cyclical surfing of momentum mechanically shoves air through his throat, gusts of wind and the occasional snort initially audible before pitch joins the ride, connoting laughter, weeping, and moaning into a disjunct melody punctuated by yodels. Stopping with no warning or afterthought, Wey finishes with a reprise of the slow opening as a well earned cool-down.

The task-oriented material appears externally compelled, visually assisted by Elliott Jenetopulos’ lighting. Teetering hues of green, orange, yellow and pink either comment or cue changes in physicality. It is not until we are illuminated that we see the poetic.

Discussing with curatorial fellow Jaime Shearn Coan, Wey spoke of understanding his perplexing existence as a queer Asian-American from the inside out — placing that which he knows most, his body, centrally as layers of culture spectrally spin around him. His face often obscured, Jenetopulos’s lighting intervenes as an external expression of focus from one who, despite alienation, refuses the spatial standpoint of the outsider.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

April 4, 2016
On Sunday afternoon the Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance company put on it’s final Spring program at Lincoln Center. Bookended with pieces by Taylor and accompanied by a piece Martha Graham, the afternoon was filled with dexterous, thrilling movements. Opening the program was a light and airy piece, Equinox. Clad in flowing white costumes, the eight dancers moved through the space with a classically Taylor-esque blithe. Chests open, arms up, Equinox explores bodies separating and melting into each other. Considering the intense pieces to follow, Equinox is a strong opening selection.

Paul Taylor once performed with the Martha Graham Dance Company, and his company embraced he movement challenges braided into Martha Graham’s grand Diversion of Angels.Deceptively athletic, Diversion of Angels gripped the audience tight and refused to let go. Three main players representing three different facets of love, included a woman in red, white and yellow. But it was dancer Parisa Khobdeh, the woman in red, who raised the caliber of all the dancers around her. Holding up her leg extensions may have been the most common move in the choreography, but every step reverberated with a fiery energy to match the red of her dress.

A massive number of bodies populate the stage as the lights come up following the famous intro to Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor. Soon, dancers, wearing identical black and v-striped unitards begin swirling around the stage in chaotic patterns. This is only the beginning for the final piece of the program, Paul Taylor’s Promethean Fire. Power is a-buzz as the dancers create dynamic shapes and patterns, from symmetrical lines to a giant pile of all sixteen bodies. In stark contrast, solos and duets come and go throughout, each just as captivating as the last. Promethean Fire is a powerhouse piece and maybe one of the only pieces that could follow the rapturous applause for Graham's conribution.

The program is a showcase for American Modern Dance and the staples that choreographers build upon to this day.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

April 3, 2016
This year From the Horse’s Mouth celebrates dancer, writer, and choreographer Gus Solomons Jr. at the 14th Street Y. In usual fashion the night progresses as a mix of personal anecdotes about the honoree and improvised movement. Solomons opens the performance with an improvised piece, showcasing his long limbs that will be mentioned by almost every performer with good reason.

His improvisation is fascinating and focused, even as his mic pack falls off and swings around his body. After he concludes his intro, the performers take the stage. One sits in a chair center stage (or is projected on screen if they are absent) and talks about how Solomons influenced their life while 2-3 dancers improvise movement around them. As the conclusion of the anecdote, that performer joins the dancers, rotating out, prominent performers included Meredith Monk, Deborah Jowitt, and David Vaughan.

What is spoken and learned about Gud Solomons Jr. paints him as the extraordinary man that he is. Having danced with both Martha Graham and Merce Cunnningham his expertise in movement in unquestionable. He is celebrated for his diversity in movement as well as his establishment of Paradigm a dance company for dancers over 50. Solomon is well beloved by each performer, from his contemporaries to students that he taught at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, each body on stage spoke of his accomplishments. Solomon himself shows off a lesser known skill of his, by putting on short puppet shows, with both Graham and Cunningham puppets that have the audience giggling.

Both a piece of theater and a personal history, From the Horse’s Mouth entertains and celebrates a beautiful man.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

April 2, 2016
MENA/Future: Cultural Transformations in the Middle East North Africa Region is a NYLA festival that presents work by performing, film, musical and visual artists to “address a range of complex issues pertinent to the region including alternative modernities, colonialism, gender, patriarchy, Arab feminism and non-conformist identities within grand national narratives.” An ambitious and impressively curated festival, it promises to leave no stone unturned. In the case of Hafez’ 2065 BC, “a displaced and revisited re-enactment of the infamous ‘Berlin Conference’ of 1884,” we are confronted with the fact that translating postcolonial discourse into performance can be tricky.

The work begins with four women sitting around a conference table, shuffling through stacks of papers, as a voiceover repeatedly announces phrases such as “In order to enter the gate… welcome… need a permit…” until finally a long and perplexingly anachronistic and illogical list of dignitaries is announced: “Her Majesty, the Queen of Zambia… and Russia...” To situate them in the year 2065 (BC?) – temporal confusion is just one of the challenges in this work, for both the artists and the viewers – Hafez reimagines these future delegates by dressing them in a bizarre pastiche of retro high fashion and no-nonsense practicality. They wear beige, gender-neutral outfits, each with a slight oddity (one short leg, and one long leg), shiny rubber boots, and large, turban-like headgear with frills and feathers evoking vague “Oriental/African” royalty. This post-WW III future has no advanced technology as we know it: just some old-school microphones and occasional video screen projections ranging from basic geometric patterns, to maps of the “Kingdom of Rhodesia,” to the women posing in front of baroque architecture, to enlarged microscopic organisms meant to reinforce (or distract?) from the nonsensical proceedings.

Each woman approaches the podium stage left to declaim, announce, sing, or screech about a new world order, parodying hackneyed political promises such as “you are in safe hands,” “science says no to the end of the world” and “more jobs!” interspersed with absurdities like “my breasts are big enough to love you and protect you,” punctuated by occasional stiff gesturing. A list of “No’s” reminiscent of Yvonne Rainer’s manifesto, and silly declarations like “theory is so boring… never read Deleuze” are proclaimed, as an instrumental of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” plays in the background. Given the purported theoretical basis for much of the content, one wonders, is this critique, or self-parody?

Eventually it becomes clear that we are witnessing a kind of descendant of the Dada soiree, complete with a “colonial cabaret” that includes some sexy outfits, smudged makeup and some butt shaking with two breast-shaped balloons tied around one dancer’s waist, but utterly lacking in real provocation or outrage. But perhaps this is the point: rather than being moved to agency by searing critique, we end up weary from the multiple fragments that don’t ultimately add up: this theater-dance, not unlike the current political chaos and violence that is a direct result of the ‘Conference,’ has failed to harness or transform the logic of power, or to mobilize us into action.
EYE ON THE ARTS. NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 1, 2016
This spring the Juilliard dancers performed three works from the historical repertory which showcased the breadth of their training and versatility: Paul Taylor’s Rose,/i>, Jerome Robbins’ Moves, and Jiri Kylian’s Symphony of Psalms. These dancers have access to some of the best choreography in the field, and are among the lucky few to enjoy performing on a Lincoln Center stage, dancing to live music accompanied by their fellow students from the Juilliard Orchestra, and for the last ballet, the Venture(NY) Chorus. [Full disclosure: my husband Davis Robertson teaches at Juilliard].

It was lovely to see the Juilliard dancers Paul Taylor’s Roses (1985, to Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Heinrich Baermann’s Adagio for Clarinet and Strings, staged by Linda Kent). A gentle meditation on loving relationships, Roses begins with five couples dancing together as a community, with duets that go from folk-inflected to playfully cartwheeling over each other. Eventually all five couples end up sitting in a line upstage, with the woman between the man’s knees, leaning back on her partner’s chest, like in a comfortable rocking chair. When a couple in white enters, they innocently swirl, reach, lift, swing, and join hands by pressing their palms together, showing their love in a sweet, uncomplicated way – as one might wish for in real life.

It was exciting to see Jerome Robbins’ masterpiece Moves,, a ballet danced in complete silence (1959, staged by Kathleen Tracey). An absorbing work that heightens awareness – for the performers and audience – it reminds one of Balanchine’s stark modernist style and the Cage/Cunningham experiments of that decade. Dancers in practice clothes enter in a straight line, then one by one they double over grabbing their gut, then run, pose, gesture and freeze scattered about the stage, while creating a “score” with the sounds of their feet or their hands as they slap the floor. Alternating between pedestrian movement, balletic vocabulary and tricky partnering on pointe throughout the piece, we could sense both the tension and connection between the dancers. They took to it with confidence and skill.

The evening closed with Jiri Kylian’s Symphony of Psalms (1978, staged by Patrick Delcroix) to Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and A la gloire de Dieu (1930). The dancers seemed liberated by Kylian’s sweeping contemporary ballet style, the men jumping with strength and abandon while the women danced with delicacy and longing. The Latin psalm chorus, the celebratory trumpets, a backdrop of prayer rugs (which today could add a more complicated political reading), and moments where the men stand with arms out as if on a cross, have clear religious overtones; and although the program notes say Psalms wasn’t meant to be danced, it was the power of the dancing to Stravinsky’s deeply moving music, a “celebration of the human spirit,” that made the evening transcendent.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

March 28, 2016
Many important dance companies are focusing on finding new and creative ways of reinventing themselves to ensure their future. After sixty years making dances and presenting his work exclusively, Paul Taylor is incorporating modern dance masterpieces by others as well as new contemporary choreography into his programming. However, Friday night was an all-Taylor evening, and the house was packed.

The evening began with Spindrift (1993) to music by Arnold Schoenberg and an impressionistic beach backdrop by Santo Loquasto, beautifully lit by the masterful Jennifer Tipton. In the dreamy, atmospheric beginning, the dancers cluster around the center of the stage, crossing and moving their arms in circular patterns, some slowly dropping to their knees, to a barely audible beach soundscape. Eventually a single man (Michael Trusnovec) steps forward out of the clump, dancing a melancholic solo, while others move playfully around him. The work seems to evoke an individual’s struggle to be part of a group: at one point, he faces another man in a seemingly fraught confrontation that dissolves without climax. This ambiguity injects a mystery that leaves us pondering loneliness.

The season’s premiere, Sullivaniana (2016, to the musical overtures Iolanthe, Pirates of Penzance, and Patience by Sir Arthur Sullivan), was the low point of the evening. Dressed in garishly colored costumes (again by Santo Loquasto) reminiscent of can-can dancers or Western hussies, with the stage framed by lights like a music hall proscenium, the dancers run in and out doing solos, duets, and group work, flirting, skipping, apparently in love or maybe bored: lots of cavorting with no apparent rhyme or reason. Strangest of all is to see the same signature Taylor steps previously used so poetically now dressed in tackiness. Lots of pretty dancing and flirtation ends up with all the cast members on rolling around on the floor groping each other, in an attempted comic twist that fell rather flat.

In Mercuric Tidings, (1982) we get the verve and gut-busting dancing that we expect from the Taylor company to music by Franz Schubert (lighting also by Tipton and costumes by Gene Moore). The work begins with slow, symmetrical patterns that Taylor builds to asymmetrical sculptural forms, and back again. A highly balletic work, one has to let go of searching for the extremity of line that is standard fare in ballet to become engrossed in the relentlessly energetic and joyful dancing.

Often with Taylor’s dances, a disjunctive feeling arises between the maturity of the dancers and the frolicking innocence of the steps (like children, they hold hands and skip or cabriole in a circle, or they jump with arms reaching to the sky with longing). But it is precisely this exuberance and a razor-sharp musicality that makes Taylor distinctive: no matter the subject, there is a commitment to the dancing that is infectious, if not earth-shattering.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

March 28, 2016
Many peple never forget their first encounter with Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder choreographed by Donald McKayle in 1959. Using traditional music from John and Allen Lomax’s archive (early collectors of under-recorded root music), McKayle speaks about the black male chain gangs that proliferated in the south during the days of Jim Crow.

Paul Taylor invited the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (once an all black modern dance company founded by Jeraldyne Blunden who was invested in Black Dance heritage) to perform the almost all male piece. Physically demanding, the driving rhythms conjure the relentless hours of work breaking rocks under a brutal sun. With legs spread wide, heads drop as pounding feet shout the numbing mental and physical confines of life on a chain gang. Only when the sole woman, Alexis Britford emerges like a dream and shifts between lover, wife and mother can the men dream of an alternate existence. The hard working, bare-chested men included Devin Baker, Michael Green, Joshua L. Ishmon, Robert Pulido, Alvin Rangel, Quentin Apollo Vauhan Sledge and Demetrius Tabron. Uplifted by the voices of Destan Owens with Michael McElroy and the Broadway Inpsirational Voices plus Gary Seiger on guitar, in the future, it would be wonderful to see the brawny Taylor men tackle this dance classic.

Committed to creating two new works per year, Paul Taylor’s musically upbeat Dilly Dillysends dancers hopping, skipping and do si doing around the burly voiced, Burl Ives soundtrack. Dressed in Santo Loquasto designed cowboy attire—men in jeans, and cowboy hats; women in midriff - baring tied shirts and short shorts – the cast cavorts to an English folk song “Lavender Blue,” only to regroup into duets and trios. Despite Ives’ comforting voice, Dilly Dilly underscores the darker crevices of the folk song genre. Under sunny lights designed by James Ingalls, swooning lovers transform into predatory biters, murderers and all-around questionable characters.

The evening ends on Taylor’s festively sardonic “Offenback Overtures” pluckily conducted by Donald York.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 23, 2016
Flamenco flooded New York this March. Undaunted by appearing at The Joyce Theatre after weeks of stellar performers from Spain appearing at Symphony Space, Carnegie Hall, City Center, and Joe’s Pub, Juan Siddi Flamenco Santa Fe made its New York debut. Siddi, who was born in Germany to an Italian father/Spanish mother, loves to dance; his choreography reflects that love with its organic flow. He honors expectations of a Spanish dance extravaganza by featuring dances with bata de cola, fan, manton, castanets, matador’s suit of lights, and clean footwork. Texas-born Ileana Gomez, with her electric presence and explosive energy, is the consistent magnet in this company.

Maria Benitez was Santa Fe’s queen of flamenco for decades. An artistic as well as educational pioneer who toured all over the US, Benitez performed annually at The Joyce Theatre. She passed the artistic torch to Siddi in 2008, having enjoyed him as her company member since 2002, and granting them the chance to develop his company by appearing nightly all summer in her Maria Benitez Cabaret Theatre at the Lodge at Santa Fe. Her endorsement and her legacy as a Native American/PuertoRican helped Siddi to start, and then he had the windfall benefit of gaining the management support of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Siddi also inherited Benitez’ longtime musical director, the Spanish born guitarist Jose “Chuscales” Valle Fajardo. Expanding beyond the triangular connection of voice, guitar and dance, Fajardo’s compositions feature cello (Michael Kott), piano (Alex Conde), cajon (Fajardo’s son Alejandro), and, as well as himself on guitar and three singers. The “cool vibe” fits the company’s southwest's sensual breeze. In this show, the most winning musical moment was a Solea for Siddi who grazed shoulders with his dancer Radha Garcia as she played long sustained notes on the violin. The lovely surprise was the fetching singer Kina Mendez from Jerez de La Frontera who is also a thrilling mover.

Perhaps the security of having started his company on third base diminished any pressure on Siddi to be clever or unusual. He delivers an entertaining and well executed show. Perhaps in time, Siddi will tighten the program, eliminating redundancies, such as positioning two manton choreographies back to back, and refrain from stretching his solos; maybe Benitez's shadow will taunt him to risk the unknown.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

March 18, 2016
Part of Paul Taylor’s new dance model, for Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance, involves the inclusion of commissioned works by contemporary choreographers as well as the insertion of modern dance classics. On the gala night, Larry Keigwin stepped up to the plate showcasing an exhilaratingly aerobic piece to a score by Adam Crystal.

Light sprays through a thin curtain of fog (Jennifer Tipton mined this style of lighting in the 1980’s) establishing a vanishing point for the dancers who race full-tilt in and out of view. This makes sense considering the title “Rush Hour” and the physically strong company members. Where Keigwin truly shined was in his manipulation of groups; breaking dancers into trios and quartets, as well as criss-crossing space in near collision circuits. Dancers race, walk, drop and pop up at times referencing Tayloresque runs -- arms bent at the elbows like sprinters—or Grahamite hunched over runs/leaps-- all knotted into Keiwgin’s own brand of youthful verve. "Rush Hour" swept up the enthusiasm of young people in the audience (many attending courtesy of Jody and John Arnhold) and garnered a standing ovation.

The gala evening closed on “Promethean Fire” (2002) Paul Taylor’s abstract, but emotionally overpowering choreography. Set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s popular “Toccata & Fugue in D minor” bodies formed whirlpools of motion that magnetized into volcanic forms only to erupt into tumbling forms. A communal expression of salvation and support, the pristine Taylor classicist, Michael Trusnovec led the strong company with the fearless Parisa Khobdeh.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 17, 2016
A technical and beatiful force, The Hong Kong Ballet performs two programs at The Joyce Theater . Program A contains three unique pieces, the first being Pas de Trois from A Room of Her Own. Downstage rests a large wooden desk, at which sits a woman in a long flowing skirt. The lights raise higher and we see two more figures on stage, a man and a woman with the same long skirt but with colors to match the man. As the dance begins, through contact or lack thereof, we learn of the desk woman's longing for this man. Soon both women trade places dancing with and around this male figure. Leg extensions gorgeously highlighted by the skirts underscore this soulful and sad work that compels the audience to view it with wonder.

By and large, the most memorable piece of the night is the turbulent Castrati choreographed by Nacho Duato. Performed by nine male dancers, the strength oozes through each of Duato’s organic yet stylistic movements. Eight men begin onstage in matching cloaks embellished with a symbol of an unknown group. After their display of uniformity a single man dressed apart begins his struggle to remain apart from this group. Through solos, duets and other groupings, this dominating group attempts to control and even dress this outsider man--though ultimately both sides fail.

Set to the familiar compositions of Karl Jenkins and Antonio Vivaldi, Duato again provides a masterful blend of choreography and music that this company performs with lyrical discipline. The presence of the full cast evokes a visceral viewing experience split by intrigue.

After a confusingly long intermission (perhaps for the principal dancers to catch their breaths) the final work of the evening, In Light and Shadow eases in with a duet. Though ability and artistry cannot be contested as the dancers are clearly expert in their craft, this first duet fails to re engage the audience. It is beautiful, but merely skims the surface of emotion. As the rest of the company steps onto the stage for the second more vibrant section of In Light and Shadows it takes time for the movement to start reaching beyond the rigid technique of ballet to find more breathe and life.

Hong Kong Ballet’s reputation is well earned and under the direction of Madeleine Onne continues to prove itself as an important staple in the world of ballet.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

March 12, 2016
Stephen Petronio joined the Trisha Brown Company in 1979, the year she created Glacial Decoy, her first work for the proscenium stage. To see this dance performed in silence as part of Petronio’s season at The Joyce Theatre is a chance to muse Brown’s specialness and her influence on a generation of dancers. Five women in diaphanous white costumes appear and disappear while Robert Rauschenberg’s black and white photos of every-day life (doors, cows, ocean views) are projected on the back wall. The matter of fact appeal of his images underscores the puff-free charm of the dance. The dancers appear distracted by contradictory thoughts as their patterns shift unexpectedly; legs swing high in effortless battements, their arms hang loose until needed for a half-gesture. Glacial Decoy is part of Petronio’s Bloodlines initiative to showcase prominent works by modern-dance pioneers.

Unlike some dancers who can never shed the stamp of a choreographer they’ve worked with, Petronio has fashioned his own look. Middlesexgorge, choreographed in 1990, forges a brutalist sensibility. Naked thighs are thrust in every direction against the insistent backbeat of the score -- Wire’s “Ambitious Plus” plus original music by Gareth Jones, remix by Paul Kendal and Wire. The period feel of the music, fueled in part by the terror of the AIDS epidemic, supports the vibrancy of the dancers, all of them strong: Davalois Feron constantly a stand-out. Costumes are minimal, except for two men who wear pants that might have been plucked from a Brazilian Carnival. Perhaps what Petronio absorbed from his 5 years with Brown was the merits of embracing his idiosyncrasies as his strengths.

Big Daddy (Deluxe, a world premiere, is commissioned by the American Dance Festival with support from the Doris Duke/SHS Foundations Award for New Dance. Sustaining an injury during the rehearsal process, Petronio began to spout text from his memoir, Confessions of a Motion Addict. He begins the dance with two other men, speaking while dancing, but very quickly retreats to a podium on stage to tell us about his father and family. We learn that his parents shared a mutual love of food and swing dancing.

Petronio slips in a graceful moment of couple dancing, but largely the dance does not illustrate his words, nor do his words match the invention of his choreography. For that, Big Daddy seems neither as unforgettable as Glacial Decoy, nor as galvanizing as Middlesexgorge.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

March 7, 2016
World Music Institute returned to Symphony Space, where the WMI founders Helene & Robert Browning offered countless stellar productions with musicians from around the world. Since the Browning’s sad departure, WMI has scaled down the number, though happily, not the quality of performances. Festival Ay! Mas Flamenco, piggybacking on the much larger Flamenco Festival 2016 which plays at City Center, Carnegie Hall, and Joe’s Pub, featured performers who either explore cutting edge interpretations of flamenco (La Otra Orilla) or espouse the emotional depth and connection among performers (Tablao Sevilla: Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernandez).

Joaquin Grilo creates an immaculate sound, with an exacting approach to rhythm, which makes him a preferred collaborator of Spain’s top musicians. He dedicated his performance on March 4th to the late Paco de Lucia, with whom he toured for many years. For his first appearance, he walked into an overhead spotlight and moved, almost reluctantly, to a recording. Presumably the recording was by Paco de Lucia, but Festival Ay! Mas Flamenco dispensed with program details beyond bios of the artists. While his feet always produced a crisp sound, his upper body hinted at different emotions and personalities: a Broadway jazz man - splayed hands snapped to right-left, a film noir thug - standing with his feet directly under his shoulders, chest high, to throw punches; a voguer of questionable sexuality - flopping a hand, palm to the heavens, or delicately pressing his forehead; a randy woman - swaying his buttocks. In the second half, he settled for a dead pan comedian. His over-amped performance at Symphony Space closed with cantaor Jose Valencia and guitarist Juan Requena following the dancer in extreme slow motion.

La Lupi performed on Saturday night with her astounding guitarist Curro de Maria, and singers Gabriel de la Tomasa and Alfredo Tejada, who created surprisingly tender harmonies in a Cana. While Grilo whose main strength is acoustic perfection, La Lupi is a larger than life character with a virtuosic mastery of materials, tools of her trade: manton, hat, bata de cola. La Lupi first appeared as a 19century peasant who moved with a zest for gravity (stomping in second position) and bawdy hip bumps. She sways from a purist approach though with her love of speed and innovation. Perhaps her best surprise was appearing in a black slip and character shoes, moving an enormous rain stick slowly from one side of her torso to the other letting the delicate sound complete its vibration.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

February 27, 2016
The gala format of short excerpts, typically pas de deux, is not one of my favorites; extracting sections from longer ballets leaves them hanging without context and makes it more difficult both for the artists and the audience to connect to the work. So it was disappointing to learn that the legendary Mariinsky Ballet chose that format for an entire run at BAM last week.

The purported tribute to Maya Plisetskaya, a world-class ballerina associated more with the Bolshoi than the Mariinsky that passed away last year, provided the thinnest unifying theme for the string of pas de deux on offer. A perplexing slide show with no clear narrative or connection began the evening: several pictures of Plisetskaya, alternating with… pictures of Galina Ulanova, another legendary Russian ballerina who died in 1998, whom Plisetskaya replaced as a leading dancer at the Bolshoi in 1960.

No matter, the tribute should be in the dancing. Fortunately, the Mariinsky principals are an exquisite breed, and the biggest pleasure came from two apparently “supporting” principals: Valeria Martinuk and Ekaterina Osmolkina, who managed to shine in spite of the short and sometimes cumbersome excerpts. Osmolinka was gorgeous in both the adagio from The Fountain of Bakhchisaral and as Juliet in the balcony pas – she is soft and tender with floating jumps and lovely use of the head. Martinuk and her partner Maxim Zyusin were rays of sunshine in the adagio from Act III of Shurale, sandwiched between other incredibly stiff and histrionic excerpts that bordered on parody. Maria Shirinkina was a demur Giselle, and Vladimir Shklyarov gave us the only male dancing of the evening in a clean, buoyant (if not overly passionate) Albrecht variation.

The evening was built around Uliana Lopatkina, who is possibly the longest-limbed, creature gracing any stage today. This can be an advantage or disadvantage: in the Carmen excerpt (made famous by Plisetskaya) she was rather stiff and looked forced in her dancing and posturing – no sexy curves anywhere. But in the pas de deux from Melody, when she is constantly lifted, holding a scarf aloft, she was liquid and stunning. And in Fokine’s Dying Swan – a signature role from Pavlova to Plisetskaya, to her – she gave an understated, graceful portrayal with little urgency that somehow felt incomplete: not much flapping, and dying well before the last note.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 26, 2016
It was a joy to watch Pacific Northwest Ballet’s opening night at City Center in a program of iconic Balanchine works, accompanied by live music (wonderfully played by the PNB orchestra), a rare treat in today’s economic climate. Under the artistic direction of former New York City Ballet principal Peter Boal, the company has acquired an impressively diverse repertory, while continuing to honor its Balanchine legacy with a distinct point of view.

As soon as the violins struck the first note in Square Dance (1957), the tone was set by the two demi-soloists with a crisp, sharp attack that imbued the company’s dancing throughout the evening: tendues, emboités, arabesques and gargouillades executed at lightning speed and freezing forever at the end of each phrase. The corps danced brightly and cleanly, and playfully towards the end, where the square dancing references accumulate. The lovely soloist Leta Biasucci’s contrasting petite allegro and lyrical qualities in her upper body were a pleasure to behold during her fiendishly difficult solos. But in the mysterious adagio male solo (added by Balanchine in 1976), Benjamin Griffiths was at times too abrupt in his movement, breaking the spell that had been cast.

At a time in ballet history where choreographers regularly go down in flames trying to tell a story, watching Prodigal Son (1929) is a reminder that the master of ballet modernism was also a master storyteller. Jonathan Porretta was an energetic and belligerent Prodigal, at times too exaggerated in his facial expressions, but convincing as the rebellious and naïve young protagonist. The elfin Lesley Rausch, who replaced the opening night Siren, seemed a bit tentative at first, but both dancers found their stride in the famous pas de deux, designed for the Siren to tower over him as she teaches him a thing or two about sex. The PNB dancers seemed to relish the fun: the raucous scene with the “drinking companions” (we used to call them “goons”) was a highlight. And it was incredible to feel, yet again, no matter how it is interpreted, how the last scene never loses its emotional resonance.

The evening closed with Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Balanchine’s tribute to his lifelong composer, collaborator and friend, a year after his death. The ballet seems like a compendium of Balanchine’s ideas and influences, from the clean, unadorned lines of a grand battement to jazzy hip rolls to folk dance circles. Clear quotations from Agon, Four Temperaments, Square Dance and other works abound, and the PNB dancers danced it beautifully, touched as they are, by direct lineage to the master.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 20, 2016
Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Cinderella is simple and beautiful storytelling. Larger than life walls, constructed to resemble pieces of paper, make up the simple set, enhanced throughout by mirrors and projections. Set to Prokofiev’s original score, this Cinderella story has, not a twist, but an added layer of romance. Along with Cinderella and her Prince, the love between Cinderella's Father and Mother is brought to the forefront. In Maillot’s story the mother is also the Fairy, dipped in gold glitter, that leads Cinderella to her destiny. A poignant duet between the Father, played Alvaro Prieto, and the Mother/Fairy, Mimoza Koike, begins and ends the performance adding layers of mature love and grief to the emotional journey of the work.

Given that this is a time-worn tale, what makes this re-telling feel fresh is the bold character choices for each role, discovered through movement and aided by costuming.

The most notable choice is the decisive use of glitter. The Fairy is covered head to toe in gold glitter, to the point where any dance who interacts with her is left with her subtle glittery marks-- touches of magic. Glitter is also the mechanism by which Cinderella’s feet are decorated. Dancer Anja Behrend is the only female character who does not don the classic ballet pointe shoes, so to memorably adorn her feet before the ball, she is dipped into a bowl of lentils laced with glitter reminiscent of the Fairy. This touch adds a striking beauty, while keeping Cinderella simple and youthful.

Cinderella projects innocences and beauty, but all of the dancers inhabit their characters remarkably, particularly Maude Sabourin as the evil Stepmother. Sexy and manipulative, it is easy to believe that the good hearted Father would fall prey to this woman’s love. It is through the acting of the cast and Malliot’s choreography that each character lives so fully onstage. Maillot’s choreography is difficult to define as he lives in both the worlds of classical and contemporary. The Fairy with her spritely quick movements, the stepmother’s sharp and sultry turns, even the Mannequins, who are enchanted into acting out a mini-Cinderella story in a grotesque, cartoonish fashion, manage to grip the audience and convince them to care.

It is challenging to select a highlight from the evening's performance, but if forced to I would be remiss if I did not praise the duet between Cinderella and her Prince, portrayed by Stephan Bourgond. At first meeting, the Prince sticks his bum towards the audience and continues in insolent, immature fashion leading up to the entrance of our leading lady. It almost seems as if Cinderella is too good for him-- I was not rooting for them at first. However, from the second they first touch everything changes. Watching this unique Pas-de-duex felt like falling in love for the first time. Every touch charged the room with energy and excitement. The way the two dancers smiled, laughed and bounded around the space with each other, it felt carefree, careful, exuberant, young, and emotionally honest.

Les Ballet de Monte Carlo, lived up to their stellar reputation and with a running time of 2 hours, fitting this performance into your weekend may be the perfect thing to do.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

February 19, 2016
Two women stand close, but not so close that a man, Dylan Crossman, can’t squeeze between them.They don’t register his passing, nor does the man return to engage them. We find our space in a crowded urban life with a similar every-man-for-himself righteousness. The mood in Pam Tanowitz Dance is stoic. The dancers form immaculate lines, vibrate with introspective tension. Occasionally, a lucky one wins the chance to bend his/her back.

Compared to the exuberance and irreverence of Paul Taylor, the drama of Martha Graham, the lyricism of ballet, Pam Tanowitz dances seem to search for inner quiet. Her art brings to mind the line from T.S. Elliot’s “Four Quartets”: “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement.”

A man falls to the floor with his back to the audience, his legs hidden by the wings. The curtain falls three-quarters of the way, leaving the dancers on stage visible for those who steal a glance away from a female soloist who moves in front of the curtain on the side, never once succumbing to seductive suggestion. A woman slips her back against the chest of a man, an intimate snapshot, with no preamble or follow-up. A woman sidesteps in a lunge, tapping her foot, hammering her heel. A man flaps his hands at the wrist, the rest of his body taut. Her dances are dotted with fascinating, unseen before moments, with long stretches of didactic formalism.

Classical arms, battements, arabesques, balletic beats predominate her movement. While her dances bring to mind immediately an early Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine, she has neither their humor nor eroticism. What is remarkable is the rigorous application of her aesthetic ideas.

In her opening night of her season at the Joyce Theatre, she offered the world premiere of the story progresses as if in a dream of glittering surfaces, and her 2014 work, Heaven on One’s Head. The superb FLUX Quartet played live “Four Marys” by Julia Wolfe, and for Heaven on One’s Head Conlon Nancarrow’s “String Quartets Nos. 1 and 3." The second half of the story progresses as if in a dream of glittering surfaces, was danced to an original score by Dan Siegler, an eerie pastiche of post apocalyptic electronica juxtaposed with Berlin cabaret
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY - Deirdre Towers

February 18, 2016
When asked by Celia Ipiotis in 1991 when he first realized he was black, David Roussève recounted his adolescence, at which point socializing with white girls was suddenly forbidden. Twenty-five years after that episode of Eye On Dance, Ipiotis posed the same question to Chafin Seymour, the mixed-race choreographer commissioned by Gallatin’s Interdisciplinary Arts Program to create a work inspired by the issues the episode raised. He summoned the memory of an incredulous classmate asking what he actually was if he was two races. The young Seymour replied simply, “Yes.”

African-American Footprints Leading to the Future uses the relationship between two time periods of black dance-making to measure progress. The Eye on Dance interview pairs distinct African-American choreographers, David Roussève and Pat Hall-Smith, who force us to dig deeper into America’s pluralism. Their specialties, albeit sharing skin color, are highly individual: Roussève’s Louisiana Creole lineage and Smith’s scholarship of Haitian lore. Sensitization to African-America’s subculture spectrum facilitates understanding how such themes fuel the creative process.

After the screen lifted, Seymour began his physical reply. Facing away proved motivic, yet was utterly inviting. Establishing a standard contemporary vocabulary of articulate ripples and slides, Seymour establishes a familiar language from which to trace its evolution through hip-hop’s pops and locks to the popular dances of Roussève and Hall’s upbringings. We are invited to an investigation of identity formation and presentation. Avoiding a museum tour’s lull, he periodically jolts back to the present, referencing present violence to a soundtrack including Langston Hughes, Kanye West, and Jack Kerouac woven amongst ironically chipper musical impressions. By the end, Seymour has abandoned his formal movement for the basic groove driving it all.

One of Eye on Dance’s invaluable features is its embedding of footage, allowing us to see Seymour’s work not only as a response to ideas, but as a continuing of form. Roussève’s “total theatre” uses text, song, and movement, often incorporating childhood songs and games against more urgent imagery to offset the innocence. While Hall sticks true to Haitian customs, she draws other sources into the aesthetic, reworking the Spinners’ hit, “Sadie,” into a traditional orchestration. Seymour flows in and out of dancing in time with his music and is not so presentational with his folk references, donning a smoother style that is less obviously disruptive and can pull mainstream audiences into his not-so-mainstream dialogue. In all three we see the inherent postmodernism in African American dance forms that relies not on the esoteric, but the times in our lives when dance is not something we sit politely and watch.

An Ipiotis-moderated talkback brought together Roussève and Seymour along with playwright Michael Dinwiddie and Gallatin professor/dance historian Julie Malnig. We are at a point, noted Seymour, at which eclectic hodgepodge is taken for granted in art. Roussève illustrated this in his personal identity, discussing retiring his Creole label for an African-American one. Such transculturalism reframes progress as a nonlinear process and unbinds identity politics from time as loosely as the universal struggle to form a sense of self.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

February 16, 2016
The Alwin Nikolais Celebration at the Joyce Theater gave us the opportunity to see his unique and influential oeuvre in the best possible way: on the stage. Best known for his total artworks combining choreography, lighting, costuming and sound, Nikolais created visual feasts that continually challenge our perceptions, often with a good dose of humor. Under the artistic direction of Alberto del Saz, a former soloist with Nikolais Dance Theatre, and Murray Louis, Nikolais’ longtime partner and collaborator (who passed away last week), the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company performed meticulous restagings some of Nikolais’ most theatrical and popular works.

In Tensile Involvement (1955), the dancers inhabit the entire stage space by pulling elasticize ribbons attached to the rafters across the stage, creating geometric patterns that include their bodies as extensions of the designs. They run, hop, and manipulate their props, sometimes even holding the ribbons between their toes while lying on their backs, all to a peppy electronic score that conjures a futuristic techno age, composed by Nikolai himself (he did it all!). In one of many memorable moments, dancers create a rectangular frame around their bodies with the ribbons, then tilt the whole shape onto one foot, then the other, in unison: each dancer becoming a classic Vitruvian man, symmetrically contained within the frame, but also playfully off-kilter.

One revelation of the evening was the wit and artistry of the dancers, which belies the oft-heard critique of Nikolais’ work as dehumanizing. On the contrary: in Mechanical Organ (1980), we saw couples back to back sitting on benches, maneuvering in, on, and around them, often relating to each other and us, dancing to a charming ragtime composition. Architectural groupings, a male duet and an evocative female solo conveyed humanity through the movement – and the ending recalled the minimalist dances of Laura Dean, a vigorous community of dancers where in spite of the ensemble aesthetic, we see every dancer shine.

It is true that in some of the works, human form is manipulated and subsumed into startling imagery through theatrical means, yet we never lose sight of the fact that people are creating these images, making the visual effects that much more extraordinary. In the second half of the program, Gallery (1978) was an extended experiment in the use of lighting, masks and props against a black backdrop to create an eerie circus world. Neon green heads rise up from behind a small ledge or are held aloft on sticks, becoming targets at a carnival shooting gallery; colorful neon swirls on disks are rolled along the floor creating a line of moving vehicles that recalled the modern-day Hoverboard.

But it was in Crucible (1985), the opening work, that Nikolais’ genius was unequivocally and succinctly stated: emerging from behind a mirrored platform, the dancers’ half-naked bodies, dressed by the colorful lighting, morphed into a stunning array of mirror images, evoking everything from sea anemone to Loch Ness monsters in hot pursuit: a Rorschach test that was playful, at times strange, and above all an unparalleled ‘free play of the imagination.’
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 7, 2016
Shannon Gillen’s movement language offers hope for a unison revival in contemporary dance. Gillen gets away with what many dance-makers eschew as flashy due to the improbability that her movement could be executed in perfect accord. Spirals and rebounds, like unpunctuated prose, electrify her bodies with thrashing focus along energetic tracks looping from the floor’s depths well into midair, articulated like a slow-motion film rewound in time-lapse. It similarly reimagines repetition as live instant replay of something seemingly once in a lifetime. Most simply, however, with SEPARATI, V/M V/GOR’s debut evening-length, there is so much at play that such eye anchors render the piece digestible.

Mixed media brews movement invention via poetic prop usage. In a duet whose horror is overshadowed by novelty, Jason Cianciulli fashions a voodoo doll of Lavina Vago out of a messenger bag. Vago manages to fling herself at the precise distance of Cianciulli’s bag, more rigor mortis rather than dead weight. She later solos drenched in water, so composed that it is more dangerous without the risky element. Sensing each performer’s safety and awareness uncovers performative tenderness required to depict violence. Gillen’s language is a process of continual exposure – not inventing, uncovering.

Such a process generates moments that are exploited to their fullest impactfulness. What then is tricky is linking them together. Dance-theatre has the freedom of avoiding linearity, but Gillen sends a quasi-definable narrative through a paper shredder, fashioning characters revealed through fragmented action. Instead of exposition, this dance-noir withholds context, placing us on an even playing field with unacquainted characters who profoundly affect each other without saying hello.

They each, however, have some relationship with a voice-over, just as anonymous to us as the cast. It sets violent dance breaks into motion, referring to things we don’t see. All the onstage action reads as an energetic post-hoc release to some undocumented misfortune.

Experiencing someone sans history is an incredibly present encounter, but the piece falls back on trickery. Gillen’s daredevil dancers flip into and away from each other. Floating telephones dazzle, but fail to construct anything concrete in lieu of nothing concrete to point to.

Among such technical might is comparatively weak acting. Against amplified voice-overs in the cavernous Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center, speech doesn’t carry. Stage presence fizzles when pedestrian. Lacking the “naps” of stage combat, a bloody fight between Martin Durov and Cianciulli is untrustworthy.

SEPARATI’s pitfalls come from its frame. The former St. Anne’s Warehouse, spatially tantalizing to any dancer, sucks life out of Gillen’s work, spatially unclear with the slightest wiggle room. Emotional tug loses grip when we are not stationed like a child to a television screen. The safety we pick up on when witnessing Gillen’s work is important to understand but devastating to experience.

While “anonymous companionship” is a risky exploration, an incomplete journey is not necessarily aimless. Inter-momentary gaps outline intimacy in anonymity - the freedom felt when associating with a stranger. SEPARATI highlights the permanent ties to those we may only meet once.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Jonathan Matthews

February 5, 2016
In a toss-up between vanity and jealousy, which sin promises the most inspiration for Burlesque? Austin McCormick, the young choreographer whose own success is enough to drive an older choreographer wild, explores both in his cabaret production laced with the story of Snow White. The dark energy underlying this fairytale is subordinated by historical mash-ups and mixed media.

A Juilliard graduate, originally trained in Baroque dance in Santa Barbara, McCormick surrounds himself with virtuosos. His dancers are marvelous; his singers, particularly Lea Helle and Marcy Richardson surprisingly good; his set and costumes by Zane Pihistrom (particularly the lingerie for Snow White) memorable. His Snow White, as played by the charming Hilly Bodin, is so fresh she seems unaware of the murderous instincts of the Queen (Laura Careless) and her barely clad yes men. Careless, who has been with Company XIV since its founding, is released from her ennui only with the death of Snow White. Free at last, her glee strips off her years so that suddenly she seems to be the star of a high school musical.

McCormick constantly introduces new elements: strolling camera/light men whose images flicker on stage dividers and, most effectively, on the back and arm of the Queen; corset/black draped mannequins danced about in one of her best ensemble dances; puppet twirled on a stick and finally a Cyr wheel. The Prince (Courtney Giannone) arrives to save Snow White, wooing her (and stealing the show), with her mesmerizing solo on the Cyr wheel.

While McCormick clearly has an affinity for weaving Baroque decadence into a spectacle, the knack of transforming a space as deftly as any magician, the first half of Snow White dragged by letting ideas play on. Careless seemed care-worn, and sometimes frantic. The second half had more zest and innovation, even though the ending seemed an unnecessary downer.

In Donald Barthelme’s “Snow White” published in 1967, his glamor puss lived with seven men who made Chinese baby food in the basement. That novel was startling for its original spin on a fairytale. For McCormick, his intent seems not to reinvent the story so much as use its premise to give us all a very good time.
EYEON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

February 4, 2016
Excited ticket holders surged into the David H. Koch Theater for the opening program in New York City Ballet’s winter season. The night promised an evening of ballets to music by American Composers demonstrating a charged range from Samuel Barber, to Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin. Additional reasons for excitement included the installment of a new, and already quite popular music director, Andrew Litton; Robert Fairchild’s return to NYC Ballet (at least for a few performances) from his winning stint on Broadway and the launch of a colorful immersion visual arts exhibit on the Promenade.

Contrasting modern and ballet, Peter Martins choreographed Barber Violin Concerto and pitted a ballet couple against a “modern” pair. On the premiere night, David Parsons and Kate Johnson stung the air with their angular arms and mosquito fast runs that dug deep into the floor. There’s a parallel of sorts because Parsons and Johnson were esteemed members of the Paul Taylor dance company, and Mr. Balanchine incorporated Paul Taylor in his 1959 ballet Episodes. On this occasion, Fairchild was particularly sprightly, buzzing around a hapless Russel Janzen, running up his backside and even jabbing her hands forward and back between his widespread legs. The modern couple hugged the earth in bent kneed runs, attitudes and crooked arms. Stretched out in long in arabesques, extended arms and elevated torsos, the effervescent Sara Mearns and Jared Angle were ample representations of the ephemeral ballet reps.

Three crafty sailors tear up the town in Jerry Robbins’ “On The Town.” Jocular men in search of women and good times, snare a couple of babes, fight, dance and exude that oh so American innocence and nonchalance. Well matched, Amar Ramasar is a natural theatrical dance yoking a fine technique to a sparkling personality and spot-on dance instincts. His two mates, the animated De Luz and sympathetic Tyler Angle.

George Balanchine’s nod to American theatrical dance, Gershwin spins and kicks by dancers in flashy leotards, beaming over the Gershwin’s undeniably high-spirited music. Of course, Robert Fairchild and Tyler Peck formed the evening’s starry centerpiece. Charisma and musicality haloed both performances. Fairchild knows how to woo a crowd, but his crowning achievement on the ballet and Broadway stage is his ability to devote himself whole-heartedly to his partner. It’s a mesmerizing demonstration of a man able to look at any partner and make the audience believe they are the only living being. Not to be outdone, Ms. Peck bounded across the stage in a on-stop performance that incorporated her eyes as much as her talkative feet and hips swish. What a night. Oh yes, the show opened with a musical performance of Candide.
EYE ON TEH ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 1, 2016
There was a buzz at the Howard Gilman Opera House on the opening night of Trisha Brown Dance Company’s last appearance at BAM (a venue where they began performing in 1976), where three of her most beloved works were beautifully danced and rapturously received. There is something bittersweet about the planned endings to certain dance eras – the Cunningham Park Avenue Armory farewell comes to mind – but also excitement, for a new phase of the work is about to unfold.

Associate artistic directors Carolyn Lucas and Diane Madden will now stage her early works in site-specific venues rather than onstage (Ms. Brown, 79, is retired now and living in Texas). The work will also continue to be performed onstage by other dance companies, so we can rest easy that this is a transition, and not a demise.

The classic Set and Reset (1983) with music by Laurie Anderson and sets and costumes by Robert Rauschenberg opened the program. An absorbing work based on set improvisations and dancer responses to instructions such as “dance on instinct,” dancers flow through movement where the impetus often comes from the limbs – the arm leads, the body follows – giving us a sense of continual cascading within tightly structured, geometric patterns. This kind of movement, seemingly relaxed or pedestrian, in fact requires great skill as it travels within the body from one point to another as well as in space, and was a sight to behold on Brown’s own lanky, fluid body. Her dancers – some with similar long arms and torsos, recalled her silky movement quality beautifully, but also made it their own.

Present Tense (2003), the newest work on the program to John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes and designs by Elizabeth Murray (re-imagined by Elizabeth Cannon, with lighting by Jennifer Tipton), is a brightly colored, moving sculptural mass, where the dancers continually lift each other and inhabit every level of space, from the floor to high over each other’s heads. A highly coordinated group effort with partnering that ignores gender stereotyping, we get lost in watching how the dancers deftly change their configuration and relationships while constantly moving. Present Tense makes the colorful, cartoon-like quality and geometry of the still backdrop come to life, a seamless dance without conflict or tension.

The program closed with Newark (Niweweorce) (1987), to original sound orchestration by Peter Zummo with Donald Judd, who is also credited with “visual presentation” (Ken Tabachnick is credited for lighting). The most spare of the three works, Newark is a meditation on line, balance, and shape in movement, reminiscent of Cunningham’s work. An extended duet, stunningly danced by two men, anchored the work and embodied virtuosity within its minimialist aesthetic. It was a serious, fitting closer for a night of iconic postmodern dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

January 30, 2016
In a novel twist, EYE ON DANCE (EOD), the television series that captured the stories of thousands of artists and was recently named an “Irreplaceable National Dance Treasure,” becomes the touchstone of new piece by choreographer Chafin Seymour. Program curators Celia Ipiotis and Julie Malnigdesigned the evening “African American Footprints Leading to the Future” to include the EOD screening, live dance performance and panel discussion.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the EOD episode (shot in 1991) features David Roussseve and Pat Hall Smith discussing an artist’s understanding of cultural and racial identity through family narratives and how the creative process re-routes lifelong confrontations with racism. Moderated by EYE ON DANCE creator and producer, Celia Ipiotis, the program is peppered with performance excerpts by Rousseve and Smith.

NYU Gallatin Interdisciplinary Arts Program commissioned Chafin Seymour to create a new work inspired by the issues raised in the EYE ON DANCE episode. Founder of seymour//dancecollective, modern dancer Seymour mines material from music, literature, and pop culture.

The evening will conclude with a panel discussion moderated by Celia Ipiotis featuring Chafin Seymour, David Roussève, and NYU professors Julie Malnig, and Michael Dinwiddie.

Date: February 11 at 6:30pm
Location: The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts theater, 1 Washington Place, NY 10003
Tickets: Free

January 11, 2016
One of the many pleasures of seeing dance at the Joyce is the audience’s proximity to the performers: the chance to see some of American Ballet Theater’s talented dancers, with Céline Cassone of Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, up close, is a welcome change from the challenge of more cavernous spaces. This week at the Joyce, ABT principal Daniil Simkin put together a program that was part biographical sketch, part contemporary ballet and gave us the opportunity to get to know the dancers on a more intimate level.

It took a while, but eventually I recognized James Whiteside in Jorma Elo’s Nocturne/Etude/Prelude (2015) who came out with shock of silver grey hair and a brown beard, looking as far from last spring season’s Prince as one can imagine, while dancing with a wild energy and precision that changed my perceptions of him as a dancer. Elo’s work relies on the technical extremes and quirky movements that have become standard in contemporary ballet, and all three dancers (Simkin and Whiteside, with Isabella Boylston) seemed to relish the opportunity, especially with the live accompaniment on the piano, beautifully played by David Friend.

In fact, throughout the evening, all of the ABT dancers (all of the above, with Blaine Hoven, Alexandre Hammoudi, Calvin Royal III, and Cassandra Trenary) seemed as if they were let out of a cage, baring tattoos and dancing with the fearlessness and attack that this kind of work demands – and allows. In Welcome a Stranger (2015), an overactive fog machine filled stage right without adding much to the program, but when Cassone came onstage, with her electric red hair and beautiful, soulful quality, the alternative look seemed exactly right.

One of the downsides of social media is overexposure -- and with over 200,000 views, I’m guessing that many in the audience had already seen Simkin in the City on YouTube, a film by Alexander Ekman where Simkin trots around New York City in a sequin-studded costume and white tights, balancing on fire hydrants and dancing on subways, always keeping the debonair carriage of a classical ballet dancer – which filmed out of context makes for good comedy. But in Simkin And the Stage, seeing and hearing his biographical details on film, as well as a dance historical excerpt, as told in an interview with Jennifer Homans, seemed unnecessary, with information so readily available in the program and all over the Internet.

In Islands of Memories (2015) to Max Richter’s “recomposition” of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and set/visual designer Dmitrij Simkin created an intriguing stage world with mirrors and lighting that transformed the stage floor into a flytrap of sorts, where Simkin starts and ends lying on the floor on his back, as if dreaming (or dead?), with a flurry of trios, duos and ensemble work in between, also danced with polished technique and abandon. While one may ask “why?” with regard to all of this, it seemed that the answer – whatever it was – was clear and dear to these dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

December 25, 2015
Let us all bow to the late Lee Theodore who had the gumption to establish American Dance Machine (ADM) in 1976 to not only preserve the steps of American musical theatre dance, but more importantly, their original intent and style. We almost lost ADM when Theodore died in the late 80s, but Nikki Feirt Atkins, a dancer and MD, revived the idea in 2012. She brings it to The Joyce with live music and terrific media (titles and projections by Nel Shelby) that keep this thrilling show of short classics flowing (a hot lava flow at that).

Opening with Jack Cole’s Beale Street Blues from The Sid Caesar Show, taking a breather after Jerome Robbins’ Cool from West Side Story and closing with Michael Bennett’s One from A Chorus Line, this program makes you feel proud to be American, free and spirited with no more agenda than nailing every moment with a kick or a bump. Certainly Tommy Tune’s Our Favorite Son from the Will Rogers Follies, could be a Fourth of July staple. This wholesome hand-game dance puts one man in the center of a row of seated ladies wearing one red and one blue leg, white gloves and a straw, red-white-and-blue ribboned hat.

Shonica Gooden, who made her Broadway debut with Bring It On: The Musical in 2012, sang and sashayed her way through Sweet Georgia Brown from Bubbling Brown Sugar with an ease and feminine charm that the late Gwen Verdon would have loved. Paloma Garcia-Lee held our attention whenever she danced, particularly in Gotta Dance from Gene Kelly’s Singin’ In the Rain. Lori Ann Ferreri, a full bodied dancer/singer known for her Broadway performances in Wicked, and On the Town got hysterical shouts after her performance of “The Music and The Mirror from A Chorus Line.

The prime stars of this company are the choreographers, half of whom have passed: Jack Cole, Gene Kelly, Billy Wilson, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett, and the other half still kicking: Mia Michaels, Wayne Cilento, Donald McKayle, Warren Carlyle, Tommy Tune, and Susan Stroman. McKayle re-staged his own brilliant Fight from Golden Boy, and Mia Michaels re-staged her own Calling You from So You Think You Can Dance. The other eighteen dances were restaged by dancers who had worked with the choreographers: Ed Kresley, Lars Rosager, Niki Harris, Gemze de Lappe, (going strong at age 94!), Carla “Twirl” Earle, Angelique Llo, Jason Sparks, Robert La Fosse, Adam Murray, Donna McKechnie, Patti D’Beck, and Pamela Sousa.

Not every dance in this show is perfect, but most are! I left the theatre remembering my childhood experiences of musicals, re-charged, focused, harnessed! Jazzed...
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

December 18, 2015
“DO IT!,” insisted Bessie Schonberg.

That advice still rings in the ears of choreographer Jessica Lang who encountered the formidable mentor/composition teacher at The Juilliard School. Schonberg was adamant that her students be courageous and try to create whatever was most important to them. Creator, producer and moderator of the award-winning TV series EYE ON DANCE (EOD), Celia Ipiotis, brought together Lang, Director of Clark Center NYC, Jill Williams and choreographer Jawole Will Jo Zollar to talk after a screening at The Gibney Center. The EOD Episode #201, produced in 1986, featured Schonberg and Louise Roberts, mentor/director of the Clark Dance Center. The panelists all agreed that these two ladies were tough, but essential to “Nurturing A New Generation of Dancers,” as this EOD episode was titled.

We also hear Schonberg stating that modern dancers are trained to discover their movement, while ballet dancers simply do whatever is asked of them. Affirming this statement, Lang bragged that she has made 90 dances since 1999, but chose to start her own company because most of the ballet dancers she was commissioned to choreograph for, were unfamiliar with a collaborative, creative process.

Customary in this series--recently designated one of the nation’s “Irreplaceable Dance Treasures” -- Ipiotis’ chat was surrounded by dance performance excerpts: Zollar’s Anarchy, Wild Women and Dinah; Paul Andrew Thompson’s Frantic Romanticism and Valda Setterfield’s introduction of Schonberg at the first Bessie Awards presentation in 1984. On screen, Ipiotis asked Schonberg and Roberts provocative questions about how race and class affect the dance community. This questions led into the lively discussion that followed, prompting Zollar and Williams to share stories of black women choreographers’ struggles. Zollar, who founded her Urban Bush Women in 1984 and just celebrated her thirtieth anniversary season at Brooklyn Academy of Music, is humble yet, proud to be an example of success and a role model.

This talk was the second of two presented at The Gibney Center this fall, the first having been on October 26th featuring Carla Maxwell who had just finished an anniversary season for The Jose Limon Dance Company at The Joyce Theatre.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

December 14, 2015
Larry Keigwin dances with the ease of someone who banters surrounded by intimate friends. His wit and genial, conversational manner makes you wonder why this form of dance is so rare. He performs three solos during his 2015 season at The Joyce Theatre, dispersed in the program as one might offer a sorbet between courses of a feast.

Titled 3 Ballads, Keigwin responds to the sweet sounds of Peggy Lee (1920-2002) singing “Somebody Loves Me,” “He Needs me,” and “Something Wonderful.” His style is reminiscent of a young, jaunty Twyla Tharp, with an extra dash of sugar - displayed with lingering images, such as flapping his arms like a kid trying to fly, as he does at the close of Ballad 3.

You could have been fooled that Drop, the first group dance in the program, was choreographed by Keigwin. Certainly Keigwin is clever to include Drop, a World Premiere, by Adam Barruch, set to music by Roarke Menzies, and slinky, flattering costumes by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung. The mood is sexy, the women are dangerous, the movement is fun and infectious, and no one is quite in charge of themselves or their affect on others.

Exit like an Animal, a commission for Keigwin by the Dance Division of The Juilliard School, has its strongest thrust in the first part with two more sections that appear to be afterthoughts. A terrific vehicle for fifteen dancers, it’s no wonder why Keigwin has won such a following among universities, musical producers, as well as modern dance companies - including Paul Taylor. The movement is largely grounded, exploratory with an exquisite sense of timing, setting the dancers in unison, in groups of various sizes.

Sidewalk, created in 2009 set to music by Steve Reich, was commissioned by Works & Process at the Guggenheim, plays off one gesture in two planes, on- stage and in the aisles. That gesture performed by six, is true to the title - a large side walk with straight arms swinging (the shadow of which suggests paper cut-out dolls). Performed in running shoes, white shirts, black tight skirts and pants, the overall affect is one of mission-driven office workers doing their utmost to get the job done. The audience hooted at its conclusion.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

December 14, 2015
Although Danspace Project's mission statement emphasizes their support for new work in dance, dance history is very much alive within the walls of St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery. In recent years, the Judson Now series has brought us back to that storied time in the early 1960s. In the last few days, they presented Andy de Groat and Catherine Galasso’s collaboration – an evening that was both a detailed account of de Groat's life and career, and a meditation on the challenges of "re-performance and live archiving."

The only new work on the program, notes on de groat (2015) was written and directed by Galasso, daughter of composer Michael Galasso, de Groat's long-time collaborator. Inspired in part by her research for the show, the work includes performers speaking about the process into a microphone as they dance, sit at a table, or roll on the floor.

Biographical minutiae about the dancers and why she chose them, de Groat’s love life with Robert Wilson, and his trip to pre-Revolutionary Iran is interspersed with confessional notes on her anxiety about “contaminating the work” as she restages it: drawing attention to the challenges of reproducing another’s choreography, and adding another layer to our perception of her very successful efforts.

The evening as a whole was an absorbing, well-paced account of de Groat's work, made even more compelling by the wonderful presence and dancing of some of de Groat’s dancers from the 1970s – indeed, we witnessed a real, breathing, living archive.

Watching an old film of Rope Dance Translations (1974/79), a minimalist dance where the performers revolve in place and swing ropes around themselves like lassos, while two of the film’s original cast members simultaneously reprised it before us, was a highlight – and one of many moments that seemed to collapse past and present.

In an excerpt of Swan Lac (1982), an energetic, young cast goes through the aerobic paces with 21st century polish, while the Talking Heads music and bright yellow, short jumpsuits took us right back to the 1980s.

And the controlled chaos of get wrecked, a group dance that combined pedestrian runs with floor work and poses in seemingly random patterns, to spoken syllables and words, contrasted beautifully with fan dance, an intricate dance with walking patterns that change or reverse with every musical inflection, as the dancers – tall, short, young old – moved as one with a riveting grace, and knowing smiles.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

December 13, 2015
For 30 years Urban Bush Women, led by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, has used to dance to highlight the under-told stories of history and celebrate its African roots. This week, the company’s New York premiere of an evening-length work entitled “Walking with ‘Trane” took to the BAM Harvey Theater stage.

Choreographed by Zollar and dancer Samantha Speis (in collaboration with the all-women company), this work draws exclusively from the life and music of legendary jazz composer and saxophonist John Coltrane. This musical inspiration runs deep with original music by Philip White and George Caldwell—honoring Coltrane’s sound and performed live, video and dramaturgical effects centered on his artistry, and choreography echoing the structure and intricacy of the musical form itself.

Surrounded by soft lights, a soloist shifts her weight as the sound of a low drone grows in intensity, soon matched by her increased ferocity. Within moments of “Side A” (“Just a Closer Walk with ‘Trane”) others emerge from the shadows to create the persisting element of a disparate collective that comes to define the work. This is, of course, a physical manifestation of the improvisation and polyrhythms that exemplify jazz.

The eight dancers each unfurl a unique course of movement. At times they succumb to overlapping moments of pacing, starring, stomping, reaching in earnest. All the while abstract projections (Wendall Harrington) splay before and behind the dancers, slowly transforming in shape, then light beams (Russell Sandifer) slice across the stage - all adding to the visual maze. One dancer steps forward and begins scatting. The group bursts forward in a brief fit of moaning before the space transforms into a dream-like place and spoken word acknowledges Coltrane’s expertise, the powerful journey of music.

The second half, “Side B” (“FREED(OM)”), marks a departure from its preceding, abstract counterpart. Here Coltrane’s presence is more vividly felt – namely in the music (which explores his iconic work, “A Love Supreme”) and video imagery that artistically highlights his face, various instruments, and the fascinating scribblings of his “A Love Supreme” score.

The talented Caldwell joins the performers downstage as pianist. The dancers - now in red, white, and blue patterns – embody a lighter energy with quicker footwork and more jumps in lieu of the underlying sense of groundedness felt in “Side A.” As silence takes hold and we can hear their breaths, Coltrane’s handwritten note fills the back screen: “harmonies to a level of blissful stability at the end.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

December 8, 2015
Lux by Doug Varone capped this program featuring ten choreographers presented by American Dance Guild (ADG) at Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theatre. Alex Springer had the meditative solo at the top of this galvanizing, joyful dance for six that premiered in 2006 with music by Philip Glass. His quiet awareness and masculine sensuality immediately sets you up for a treat. The other dances on the program have their merits, but none can top the kinetic freedom and lightness of being conveyed in this dance. Varone lets the arms of his dancers fly and lift them off the ground. Their heads shimmy, feet hint of tap dance and torsos curve and lengthen amongst pass-by partnering, as performed by a company completely at home in his style.

Catching Dreams choreographed by Adrienne Clancy as set to music by Albert Mathias has somewhat similar energy. Philip Baraoidan was particularly fascinating in this work for six. Molly McSherry danced winningly with Lauren Kravitz in Who Man, as deadpan deadbeats who resist the jive of The Champs, Bo Diddley and The Letterman.

A polar opposite to this merriment, Freedom Isn’t Free set to the music of Jonsi & Alex: Sleeping Giant, dedicated to the Japanese Americans sent to Internment Camps during WWII, was choreographed and performed by Kaoru Ikeda with passionate conviction, a direct appeal that we honor liberty.

Echoes, choreography, performance & costumes by Fadi J Khoury with four other men, music by Shamou is a striking vehicle for the technical proficient Khoury whose inspiration, “DABKE," a line dance from the mountains of Lebanon and Syria, is expanded with his balletic prowess.

Vanessa Knouse and Benny Olk performed the challenging Suite for Two choreographed by Merce Cunningham to the music of John Cage. In stark contrast to the flow of the other pieces, Suite for Two demands stalwart concentration and balance while holding various poses, which these two managed with grim determination.

Sharing Cunningham’s spatial acuity for design, Sue Bernhard’s Precipice set to music by Evelyn Glennie, as performed by Melissa Brading, Courtney Lopes, and Elisa Schreiber has a similarly graphic clarity and craft.

Erin Dillon’s Projection C opens with a captivating duet in which a man manipulates a woman while we hear the recitation of Wallace Stevens' So and So Reclining on Her Couch, followed by a less enthralling group dance for eight. Tina Croll’s Ancient Springs Revisited opened the program with a confusingly mixed musical bag in a dance for six performers.

Gloria Mclean, president ADG, founded in 1956, opened and closed the evening, one of three programs in this annual, well-attended festival. Varone came onstage to receive a gift of flowers as one of three artists, Liz Lerman and Alice Teirstein, honored by ADG. “Support Dance,” he grinned. “It’s great!”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

December 7, 2015
In Custodians of Beauty, an hour-and-a half-long work presented without intermission at New York Live Arts, Pavel Zuštiak seamlessly blended movement, music, projection, movable scenery, costumes, sound, and text, in a sequence that ran the gamut from the highly theatrical to the casually pedestrian. Building on a traditional philosophical view that sees beauty and art as constructed by both artist and audience, Zuštiak continually challenges his viewers to find meaning beyond their initial perceptions – in his words, “beauty that is all around us, that we many not notice.”

After walking to our seats through a darkened backstage corridor, a sudden black and white projection of electromagnetic waves and Christian Frederickson’s harsh electronic score jolt us to attention. Atmospheric lighting by Joe Lavasseaur reveals several black bundles behind a scrim, huddled close to the ground: the performers (Nicholas Bruder, Emma Judkins, and Justin Morrison) all dressed in black, crouching along, and moving almost imperceptibly, eventually unfold into standing positions that uncannily straddle a world between human and object.

Up against a velvet wall, they continue their slow-moving imagery, bending legs, standing on their heads, reaching a hand or a foot, and always keeping contact with each other, creating shapes that play on the edge of discernible. We see a bare knee here, a hand there; a mere glimpse of their humanity before they disappear into the movement again.

At their most poetically evocative, we see their nearly naked bodies, lying on the ground, curled up in a fetal position, backs to us, continually morphing into different configurations as they travel across the stage in infinitesimal increments, in an epic journey reminiscent of Eiko and Koma’s Naked.

The evening abruptly changes gears when one of the performers addresses the audience directly, asking someone to stand onstage as “a placeholder” while they change costumes. The text of a mundane conversation about the show is projected onto the back wall – clichéd phrases attributable to a seemingly undiscerning audience – from “I need a cigarette” to “I think they were stunned” to “we should be rioting.”

Rather suddenly, viewers shift from being imaginatively engaged to being rendered passively bored or ineffectual. The performers are now unmistakably people – shaking their limbs and heads at us as they walk around, or literally jogging around the brightly lit stage, all the while locking their gaze on us. We’ve gone on their journey, and now the ball is in our court.

As the rather lengthy program note claims, “we are all players on the Palissimo stage,” but where beauty lies here is squarely in the eyes of the beholder.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 29, 2015
Shadowland is a natural concept for Pilobolus, whose founders originally met as pre-med students at Dartmouth College and won their niche in the dance world by playing off their mutual interest in biology. Over the decades, this clever company became as much interested in assembly furniture as science as they joined bodies to create amusing shapes and illusions. The company describes this process as “a weight-sharing approach to partnering.” Aside from the shadow puppet traditions of the Far East, what other dance company has taken on light with such glee and showbiz savvy? On the other hand, what dance company has not succumbed to the realm of dreams?

The run at NYU Skirball marks the North American premiere of this production, after several years of touring it throughout Europe and Asia. The show’s strength lies in the charms and malleability of shadows, Pilobolus’ torrent of ideas, most winningly with their play on framing and perspectives. Certainly, in every culture, children play with shadow animals that they create with their hands, and probably every adult has dreamt at some point of something unmentionable appearing and disappearing.

Heather Jeane Favretto, who joined Pilobolus in 2010 to work on their musical adaptation of James and The Giant Beach, plays the lead, a young girl who says goodnight to her parents and goes to sleep on a mattress comprised of the backs of four dancers, soon to slip into her dream life as a shaggy dog. Once behind a screen, she transforms herself by cupping one arm around her chin to create a snout, leaving her fingers to be her twitching ears.

Advertised as “a mix of shadow theater, dance, circus, and concert, incorporating multiple moving screens of different sizes and shapes to create a performance that merges projected images with front-of-screen choreography,” Shadowland takes a dive whenever the magic is suspended in favor of production transparency. The front of screen choreography consists mainly of the shadow makers appearing as tumblers dressed in underwear or, briefly, nothing. The lead dreamer, who seems pre-pubescent at the start of the show, quickly ages in the course of her dream to engage in tacky, kinky adventures.

The concert element shines through David Poe’s composition, which has commercial polish. Neil Peter Jampolis, who has been designing for Pilobolus since 1975, is clearly the star of this show!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Deirdre Towers

November 22, 2015
A two-week, three-program at The Joyce Theater marks Complexions Cotemporary Ballet’s 20th season, not to mention its last before relocating to Atlanta, GA this spring. In Program A, the multicultural company of 16 takes the audience from the soft romance of Bach to the fierce energy of Metallica. In a fluttering cascade of duets and solos and ladies en pointe, “Ballad Unto…” unravels the abstract love stories of seven couples. For fleeting sections they join together for an accented, unified movement phrase before splitting apart once more. The 20-minute opening work, which Rhoden originally created for Tulsa Ballet, has a definite neoclassical aire.

“Cryin’ to Cry Out” follows – a work inspired by Jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott which premiered in Philadelphia last month along with “Ballad Unto…” Naturally, a quirkier and more rhythmic style is embodied by the quartet of dancers. Sections of partner work add an intricate, sultry element.

The anticipated world premiere of “Imprint/Maya” is performed by Complexions co-founder, Desmond Richardson. The dance pays homage to the work and words of Maya Angelou and Richardson’s exquisite talent does not disappoint. Beginning below a lone spotlight, his performance is fluid and articulated; at times the movement is gestural, even hip hop oriented, then evolving into more suspended moments displaying his refined technique.

All works of the program were choreographed by founding Artistic Director Rhoden, with the exception of “Approximate Sonata,” which belongs to William Forsythe. This 1996 ballet had its Complexions premiere a decade ago, in a restaged pas de deux format. Dancers Jillian Davis and Terk Waters glide through the largely bare stage in a deconstructed rendition of the dancer’s rehearsal process. The pair travels from bouts of showy virtuosity to informal, in-studio encounters where one grabs at the arms of the other, positioning and repositioning them.

Rhoden’s closing work of the program fits the ideal, upbeat and flashy, finale model. “Strum”—set to Metallica—thrives on the intensity of the heavy metal band. The full company ensemble dons metallic silver costumes (by Christine Darch) below bright, colored lights. A ferocity and over-the-top quality is the driving force of the choreography, which appears to be the pure, physical representation of the music.

Despite the variety of Rhoden’s works that call upon the collective company ensemble, it remains those moments in which select dancers emerge as the core focus that his choreographic nuances and the admired athleticism of his dancers truly shine.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

November 20, 2015
It's that time of year when the holiday festivities begin in New York City and there is no better way to kick it off than with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular! The opening night celebration included 300 alumni Rockettes, which made for an enthusiastic audience, As the orchestra rises from the pit playing holiday tunes, the overture gives way to "Sleigh Ride," complete with the sexy and adorable reindeer Rockettes. Santa, (Charles Edward Hall) makes his entrance pulled by these lovelies, and the show takes off on a 3-D tour from the north pole to NYC. The audience always gasps with delight as the ducks, presents, and snowflakes seem to shoot out at them.

Each number looked fresh and lively, from the intricate tapping of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to the charming mini- Nutcracker Suite. Clara (Alexandra Hoffman), danced with clarity and verve while the Sugar Plum Bears were extra vivacious! "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" remains the original choreography from 1933 and was spectacular, displaying the hallmark precision, unity, and patterns which make the Rockettes famous. Red and green plaid coats give way to sparkly sequined dresses of the same colors as a big red tour bus takes the ladies around midtown and Central Park.

When two young boys shop for a special gift for their sister, Santa steps in, whisking them to his toy factory where they encounter the dancing "rag dolls," and learn that sometimes the gift chooses you. Fireworks, a blizzard, and impressive projections give way to a newer number, "Snow," where the Rockettes get to show off their jazz dancing and lithe, supple arms in glistening costumes of blue, white and lavender. An audience favorite, "The Living Nativity" looked especially bright and fresh, complete with a flying angel, opulent wise men, and bejeweled camels. The magic is "closer than you know," as one song proclaims, so get to Radio City and experience Joy to the World!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deborah Wingert

November 18, 2015
Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival presented an evening of dance to compositions by the British composer Thomas Ades. Originally produced by the Sadler’s Wells, the four ballets feature two revivals and two commissions. Sweetening the mix, composer Ades conducted the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and plays the piano.

The hit of the evening arrived at the very end. Crystal Pite’s “Polaris” (2014). Deeply hued music surges under the large group choreography. Six company members were joined by a moving, human mass composed of 60 NYU dance department students. Frequently, Pite invests dances with a strong theatrical narrative. In this instance, the cascading movement was reminiscent of the early 20th century movement choirs developed by Rudolf von Laban. Pulled together by an unseen gravitational pull, the thrill mounts with the music’s resonant chords and ominous tremors. This is a potent demonstration of dance as a form of individual expression and community bonding.

Wayne McGregor’s “Outlier” (2010) animates dancers in sleek nonstop moves that embrace off-center balances, arrow sharp legs and duets that mix and match genders with casual ease. Many different ideas spread around the daring dancers, keeping up the variety, but occasionally obscuring the form. “Life Story” (1999), Karole Armitage’s contribution, is a cheeky duet for a man (Ruka Hatua-Saar) and woman (Emily Wagner). Armitage’s earlier reputation as a “punk ballerina” surfaces in Wagner’s hard-edged point work, angular limbs and Princess Leia shocking red hair-do. The quirky visuals punch up the humor more than the actual, neo classical ballet steps. Anna Dennis (soprano) and Mr. Ades (piano) join the dancers on stage, pulling focus with them.

A trio by Alexander Whitley “The Grit in the Oyster (2014) was mildly engaging, most particularly because of Ades’ Piano Quintet featuring him on piano. Again, the dancers rose to the occasion in the interlocking steps. Dancers lean on each other, duck as legs whip overhead, pose and splinter.

Mostly, this works as an engaging evening of music and dance because it is so well programmed. Despite the two intermissions, the evening feels satisfying and uplifting.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 18, 2015
Shaken by the news of the three separate terrorist attacks in Paris, people flowed into City Center to watch one of France’s celebrated ballet products, Sylvie Guillem. Before heading up to “Sylvie Guillem Life in Progress” -- her farewell program -- I contacted City Center to see if the show was canceled. It wasn’t. However, I felt certain the day’s tragedy would be acknowledged. It wasn’t. The show went on. Now that’s understandable, particularly since art is said to heal and touch souls, but artists are also an integral part of our complex society. A call for a moment of silence was missed.

After 39 years of dancing professionally on a level only imagined by few, Ms. Guillem, the once-upon-a-time gymnast who turned to ballet at age 11, joined the Paris Opera Ballet at 16, and rose to etoile three years later, soon became an international sensation. Long and lean, her rubbery limbs rise and unfurl effortlessly. In this final tour, Guillem invited works by Akram Khan, William Forsythe, Russell Maliphant and Mats Ek.

Still a robust dancer, Ms. Guillem sat out one dance, DUO2015 by William Forsythe for two men, Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts. Little space is consumed in a piece where the dancers stand next to each other dropping their weight into slouchy, asymmetrical poses. Looking casual in tank tops and loose pants, the shifts from pose to loopy run suggest a form of extreme yoga.

In Maliphant’s “Here & After” Guillem dances with Emanuela Montanari. A female buddy dance, they move fluidly through an athletic, abstract duet that includes elements of Brazilian martial arts. Mostly mirroring each other, arms windmill while legs whip up over the other’s neck, spill into a flurry of turns, and jagged partner dance. Squares appear and disappear on the floor by lighting designer Michael Hulls, heightening the allure of the chase. Unsure whether she’s a praying mantis or a scorpion, the opening piece TECHNE by Akram Khan

spotlights Guillem’s famous flexibility and wiry strength. Hunched to the floor, legs spring apart and end in fingers rippling, sensing the air. Circling a honeycombed tree center stage, Guillem’s body parts are animated in this play with the ground, middle and high space. Exceptionally nimble and committed, Guillem follows a circular path created by light projections on the floor—a cycle of life and dance.

To close, Guillem turns to Mats Ek, the son of the groundbreaking dance filmmaker and choreographer Birgit Cullberg. To the right of the audience, a film by Elia Benxon materializes in a door-size panel. Her sinewy body covered up in a skirt and loose sweater, Guillem bounces back and forth from projected to real image. Clever visual puns show Guillem stepping in and out of the black and white film, until finally, she steps into the frame and backs away joined by a family of friends and presumably, the next phase of life. For those who watched her grow up, Guillem’s awesome technical facility will remain vivid.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 14, 2015
The Irish Arts Center/NYC hosted a presentation of Darrah Carr Dance with Tara O’Grady & her Black Velvet Band. Founded in 1972 in its far west location, the Irish Arts Center has a small stage with the audience sitting at a rake so limited that the sight of the dancers’ feet is minimal. But Carr’s program got around that easily by getting her accomplished dancers to throw their legs to the rafters and/or right under their bottoms in classic Irish “Birdies.” Only with Mary Kate Sheehan’s solo, arguably the strongest in the evening, and the finale, “Step Dance Suite,”performed with ten dancers, to “Go Lassie Go” by Francis McPeake, did we get an uninterrupted rush of Irish step dance tradition. The engaging Niall O’Leary made brief appearances with his delightful spoon playing, a duet with his long-time partner Carr and the finale, “Step Dance Suite.” One yearned for more of him.

The chance to experience live music and dance is always a treat; the pairing of O’Grady, a New York native with a southern drawl and a fetchin’ forties look and a wonderful voice, with Toledo, Ohio born Carr is a natural. Both bow to their Irish roots, while leaning more towards American artistic role models (Billie Holiday for O’Grady). According to Ailbhe Jordan writing in Irish Echo, January, 2006, “Prior to the Riverdance phenomenon, few would have thought it possible to make a career out of Irish dancing. The notion of giving traditional Irish step dancing a modern edge was unimaginable. And yet, even before Riverdance (1994) exploded onto the world stage, one dancer (Darrah Carr) had done both.”

Sean Curran, who has collaborated with Carr six times before, choreographed “On The Six” to the big band sound of Artie Shaw. Designed for three couples, his dance made you feel the gap between the post-World War exuberance and today’s cautious detachment, but also the puzzling contrast between the stiff upper body and arms of the Irish tradition with the loose freedom of swing. The fact that this company easily could do both well is a testament to Carr’s exploration of combining other dance forms with Irish step dancing.

The dancers included Carr, Timothy Kochka, Trent Kowalik, Jonathan Matthews, Caitlin McNeil, Laura Neese, O'Leary, Melissa Padham-MAASS and Sheehan. Of the musicians : Adrian Cunningham, Michael Howell, David Shaich, Cunningham is particularly outstanding. Originally from Sydney, Australia, this fellow plays saxophone and clarinet with such feeling and spontaneity that he almost stole the show.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

November 14, 2015
A tiny figure in black pants and white bolero knocks a hanging lamp into a pendulum swing at the top of the show at Repertorio Espanol. Born in 1975, Olga Pericet begins with an aggressive solo the main gesture resembling the attack of a bullfighter’s banderillas. Set to the guitar work by Pablo Martin Jhones and Estudio No. 1 de guitar by the Brazilian composer Villa Lobos, this piece called “Studio Light On” takes Pericet zigzagging across the stage striking the air high and low like a myopic matador who lost sight of his bull.

That first swipe at the lamp is perhaps a metaphor for how this artist positions herself within the flamenco world; Pericet loves to swing, rhythmically, emotionally, and conceptually. She knows her art so well that she plays constantly within a phrase or a genre, inserting her personality with insouciant charm. The eleven pieces in her program draw inspiration from La Escuela Bolera, folk, classical, and latin inspired form Guajira, which she performed with a fan.

This 140 seat theatre is a perfect fit for a petite dancer and her outstanding musicians: guitarist/composer Antonia Jimenez, singers Jose Angel Carmona, and Ismael Fernandez, all of whom grew up in Andalusia - Cordoba, Sevilla, and Cadiz, steeped in flamenco. Jimenez has a memorable, warm touch; the penetrating voices of Carmona and Fernandez blend beautifully.

Pericet continually surprises us with her unusual versatility and chameleon quality, as she switches from the solemnity of a Solea - Alegrias de Cordoba performed in a bata de cola, the dress of the late 19th century with a long train, and Taranto, to her madcap take on a “Malaguena.” An audience favorite is her Cantinas performed with an enormous red and white manton (shawl) which she twirls effortlessly and her long red dress.

Her smorgasbord approach to programming leaves the audience with a rainbow of intensities and ideas. A dancer with considerable imagination and presence, she spices her choreography with subtle pellizcos, a flamenco version of a Baroque trill. But most of all, she dances with a natural grace, shading each phrase with the honed creativity of a master.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

November 9, 2015
Donald Byrd came to town to perform his challenging piece Minstrel Show Revisited downtown. An impressive work that challenges racial stereotypes and political correctness, he left behind the politically aggressive dance theater form for abstract dance. A mainstay of Works & Process at the Guggenheim, Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Charles Wuorinen and Donald Byrd came together in a performance featuring Byrd choreography to Wuorinen’s 1979 “Septet.”

The evening opened on a dramatic and richly tuned 2104 work by Wuorinen "Megalith." Afterwards, the two artists spoke about their project and Byrd’s selection of 36 yea- old work.

Wuorinen pointed out Septet is broken up in sections and works as one through-line of music. Dancers from Donald Byrd’s Spectrum Dance Theater are divided into a trio wearing short pants and four in unitards. Vigorous dancing required deep knee bends, and quirky lifts punctuated by shoulder and hip isolations. Byrd latched into a physical connection to the sonically complex quartet led by Fred Sherry on cello. Completely involving, odd numbered dance constellations formed syncopated accents to the score.

This piece is well worth seeing again—as part of a season that runs for more than one night.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 2, 2015
Ushio Amagatsu’s latest work for Sankai Juku, his company of forty years, fits mammoth themes into a tiny word count. Umusuma: Memories Before History is not a title that translates a foreign word; it extends one. “Umusuma” is Japanese for “the place of one’s birth.” The connection of these ideas sets up physical and mental spaces and leaves us between their proximity to time.

Focusing on birth as an event and location allows the iconic Butoh ensemble to apply the form’s characteristically temporal fixation to space. The company moves as though contained by plastic wrap, slowly stretching outward to snap back in, placing each body at the edge of its universe. A quartet in matching red corsets loops a phrase with many facing shifts built in, without which the movement might unravel for miles. They later switch off gesturing at the center of the others’ orbits. After a complete cycle, the orbits circle emptiness and the solos spin freely, dissociating the seeming spatial codependence.

Integrating the work is the physicalization of time. Hovering above the action are two hour glasses spewing sand on their respective plates of a scale between which a larger stream flows. The image gives time a body – a spatial existence of its own. Each section is punctuated by a different tipping of the scale; however, the same amount of sand continually drops. Time’s subjectivity allows its embodied form multiple, supposedly contradictory gravitational relationships.

Gravity is Amagatsu’s choreographic fixation, employing long stretches of movement that oscillate levels with imperceptible smoothness. As a soloist, he carves pathways in his torso, packing ribs into crooked corners that realign when his arms unfurl upward. From an extended hand, one fingertip drops away. Awareness of joint space allows folding of the seemingly straight. In groups, Amagatsu orchestrates staggered accumulations, stitching together independent movement snippets. Occasional alignments give the illusion of time travel when our noticing is completely in the present. Most clearly, dancers drop handfuls of sand, counteracting the quickness of its downward release with glacial ascent. The immediacy of Genta Iwamura’s lighting situates us between periods of letting go, painting roadmaps of color and light. A tan backlight renders the sand invisible until a sudden, stark yellow casts shadows of the hills forming all along. White light erases the transparent scale completely. We experience our inability to hold on to a constant awareness of time within a piece explicitly exploring it not as our weakness, but as our humanity.

Casting is equally thematic. Opening with a solo on center, Amagatsu avoids a standard circular ending, reprising as the penultimate section to reinforce the sand’s presence before it vanishes in white light, keeping just off the stream’s shoulder. Despite humbly swapping focal roles, he pronouncedly marks his absence afterwards. Amid a tableau of couples, a dancer stage left bluntly lacks his partner. Above spoiled symmetry, the scale of time returns to a perfect balance, dissociating time’s seeming codependence with our experience of it.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

November 1, 2015
Donald Byrd’s "The Minstrel Show Revisited" presented a new take on his work of the same title from 1991, performed at NYU Skirball center. Part traditional Minstrel show, part audience interaction and part contemporary dance and movement, this 3-hour long performance showcased a captivating body of work stinging with racial commentary. Each dancer in the cast wore blackface and an afro wig, as is expected with a subject matter like this, but no less jarring to see. With cartoon-like dispositions and high energy, the early numbers were both fun and incredibly uncomfortable because of the images being presented.

After the opening number promising the audience a “hot time,” Byrd himself asked five members of the audience to come up and share the most recent racial joke they had heard, as a follow up to the many race jokes told in the introductory number. Talking as himself to the audience, Byrd was directly inviting us to embrace and take part in the conversation. He continued this interaction after intermission, but before that he revisited the stage as a minstrel caricature.

Even though this style of representation is long taboo, if the costumes and makeup were stripped away, this caricature of the black American is not heavily different from the pitfalls and stereotypes found in the pop culture of today.

In the most serious and transformational moment, the makeup has come off the majority performers with 4 white, high society antebellum women and men slowly moving across a blank stage as a black slave runs around the empty space, desperate for help. After this moment breaks, the minstrel leader, portrayed eerily well, enters the stage and breaks the tension if only briefly.

The final piece of the show was to take this work of the past and set it in the present where all of these issues are still topical and burning to be addressed. Now everyone but the minstrel leader has wiped away their makeup to set the stage for 2 readings: one of George Zimmerman’s call to 911 and one of the police’s formal interview with Darren Wilson. Both men, whose names are known for fatally shooting unarmed young black men is set to the score of tambourines. It really creates a haunting image as they act out these readings. A black dancer moves with a dancer in blackface to recreate the transcripts being read, putting a visual twist on the shooter, portraying them as what they may see these young men to be.

Unfortunately the power of these final acts were undermined by arriving at the tail end of an already two and a half hour performance, but even for running so long over time this part of the evening was sure to keep you in your seat. With The Minstrel Show Revisited Byrd succeeds in raising many questions by creating a difficult inner confrontation between between entertainment, talent and negative representation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

October 30, 2015
The José Limón International Dance Festival is a fitting celebration for the one of the first American modern dance companies to tour Europe and South America. The Limón Company continues into its 70th year returning the sentiment. Situating its celebration at the Joyce with guests from the Royal Danish Ballet, Program B exalted Limón the contemporary.

The Unsung cleansed palates of expectations, opening with a late work from 1970. Its silence embraces progressivism of its day. Incidental body percussion composes a score of stomps, tuning the eye to spatial sophistication. The refrain of a circle peels away into floor-bound sculptures, morphing curves into corners that break circles into squares whose vectors overlap. Using canon in facings, simple sequences unfold like cell division.

Solos, essentially modern dance variations, are crafted with not hope, but expectation of accuracy. Mark Willis pries open into arches of increasing altitudes, expanding the notion of capability with accumulations starting at already high levels of exertion. Alternately, Kurt Douglas’ strictly repeated stag jumps stretch the present into our awareness of inhabiting it.

Eleven shirtless men territorially slamming into ground can read as a landscape of masculinity, yet there is a feminine side of prances and face-framing gestures. Ross Katen is hoisted and draped over two torsos as though having just washed up on shore. The supporters, wide-eyed, pivotally balance force and grace. Over the prideful male impulse is the childlike urge to show.

1966’s The Winged finds its thrust in cycles. Ending as it begins, a three-part canon places currents within currents that trigger visual memory. In subsections “Feast of Harpies” and “Sphinx,” men’s heads peer from the wings on the floor. In the first facing down, then up, using form on nature’s terms.

Multiple sections draw not on birds for metaphors, but wings themselves, democratizing choreographic inspiration. Douglas portrays Pegasus with a grounded stride and lofty athleticism. Katen teaches Elise Leon to fly via “Borrowed Wings,” fluttering hands spawning inventive partnering that revels in unstable points of contact. He and Willis, symmetrically choreographed, become a pair of wings themselves.

Jon Magnussen was commissioned by the Juilliard School to score the silent piece in 1995. The music cooperates at face value, tagging along with no point of view and post-hoc metre constricting movement, rhythmically approaching life’s spontaneity, to counts.

Dramatically sandwiched, 1949’s The Moor’s Pavane was not out of place. Beginning with similar spatial ideas, a conceptual through-line in Limón’s oeuvre surfaced. While serving narrative, Limón’s couplings flow logically. Double duets in break into one at a time, highlighting voyeuristic body languages. Accord finds unison movement partnering itself; in conflict, partnering purposefully fails, as Durell Comedy clings his legs to Francisco Ruvalcaba, whose resistance leaves Comedy to fall. From formally sequenced textures, the Moore’s ultimate beating of his wife reads as gestural partnering.

Limón accomplishes this via employing the entire body in his performing aesthetic. Movement is crafted with emotion, not a face. Present in three pieces spanning twenty years, such a habit speaks to Limón’s spiritual connection to movement as privilege of the human body.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 28, 2015
According to Laura Glenn, former Limon dancer, "Dances For Isadora" captures the essence of her evolution. First performed December 10, 1971 at the Cleveland Museum of Arts, Jose Limon titled this work “Five Evocations of Isadora Duncan." Roxane D’Orleans Juste performs the last of the five sections, The Scarf Dance, with magnificent conviction and subtlety. Amidst signs of physical degradation, she implies delusions of self glorification while justifying her celebrity. Repeatedly thrusting her hand forward as though intended for fans lining up to kiss it, she tosses and caresses her scarf as though it's an appendage from the earlier dances. All along, D'Orleans Juste abandons herself completely to the will of the Chopin piano music, played live by Michael Cherry, until her death.

Death is a recurring theme in this second to last program in the Limon anniversary season at the Joyce Theatre. Opening with Orfeo and closing with The Traitor, this program shows how much thought and emotional intelligence Limon brought to his dances. Orfeo and Carlota were the last two dances Limon created before he died in 1972. While Orfeo is based on the Greek myth in which he unites briefly with his beloved Eurydice, his own wife, the costume designer Pauline Lawrence, had just died the year before. Orfeo is ever the more poignant for the choreographer’s obvious connection, if not catharsis, to the story.

Terry Springer, a senior member of the Venzuela-based Coreoarte founded by the late Carlos Orta, performed Limon’s Chaconne set to J S. Bach’s Partita #2 in D minor for Unaccompanied Violin. The lasting impression of this solo is a centering of a soul. Each gesture is deliberate, each pose an intense meditation on weight, form and focus. Only a dancer with gravitas, which Springer definitely has, can pull off this challenging solo.

Setting The Traitor to Gunther Schuller’s Symphony for Brass and and Percussion forms an exuberant departure for Limon. According to John Mueller, Limon took his story from the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, while responding to the fears of communists, spies, and political traitors generated by the McCarthy era. With a great set design by Paul Trautvetter implying Roman arches and costumes by Lawrence, this dance for eight exudes a tremendous theatricality for what is essentially an ode to one man’s torment. What the others do frames the anguish of the man who set an execution in motion.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

October 23, 2015
Applied Materials Foundation supported the journey of sjDanceco from San Jose, California to perform Mazurkas in Jose Limon Dance Company’s 70th anniversary at The Joyce Theatre. First performed in 1958, Limon’s Mazurkas, performed to Chopin’s piano music played live by Michael Cherry, begins with an innocent folk dance. The short dances are pleasant, but Limon’s signature style shines through when the men of sjDanceco dance, particularly when Gabriel Mata danced Opus 17, No. 4 with sculptural finesse and poignancy.

Besides sjDanceco formed by two former Limon Dancers - Fred Matthews and Gary Masters, nine university dance departments also participated in Limon’s Joyce season, along with American Repertory Ballet, CoreoArte, and Royal Danish Ballet as per Artistic Director Carla Maxwell’s mission to celebrate the Limon legacy. Fourteen works, created over 30 years, were performed in six programs, with Limon Dance Company performing at least one dance per program.

While we sit in the dark, a woman screams, and then cries "Maximilian!" The lights reveal a cloaked woman hunched in a high backed chair. A loving pas de deux between the hoop skirted empress and he emperor dressed in red regalia is interrupted by the arrival of a black, business suited expressionless figure accompanied by 4 minions in indigenous garb who dance with percussive unity.

With great formality, a coup, completed with a firing squad, throws Carlota literally into a tailspin. It's a silent, emotionally graphic work with characters drawn in bold strokes. As a member of the modern dance community that rebelled against the fairy tales underscoring classic ballet, the Mexican born Limon embraced the art of telling stories of the heart, torn by real events. Carlota, named for the wife of the murdered Mexican Emperor Maximilian, was Limon’s last dance.

“I have great pity for these unhappy human beings,” said Limon, “and for the anguish of spirit which they must experience and the torment in which they must live. And when I feel something keenly, I have to make a dance about it.”

Norman Dello Joio’s music perfectly frames There is A Time, an ensemble work for 10-16 dancers performed for this occasion by American Repertory Ballet from New Jersey. Staged by Sarah Stackhouse, this wholesome dance inspired by the text from Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, and was first performed April 20, 1956 at The Juilliard School of Music. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

October 19, 2015
For more than fifty years, works by José Limón have been performed by companies around the world, including the Royal Danish Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet, Bayerisches Staatsballett of Munich and more. Now, approaching the Company's 70th Anniversary, the José Limón Dance Foundation will bring to New York professional companies and important schools from abroad and the U.S. for a Grand Celebration of the works of the legendary choreographer.

On opening night, the Limon Dance Company proved that life experience is a key element in successfully executing Jose Limon’s noble repertory. Of course there are works that delight in sheer technical abandonment like Mazurkas that featured a particularly lithe Durrell Comedy, but in the Moor’s Pavane, Francisco Ruvalcaba’s gestures—the wide spread palm, weighted kneed bends and focus plumbed the depths of this man’s despair. Smilarly, Roxane D’Orleans Juste goes beyond the steps inside the meaning.

All in all, the dedicated company is looking extremely well rehearsed, and expansive.

This week at the Joyce Theater the programs include a bevy of works. Program C offers Mazurka by sjDACNEco; Carlota (once artistic director Carla Maxwell’s signature piece); and There is a Time with the American Repertory Ballet. Then in Program D the Limon Company performs Orfeo, Dances for Isadora and The Traitor while CoroArte appear in Chaconne. Program C - October 20 - 22 * Mazurkas - sjDANCEco, * Carlota - Limón Dance Company, * There is a Time - American Repertory Ballet Program D - October 23 - 25 * Orfeo - Limón Dance Company, * Chaconne - CoreoArte, * Dances for Isadora - Limón Dance Company, * The Traitor - Limón Dance Company Joyce Theater 10/20 - 25

October 18, 2015
Seven decades of modern dance is quite a feat, and one that Jose Limon’s company carries well upon its two-week return to The Joyce Theater for the Limon International Dance Festival. Over the course of six programs, 14 of the late choreographer’s masterworks are highlighted, performed by his own company as well as 7 other dance companies and 8 dance schools worldwide. By its very inclusive nature, this festival is a testament to the staying power of Limon’s work within the dance world today.

Program A features three classics, truly showing a range in style. Opening with “Mazurkas,” there is certainly an antiquated feel present though the work’s essence – the movement – remains relatable. Presented in series of vignettes, the work is noted as being originally inspired by a 1957 visit to Poland in which Limon was taken with the heroic spirit of its people. The music, by Frederic Chopin, is performed live by pianist Michael Cherry.

Each solo, duet, and trio that waltzes on to the stage takes on a different emotion and accompanying movement style. Some rely on an organic fluidity and softness, while others feature audible stomps and accentuated motions of the head and feet. Perhaps here, more than in any other work of the evening, we can see the nuanced musicality of Limon’s choreography come to life through the dancers’ performance.

Limon’s iconic “The Moor’s Pavane” (1949) follows, replacing the originally programmed “The Exiles.” Though not an entirely narrative work, it draws from Shakespeare’s “Othello” by honing in on the tale’s driving emotions and conflicts. The four dancers - Francisco Ruvalcaba (the Moor), Durrell Comedy (his Friend), Kathryn Alter (His Friend’s wife), and Logan Kruger (The Moor’s Wife) - demonstrate particular comfort throughout the array of Renaissance dances and dramatic encounters.

Closing the evening was “Missa Brevis,” a 1958 work that offers a glimpse into Limon’s true dynamic power as choreographer. Performed by the Limon Dance Company, guest dancers, and PSP2, the work begins in a huddled cluster center stage; a man dressed in black stays off to the side as Zoltan Kodaly’s chanting music calls for the others to slowly shift in place.

In muted outfits, the ensemble comes together and breaks away time and again, acting as a chorus of sorts. They peel in and away from one another and ripple through movement phrases while some shoot upwards emerging as a momentary individual from within the masses. The energy of this intricately layered work evolves into an unmistakable sense of resilience by its end.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY –- Jenny Thompson

October 14, 2015
Besides the magnet of the low price, City Center bet on the smorgasbord appeal of mixed programming for Fall for Dance. The final program of this year’s enormously popular series offered a variation on a plot within a plot - a smorgasbord within a smorgasbord. With the exception of Boston Ballet’s Pas de Quatre, Leonid Yakobson’s 1971 ode to romantic classicism, the other three choreographies mix styles. Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Killer Pig performed by L-E-V alternately suggested a dirge and a romp in a sanatorium in which seven patients move with liquid ease. Suddenly, one man circles the room in balletic leaps and turns, after we had become accustomed to seeing contorted, low to the ground swaying, and cakewalk struts. (This work was seen on the monitor due to a late arrival.)

Bill Irwin collaborated with Tiler Peck and Damian Woetzel who had commissioned their duet, Time it was/116, for the Vail International Dance Festival. These two virtuosos, Irwin, an unsurpassed vaudevillian clown, and Peck, a remarkable ballerina, are alternately stunned to encounter each other in their space, dancing solo because the other flees, or shyly but gallantly attempting to dance together. This piece, set to either a metronome, silence, or a violin by Johnny Gandelsman, gives a flash back to the amusing Irwin/Charlie Atlas video called “As Seen on TV” in which Irwin falls into a tv and bumbles his way through sitcoms.

Boston Ballet’s Pas de Quatre is a sumptuous affirmation for the 19th century ballet aesthetic, and for the merits of holding to one style at a time. Yakobson’s choreography offers a cohesive dance for four wonderful dancers, Maria Baranova, Erica Cornejo, Ashley Ellis, and Misa Kuranaga, who begin and close the work holding hands, while weaving delicately around each other. Their heads continuously fall to one side or to the back as though each movement prompted an emotive sigh. Yakobson, a Russian Jew, choreographed for the Bolshoi Ballet until his death in 1975.

Flamenco/classical Spanish dancer Jesus Carmona closed the program with Impetu, a US premiere, with live music by two singers, 2 guitars, and violin by Daniel Jurado. The program states that this is a “work about the energy that drives artists to realize their dreams.” Driven Carmona is. He is an exceptionally intense artist with equal clarity of tone and line, despite the extraordinary speed he maintains.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

October 10, 2015
Dancers from several continents commanded the stage at this year’s Fall For Dance Festival. The Brazilian-based Companhia Urbana de Dance twisted legs in air splits and helicopter spins suspending the body parallel to the floor. Typical of the traditional Capoeira martial arts vocabulary, after a bit, the athletics in “Eu Dance-8 solos de geral” wore thin.

Two beautiful dancers joined bodies in a duet that magnified intimate movements passed from choreographer Fang-Yi Sheu and ABT principal Herman Cornejo. Primarily stationary, the lighting enhanced the sculptural cut of the backs, and pliant arms in “Pheromones.”

A well-trained and diligent company, the Houston Ballet performed Stanton Welch’s “Maninyas.” Dancers appeared and disappeared from under long, billowing silk panels. The five couples enthusiastically executed an abstract expressionist style that emoted deep, unclear feelings as dancers sank to the ground, and bounded back up into awaiting arms.

Finesse and drama surrounded Surupa Sen’s “Shivashtakam (An Ode to Shiva)” by the Odissi dance ensemble Nrityagram. Polished without losing individuality, Ms. Sen and Bijayini Satpathy passed movements from one body to the other. Supple arms and faces graced the wide stance deep-knee bends and breathless balances.

Known for his clear choreography, the Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen’s “Solo” sent San Francisco Ballet dancers Gennadi Nedvigin, Joseph Walsh and Hansuke Yamamoto into an outbreak of rippling feet crossing quickly into speedy turns and folk dance flair.

Finally, Michelle Dorrance, the lanky tap dancer recently named a MacArthur Fellow took the stage in a rhythmic extravaganza. Joined by live musicians stretched across the back of the stage, Dorrancea and her vivacious dance colleagues pumped the thrill of dynamic, finely tuned, non holds-barred dance into the audience. Dorrance knows how to construct a dance that features choreographic logic and individual drama.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 7, 2015
In her NY debut at The Joyce Theatre, Aparna Ramaswamy’s fingers shimmy, beckon, beseech, and demand with as much expression as her eyes. Her heels flex as she lightly hops, and lunge with her arms making parallel lines with her legs. Wearing one orange and gold costume throughout, Ramaswamy appears to be inexhaustible, an elegant blaze of energy, capable of throwing her focus with equal intensity to the magnetic poles.

In a preview article on web magazine The Dance Enthusiast, Ramaswamy shares that, ”You must see the music and hear the dance.” In They Rose at Dawn, a world premiere, she makes her dance be the embodiment of power and strength. She dances in complete synchronicity with her musical ensemble led by Preethy Mahesh (vocals), C.K. Vasudevan (nattuvangam), Sakthiveal Muruganatham (mridangam), Sruthi Sagar (flute), Anjna Swaminathan (violin). That musical/dance alignment is so consistent that one might wonder whether any divergence is frowned upon?

In Varnan, which means colour, Ramaswamy softened her presence, and her phrasing lengthened. Alarmed Valli, her teacher and the choreographer for this dance, is quoted in the program as saying “the two most important aspects of Bharatanatyam - Nritta (abstract dance) and Abhinaya (dance theatre) are women into a unique dance tapestry.”

Ramaswamy has devoted her life to mastering the intricacies of this 2,000 year old South Indian dance form, Bharatanatyam, with her mother Ranee and in India, where she was born. The Ramaswamy mother-daughter team direct Ragamala Dance Company in Minneapolis with devotion to the traditions, as well as awareness of the tensions between the “ancestral and the contemporary.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

October 5, 2015
"What the day owes to the night," a US Premiere for Algerian born choreographer Herve Koubi, led the evening off in silence and stillness amongst 12 bare-chested, sculpted men facing stage center. From the potency of that quiet came a burst of aerial flips and capoeira leg swings. The concentration of the dancers, and their trajectories are fascinating, making this piece mysteriously compelling, despite its false endings and repeated vocabulary.

Stephen McRae, a principal dancer of the Royal Ballet, put on tap shoes to circle the stage in a virtuosic, prestissimo solo inspired by “Czardas, with music by Vittoria Monti.

Pam Tanowitz’ "One Last Good Chance," a Fall for Dance Co-Commission with Vail International Dance Festival, involves three dancers from American Ballet Theatre: Tyler Maloney, Devon Teuscher, and Calvin Royal III. Royal enters midway to repeat the same choreography just performed by Maloney and Teuscher, only three times as fast. Performed to live music by Greg Saunier, Quarters 1 & 2, this piece set itself apart as a period study with its deliberate design of body, space and lighting. Tanowitz conjures memories of the 50s’ abstract expressionism.

Closing the program was Ronald K. Brown’s Four Corners, premiered 2013 by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. While it may not evoke the same ecstatic emotional involvement as “Revelations,” Four Corners is unforgettable in its power to evoke a trance. Brown has the knack. His dances are so organic that they don’t appear to be choreographed, so much as lived. He lets a rhythmic, gestural pattern continue until, perhaps, he senses that the audience has caught on. The rule of three - once for introduction, second for recognition, and third for participation - extends in Brown’s world to 8 or 12 repetitions. Just as the audience start gyrating slightly in our seats, Brown starts a new pattern, sometimes for one dancer, at most eleven. The lighting by Al Crawford has so many shifts that it could stand on its own. The colors in the headscarfs and back-revealing dresses by Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya blend perfectly with the lighting.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Deirdre Towers

October 4, 2015
Since 1978, Diana Byer has maintained a standard of excellence for her New York Theatre Ballet company, and she carved a niche with her clear mission: “to perform small classic masterpieces and new contemporary works for adults and ballets for children, all at affordable prices.” The training she provides keeps her company crisp, with terrific costumes by Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan. After thirty-three years housed in the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, NYTB had to move to the St. Marks Church under the wing of Danspace.

This program at Danspace gave you a successive view of relationships withheld, implied, and exclaimed. Where else could one see dancers perform with alacrity such an extreme stretch of styles, meeting the technical demands of Merce Cunningham, David Parker, Lois Bewley, and Nicolo Fonte, as well as the emotional innocence of Agnes de Mille? Also, refreshingly, Byer provides lives music, the NYTB musical director Michael Scales on piano, Margarita Krein on violin for Kevin Keller’s haunting composed for Fonte’s “There, and Back Again,” and Darren Chase singing with the robust fullness of a red wine.

Cunningham’s trio Cross Currents made in 1964 with fantastically chaotic music by Conlon Nancarrow was the standout. His signature clarity and intensity grabs one from the start. Parker’s “Two Timing” performed by Elena Zahlmann with clapping by Jeffrey Kazin has a dry, percussive wit. Bewley’s Pir2 showed off the dancers, particularly Mayu Oguri and Steven Melendez. Brooklyn born Fonte’s “There, and Back Again” mysteriously implies unseen forces.

After seeing excerpts from Agnes de Mille’s choreography for The Dream Ballet from Rodgers and Hammerstein, Another Autumn from Lerner and Loewe’s “Paint Your Wagon,” and Hornpipe from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, Byers invited the President and Executive Director of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Theodore S. Chapin, to speak. He remarked that most requests for the rights to stage the above works involve permission to change De Mille’s choreography. Given the rare opportunity to see the original, he thought it was admired presented by NYTB.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

October 3, 2015
A mixed Soaking WET bill is a dinner party in a treasure chest. It is the kind of diversity many presenters strive for but rarely can naturally attain. For its thirteenth season, David Parker has gathered ambassadors of multimedia, alienation, world fusion, and age.

Rachel Cohen opened with New Developments, for a cast of four humans and scores of paper sculptures by Stephanie Beck. Three dancers hold lanky forms, each divided into three segments. They fidget like mutant insect antennae until from under a pile of cubes a concealed Cohen slithers backwards, bringing all three figures to attention on her shedding exoskeleton. She slips into a large cylinder just the right size to reduce her torso to a single moveable joint. The tradeoff seems an improvement in strength at the cost of mobility, but the material is nonetheless soft. While bones must be hard, they require space within.

Meanwhile, the others stay separate from their structures, adjusting with their hands like chiropractors in training. Against Cohen’s immersive relationship, we see abstracted expressions human relationships on a scale from codependent to negligent within joints interlocking people in a social skeleton.

With Reperformance: 1993-1996 It Could Have Been Different, Karen Bernard puts us in a snow-globe filled with a flurried history of work, vibrantly costumed by Liz Prince, costumed once more by new performers. Following a video of Bernard’s renditions, the dances are reanimated. Bernard’s movement language distills line and directionality so much it is only natural to continue the process into distortion.

Donna Castello is heavily agile in Work, aided by her boots and coveralls, marching in turned-in fourth positions between a menege of rotating cannonball jumps. Strange Dear finds Mersiha Mesihovic re-imagining mechanical crunches through a segmented supine promenade as bitterly mouthwatering, navigating the coldest principles of angles and spirals with sexual fire.

Footsteps on the… and It Could Have Been Different use pop music to find pleasure and duty in the groove of Bernard’s stark vocabulary. Bumblebee stripes, Selena’s rendition of “A Boy Like That,” and a stealthy Lisa Parra leaping, crouching, and mouthing lyrics out of sync painstakingly build up psychic breakdown, Ryan Migge’s bilingual singing and maudlin ad-libbing notwithstanding. Like Cohen’s sense of skeleton, each performer is a body part in a larger organism of transcribing not just language, but aesthetic behavior.

Deirdre Towers uses her dancers resourcefully to grapple with cultural expression in Cross Currents. What is sung as a futile love story is danced between traditional flamenco dancer Elisabet Torras and flamenco-influenced contemporary dancer Olsi Gjeci, depicting the search for a heritage not grown up with, yet fully longed for.

Comin’ or Goin’ pits Marsi Burns and Alice Teirstein in an alternate plane of existence where thoughts only occur. They react to stimuli that are never seen through pedestrian sequences of motion and stillness. Unexpressed ideas radiate through the eyes as pure feelings, questioning if our voiced thoughts are ever fully formed.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 3, 2015
The beauty of Soaking WET is that it does not impose itself on that which it curates; it is shaped from the outside, in, and out again. David Parker’s programming is an invitation to a potluck at the West End Theater. To kick off its thirteenth season, due attention has been given to the kid’s table. Janice Rosario and Company come to the plate with confident polish on a program of their own, introducing a new season by introducing themselves.

Rosario’s work is spatially rigid, disciplining bodies and motion in refined trails. In a Standstill (Re-Worked) highlights the process of transition, arranging a trio as a juggling sequence of duets between a duet and a solo. Unlea(she)d centers on a structure made similarly ambiguous. A quartet of women situate in a line of three with one outsider cast to the right. From the end of each solo comes a shifting of the conveyor belt, bringing someone new in line and booting someone else out. This line and point read as circular by virtue of the humans inside.

In Magnetism, Rosario’s partnering centers less on brute athleticism and more on collective compromise with force and anatomy. A couple link at the elbow not as a reference to camaraderie, but as an obstacle, bringing them into tight quarters that must be unwoven with the elbows intact. Contemporary ballet’s all too decorative contortion becomes a tender compromise.

Such clarity is lost in solo work. The diverse energy of Rosario’s female company shapes the space, boldly used to highlight how we hold back our own kind. We miss this, however, in Un-becoming and The Making Of, the two solos on the program. With no one to play against, Brianna Williams clings to safe notions of femininity as she pops and arches her way through blurry paths, while Deanna Martinez does not quite earn the right to sulk with an unadventurous assemblage of gestures.

Between glimmers of promise, Rosario succumbs to the dangers of her aesthetic. The buildup of slow gestures into a swift frenzy would make more sense in Unlea(she)d if the trope wasn’t present in every other piece. In a Standstill’s canons fail to magnify the material due to a lack of hand-crafted texture. Now that we see contemporary ballet as more sensual than edgy, the stakes are fewer when performers are allowed to indulge in their prettiness.

Rosario has a consistent sense of pace – medium tempo, anchored down by minimalist or atmospheric music selections. Magnetism crossfades works by Glass and Richter together as though assuming their music is indistinct and works as a whole. Although movement often goes on until music ends, Glass’s Violin Concerto eventually fades out to an end that is both premature and overdue. One might wonder if Soaking WET is too much of a luxury for young choreographers. When it is not choreography, but lighting and music creating atmosphere, performing with technical limitations would ensure the choreographic crafting of a world.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 2, 2015
In what is already a competitive week of cultural events, NYC Ballet plunged into a successful Fall Gala performance. No curtain speech addressed the fashionable audience; instead, a brief behind-the-scenes video projected a snap shot of the designers commissioned to create outfits for the four world premieres and one revival.

Happily, most of the choreographer-designer marriages produced fine results. Over the past few years, Peter Martins has converted NYC Ballet into a ballet choreography incubator. Many of the new works don’t survive more than one season, but enough go on to supplement dance company repertories around the world.

On this occasion, the four featured choreographers included two well-known names, Tyler Peck and Troy Schumacher as well as Canadian Robert Binet and San Francisco Ballet dancer Myles Thatcher -- all were worthy entrants.

“Polaris” by Thatcher forges a well-focused piece for seven dancers to a score by Mules Thatcher and sparkling, airy costumes by Zuhair Murad. Men in sleeveless blue vest and pants support women in shiny, knee length silver skirts that flow in the clearly dictated steps. Tyler Peck leads the group in rhythmically astute choices and signature exuberance. Oddly, when she first arrives, Peck peers outward—as if gazing at her reflection. Soon, dancers pull into duets or trios and then spread out in the shape of a group photograph until Peck remains alone, curtsying to the audience.

The piano music of Maurice Ravel played by Elaine Chelton forms the focal point for Mr. Binet’s “The Blue of Distance.” Costumed by Hanako Maeda of ADEAM, Binet builds contrapuntal phrases between couples. An imaginative choreographer, Binet melts straight-backed ballet poses into tear drop curves. Visually intriguing, movements transmute and punctuate images in diagonally vertical lifts and crisply metered sequences. Maeda dresses men in bright blue sleeveless unitards, and the women in blue bodice tops over white knee-length skirts that enhance the choreography’s simple ingenuity.

New York City Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, Justin Peck, tackled music by the baseball-hat clad Steve Reich. Unitards by Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo feature Picasso style cut-outs that expose body sections. Men’s muscular bare legs stretch into lunges, gripping the floor like modern dancers. Reich’s repetitive motifs contrast against the streamlined women elongating their backs and legs. Like water molecules reacting to the minimalist music, dancers magnetize into trios, pivot on point and roll across the floor in this muscular ballet featuring the engrossing Ashley Bouder and her partner Adrian Danchig-Waring. One oddity: In an opening scene, men lean over women stretched out on the floor, imitating hands pumping a heart to restore life. This image is repeated at the end.

Only one ballet suffered from on over-eager designer--Troy Schumacher’s “Common Ground” to music by Ellis Ludwig-Leone and costumes by Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques’ Almeida. Even in the brief video you could see the witty costume’s flaw. In the end, too much brightly colored, shredded material obliterates the shape of the choreography. Spirited dancers cruise through the quirky choreography that rips bodies from central groups onward to another orbit only to pick up a different dancer and move along. “Common Ground” deserves another viewing with leotard and tights.

To close the gala performance, Peter Martin’s invited Peter Copping of Oscar de la Renta to redesign costumes for the swanky “Thou Swell” to romantic music by Richard Rodgers. A fine match, the elegant and whimsical costumes perfectly suited the 1930’s style club scene populated by café tables, a pianist and two crooners, Norm Lewis and Rebecca Luker. Circular red feather shoulder stoles, long sleek silver capes and men in black shirts tucked into cummerbunds sailed across the floor. Back for one night, Robert Fairchild (star of “An American in Paris”) projects his newly assumed Broadway flair, always keeping his eye on the girl and snapping in and out of positions. However, the whole cast shines as bright as the glittery costumes.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

October 2, 2015
In a week packed with dance options, City Center’s Fall for Dance filled the house for an evening bookended by ballet and brawn.

It must be equally exhilarating and unnerving for an out-of-town company to perform Balanchine in his hometown. But Miami Ballet assertively charges into the sparkling Allegro Brilliante. Choreographed by George Balanchine in 1965 to Tchaikovsky, the company executes the nonstop movements with fluid expansiveness. Expressive arms and upper torsos add an extra attractiveness. The truly visible insecurity appears in Renan Cerdeiro's partnering of the otherwise lyrical Patricia Delgado. Lourdes Lopez, formerly a principal dance with New York City Ballet assumed the Artistic Director reigns from Edward Villella, founding director and NYC Ballet principal dancer. So Balanchine lives in this company’s DNA insuring the legacy will continue next to original contemporary works.

A NYC choreographer adored by many for his whimsical, street dance infused dances, Doug Elkins offered “Hapless Bizarre” (2014) conceived by Barbara Karger, Michael Preston. First, the bespeckled, new vaudevillian clown Mark Gindick chases a bowler hat skimming across the stage. Grabbing it, Gindick spins it around his head and then plays a game of toss and switch between the group of six dancers. Couples break into Latin social dances, flirt and joke around. The soundtrack features a 50'sounding-voice over asking personal questions and American songbook style songs. A string of little vignettes stretch out a bit long, but the happy-go-lucky loose limbed dancing and genial manner still wins smiles from the audience.

Another NYC dancer and choreographer traveled to City Center by way of the L.A. Dance Project. Directed by former NYCB principal Benjamin Millipied, “Murder Ballades” is choreographed by Justin Peck to music by Bryce Dessner. In this hearty modern ballet, dancers casually sit on the floor to tie sneakers before popping up, winding their arms and hopping about, shifting into urban attitudes. A bit of West Side story “cool” sneaks in because the dancers slide on the floor, run and challenge each other as if on opposing teams. “Murder Ballades” underscores the attractive dancers' amiable style and youthful energy.

In a rousing ending, fourteen men in black raid the stage pounding South American drums and stamping in flamenco fashion. “Che Malambo” not only gets the audience's attention, it nearly causes the wide wake audience to charge the stage. Think blue man group gone Latin hot -- as in sexy men clump in a challenge dance. Flamenco rhythms snap into hard-hitting taps using all sides of the foot. Soon, a man comes out rotating boleadoras, leather straps weighted by a stone ball, issuing a dazzling red laser color. The mesmerizing trick was originally used to lasso cattle into submission…this time, the audience succumbed to the elegant and fierce men of “Che Malambo.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 2, 2015
The Career Transition for Dancers 30th Anniversary Pearl Jubilee Gala took place at City Center. It was a momentous occasion not only for their three decades of work but the announcement that CTD would be merging with the Actor’s Fund. This will create a broad new network and resources for dancers to tap into. The evening also honored the jubilant Shirley MacLaine who was honored with a watch from CTD’s Rolex sponsor. The Oscar winner reminded everyone “dancers are athletes of God.”

To celebrate, the current star of the ballet world Misty Copeland danced Marcelo Gome’s trite “Paganini.” She shines in contemporary work where she is able to show off her athleticism and elegant extensions in slightly more unhinged positions. Robert Fairchild of the New York City Ballet and current Broadway star of “An American in Paris,” was fresh in his jazz solo to choreography by Gene Kelly. Fairchild’s slick smile and polished moves make him a favorite of the audience.

With many divas in the house Bebe Neuwirth held her own in a performance of “All the Jazz,” from the musical Chicago. The execution with which she locks into each movement while belting notes is exceptional, once a dancer always a dancer. Eliot Feld’s young dancers from Ballet Tech closed the show with a ballet/jazz number that concluded the evening on a light note. The mission of CTD is to celebrate dancers and prep them at all stages of their careers for the next steps. Monday evening young performers to the more established, representing all dance forms, trumpeted the great array of dance professionals assisted by CTD.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

September 28, 2015
Camille A. Brown & Dancers kicked off The Joyce Theater’s fall season this past week with the world premiere of Artistic Director Camille Brown’s “Black Girl: Linguistic Play.” The title of the work proves quite apropos, though Brown faced mixed responses initially. “I got everything from high fives to people laughing in my face to people who were really angered by it.”

The action begins in an inviting space of play, designed by Elizabeth C. Nelson. Pianist Scott Paterson and electric bassist Tracy Wormworth sits upstage, opposite a wall covered in colorful chalk designs. Different leveled platforms cover the stage as mirrors hang from above, later highlighting the dancers’ footwork.

Brown and an ensemble of five dancers take to the stage in a series of duets. From stomping, quick footwork in the forms of steppin’ and tap, to playful dance battles and a “jig-a-low” cheer, the work also transitions through the struggles and nurturing moments of friendship. The movement throughout is very gestural and rhythmic, aiding the storytelling aspect highlighted by each duet. The dancers appear grounded in the energy of the work, naturally exuding clarity in character as they all play themselves.

Ultimately, what Brown’s created in this dance-play is a journey of sisterhood, built on the memories of her and her dancers and offering a dynamic look at the identity(ies)of black girls. It’s relevant, it’s honest, it’s vulnerable, and by the sheer number of audience members who not only remained in their seats for the following dialogue with the company, but also participated—it’s impactful.

Along with collaboration with her dancers, Brown credits Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship by Dr. Aimee Meredith Cox and The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-dutch to Hip-hop by Dr. Kyra Gaunt as large influences of this work. The company’s Black Girl Spectrum Initiative workshops to date have also served as a great source of research and inspiration.

When moderator L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy asked for words that commented on the experience we all shared in watching “Black Girl: Linguistic Play,” reflective, positive, identity, freedom, connection, and constraint were but a few. A work intended to spark conversation about race and stereotypes, Brown noted her own fears in the process, “Am I going to show up for myself?…And also, who is really going to show up for black girls?”

Following the lively discussion between the audience, Brown, and her company, she offers a closing call to action for black girls and beyond. “Just keep doing your work. Yes, you must have confidence in who you are, but you will thrive through your work and through the brilliance you have to offer. No one can take that away from you.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

September 27, 2015
The spotless black and white stage area asserts a neo abstract baroque theme in Finish choreographer Kenneth Kvarnstrom‘s TAPE at the BAM Fisher Theater. Altogether six dancers interact with the single, exceptional lutenist Jonas Nordberg who both performs on stage, and describes various Baroque music forms.

Despite the formality of Baroque structure, the dancers loop together, connecting and pushing off from different body parts. In combination, the dancers and musician form an interactive unit with themselves and the audience.

Simple comments about the era, or personal impressions segue into more politically attuned musings. After reflecting on the 150 year Baroque era, we are asked: “Where are the women composers?”

While the clear, relaxing sound of the Baroque preludes, fugues, sarabandes curl over the 90-minute performance, Tape explores panoply of physical sensations—dancing with eyes shut, pushing bodies with clenched fists and rolling languidly over the floor.

About midway, Nordberg trades in his lute for a Theorbo, ostensibly a lute attached to a giraffe neck. In the white halo designed by Jens Sethzman the image of man and instrument is transformed into a work of art. In fact, I kept thinking the black gaffer tape that framed shoes, a guitar case and other items on the white Marley floor could be projected around Theorbo creating a painting. In the same way, the dancers move in a conversational manner, curving bodies and releasing energy in pools of lyrical soliloquies.

Without being didactic, TAPE draws a picture of counterpoint and fugue musical and movement voicings inside the peaceful beauty of geometry.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 24, 2015
Based on Swan Lakes by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and George Balanchine, Martins spruces up the Act I pageantry that generally bogs down the proceedings. Instead of wearing heavy royal finery, ballerinas in above the knee length skirts spryly hop about the palace. Frequently the Intricate footwork peppering the bubbly sequences and upper torso directional switches speak to Martins’ Bournonville background.

Although the Swan Queen holds court, she’s got dancing rivals in the jester, a remarkably precise and buoyant Daniel Ulbricht; as well as a Pas de Quatre featuring the heavenly Tyler Peck, a classically gracious Joaquin De Luz, sparkling Megan Fairchild (happily back from her stint on Broadway) and a fine Ana Sophia Scheller. Hearty applause followed the supple performances.

Charged with keeping the festivities upbeat, Ulbricht is a gravity defying, sparkling ball of fun. Always an athletic dancer, over the years, he has honed his technique, sharpening landings and preparations.

Then there is the dazzling Sara Mearns who exuded her usual consummate musicality. Her plush back floated over an outstretched back leg and when her prince Tyler Angle, spies her in the mystical lake, she vibrates with fear and anticipation. Skilled at seeing what she looks at, Mearns galvanizes all eyes on her. However, when she reappears in the Second Act as the evil twin Odile, Mearns chills the area and then swerves into a coy femme.

A dedicated partner, Angle springs into the air demonstrating strong elevation and increased precision in his Act II solo. Mearns on the other hand, unravels near the end of her 32 fouette string of turns, but recuperates impressively for the final scene.

Swan Lake continues through next week until the festivites pop for the NYC Ballet Gala on September 30 that includes premieres by Myles Thathcer, Robert Binet, Troy Schumacher, and Justin Peck.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 18, 2015
Breath and rhythm tie the movement to the meditative visuals projected behind Cloud Gate Dance Company’s performance of RICE. In one of the most effective passages, a man and woman couple, layering of one body over the other in a touching embrace. Flexed feet reach out and connect the two bodies before they shift into parallel planes suggesting the union of western contemporary dance forms with Taiwanese classical martial arts as well as the eternal pollination of rice.

A cyclical work, Rice traces the growth cycle of Taiwan’s major agricultural product. Projected on the screen and stage are images by video artist Howell Hao-jan Chang of lush green rice patties bathed in water, struck by fire or waving gracefully in the wind. The dancers express nature’s moods through their movements—hopping wildly in irregular lines, flowing forward with swaying bamboo Bataan sticks, or spinning in quick circles.

At one point, western opera seeps into the soundtrack of Hakka folk songs jarring the piece’s organic flow. Finely tuned, dedicated dancers fling themselves into the work created in 2013 by the founding director and choreographer Lin Hwai-min. Now in its 43rd year, the company has established an important position for modern dance in Taiwan, and all it’s new dance tributaries.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 14, 2015
Now in its 20th season, “honoring 51 dance innovators from our past, present and future,” Dance Now NYC has become quite a magnet, especially as presented at Joe’s Pub. This downtown venue was backed with young enthusiasts, applauding and cheering each of the 12 dances that involved 24 performers who met the challenge to present a choreographic gem in no more than five minutes.

The hosts Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Millan, who were first presented by DANCE NOW in 2013, appeared three times in this evening, with their best piece saved for last - “The Loop of Integrity,” 2015 at Dance The Yard. With music by Michael Kiley, costumes by Maiko Matsushima, these two touched a nerve, provoking many a belly laugh. Perhaps this duet would not carry as much resonance with a general public, but for this crowd, the phrase emotional integrity hits our creative gut.

Interestingly, their wackiness followed Wanjira Kamuyu, whose solo “At the moment of encounter” (excerpt), 2015, demonstrated exactly their point. If Murphy and San Millan were the clowns of the program, Kamuyu was the sensual queen. Set to a composition and arrangement by Jean-Philippe Barrios, Kamuyu moves slowly upward releasing and tightening the space between her arms and legs, with every gesture drawing us in. Her timing is mesmerizing.

Gags and fun dominated most of the other choreography with two exceptions: “Why then Should I be Afraid?”, choreography by Ruben Graciani, music by Tarik O’Reagan, performed with virtuosic grace, if slight emotional impact, by Andrew McShea and Henry Steele, and Christopher K. Morgan’s “For Becky (Rebecca Jung 1965-2011). Set to music by Cat Stevens, Morgan performed this solo with such intensity that he and we seemed short changed.

Claire Porter, first presented by Dance Now in 1996, Fitness Digest, amusingly closed the program with her unpretentiously circling in a short red dress, spouting questions, such as “Why?” What?” Where?” She credits “ain’t any answer” by Gertrude Stein, leaping questions adapted from “hurry” by Octavio Paz.

Dedicated to the indomitable Joan Duddy, this program was produced by Dance Now’s Executive Artistic Director Robin Staff, and artistic directors/producers Sydney Skybetter and Tamara Greenfield.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

September 12, 2015
Louise Lecavalier, the Canadian dancer known for her fearless abandon working with Edouard Lock’s LA LA LA HUMAN STEPS for 18 years, is just as inspiring, perhaps even more liberating as a soloist. Back to New York some 35 years since she lived here for a year, Lecavalier has the same unbridled energy, shorter hair however, sad to miss those wild white locks.

Dancing alone, until Frederic Tavernini joins her for the last third of the show, Lecavalier offers a multitude of images. Her dance is not pretty, calculated, or analyzed; rather, she finds a groove and explores its possibilities - very fast. Her tiny, flawless body vibrates, discovering and searching inside the insightful lighting by Alain Lortiel.

Charging on techno and world music assembled by Mercan Dede and then breathing in silence, Lecavalier seemed initially to spoof the intense, multi-tasking woman whose yoga routine is constantly interrupted by uncontrollable urges. As she said in the talk-back with Mark Russell at New York Live Arts, in the first show of the 2015-2016 season, "I dance by improvising, playing on intuition, picking up on challenges and games we play."

Midway, in this dense, fierce event, she looks up to the ceiling lights, shadows of her hands fall, seemingly ominously, but then ultimately innocently, on her throat. As her legs dangle with her body in a head stand, we are privy to an extended belly dance, a meditation on the beauty of breathing and musculature. Tavernini’s arrival acts as a kind of balm, a slow-acting sedative on Lecavalier.

After a frantic encounter that resembled a mosquito trying to get to a light glimmering behind a window, she lies on his back, actually resting. After a short reprieve, Tavernini, who seems like a tolerant, passive bear next to Lecavalier, arches, pushing back to his knees. Lecavalier’s body tautens, maintaining a straight line as though she were flying - for a long time.

Rarely has a performance left me hungry to see it again. Lecavalier is galvanizing. Her intensity is infectious and a reminder to ride the tsunami of our mind and spirit. Don’t hold back! Grasp and savor the myriad potential in any one moment, but never at the sacrifice of the next flash of inspiration.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

August 29, 2015
Another title for the dance drama spectacle at the David H. Koch theater could be Pearl Buck: I Watched Myself Grow-up. For many, The Last Emperor and The Good Earth shaped westerners’ impressions of China. Pearl Buck’s lustrous career is the basis of Pearl: Spring River Flower Moon Night created by Daniel and Arabella Ezralow, liu Bin and Angela Xiaolei Tang.

Panels of white light appear one after the other on the front curtain. Inside the panel appears the silhouette of an older woman reverting back to her youth. The images evaporate and are realized by a series of dancers playing the role of Ms. Buck throughout various stages of her life. Director and choreographer Daniel Ezralow formerly of MOMIX and ISO, draws on his dance influences and experience working with director Julie Taymor.

Visual elements rush around the modern dance movements in this cascading tale of an American novelist who straddled East and West. However, one of the dominant visuals—a river coursing through the stage—was invisible to those sitting in the orchestra.

All the performers assuming Ms. Buck’s role moved with ease, frequently running and spinning off little air turns, rolling playfully on the floor or flinging arms in agitated concern. Ezralow's spunky athleticism nods to martial arts movements and a desire to create pictures through dance. Projections and video by Mirada, show the countryside, social agendas, manuscripts, press coverage and Buck’s films.

Recorded music played by the remarkable cellist Yo-Yo Ma traces western and eastern influenced scores, additionally reflected in the costumes by Oana Batez and well balanced lighting by Christopher Akerlind. Pearl S. Buck was the child of Presbyterian missionaries. Through her parent’s work, Buck learned to respect the Chinese Culture despite the political upheavals. Married twice, Buck’s life is not spelled out as much as it’s suggested.

In the end, Special Guest Dancer Margie Gillis commands the stage. Feet planted firmly in the ground, Ms. Gillis stands solidly in front of the floating clouds and mountain range. Her quicksilver arms and agile torso express the emotional riches of a great life.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

August 18, 2015
The third annual “Drive East Festival,” presented 20 shows over 7 nights at the La Mama theatre in the East Village. The performances bring South Asian performing arts into the limelight with traditional dancing, costumes, and music on display. Wednesday’s evening’s second performer Niharika Mohanty danced an hour-long collection of Odissi solos.

Part one “Shantakaram Mangalacharan,” starts with Mohanty acknowledging the Hindu Lord of the Universe and Mother Nature. Her costume, a deep blue dress with an ornamental white sash and jewelry drapes her body. Hips swish side to side in slow movements, stepping onto stage with shapely and direct hand gestures. Small red eyes appear at palms center. The eyes lead the movement, with intense focus and a striking gaze that invites the audience in to follow along. Part two “Behag Pallavii,” is more technical in form. Mohanty relies on the support of the music with its intricate rhythms to lead each step. Part three “Yahi Madhave,” includes spoken word and a narrative structure. Mohanty gestures as the words are read aloud. In a theatrical manner she leads the story expressing a lover’s forlorn and at times a very comedic side.

The series closes with “Jaya Mahesha,” journies through “the unending circle of life and death.” Mohanty entrances gliding through the space but staying grounded in her phrases. Her wit and candor shine through with stylistic choices in a traditional and structured form.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

August 11, 2015
Claudia Schreier & Company performed an evening of work at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre. The company’s debut was in part due to “The Breaking Glass Project,” a platform that mentors and supports young female choreographers. Schreier was the 2014 winner. Through this opportunity she was afforded space, a year for creation, new music, and the luxury of some very talented dancers from New York City Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and American Ballet Theatre among others.

“Almost Morning,” the opening piece and first of three World Premiers, was cluttered. Live musicians joined the dancers on stage, with music from Jeff Beal, of the Netflix series “House of Cards,” fame. From the first entrance it’s apparent the spacing is muddled and the movement too grand for the stage. At one point a male dancer picks up a female and she flings her leg back, almost into the head of a string player. The tight circumstance causes the dancers movement to become restrained and at times apologetic, perhaps in another venue it might take off.

Two of Schreier’s previous works followed. “Harmonic,” (2013) gave a stronger sense of choreographic voice. The cast of four lead by the luminous Stephanie Williams of ABT, had merit as a group and as individuals. Phrases were precise, with evolving dynamic and focus. Schreier isn’t necessarily bringing anything new to the table but she is getting closer to establishing her style. In one moment the dancers stand in a line and swing their arms in a pendulum figure 8 type movement while rotating directions. It’s a rather old idea best seen on 50 dancers in a larger setting, but it sticks in my mind because she found moments for energy shifts, which is quite refreshing among a string of fast paced movements.

A choir of 16 joined dancers Elinor Hitt and Da’Von Doane on stage for “Vigil,” another premier. Although many beautiful lifts and spins created lasting images, the two entities never sank into harmony. An interesting idea, that didn’t quite achieve full fruition.

“Pulse,” the final premier and finale, included all 13 dancers. It served as a culmination of many choreographic ideas that were seen in the other works but it gave Schreier a chance to show spatially the dynamic groupings she can create with a larger cast. There is no doubt that she has the talent to take her to the next step and the intricate movement to entertain audiences to come. The challenge for Schreier will be what sets her apart from the rest? I’ll be eager to attend the next performance and find out.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

August 11, 2015
As it turns out, the intense and rhythmic fury conjured by flamenco dance pairs well with dramatic Greek tragedy. In the musical dance drama that is “Antigona,” a 12-member cast guides us through Sophocles’ tale of a family torn apart by power, love, and defiance. There’s something extra haunting about its unfolding in the high arched, stained glass West Park Presbyterian Church.

The evening-length “Antigona” is choreographed by Soledad Barrio and directed by Martin Santangelo - the founding duo of Noche Flamenca. In keeping with the Greek performance practice of sung poetry and live music, this work is sung, largely in Spanish (with English captions atop a screen above), with four musicians present on stage. The performers evolve through stylized acting to pure dance scenes, ever informing the current emotionally-driven moment of the play. Picture the rippling black fabric of stage-engulfing cape, two women later draped in white with numerous masks peering through, a paper mache body lying upstage sprinkled in rose petals.

Though the tragedy “Antigone” is intricate, Santangelo’s keen direction, adds some comedic interludes at the beginning, including “The Family” scene which presents each character, one-by-one, noting their part within the greater family dynamic. Marina Elana is particularly hilarious in her caricatured portrayal of Antigona’s sister Ismene, further giving us the lowdown on the drama brewing.

It’s the power struggle between brothers Eteocles (played by Ray F. Davis) and Polyneices (played by Pepito Jimenez) that begins the true action of the work. Presented via dance battle, Davis’ smooth hip hop style is met with Jimenez’s sharp flamenco. This latter style, of course, becomes a powerful through line within the choreography. Juan Ogalla, as Antigona’s love, dances with much skill and passion, most notably in “Ode to Love.”

Still, it’s the exquisite Soledad Barrio, as Antigona, who impresses with her mastery of the flamenco. Extending beyond the percussive force of her rhythmic footwork, the intensity of her performance demands attention. Even moments of stillness and grief she exudes well, striking contrast to her otherwise ferocious heel stomping and swirl of her skirt.

“Antigona,” which originally premiered in October 2014, is quite the manifestation of what the Noche Flamenca does best – creating “song, music, and dance that expresses a rigorous, spellbinding aesthetic in the form of flamenco.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

August 7, 2015
The first entry in Ballet Festival at the Joyce Theater centered on Joshua Beamish’s MOVE: the company.

In contrast to the duet-filled first half, the second half featured a full -length ensemble piece “Surface Properties” that combines Beamish's choreography with tasty lime costumes by Janie Taylor and animated, geometric visuals by Matt Keegan. At times Keegan’s projected squares, rectangles, and graphs compete with the dancing, which is a shame, because there are some mighty fine American Ballet Theater dancers on stage.

Generally, budding choreographers do better choreographing small-scale solos or duets, because they reference their own bodies. However, Beamish expresses more inventive thinking in his large group presentation. He integrates a touch of Tharp’s carefree attitude into rigorous ballet technique. Flexed feet, torqued heads, hips knocked sideways, and paddled turns spinning round and round are sprinkled throughout. The quick breaks from balletic form to contemporary ticks-- drops and funky torso slinks-- in “Surface Properties” demonstrate a promising direction for Beamish.

Alternatively, one could attach different attributes to each solo and duet in the program’s opening. First comes “resolute,” an athletic solo featuring Joshua Beamish dipping into plunging knee bends and sharp poses. Two attractive dancers, Matthew Dibble and Jose Sebastian mirrored competitive actions, intermittently buffered by affectionate facial cresses or body wraps in “burrow.” Hands grasp in arm wrestling fashion as the two men strut and hit technically sharp marks.

The third duet “Stay” performed by Dimitri Kleioris and Stephanie Williams was the most poignant and lyrical. A single arm repeatedly shoots up to the ceiling as a head press into the other’s chest, simultaneously nuzzling and pushing away the partner. Kleioris and Williams intertwined their bodies in a far less self- conscious manner, tethering themselves to the musical nuances and the audience’s admiration.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

Gillis Legacy Project
July 30, 2015
Lecturing at Springboard Danse Montreal, Margie Gillis playfully recounted how, following performances, audiences demanded to know who did “those other dances,” so convinced by her characters they failed to recognize her. As Gillis’ Legacy Project passes her solos on, hallucination becomes reality, testing authenticity’s impact on audiences conditioned to tongues in cheek.

Introducing each artist was a composition of exercises shared with the students at Springboard. Gillis works with media as partners; they enter duetting a Handel aria. False starts confirm improvisation, but go further. A massive rond de jambe is not a rond de jambe, but a natural expression of the impulse to execute a movement idea that fulfills internal need.

Epitomizing Gillis’ “complex simplicity,” dancers nod and shake heads. A nod steps forward; a shake shifts side. Steps combine with rotations, facing each other in conversation. Heads agree and allow, though no one ever asks – a one sided game of “Mother, May I.” If met with a no, another rotation seeks a yes. Dynamics layer emotion on commands, coloring movement playfully or outraged. Space redefines – two no’s facing in close proximity nuzzle.

Troy Ogilvie danced Bloom to a flurried reading of Joyce – similar to what Gillis demonstrated a week prior. While movement also musically matches text, Ogilvie does not sign the words; she depicts - a living metaphor. The innocent structure exhausts as the poetry patters on. Faces change like channels to the story of a woman who chooses nature over a husband. Moving at the speed of thought, she buffers in silence to keep up.

Blue sits Susie Paulson in a chair facing another, empty, tipped, and unused, heightening anguish in a dance unconcerned with moves or drama, but the unfolding of feeling. Like Jell-o, she fills the round wooden seat, seeping through spaces as structure holds her together. Unable to find repose, she shoots atop, a level change fulfilling the emotional need for altitude.

In what Gillis terms “horizontal performance,” Ruth Levin and Maggie Fogerton both danced Little Animal, revealing Gillis’ fluid authorship. The commonalities are few – start upstage left, end downstage right. Start standing, find the floor, end standing. Levin, twig-like, broke to move forward, collapsing to the ground, arching and inching with her head. She reclines without rest. Fogerton absorbs, releasing through the ground. Her tension stems from self-probing, present even in stillness.

The Legacy Project is not a matter of ensuring material survival – there is none to be preserved. It retains the two-way channel through which Gillis has spent decades making beauty from mess. Translation to the contemporary performative habit is necessary as long as dance requires hu man bodies to speak.

Margie Gillis will appear in the new multi-media theater piece "Pearl" on the life of Pearl S. Buck at the Lincoln Center, Aug. 27-30.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

July 11, 2015
The American Ballet Theater closed their 75th anniversary season with Frederick Ashton’s “Cinderella.” The ballet production swerves slightly in story from the fairy tale known by most, but the general idea resonates the same. Newly promoted principal dancer (the first Filipino-American principal with the company) Stella Abrera danced the title role in the July 4th matinee performance. Her prince was the dashing soloist Joseph Gorak.

In the first act, Cinderella is seen by the fireplace. Her stepsisters, two male dancers in drag, hob knob with one another, their clumsy dancing provides some comic relief for the children in the audience. In this version, there is no stepmother, instead a sheepish father tries to keep his family going, but fails at taming the sisters and their outlandish actions.

At one point, an old beggar woman finds her way into the house and Cinderella shows her kindness by offering her some food. As the invitations for the ball are sent out and the stepsisters get ready, Cinderella is left to dance with her broom. The woman re-appears and turns into the fairy godmother, danced by the savvy Devon Teuscher. She presents four fairies each representing a season; bestowing gifts that help Cinderella make her way to the ball. The effervescent Skylar Brandt danced the Summer fairy. She was sharp and aware with each step prick like and exciting.

In the ball scene, the lighting is dim for the entrance of a fairy-tale worthy ballerina, but Abrera captures the demure elegance of the character and charms with every step. Gorak, whose technique is unparalleled to most in the company, is breathtaking with each leap and point of his foot. In their main pas de deux, the two make a refreshing match, uneasy in some moments but always able to create a strong finish with each phrase. Abrera’s maturity and finesse molds well with Gorak’s youth and eagerness.

Ashton’s choreography is ornate and exact. It has all of the elements of the typical classical ballet but uses some contemporary aspects in timing and dynamic that livens the movement. Paired with Prokofiev’s luscious score, the timeline of the three-act ballet has a sense of seamlessness and novelty, all in one a ballet that one hopes ABT would hold onto.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Maoon

July 11, 2015
Chamber ballet companies bring to light more intimate repertory is smaller performance spaces. They are also far more portable which makes them attractive touring companies. Ballet NY founded and directed by Judith Fugate and Medhi Bahiri is an example. Performing at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, the nicely tuned company presented four varied works by John Butler, Medhi Bahiri, William Forsythe, and Stanton Welch.

Sandwiched between Butler’s strong “Othello” and Welch’s “Orange” two duets spoke nearly the same choreographic language. “What Ever” a world première by Bahiri to a score by Samuel Barber referenced the neo-classical form. The two fine dancers Xiaoxiao Cao and Jesse Campbell struck strong, long extensions against plunging back arches while turning up an under tricky partnering. More surprising was Forsythe’s “Singerland Duet.” Unlike his off-kilter, hyper-extended vocabulary, this was a sedate, well-crafted piece. Not fully comfortable with each other, Katie Gibson and Brent Whitney nevertheless, navigated odd choreographic joints that combined modern dance moves and ballet with conviction.

In a whirl or orange, Welch’s “Orange” (2001) reminded me of a portrait I saw recently at the Frick Museum Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June painted in 1895. Luxuriously stretched out on a sofa, the beautiful young woman’s long, almond colored hair cascades down the sofa in a symphony of soft, curvaceous music. Welch’s piece has a similar effect, animating the company is a swirl of movement.

But the most gratifying piece of the evening was John Butler’s “Othello.” Created almost thirty years after Jose Limon choreographed the magnificent American classic “Moor’s Pavane” Butler’s “Othello” concentrates the action on Othello (a fine Giovanni Ravelo), his wife Desdemona (the excellent Coreen Danaher) and the villainous antagonist Iago (Brent Whitney). Strong diagonal lines demarcate the passionate attraction between Othello and Desdemona, and later the jealous rage. A repeating, tremolous hand gesture touches one cheek against the other. As the tragedy builds, this gesture becomes more and more lethal.

Butler reference’s Limon on several occasions, particularly when Iago--the menacing Whitney--leans over Othello, whispering his hateful lies about Desdemona’s unfaithfulness. One of the first to design dance for camera in the early days of broadcast television, Butler knows how to pare movements down to essential story telling blocks. The audience responded enthusiastically and its’ a delight to see this piece live through Ballet NY.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 9, 2015
For the bottomless stew of New York’s emerging dance troupes, lack of funds, space, and time often results in general aesthetics - open-ends by talented soloists. Chuck Wilt has managed to hone a singular language of presence, equally amplifying each human inside. Occupying four generations of Tisch dancers, UNA Projects returned home to Second Avenue for Ships and Salsa.

Ships opens in arresting calm. Blue light caresses dresses rippling in response to the smallest impulse within a barricade of white chairs. Wilt takes his time, stretching moments to hallucinogenic proportions. A cast of four looks exponentially larger; when their activities stop on a dime, independent journeys lock into one constellation topped by Catherine Kirk atop a chair like a kore, the rest sprawled beneath her pedestal.

Durations slip about; in the time it takes Lauren Kravitz to throw a tantrum, Kirk shifts her forehead from Jane Paley’s to nestle under her chin. Extending innocent interactions like taffy, Kirk corners Paley by continuously almost touching her belly. Dynamics shuffle, avoiding unison, but giving everyone a turn, weaving one texture that tosses and turns with the uncertainty of a minefield.

Toting oceanic soundscapes, blue hues, flowing garments, and movements calm and torrential, Ships in no way portrays. Wilt generates atmospheres, pressing movement into a greater fabric, spacious enough for emotion to connect to something as cold as a sea vessel. Dancers choose to assist or neglect, calling to mind nautical distress signals. What responsibility do bodies have to one another when each already contains what they need to sustain?

A beachy backdrop beckons the full company to plop in for Salsa. Kyle Filley dons floaties. Paley holds a blow-up whale like a trophy husband. Kirk gently claps from the most disengaged stare as Rhianna’s “Cake” infects the stale serenity. Straightforward musical relationships and ensemble dancing are made aliens by the abstract norm, but the intention goes further. Ross Katen and Filley share a softshoe dialogue hoping to carve out a smile.

Casting his bodies’ proportions, Wilt’s bones and Filley’s musculature form a trio with their size disparity. In white briefs, they make their way up a diagonal as obstacles to each other’s common, yet individual path. Wilt’s physical terrain provides Filley the opportunity to recline on his femur. A fraternal relationship, their forward trajectory is dependent on cutting the other off. Neither completes a sentence, the dissonance catapulting them forward.

UNA’s aesthetic draws on Gaga’s meticulous sensitivity to sensation, but extends the investigation to emotion and thought. In doing so, Wilt develops movement on fluent bodies that nonetheless uncovers possibility in the failure to accomplish ideals. A ballroom frame is distorted with clumsy arm placement, throwing shoulders and spines off-kilter. They are free to be heavy, unflatteringly draped in lifts visibly difficult. It is not pure abstraction, but an embrace of inability, scrutiny as to why we act, and catering of the task to the doer and the moment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

June 25, 2015
Jelon Vieira keeps his dancers moving fast and vibrantly, bursting with energy and athleticism. Joely Silva and Cristiane de Jesus, the only two ladies in DanceBrazil, a company of ten, draw trajectories of the company’s signature extreme bounce with their big hair flying to the floor and circling back 320 degrees. “Gueto” opened the program with music by Marcos Carvalho with moves pulled from the capoeira tradition, punctuated with postures suggesting the menacing hang of gangs. For the opening, Burke Wilmore created a strong graphic with light falling on the stage in a slatted rhythm and, later, with a urbanscape projected on the back wall, choices based on original design by Gerard Laffuste. The piece, driven in part by live percussion provided by Marcos Dos Santos (aka Gibi), Nailton Dos Santos (aka Meia Noite), and Gil Oliviera, is infectious and convincing in its depiction of the friendly friction of tight communities.

“Buzios” (2014) is comparatively less immediate, perhaps because of the foreign nature of its theme. “Buzios” stems from the mystical game of divination played with the throwing of cowrie shells. While the movement was similar for the entire program, the three dances involving nine or ten people on stage all the time, this piece alluded to more than macho challenges, but the subtleties of this shell game were buried or, perhaps, the spiritual connection was timidly explored.

The third piece on the program, “Malungos” (2015), had wonderful costumes by Duarte Junior that involved elaborately woven rope shirts and full red skirts. The metaphor of the rope, and its artful webbing, plays directly into this piece about bonds between slaves. Yet, the dance comes most alive when it slips into a folkloric, celebratory finale.

Founded in 1977 by Vieira, DanceBrazil blossomed in the same era as the company of Alvin Ailey, who served on its Board of Directors in 1980. While it has admirably stood the test of time, touring the world, nurturing fine dancers and musicians from Brazil, this program felt curiously dated and overwrought. Perhaps, the directors know their audience and their appetite for unbridled jumping, kicking, and aerial rond-de jambs, and so, they stay on safe grounds. Perhaps they could honor their Brazilian roots by exploring even more the nutrients, the particular conditions of the native soil of this art.
EYEO N THE ARTS, NY --Deirdre Towers

June 21, 2015
The Polish National Ballet made their New York debut last week at the Joyce Theatre. The leading ballet company in Poland presented two works from Artistic Director and choreographer Krzysztof Pastor and one piece from Israeli choreographer Emanuael Gat.

“Adagio & Scherzo,” (2014) is contemporary ballet at it’s finest: technically sufficient, dynamically athletic, and wistfully melodramatic. Dancers place their legs high into the air, with little effort needed. A string of pairs link up and the females are thrown into the air, caught and whisked away upon descent. Perhaps it doesn’t present any new ideas, but the hodge-podge feats makes a sharp first impression on the New York audience.

Gat’s “Rite of Spring,”(2004) is a refreshing take on the Russian classic. Three ladies and two men mix salsa and swing on a red carpet center stage. They are confined to the small space only occasionally break from it to switch positions or extend their legs past the parameter. In a series of swift movements the five dancers continuously rotate pairings, often leaving a female dancing by the partnered steps solo. But it isn’t long before a hand locks with hers and she’s no longer the one left out. As Stravinsky’s score bemoans the climactic symbols and the ending draws near, the dancers keep their pacing, quick, sharp, and vivid.

The evening closed with Pastor’s “Moving Rooms” (2008). Similar to “Adagio,” “Rooms” fuses fine lines and focused partnering. The lighting creates small boxes the dancers step in and out of, their hands reach long wanting to step into the light, until their whole body becomes overtaken with the feeling of forward. A pause or breath is the one thing “Rooms” lacks. Kinetic energy sparks with the constant rush of movement but simply a small slow down would give this number a moment needed to reflect.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

June 21, 2015
In the first performance in their new home at St. Mark’s Church, New York Theatre Ballet presents Legends & Visionaries as an intense night of dance. Performing a full evening of work in a building with no A/C is not a simple feat, but through sweat and vigor this company of talented dancers captured the energy of the space, staking their claim. Composed of five pieces including two full works, the night came to a whimsical start with Capriol Suite by repertoire standard Fredrick Ashton. Traditional folk dance dripped from the seams of this ballet centric piece. With costumes that felt like they were meant for the courts of high society and the mix of simple and complex steps, everything in this style conglomeration felt correct and fun.

Pointe-as-tap shoes is the name of the game in David Parker's Two Timing. The always captivating Elena Zahlmann donned purple pointe shoes and tapped rhythms along with her hand clapping partner Jeffrey Kazin. Starting with simple rhythms, escalation quickly set in as Zahlmann and Kazin began using each other's bodies as rhythm generating instruments. Audibly there were many moments where each dancer seemed to be working under their own pattern of sound creating rhythmic dissonance, whether or not that was the intent of the sound, the dancers held a confidence self-assuredness and never lost connection with each other.

Gemma Bond's Cat's Cradle took dancer connect to a more literal level by physically connecting the dancers in groups of 2 and 3 with flowing white fabric tied around their waists. Inspired by the children's rope game, Cat's Cradle had the dancers weaving, in, over and through each other creating shapes in the cloth. Set to a musically whirling score by Karen LeFrak, Bond explored connections in the small groups and the collective as a whole. There were moments when the fabric prop felt underutilized and interesting ideas were lost in the visual, but ultimately this unique dance was a joy to watch, particularly because of the precision of these dancers.

Post intermission, the company jumped into its first full length work of the evening, Such Longings. Accompanied by a live pianist Michael Scales, dancer Steven Melendez begins with an emotionally driven solo. Melendez subtly brings the recognizable music of Frédéric Chopin to life, but before long the other dancers begin to join him. Each performer leans into each other and the music to elicit genuine feeling and empathy from the audience. Beautiful and heartbreaking, each solo and duet presents a new embodiment of longing.

Antony Tudor's Dark Elegies was the final work of the night, hitting the emotional peak and bringing the audience along for the ride. With head wraps and simple clothing, the female dancers begin to sway and move. Arms always geometric and strong, the solos and duets are heightened by the group never leaving the stage. There is truly a darkness and sadness to this piece.

Fear, grief, and a whole spectrum of feelings echo through the visceral dance. The work is brought to a higher plane by the live musicians that accompanied, including once again pianist Michael Scales and in addition, Opera Baritone, Darren Chase. Chase stood to the side of the stage, bellowing a magically melancholy Songs on the Death of Children composed by Gustav Mahler. Momentarily, the heat of the building could be forgotten and lost in the experience of night, though the fans that Danspace handed out didn’t hurt either.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY-- Annie Woller

June 20, 2015
When Valentina Kozlova took the stage of Symphony Space to perform “Le Reve d’Isadora” choreographed by Margo Sappington to music of Sergei Rachmaninov, you could easily see where her students get their inspiration. She radiates a grace and belief in the power of dance, chin lifted with an ecstatic inhale. Moscow native Kozlova, trained at the Bolshoi School, rose to the rank of principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet. She starred in Broadway's "On Your Toes," and danced with New York City Ballet for 13 years. Her choice of solo hints at perhaps a philosophical connection that Kozlova feels with Isadora, her emotional freedom, musicality and devotion to training the very young.

Of the thirteen dances performed, three stood out as defining the realm of the Dance Conservatory Performance Project: the raw product - children stupefied by the stage and their presence on it - to polished artists who claim the stage as their home. “La Sylphide Pas de Deux” choreographed by August Bournonville, music by Herman Lovenskjold, as performed by Revital Naroditski and Justin Valentine, and “Jazz Samba” choreographed by Sappington, sung by Ella Fitzgerald performed by Mari Bell, Nikita Boris, and Naroditski were particularly memorable. Naroditski, from Ashdod Israel, and Valentine just won scholarships to the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et Danse in Paris through the Kozlova International Ballet Competition held at Symphony Space in May.

Naroditski dances with an unaffected lightness and charm that makes one remember George Balanchine’s statement that “ballet is woman”, and a very young woman’s art at that. Valentine matched her softness with a crisp, clean style. Valentine also danced with Nikita Boris, gold medalist in the Kozlova Competition, in a Pas de Deux from “La Fille Mal Gardee.” The “Jazz Samba," an excerpt from Sappington's "For Ella,” proved the dancers’ ability to play off the rhythms and show off Sappington’s talent for making the ballet vocabulary seem a natural fit for the samba. Sappington’s lyrical solo for Brecke Swan, “Christina’s World” set to the music of Frederic Chopin, served Swan more than the variation from “La Bayadere” that she performed well, but with more hesitation.

The Kozlova Dance Conservatory, founded 13 years ago in mid-town New York City, clearly offers superb training and coaching in a performance style that emphasizes inner glow over artifice. The dancers’ épaulement, their arms, feet, and hands are consistently perfect. For more information, visit
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

June 19, 2015
This week three established, contemporary choreographers banded together to present a collaborative performance a New York Live Arts. Over the course of a five-day run, four works - including two world premieres - are performed as part of the "Reflections on Water" program. Though Elisa Monte (Elisa Monte Dance), Jacqulyn Buglisi (Buglisi Dance Theatre), and Jennifer Muller (Jennifer Muller/The Works) are unique as artists, this program was thematically tied neatly in a bow.

A world premiere credited to Buglisi opens the evening. Just moments into this work, "Sacred Landscapes Episode 1," and we're off on into a whirl of fog and mystique. The latter is partially attributed to Paola Prestini's commissioned score, which builds up to a section of whispering voices. With stoic expression and decided focus, her dancers travel through various paths, shifting, falling, pacing. It's the program note that alludes further to a spiritual underpinning: "exploring the belief that sacred landscapes are passageways that facilitate access to a higher realm."

Contrasting this otherworldly experience, Monte's "Hurricane Deck" brings us right back to the present. This work, which premiered in 1998, surrounds the idea of conflict both internally and externally. The beauty is that there is a comical thread throughout. It begins with a recording of acclaimed composer David Lang introducing himself and informing us that on our way into the theater we suffered a blow to the head and are suddenly unconscious; enter dancers.

Four couples emerge, bumping into each other, their gestural movements quick and accented. Later, Lang's score pulls out a call-and response movement structure - first the men move, then the women in this perpetual cycle of turmoil.

Muller's "Alchemy" proved the most memorable work of the evening, though not especially for the choreography. Rather, it's Muller and her dancer's collaboration with the immersive projection designer Mark Bolotin and lighting designer Jeff Croiter that led to such a unique and intricate experience.

"Alchemy" is simply about change, though there is nothing simple about this piece. From the start, a translucent curtain hang just before the first row, locking the dancers in a space between two soon-to- be active screens of words, imagery, and colors. "THE AIR IS FILLED WITH STATIC" reads the back screen in news ticker fashion. The dancers, dressed in all black, slowly move in between one another, a few clumped together. More and more fragments start shooting across the screens: "Ireland legalizes same- sex marriage," "New ice cream store opens in Bushwick," "Why does the oldest person in the world keep on dying?" Before long the screens erupt into lighting and fire and dry earth, soon soothed by droplets of water; the piece takes on more of a film vibe and the dancers become characters to the dramatic landscapes.

The program closes with "Sand," another Buglisi work choreographed in 2001 set to Philip Glass' string quartet. Alluding to the desert sand, the dancers - with A. Christina Gianni's beautiful red and tan costumes wrapped around their bodies - glide through more lyrical movement phrases and intermittent partner work.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jenny Thompson

June 10, 2015
Too often is it the case that artists, self-described as “emotional,” demonstrate non-specific, maudlin melancholy. For Take Root, Thomas/Ortiz Dance and Indah Walsh Dance Company offer intentionally emotional dance with independence and integrity. Thomas/Ortiz takes ownership of recognizable triggers while Walsh, working at a microscopic level, reveals our reactive potential.

Four Temperaments, by Ted Thomas and Frances Ortiz, has William Roberson as a certain everyman amidst four color-coded women. Segmentation is tricky. Sharing technical vocabulary, Roberson attempts to segregate. In partnering, whipped limbs connote domestic violence or innocent tangos. Each woman’s method is varied, but disempowering Roberson has all four temperaments in one accord. Though through duets, intimacy becomes a network where confidentiality has dire consequences.

The company espouses clichés. In Thomas’s Speak, Emily Pihlaja interprets more than literally A Great Big World’s lyrics with gestures so word-dependent musicality hasn’t a chance. The same literalism is found in Ortiz’s Conbivir…(living with). Rachel McSween leaves no interpretation to the imagination, holding her breasts in guttural throws of loss.

In questioning the expression’s validity, side effects of obvious choice-making pique interest. The repeated chorus of “Say Something” forces Pihlaja into one gesture phrase always executed intact, revealing the emotional body’s experience. Covering her breasts, McSween fashions publicly performed privacy rather than unveiled secrets. While musicians look to her for cues, the loaded imagery of two music-making men gandering at a half-nude woman remains.

Indah Walsh delivers emotion rather than packaging it. Her choices transcend taste, serving what her works need to thrive. Falling Still uses a Pergolesi duet in which the singers’ lines interlock in downwardly resolving suspensions that sequence upward, building hesitant tension as Jessica Mantell and Christian De Luna-Zuno chug with increasing speed. Cheerleaders at a Wedding uses male soul singers, to whom Walsh’s dancers lip-sync wildly as drag kings within their own gender. Yielding uses Philip Glass’s arpeggios to inspire cyclical movement, capturing not sound, but sonic motion.

Instead of devising emotionally charged action for bodies, Walsh composes her dancers’ personalities, theatricalizing function. Cheerleaders mixes characters like watercolors. Molly McSherry suffers from committed, sly exhaustion. Ho-Ju Wu is stern as a nun. Lauren Kravitz, dimly optimistic, is the last to remain lip-syncing. Mantell is bipolar - a scorned lover and powerless brute as she wipes away tears with middle fingers.

Walsh is a “what-next” choreographer; her pieces catapult forward via baby steps. In Falling Still, Mantell drapes on Zuno’s back, takes a forearm, and shifts it like a joystick, locomoting the partnership. Such simplicity is a different kind of obvious, often unperceived, allowing Cheerleaders to build brick-by-brick. Jane Anthony somersaults in manege. Ten follow in single-file like a toy poodle talent show. Exponentially developing minimal content, the danger of overflowing the space is just what the space needs. It and Yielding, though solemn, share constructions. After finding rest, arms link across backs. While it gauges the Cheerleaders, for Yielding, it closes spatial study with closure and yearning.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

June 8, 2015
A small boy lies on stage in the beginning of “Snow.” Three cloaked beings approach him, and help him to stand, and chase a blue balloon. Kevin Augustine of the Lone Wolf Tribe, made such a good puppet that initially we are fooled into feeling tender towards this wooden toy. As the snow begins to fall on the dance, we watch a cycle of manipulation: a puppet animated becomes a young man wearing a thin mask who dances with friends who are also his puppeteers. The puppet is vulnerable, unsteady; he blows at a sailboat which obediently responds by sailing off stage. His human counterparts gracefully leap, only to continuously fall to the floor to rise again.

This program at The Joyce Theater choreographed by the Swedish dancer and filmmaker Pontus Lidberg featured himself, along with the marvelous dancers Kaitlyn Gilliland, Christopher Adams, and Barton Cowperthwaite. For his fans, of which he has won many with his 35 works for major dance companies and dance films (LABYRINTH WITHIN won first prize in the 2011 Dance on Camera Festival), this program,“Written on Water” presented as a prelude to “Snow,” had a dense cerebral underplay, though the dance vocabulary was limited and narrative flow disrupted.

“Written on Water,” may be a dancers’ dance with its deft lyrical partnering, by holding a neck as the one descends, a quick massage of arms stopping at the hands to pull two dancers together, sailing one another aloft in an off-kilter leap. Lidberg writes in the program that, “Much like how a conversation unfolds without conscious thinking, the response to your partner’s action is intuitive and immediate.”

Perhaps in Sweden the dance world has had less puppeteering in recent years, but in the US, we have had a feast with Basil Twist’s ingenious puppet version of the ballet “Petrushka,” Jim Henson’s puppets dancing on Sesame Street, “War Horse” with its puppets made in South Africa. All these puppets were woven into stories that involve humor, or pathos. In contrast, Lidberg’s “Snow” seems cool. Only the puppet draws our empathy; the dancers cut the emotional thread every time they make their balletic entrance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

June 8, 2015
Saturday evening at BAM marked the end of an era in the dance world, as the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet took to the stage one last time. The 12 year old company, funded solely by Nancy Walton, the Wal-Mark heiress, announced in March that it would close. The news shocked global fans, leaving a contemporary ballet void in New York as well as 15 remarkable dancers without jobs.

Drama and politics aside, the company served up an intimate night of dynamic dancing that threw a punch. Jiri Kylian’s “Indigo Rose” (2013) opened the program. Three men in brightly colored mesh tops share solos and a trio, sashaying across the stage as a wire hangs diagonally from off stage. The men are joined by other dancers as a white curtain is draped along the wire, separating the stage in two halves. Dancers in front of the curtain reflect the shadows created by the dancers behind, in at times comically phrased movements.

Associate choreographer Crystal Pite’s “Ten duets on a Theme of Rescue,”(2008) a piece that has become synonymous with the company’s history, followed. In it, rolling lights dimly illuminate the stage. The movement is eruptive with quiet overtones that soften the winding motion. In a favorite moment, Ida Saki slowly slides her leg forward into a small lunge, reaching her left arm behind her, whilst looking forward. Jon Bond runs behind her, his runs keep him in place only slightly moving forward between every few. He never can quite reach Saki, continuously being thrown back to start again. Symbolism that became very real and timely.

Closing out the program was Jo Stromgren’s “Necessity, Again” (2012). Pieces of paper hang from a clothes line at the back of the stage. The dancers throw them around, with snow like effect. With a little hip shaking and lifts thrown in, “Necessity,” is cute and fun, however didn’t quite fill like a suitable ending.

Just as the crowd began to roar, Alexandra Damiani,artistic director, presented and danced in a special encore. The company members occupy a circle of chairs placed on stage. In a series of progressive movement, the dancers slowly strip down, and began the phrase again adding on a few steps each time. It displayed what Cedar Lake has become known for, fierce and athletic dancing with precise intention and attack. They have created a unique enclave for dance and choreography in New York and their passion will be sorely missed. Based off of their long curtain call, I imagine the impactful reverberations will influence and inspire for years to come.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

June 6, 2015
Victory Dance Project presented its first anniversary celebration at Ailey Citigroup Theater during a special one-night-only program that featured the works of Artistic Director Amy Jordan - including a world premiere - and the first ever Artist for Peace Award.

This movement-centric project is incredibly personal as it evolved following Jordan's journey back from a near fatal car accident. The program host Grant Cooper asks the audience, "What happens when a dancer one day can no longer dance?" In a short video excerpt we see her struggle in the hospital - "everything about my identity, gone" - and make her long-awaited return to the studio where she begins to learn a new way to teach and choreograph.

With the dedication of the Victory Dance Project company members she has built a modest repertory and presents a new work in the one hour program entitled "People, Power & Possibility." It opens with “Big Fun,” a jazzy work, danced by four male and four female dancers, which uses classic body lines, repetitive patterns, and token technical moves - from fouette turns to hitch kicks.

The second dance, "Imaginarium," proved one of the most memorable. Soloist Florient Cador glides to the classic song, "My Funny Valentine," with an impressive fluidity and enviable leg extensions. Here the style is far more contemporary. A loose storyline of longing is carried through the song and minimal props (a bench with a blazer strewn atop it), but it's the beauty of Cador’s execution that really captivates.

The world premiere follows, which is an excerpt of a work titled "Thru the Looking Glass." The contemporary style continues as the dancers gravitate towards and pull away from the light of four distinct spotlights. As the music builds in intensity, the choreography follows with harsher accents, before they ultimately return to the confines of their spotlight.

Prior to the closing work of the program, the First Annual Artist for Peace Award is presented to dance legend Renee Robinson who spent over three decades performing for Alvin Ailey. In her acceptance speech, the eloquent Robinson notes that while she may have brought inspiration and hope around the world - as the award so honors - it was only possible thanks to others inspiring her along the way.

“Human Revolution,” a contemporary ballet in five parts, completes the program. Five male dancers give the most clean and synchronized performance in the first section of the work, set to Afro Celtic Sound. Here the choreography welcomes new dynamic in its structure and highlights the individual strengths of the dancers in subtle ways. Soon a male and female dancer encounter one another, in a playful struggle for a singular black hat.

Kelly Clarkson’s “Addicted” takes the work to an unexpected place with five female dancers in red dresses swirling through the technique-based moves, a sash of black fabric in one hand. A sultrier, less poised vibe comes in the fourth section, and by the fifth all the dancers grace the stage for a high energy, ensemble-driven finale. The girl gets the hat in the end.
EYE ON THE ARTS, New York, NY – Jenny Thompson

June 5, 2015
Manhattan Youth Ballet presented “With Regard…In Practice & Performance Friday evening at their center on the Upper West Side. The school that counts NYCB’s Daniel Ulbricht as it’s artistic advisor, provides training for children and teenagers. Their performance took their technique lessons from the classroom to the stage in an elevated recital.

Resident choreographer Brian Reeder was one of many faculty pieces that placed the fundamentals of ballet into an artistic stepping stone, challenging the dancers while also showcasing their abilities. In many different polkas, some of the youngest dancers skipped their way across stage, falling in and out of lines, bringing countless smiles to the friends and family watching from the audience.

The more advanced dancers were solid in Balanchine’s “Valse Fantasy.” They kept the movement alive and flowing while also accomplishing many of the challenging jumps and sequences. Their youth gave the piece a new life, displaying what the night was all about, that hard work and practice leads to a successful performance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

June 5, 2015
Cedar Lake Ballet Hoots and hollers preceded the standing ovation on the opening night of Cedar Lake’s last season in New York City. Dance companies come and go, but Cedar Lake was blind sided by the Walmart heiress, Nancy Laurie, who founded, and supported them until she didn't.

Fortunate to be financed by one person who also bought a spacious home for the company, they flourished. Top dancers joined the ranks that integrated modern dance moxy and flashy ballet technique. Popular with audiences, and tracked by dancers, everyone was shocked by the door slamming shut on the company of dancers and staff. It's understandable when companies fold because the founder dies and requests the company disbands-- as in the case of Cunningham.... but this was the benefactor’s decree.

The first piece “My Generation,” a world premiere by Richard Siegal features fringed Stanley Kubrick 2001 Space Odyssey meets Hair costumes by Bernhard Willhelm. Dancers charge on point shoes, adding weight and hip swishes over pounding toe work. There's nothing dainty and airy about this ballet that converts toe shoes into percussive weapons gamely stabbing the floor heightening the preening torso. Body parts balance off-kilter (Siegal danced with William Forsythe), in a puzzle of combinations.

Spinning from one section to the next, the club-flaming Matthew Rich mouths the songs, tosses his hair around and fires up the audience along with the feline, Ebony Williams who proves a ferocious interpreter. Despite the flash and swish, all the dancers are undeniably excellent dancers versed in modern, ballet and funk.

In Crystal Pites “Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue” stage lights are drawn into an arc around the performance area. Dramatic intent seeps into the dark, eerie atmosphere that embraces the heightened pedestrian steps. Mysterious undercurrents pervade the unfolding action. Unusual combinations propel bodies in opposite directions by pushing one’s head into another’s stomach.

The unmistakably raspy voice of Tom Waitts splits the silence. At the top, a young man stands with his battery powered laptop sized radio. When the curtain opens, the dancers move against and in sync with the lyrics. Odd happenings include the smoking hot poodle on stage and the darkened sky, dripping in white snowflakes. Snow - It’s something that happens regularly, but never loses its magic—like the sight of outstanding dancers wringing their hearts out on stage.

Company members, take a bow: Jon Bond, Nickemil Concepcion, Joaqim de Santana, Vania Doutel Vaz, Joseph Kudra, Navarra Novy-Williams, Raymond Pinto, Guillaume Queau, Matthew Rich, Ida Saki, Ebony Williams, Jin Young Won.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 3, 2015
The bare-chested one footed hop, the signature step in Brian Brooks’ “Motor,” immediately made an impact as oddly original though it is reminiscent of the temple dancers’ slow one footed descent in Marius Petipa’s ballet “La Bayadere.” “Motor” offers the dead pan camaraderie of jogging, albeit forward and backwards, diagonals and such, two men side-by-side, in sync with each other. David Parsons made a splash with his solo “Caught”; perhaps Brooks created something equally memorable with this duet which premiered at Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival in 2010. Certainly this duet, performed by Brooks & Albert, won the most effusive applause on this night at The Joyce Theatre.

Premiering that night, Brooks’ “Sudden Lift” has an asymmetrical, inwardly spiraling quality. The dancers Matthew Albert, Dylan Crossman, Carlye Eckert, Marielis Garcia, Ingrid Kapteyn, Haylee Nichele, David Norsworthy, and Jeff Sykes move with a circular flow of energy that choreographer Trisha Brown might appreciate. The demure ballerina Margot Fonteyn might also have been amused to see their legs rarely rise above hip level, a restraint rarely seen, after so many decades of dancers routinely executing 180 degree split jumps and battements. Brooks contains his movement within a modest range in this piece set to music by Nils Frahm, costumes by Karen Young, lighting design by Philip Trevino.

Brooks begins his solo “Retrograde,” which he performed with a single light on stage shaping a small hot zone, with riveting mastery. Barely visible at first, Brooks backed into the light with a movement that seemed to massage consecutively his guts, his arms, and feet. He unfortunately explores few variations of space, time or energy on this theme.

The New York premiere of “Division” conjured memories of William Forsythe’s “One Flat Thing.” Instead of the tables that Forsythe used, Brooks’ 6 dancers slid cardboard squares across the floor. “Whistle while you work” came to mind as the dancers cheerfully went about the business of pushing, holding, dropping the boards around each other. Brooks discovered a new way of partnering with one cardboard separating two dancers; blinded by the board, they maintained their connection by pressing their inanimate third party. “Division” is performed to an original score composed by Jerome Begin.

“Torrent” created in 2013, as commissioned by Juilliard Dance for New Dances, has a sweetness that makes one wonder was the world once more innocent? This group piece, also contained, but with an architectural sense of structure was set to the music of Max Richter, “Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons” sends the dancers across the floor.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

June 1, 2015
The regal origins of ballet have been hard to shake; after 400 years, one can still sense the elite presence of the French Sun King, Louis IV, no matter how subtle. With hip-hop, the energy of the street drives the predominantly male competition for virtuosity. John Scott - Irish Modern Dance Theatre’s “Hyperactive,” which appeared at La Mama as part of LaMama Moves, is as irreverent and unpredictable as any blarney-loving working man. In so doing, Scott introduces a fresh approach to dance with a distinctly Irish wit.

One Irishman - Ryan O’Neil, two Americans - Stuart Singer and Marcus Bellamy, and one Frenchman - Kevin Coquelard cross paths in “Hyperactive.” Coguelard starts us off in the direction of children’s theatre with his giggle-inducing mime; Bellamy follows his train of thought with an imitation of a dog. But then a train wreck soon follows with the four men falling on each other in a sleepy huddle with a magnetic center that keeps drawing the four back together each time they pull away. A poetic stream of games flow on through the hour; we never tire of one gambit before another begins.

Neither macho, nor effeminate, the four men move free of psychological associations, but they sometimes poke fun at our expectations. For example, one man carried by two others makes Coquelard run around them like a dog following a car, barking “Let me help! Let me help!” which prompts the man aloft to press one finger down on Coquelard’s solicitous hand. Rather than smooth out foiled attempts at unison, Scott makes mishaps be the raison d’etre. At one point, Coquelard, the chosen comic, has trouble jumping from his back on the floor to his feet, as the others did. So he tries it for four-five more times, while the others wait, until he runs unabashedly like a 6 year old screaming “I did it and you can do it too,” getting the other three to join in the chant.

Sometimes, the production feels like a series of exercises - such as the four men going up and down in their own rhythm, each one announcing their count, or one man running backwards, trusting that someone will catch him before he hits the wall. But, after all, Scott has created a modern ritual of male bonding, with no implications of its purpose beyond the joy of the moment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

May 30, 2015
With the reaching of milestones come wildfires of self-reflection. Memory and ambition fuse, impersonating one another between smudges on our present lens. Such sensations pervade Hannah Cullen’s first full-length work, Us, Me, They, She., as she and her cast graduated from NYU within weeks of mounting the show at Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater. An ensemble of ten balances identities armed with Cullen’s poetry, disseminated to fashion highlights from a shared power-source.

A set of statements forms a current with many tributaries. Hesitantly greeted, “Hi,” we are told of, confessed to, and even asked about each dancer’s insecurities. Ambivalence is heightened by contradictions that lead to nowhere but the establishing salutation. After Austin Guerrazzi layers them in a tide of sonic self-absorption, they come from mouths instead of speakers. Voice is not given to the voiceless; bodies are given to the incorporeal.

These utterances live in movement attempting in vain to speak as loudly, self-pitying gestures inevitably muting the body. Existential inquiries melt into problems rather first-world: craving identity, missing childhood, shaming shyness, demanding certainty. Why lament such discomforts? That dearth of information implies freedoms; paired with self-censoring movement, we read angst. Is childhood nostalgia yearning for something society loses with age, or an inability to grow up?

Underneath the current is a feminist grumble that festers instead of engages. It rears its head when it could sustain, rendering feminism equally stifled as whom it serves. When seated, manspreading begets leg crossing. Male vulgarity, though, doesn’t force women into manners; the oppressor is always elsewhere. Ledbetter sits; Cullen speaks for her. For once, first-person shifts to third, albeit simultaneously true and dissociatively self-referential. The absence of a male speaking suggests that, rather than womanhood, empathy is at stake.

Cullen accomplishes this through action that binds people who have no obligation to associate. By exchanging and wearing multiple outfits, they are amalgams of collective experiences. When Ledbetter finally addresses us, the cast lines up, echoing not Ledbetter, but the dancer directly in front, maintaining her impulse to abstract the result.

The narrow text flows via poetic roulette. Each dancer delivers a unique variation, changing order and exploiting connotation to unify ten sensations of the same elements. Nicholas Jon and Nico Gonzales argue, casting the text as its own adversary. Alison DeFranco cuts in and out at a time when we’ve heard the words so much our brain fills the gaps. When the phrases mash once more we can isolate thought from the muck.

Amid constant change, what remains consistent is one microphone. Each gets a turn, adjusting the stand to meet their proportions. Some, like Ali Castro, resist meeting face to face, though ultimately chose to be heard. In the company of a male audience, the women direct their motions to the mic - the friend to confide in, the shoulder to cry on, and the foe to confront, ultimately snuffed by Ledbetter with her coat as the ensemble sings their way offstage, no longer needing its enhancements.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 25, 2015
Guadalupe Torres made her US debut as a soloist with Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana (FVCS) in their BAM Fisher 2015 season. A Madrilena, this Conservatory trained performer has many gifts, one being how she immediately captured the audience. The FVCS company led by Associate Artistic Director, dancer, and choreographer Antonio Hidalgo performs a technically perfect show; but Torres dances as though flamenco is her first language.

Her “Ausencia” begins with her twirling a large lush “manton” (shawl) as though it were a beloved, a second skin she couldn’t shed, no matter how hard she tried. When she does drop the manton, she registers the change with a subtle loss of force. Dressed in a stunning black sheath that she slides up and over an orange skirt, she moves as one so full of emotion that she has to seize upon the flamenco vocabulary to release each feeling. Torres, a two-time winner of Madrid’s Certamen de Coreografía competition, frequently turned to connect with the musicians, guitarist Gaspar Rodriquez, Pedro Medina, singers: Pedro Obregon, Felix de Lola, and percussionist Jose Moreno, thus affirming an experience unique to that moment.

Also featured in FVCS program A, was the world premiere of “Angeles/Almas,” choreographed and performed by Ángel Muñoz, a Spanish charmer who is reminiscent of Gene Kelly for the masculine pleasure he exudes. The solos, duets and ensemble sections of this piece included Hidalgo, his wife Charo Espino, and Isaac Tovar.

Over the last 32 years of FVCS, founded by Carlota Santana with Roberto Lorca, the company has switched from featuring American artists to importing Spanish artists. So, what a delight to see how well the FVCS American dancers Alice Blumenfeld, Eliza Llewellyn, and percussionist/dancer Jose Moreno fared along side the Spaniards. Blumenfeld and Llewellyn brought an exciting crispness to the “Martinete-Sequiriya,” choreographed by Enrique Vicent and Antonio Lopez, snapping their fans so that their sound added to the score. A repertory staple by Hidalgo, “Mujeres,” also showed them off nicely. In the Fin de Fiesta/Bulerias, Moreno, a third generation flamenco, demonstrated just how at home he is with flamenco - it’s his playground, a chance to be wild, and nimble, and always, in compas.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Deirdre Towers

May 24, 2015
An elegant, tall man in a white lab coat strolls with imperial grace across the City Center stage littered with his psychiatric patients, one with a noose around his neck, another under a stool, a third clutching a doll. Choreographer Boris Eifman hints that the connection between the man who walks and the ones that writhe is too strong and the man, much too confident. Midway through the ballet, the doctor’s examining, staccato gestures are now those of his former patient, former wife. Oleg Gabyshev, a soloist with Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg since 2004, remains the magnet throughout this narrative ballet. His every move feels organic and expressive, a testament to Eifman’s inventive choreography, as much to his embrace of the Eifman style.

His patient played by Lyubov Andreyev is cheated by a poorly sketched medical condition. Andreyev plays, at first, a warm innocent, with a nightmare or two, who becomes cool and finally cold. When the marriage dissolves, Gabyshev falls for an Actress who barely acknowledges him, but grants him access to her work life. Suddenly, he is a witness to the chaos of a movie set, and then we see a movie of that scene above the backs of the company who sit on the floor, watching it as well, projected on the back wall.

Eifman packs his ballets with swift moving plots with the ease of a tv director squeezing the essence of a feature film into a 30 second commercial. Both the marvelous set designer Zinovy Margolin and costume designer Olga Shaishmelashvili play off 1920s chic. In this ballet which premiered on January 27, 2015, Eifman has two choreographic threads - one being the emotional ride of the doctor, his relationship with his patient, the patient’s Father (Jiri Jelinek), and a Movie Star played with only kitsch appeal by Maria Abashova, and, the other, being the carefree couple dances of the early twentieth century that take place in a glamorous ballroom and later by the sea. His company members clearly enjoy being mad and madcap; they dance with complete freedom and confidence.

What would George Gershwin, or his fans, think of the choreography set to so much of his music, from “The Man I love” to “Concerto in F, Part I Allegro” to “Fascinating Rhythm?” He’d probably say, "cut the angst and stick with the joy. These Russians love to dance!"
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Deirdre Towers

May 23, 2015
A young woman runs away from us into the dark and bounces back, her chest to the ceiling, as though she’d hit her head on something. She does it again, and again. She is not the first one to try that exit and fail.

Smoke flows through La Mama’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, crisscrossed with light-catching wires stretched from floor to ceiling, a memorable set designed by Sabine Dargent, who collaborated well with lighting designer Sarah Jane Shiels.

A tall, thin man stretches a leg forward each time he steps, heel-first; enormous feathers spring from his hips; he passes a stick topped by a round object suggesting a bird’s head to a cellist who plays along with a recorded score.

La Mama Earth and Irish Arts Center united to present the Dublin based Junk Ensemble performing the U.S. premiere of “Dusk Ahead,” choreographed by Jessica Kennedy and Megan Kennedy in collaboration with its performers: Justine Cooper, Miguel do Vale, Ramona Nagabcynski, Ryan O’Neil, Jaiotz Osa. The three-week long festival, La MaMa Moves!, now in its tenth year, and curated by Nicky Paraiso presented “Dusk Ahead."

According to the program, ‘Dusk Ahead’ explores blindness, human attachment and need,” a goal achieved, emotional blindness being central. In the beginning, we see three people blindfolded stumble around in the direction of the occasional, moving bells. In the middle of the program, two men blindfolded, fight and fall, a man jumps horizontally onto a woman who holds him momentarily and then lets him fall. Under the final spotlight, a young woman, blindfolded, stands with only her hands turning slightly, as green paper descends from above.

As cryptic dance theatre, the piece unfolds with a deadpan dedication to what is not clear, perhaps the charm of riddles conjured potently by the late Pina Bausch. “Dusk is the hour between dog and wolf, between domestic and the wild,” notes the program, though we see more of the dog and not enough of the wolf. More wildness, more dancing, more inventive movement, especially since the company are strong movers, would glue the disparate, sometimes truncated, scenes.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

May 22, 2015
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago danced works from Jiri Kylian, Alejandro Cerrudo and Nacho Duato Tuesday evening as part of their two-week stay at the Joyce Theater in New York.

Program B opened with Kylian’s “Falling Angels” one of his six “black and white” works that have become staples of Western contemporary dance. Eight female dancers in black bike-tards and short tan leather lace up shoes walk forward from the back in jagged lines. They move in slow motion until reaching their designated spot, striking syncopated poses one by one.

“Angels” picks up momentum and turns into a multifaceted work with a comedic edge. It’s raw in interpretation but cemented by formation. In short solos the women bring sauciness and attack that vitalizes Kylian’s movement trove. Emilie Leriche in particular has fluidity in her phrases -one turn spiraling into the next while her arms remain placid and full as if treading through water with each swing.

Three men bare it all, literally, in Cerrudo’s “Pacopepepluto.” Set to music from Dean Martin and Joe Scalissi, dancers Johnny McMillan, David Schultz, and Jonathan Fredrickson devour the stage in nude dance belts. Each dancer takes a solo, all with similar ferocity but a different vibe. As Fredrickson circles the stage in a run with “that’s amore,” singing him on, it’s hard not to fall in love with these athletes and well, studs.

Theatre and dance mix and attempt to meld in Cerrudo’s “The Impossible.” A storyline not so clear to the audience is played out in an abstract narrative form, involving an older couple that comes in contact with memory, perhaps their younger selves, death and the journey to it. A diagonally facing wall with a mirror turned window and wall turned table sets the stage. Two dancers lead Ana Lopez and Fredrickson through a pas de deux. Ghost like behind them they initiate arm and leg movement with simple nudges and at times more direct displacements. Interspersed with surprises that need not be ruined, “The Impossible,” strikes a fine line of excitement and muddled construction.

Created for the company in 2005, Nacho Duato’s “Gnawa” is a rousing close to a technically sound show. A cast of 16 links arms tossing their heads back and forward, taping their feet on the ground while moving backwards, bodies shifting in a crisscrossed pattern. Women In blue dresses and men in shimmery pants, they fluctuate weight onto one another in partnering moves while softly puncturing their upper bodies through the air. Kelie Epperheimer and Jason Hortin in nude body suits are the outliers. They arise from the mix, Epperheimer climbing onto Hortin’s legs extending her body frontwards, while he anchors her back. It’s the seamless mesh of space and dynamic that culminates into a sharp and riveting number.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

May 15, 2015
We now use “contemporary” as a genre rather than a relation of trends in time. Eventually new nomenclature will be needed for our aesthetic moment. Dance is rarely made without multimedia components; this moment could soon be regarded as “post-analog.” Imagining repertory to teach in future dance history courses, it’s hard to foresee Marjani Forté’s being Here…/this time absent from a syllabus, due not only to the unusually strong integration of her elements, but the integration of her digital Afro-futurism with the past. We typify sci-fi as cheap effects predicting futures allegorizing the present; Forté uses her refined tools to objectify history through memories from an unconfined present. While nature begets structure, imagination begets systems, oppressive and liberating.

Everett Saunders holds ears hostage in binaural sound design. We keep headphones on in regulated auditory perception segregated from individual fields of vision. In Gibney Dance’s Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, we hear oscillating laughs and cries, futilely coddled by a tender insistence that “it’s ok.” In the headphones, sound spatially situates. Simultaneously, we see from all sides one spritely figure hopping around a morose frame. Specificity of body languages renders them equal candidates for either utterance.

Visuals arouse adventurous associations. Wendell Cooper colors walls with Samuel Cartwright’s drapetomania diagnosis and 20th century anti-drug ads, sequenced with turn of the century ads for toothache-combatting cocaine drops. On their own, they are power-point presentations in social justice class; among the elements, they are our sole concrete connections. Albeit incredibly shameful, it is all we have; we have no choice but to grapple.

The dancing is comparatively simple. Each body wears shimmering skins of silver, gold, and onyx in a fusion of Afrocentric Butoh. Tendayi Kuumba gravitates Ni’Ja Whitson and Jasmine Hearn in orbital relationships. Up close, Hearn’s bare chest does not distract as her silver hue and bubbling gestures construct her an intrepid infant.

It all starts outside. Hearn dodders across the bustle of Chambers St., obscured by cars and a hood. She growls at people and air, quoting scripture and demanding to know what’s in our hearts. We ignore society’s outliers out of courtesy, but we require Hearn to find the piece. The irrational is pedagogical, opening us to take in the work as components of Forté’s choreographic system, systemic as Forté forbids her elements to unfold with structure’s naturalism. During a lecture on addiction, a Jackson 5 favorite loops. It isn’t until after drug propaganda is theorized as decontextualized that we actually hear young Jackson’s voice, duly ripped from context.

The aliens are contestants on a game show, “Systems of Oppression.” They must overcome impossible odds to a ticking clock. What seems redundant fashions fatalistic sensibilities, hearing the rules, knowing the outcome, seeing the clock, and witnessing a promise kept. Hearn stands on her shoulders, pounding feet on the wall as brutally as hands pound a piano’s keys. The lights return, revealing remnants of Hearn’s silver skin. A glitzy substitute for generations of bloodshed, the point remains potent. We’ve come a long way, yet the maze stretches on.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 15, 2015
The repertory of Gibney Dance Company is by no means revolutionary, yet that hardly negates the necessity of its work. Showing pieces neither formally esoteric nor ultra-specific in subject, what sets it apart from similarly unoffending small companies is simply that people show up. On Thursday night, the Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center was filled with patrons from the Sanctuary for Families, ecstatic to see bodies in motion. Gina Gibney is an ambassador for dance to the non-drop-swinging world, curating an undeniably “mainstream downtown” style, chock-full of the familiar handstands, swiping arms, and sweeping rolls that easily excite and invite lay audiences into a conversation with two sides.

Amy Miller’s Still and Still Moving begins with handholds binding Miller and Brandon Welch. They connect on single points, freezing when secondary hands sneak in. They separate, rebounding only to spiral back. Their partnering, while connected, rarely shares weight, examining how we receive attachment and attach to others.

These attachments weave together an organism with independent parts, texturing the idea. Unison breaks down into modules that relate but do not have to line up. When Welch and Miller travel as a unit, their direction and leg coordination are equal, but the size of their steps, tangle of their arms, and impact on their torsos are free to digress.

Similarly in space, it cannot be assumed that proximity means alliance, as Natsuki Arai and Javier Baca remain connected within a huddle through which they merely pass to continue their conversation. Elsewhere, the company surrounds an intimate duet, phasing out of unison with them while Miller stands off to the side, monitoring the moment’s retrograde. She isn’t truly separate; her single task reverses itself as it unfolds.

Hidden togetherness integrates each medium. Kathy Kaufman’s lighting sets a rhythmic pace that freshens consistently paced movement, while Peter Swendsen’s score of drones cues sectional changes with rhythmic ones. Change, ultimately, is the only synchronicity, branching independently from the same root.

Hilary Easton’s The Short-Cut examines shared virtues of efficiency in incongruent fields of bureaucracy and dance as equally performative. Steven Rattazzi times Miller executing a phrase. He does not count down, leaving it up to her to minimize duration. She deletes movements to finish sooner, yet it is not enough for Rattazzi, still hopeful for a more drastically reduced speed. Arai and Baca are pit against each other in a relay of efficient dancing, but with each repetition comes distortion, backfiring Rattazzi’s intentions. They, too, cut corners to reach the end, assuming destination is always goal.

Part of Gibney’s first Work by Women series, its actual meaning remains as vague as hidden togetherness or evaluated efficiency. Before the show, Ms. Gibney expressed her admiration for the generosity and innovation of women in dance, though never expressed in exclusively feminine terms. While generalities lack gravity, anything more specific often turns around to reinforce gender norms on those working to overcome them. Instead, Gibney is simply recognizing deserving work from a home-court advantage, no additional agenda necessary.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 15, 2015
French born Pascal Rioult chose the perfect venue for "Street Singer" - 42 West Nightclub. With its runway and beaded back wall, bar and cabaret tables, 42 West sets you up for a night dedicated to a chanteuse. The star of the evening, Christine Andreas, sings 16 songs, that will forever be associated with Edith Piaf, with clarity and purity, never attempting to imitate Piaf's sound, suggest her vulnerable presence or complexity, nor does the choreographer Rioult, except when he appears as narrator and as Piaf’s lover. In these moments, his athletic frame, his voice and his caress transport us; we can feel the potency of Piaf’s most adored, adoring lover, a boxer who died in a plane crash. When Andreas is lifted and tossed by the male dancers, we feel her unguarded giddy release from life’s dark energy.

Two dances made one’s spine tingle, a duet conveying oscillating emotions set with wonderful musicality to “La Vie En Rose” and a dance in drag that was very entertaining, even though one wondered why it was in the program at all.

The head-scratcher is how Rioult strayed so far from his subject. He choreographed the songs and directed his cherubic company as though he was producing a revival of “Oklahoma.” Never do we feel the desperate undertow of a Paris slum, nor the despair of of a waif hungry for love. Pilar Limosner, credited for the costumes, gave Andreas a form fitting black dress jazzed with just three triangles of silver sequins at the hem, and period/culturally appropriate striped sailor shirts and pants for the 5 male dancers, who also often appear bare chested for no apparent reason. But the 5 female dancers were short-changed by their costumes.

Brian Clifford Beasley’s black and white images look very chic and polished as projected on the back wall. The live music under direction of pianist/composer Don Rebic is perfect. The dancers Catherine Cooch, Brian Flynn, Charis Haines, Jere Hunt, Michael Spencer Phillips, Sara Elizabeth Seger, Sabatino A. Verlezza, Holt Walborn, Candace V. Perry, and Louis Roccato are all well trained with all American good cheer.

The finale set to “Non Je ne Regret Rien” brought the 10 dancers on the runway, doing snippets from the evening's choreography. Yet, rather than suggesting flashbacks from Piaf’s life, this finale just emphasized how little the choreography and dancers related to Piaf. Filmed biographies are often disappointing (however, the 2007 film of Piaf's life starring Marion Cotillard was marvelous); clearly danced ones can be equally difficult to realize.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

May 14, 2015
Sheer abstract dance encased in the ephemeral early 20th century ideal of the ballerina as an ethereal, pure creature of the air is evident in Michel Fokine’s “Les Sylphides” (1909). Performed by American Ballet Theater, the cast took pains to restrain modern, expansive athleticism into equally eloquent, but contained movements. Arms quietly frame the face, stretching away from the torso while allowing the legs to rise weightlessly under soft tufts of white, knee length tulle costumes. There’s a geometric formality to the ensembles as they bend and straighten into images of formal French gardens. The featured women Isabella Boylston, Melanie Hambrick and Hee Seo formed congenial shapes supported by the lone Thomas Forster.

Known for his psychological ballets, Antony Tudor’s “Pillar of Fire” (1942) is one of those great, angst filled dramas about a woman’s desperate love gone awry. Unlike most ballets, Tudor demands both technical exactness and dramatic depth. Gillian Murphy, as the middle, insecure sister—Hagar-- scores big. Dressed in 1900 period costumes, Hagar is embittered by her younger sister’s ability to attract the attention of a man she fancies. In a fury, Hagar races into the arms of the “bad boy” across the street, hunkily played by Marcelo Gomes.

Pulling up his chest, and strutting in convincing macho fashion, he pulls Hagar into his arms, and swings his legs wide around her. Remorseful, Hagar repeats a sinking to the floor, legs crossed only to rise onto her toes and then upright. That one step sums up Tudor’s understanding of movement’s multiple dramatic dimensions. Stella Abrera plays the eldest spinster sister, Cassandra Trneary is the Youngest Sister and Alexander Hammoudi is the Friend. Performed to a score by Arnold Schoenberg, “Pillar of Fire” is attentively staged by Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner.

What’s can one say about Jerome Robbins ebullient “Fancy Free?” It’s one of those evergreen ballets that continue to delight audiences with its story of sailors on leave, competing for any female’s attention immediately busting into male rowdiness. The trio of men, Herman Cornejo, Cory Stearns and Marcelo Gomes connect like a band of brothers. Determined to enjoy their day of freedom, the fellows in sailor whites, lure a couple of ladies, Luciana Paris and Siabella Boylston into the bar. That’s where each man demonstrates his skill in a solo that includes some hip shaking rumba, high spinning jumps into floor splits and can-can style kicks! Always a joyful experience, this cast spread its magic throughout the theater, causing audience members to skip outdoors humming Leonard Bernstein.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 13, 2015
Ric Burns fell in love with ballet, and that passion feeds into his new documentary American Ballet Theatre: Very slow motion shots of ballet dancers alternates with archival footage, photographs and individual narrators. On many levels, it's more about the rise of ballet in America, its relationship to the Russian ballet tradition and how those forces fed into the creation of American Ballet Theater. Mostly, the narrative thread follows dance historian Jennifer Homans' comments about the 400 year European ballet history. Former chief dance critic of the NY Times, Anna Kisselgoff contributes insightful descriptions of ABT's repertory starting in the 1940's while the British dance and theater critic Clive Barnes adds levity to the earnest commentary.

Altogether, there's relatively little footage of the dancers. Snippets of ballets are extended into dramatic extensions through the slow motion passages accompanied by a Philip Glass type chord repeated over and over. Homage is paid to the company's three influential choreographers, Antony Tudor, Agnes deMille and Jerome Robbins. A few of the ABT dancers speak as well, including Julie Kent, Susan Jaffe, Gillian Murphy, Marcel Gomes, choreographer Alexi Ratmansky (bridging contemporary Russian and American ballet) as well as the elders like the remarkable Cuban dancer Alicia Alonso, Frederic Franklin, and Donlad Saddler.

Today ABT is led by Artistic Director, and former ABT Principal, Kevin McKenzie. The camera catches him in rehearsal, laughing easily as a dancer struggles for perfection. He finds ways to encourage the dancer's progress and reduce her stress. Of course, the two Russian ballet heavyweights, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makorova appear because they were part of the Russian ballet invasion (in a good way). Baryshnikov does not speak, but the couple of performance snippets underscore his celebrated talent and Makarova is seen passing on dance to a younger generation.

An American Masters Series program, "American Ballet Theatre: A History" peers into the beauty and hard work of dance, outlines ballet's roots and yet, leaves much unsaid. Perhaps there will be a sequel?
Air date: May 15
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 10, 2015
The NYC Ballet Gala drew it’s usual throng of train-tripping dresses and air-kisses, but instead of featuring new choreography dressed by a famous designer, the audience was treated to solid fare in a tribute to August Bournonville.

Part of a Danish dancing family, Peter Martins and his son Nilas Martins were influenced by another, historical dancing family that fathered the dancer, choreographer and teacher August Bournonville. Trained by his father and the French virtuoso dancer Auguste Vestris, Bournonville embraced overall grace, expressive mime, buoyant jumps and brilliant leg beats. Subsequently, 19th century ballet was greatly enhanced by Bournonville. Because this tradition formed Peter Martins, NYC Ballet’s ballet master, it made sense for him to devote an evening to Bournonville’s Divertissements and La Sylphide.

A series of energetic exchanges between groups of men and women is seared in bright light and expresses a youthful vigor. Men pat tambourines while women spin around on one leg, waist ribbons flying. Attention focuses on the quick footwork and graceful angling of the torso against the lower body. Barely a minute of rest, the dancers are constantly airborne during the Bournonville Divertissements . In the Pas De Deux from the “Flower Festival in Genzano” Sara Mearns silkily rotates attitude turns into feathery jumps and torso dips. Dutiful and devoted, her partner Tyler Angle releases a confident stretch of beats across the stage.

Guest conductor Henrik Vagn Christensen moves the score by Edvard Helsted and Holger Simon Pauli briskly along.

The 19th century romantic ballet, “La Sylphide” set to the lilting music by Herman Severin Lovenskjold, is a cautionary tale. A betrothed young man, James (Joaquin De Luz) gets cold feet, offends a witch (Georgina Pazoguin) and chases an ephemeral fairy woman, The Sylph (Sterling Hyltin) inviting disastrous consequences.

While lounging in an armchair, James is visited by an effervescent sprite. Delicate arms wave him along; he embarks on a chase until his hands fold around her waist, lifting the weightless creature. Soon, friends joyously burst into the house, and the sylph hides under a blanket in the armchair. Dressed in traditional kilts, the men join the young women bustling around, preparing the wedding festivities.

Without being noticed, Madge, a haggard old lady, sneaks in to warm up by the fire. Furious at the intruder, James orders Madge out, but his sweeter-tempered fiancée, Effie (Brittany Pollack) welcomes her palm readings. However, Effie is horrified by Madge's insistence that she will not marry the arrogant James and instead wed Gurn (Daniel Albricht). Henceforth, James and Madge are mortal enemies.

Left alone, James spies the Sylph in the window and their love is cemented in mimed gestures of true love. He chases her into the foggy woods where the girlhood of Sylphs curl into coves of three and four, arms lilting at their sides, framing stretched necks. Hyltin suspends her weight, breathing easily into the feathery jumps and sparkling turns. An effortless jumper, De Luz eases through the cavalcade of lower leg beats traveling speedily from one diagonal to another. Well matched, Hyltin and De Luz make easy spice of the technically intricate choreography. Alas, Gurn discovers the lovers, tells Effie and suggests himself as her groom. Naturally, this all happens under Madge’s manipulation.

Both Martins men breathe naturalness into the new stagings. Similarly, both casts successfully manage the musically and physically tricky choreography with grace and enthusiasm.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 8, 2015
Alonzo King Lines Ballet is the San Franciscan company in which the dancers, some as stretched as giraffes and feral as cats, often look dazed as though they just heard something odd. Their performance at The Joyce Theatre had its unforgettable moments, as well as sections in which the dancers fought to squeeze all the choreography in. King must coach his dancers by feeding them with ideas and thoughts: the sub-current of the three works: “Concerto For Two Violins,” “Men’s Quintet,” and “Writing Ground” is rich with ambiguities.

The Largo, ma non tanto, of Johann Sebastian Bach’s middle section “Concerto For Two Violins” begins in silence. Kara Wilkes, Laura O’Malley, Robb Beresford, Michael Montgomery collapse on each other, rise, slink like a wave. This dance exudes tenderness and resilience despite a great fatigue, as the audience might have also felt after the Vivace section. The Allegro, third section, had a recurring circular arm gesture with an emphatic down swing, defying any classical mood, with a down-home shout to the audience to “Come On Out!”

In “Men’s Quintet,” Montgomery shined in his solo, while Beresford, Shuaib Elhassan, Jeffrey Van Sciver, and Babatunji bonded in a languid way. Midway in this excerpt from “The Radius of Convergence,” the four looked down, upstage, with their left hand on each other’s shoulder, pausing for some time.

Courtney Henry lived her solo in the closing quintet of “Writing Ground” with as much intensity and artistry as any ballerina performing “Giselle.” She seemed deranged, but, was it with ecstasy or terror? Was she on her way to the guillotine or about to meet her creator? Four men tried to keep her on her feet, but she was oblivious to them - crumbling and then rising momentarily to turn on point.

Often times, King obscures the supporting partner(s), either by the lack of eye contact or emotional connection. He choreographs with balletic lines, broken with hints of voguing, the occasional flexed foot or hand, or a suspended contracted leap. What is puzzling is how little freedom he gives his company to respond to his chosen music, either in nuance or mood. In “Writing Ground,” the company danced a frantic piece, in direct contrast to the spiritual splendor of “Gradual of Eleanor of Brittany: Kyrie: “Orbis Factor” by Marcel Peres and Sacred Music Ensemble Organum.

“Writing Ground” was created in 2010 in collaboration with Colum McCann, the Irish novelist/poet based in New York. “Her heart flapped like bedsheets on the clothesline of her years.” being one evocative example of his many lines printed in the program. “She would put her bare hands in the syrup of her own body,” being another. King makes you wonder, move - as much as your seat allows, and applaud the vulnerability of his dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

May 5, 2015
Site-specificity calls on its audience to work with its creators in abandoning Pavlovian impulses to feign nonexistence during anything resembling performance. In its fifth year, All Over Westbeth exploits shelter at the Artists’ Residence Building to draw its spectators into such a conversation. Despite tasteful curating and seamless coordination as a tour, barriers of audience etiquette resisted demolition.

Many performances carried vestiges of proscenium performance practices, namely in expression. In caitlin+dancers’ Basement Dance, exaggerated faces felt disconnected at point-blank. Wide eyes looked through us, telling us we were not there, reinforcing non-participatory habits. Elsewhere, it had clearer intention. In The Lab, MoveWorks views us as interlopers while inhabiting their own space as though for the first time, thereby interacting as any stranger would.

A common (and off-putting) tactic in site-specific work is the corralling of audiences to point B. After filling a stairwell with haunting vocalizations, The Little Streams ascend to take a spectator, whose reaction of utter terror as she immediately pulled her companion down with her demonstrated precisely what has yet to be achieved – choreographing the desire to willfully participate with what is offered us.

A group that came close was The Lovelies, an improvisational troupe occupying Westbeth’s roof. Instead of organically unfolding, however, we were given explanation, chock full of instructions too manifold to remember. The piece ended before anyone could muster the gumption to join, like a floundering field trip to the petting zoo. Even hospitality, at high doses, can prove alienating.

Production Manager Carol Mendes found compromise in the basement: using detached imperatives fortified by movement encouraging us to stay out of her dancers’ ways. Packed tightly in numbered quadrants, we are guided from the center to the edges. Partnering, both with people and walls, fill wherever we are not. The path of our migration continually reframes the industrial space as something peeling open. Despite being shepherded, we could not attain such calculated revelation alone, warranting Mendes’ shepherding.

One cannot forget proscenium work as site-specific in its own rite. Ending the tour was Pia Vinson’s La dispute. On polished wood, Yukie Spruijt mimes a lament. Ten innovative usages of alternative space later, shelter now feels safe, luxurious, and wrong, though functionally it is no less so than the tour’s other stops. It’s a sly programming maneuver, exposing the practice of pretend perpetrated by all participants in any aesthetic event.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 3, 2015
Winter finally melted into spring and NYC Ballet returned to the David H. Koch Theater for a season of classics and new ballets and new views of old works. In what are known as the “black and white” abstract ballets, Balanchine crafted movement with the same sense of architectural space as Frank Lloyd Wright--spare and elegant, yet sensual and vibrant. Beyond the clearly etched steps, Balanchine suspends motion inside the musical scores, most notably in the immaculate Concerto Barocco.

The two dominant dancers in Concerto Barocco, Sara Mearns and Teresa Reichlin, pop up on point, swinging a leg straight up while the torso, arches, pulling in the opposite direction. This tension, a call and response between corps and soloists--movers and music, resounds throughout the nonstop ballet.

Physically gutsy, the excellently matched Mearns and Reichlin press expansively through passages in front of a backdrop of females sheathed in white tights, leotards and short tunics.

Dancers hop on point, pass under arms forming canopies, and change facings as fast as a weathervane. A perennial favorite, Concerto Barocco was choreographed in 1941 and reveals something new at each viewing.

In contrast, Episodes, a stark ballet, strips dance of any ornamentation. Black leotards and pink tights add to the severity. Lots of air separates bodies, as feet flex, and palms flip up and down. Unlike the unending flow of many ballets, taut dancers freeze in angular poses, staring directly at the audience.

When Ashley Bouder springs onto the stage in Four Temperaments, the ferociousness of the attack is startling. Arriving in the final section, she clears the space of insecurities. Earlier in the ballet, Jennifer Ringer returns after having suffered an injury, and invests warmth and a knowing presence in her dancing. Stretching his back out against horizontal planes in Sanguinic, Amar Ramassar moves hungrily across the stage, commanding his long limbs to great advantage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 1, 2015
Winter finally melted into spring and NYC Ballet returned to the David H. Koch Theater for a season of classics and new ballets and new views of old works.

In what are known as the “black and white” abstract ballets, Balanchine crafted movement with the same sense of architectural space as Frank Lloyd Wright--spare and elegant, yet sensual and vibrant. Beyond the clearly etched steps, Balanchine suspends motion inside the musical scores, most notably in the immaculate Concerto Barocco.

The two dominant dancers in Concerto Barocco, Sara Mearns and Teresa Reichlin, pop up on point, swinging a leg straight up while the torso, arches, pulling in the opposite direction. This tension, a call and response between corps and soloists--movers and music, resounds throughout the nonstop ballet.

Physically gutsy, the excellently matched Mearns and Reichlin press expansively through passages in front of a backdrop of females sheathed in white tights, leotards and short tunics.

Dancers hop on point, pass under arms forming canopies, and change facings as fast as a weathervane. A perennial favorite, Concerto Barocco was choreographed in 1941 and reveals something new at each viewing.

In contrast, Episodes, a stark ballet, strips dance of any ornamentation. Black leotards and pink tights add to the severity. Lots of air separates bodies, as feet flex, and palms flip up and down. Unlike the unending flow of many ballets, taut dancers freeze in angular poses, staring directly at the audience.

When Ashley Bouder springs onto the stage in Four Temperaments, the ferociousness of the attack is startling. Arriving in the final section, she clears the space of insecurities. Earlier in the ballet, Jennifer Ringer returns after having suffered an injury, and invests warmth and a knowing presence in her dancing. Stretching his back out against horizontal planes in Sanguinic, Amar Ramasar moves hungrily across the stage, commanding his long limbs to great advantage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 24, 2015
The opening night program at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gillman Opera House showcased a diverse array of choreographer Mark Morris’ noted musicality. His 35-year-old company, Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), was joined by the MMDG Music Ensemble in performance. And what a treat it is to experience the accord between the two, especially in an age where dance to live music has become a rarity.

The New York premiere of “Pacific” – a work Morris originally created for the San Francisco Ballet – has a classic feel, set to Lou Harrison’s “Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano.” Martin Pakledinaz’s costumes are breathtaking – long, flowing skirts of white with a hint of blue, others in green and red. The movement is colored with simple balletic lines that reoccur in different ways amidst the more technical phrases that add intricacies.

Following is a witty piece that premiered this fall as part of New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival. Entitled “Words,” this dance brings each musical accent of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words” alive. A black-trimmed rectangle of fabric is walked across the stage throughout, while dancers swiftly peel away from the scene or settle into a pose behind its fleeting presence. A swelling momentum of tossing forward and reeling back is met with more gestural moves, and moments owned by one subtle characteristic (head bob, child-like spinning frenzies) – the latter of which often earns laughter from the audience.

It’s “Whelm,” the world premiere of the evening that makes the most profound impact. A quartet of two men and two women, it is set to music by Claude Debussy, performed by pianist and MMDG Music Director Colin Fowler. This world Morris creates is full of oddities and gloom, and intrigues with its seemingly narrative yet visually abstracted quality.

Nick Kolin’s lighting is dim and targeted as one dancer steps over the body of another grabbing at their ankles, soon to be dragged. Costume Designer Elizabeth Kurtzman has three clad in drab, head-to-toe, velvety-looking body suits in black, burgundy, and brown. One of the three is hooded. The fourth, separate from the rest, makes a slow progression across the back of the stage in a black dress and veil as if in mourning. To one side, a clump covered in fabric simply exists, slowly inching downstage and retreating back as a calm, ominous consistency throughout the varying energy of the four dancer’s movement.

The underlying slick movement quality and an unrelenting eeriness alludes to nightmare, to suspense, to death. The pedestrian moments quickly become more dramatic and evolve into orchestrated encounters where they catch one another, fall sideways to the floor in a quick cannon, and later, one shoots across the stage in a series of turning leaps. It’s certain that “Whelm” is a work you will want to take in more than once.

Closing the evening is one of Morris’ signatures, “Grand Duo,” also set to the music of Lou Harrison. This work in and of itself is full of dynamic contrast from primal, hair thrashing, low-stanced sections, to others of great synchronicity, and moments of classic beauty. Danced by fourteen members of the company, it’s a powerful close for the spirited program.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

April 12, 2015
There has been much soul-searching among the modern dance community as of late. Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance laid a pathway on which classic and contemporary voices can forever mingle. This week, Stephen Petronio Company commences its Bloodlines initiative. While they may appear as projects one and the same, they scratch deeply different itches. As Taylor continues to work as Taylor does, meanwhile establishing a multi-generational choreographic open door policy, Petronio will always be the youngest choreographer in his programming, tracing a family tree of postmodern pioneers. He, too, is continuing to create, but, in doing so, is making himself susceptible to the influence of whichever iconoclast he chooses to share a bill with next.

Petronio opens with Locomotor/Non Locomotor. Melissa Toogood barrels onstage in a solo of runs, hops, leaps, and inclines that send her spiraling into new trajectories as though shot from an offstage canon. Her paths are reinforced by duets hurling backwards with the same vocabulary of flicking knee joints on fulcrums of teetering peg-legs in rapidly ridden curves of an electron cloud in which Toogood is the nucleus. Partnering is an obstacle as Nicholas Sciscione, suspended dangerously close to the floor by Gino Grenek, reclaims a path with his knees. Despite the Joyce’s spatial generosity, dancers maneuver as though squeezing through tight quarters. When they all co-inhabit the stage, such strategies become necessary to pass through negative space when put on shuffle.

While Emily Stone smuggles in red accents for Locomotor, Davalois Fearon delivers on herself a bright blue leotard amidst Narciso Rodriguez’s sleek neutral forms in its antithetical sequel. Grenek, Sciscione, and Joshua Tuason stand like male Caryatids in florid utility. They gesture inward while Fearon leaps among them, adhering to her own logic. When contact is made, she is rolled up like a scroll and unraveled, standing minus one leg left horizontal. Movements tighten and shift dimensions until bodies no longer travel through space so much as they allow space to surge within them.

The curtain, like a floodgate, opens once more, releasing Andy Warhol’s silver pillows into the house, a reminder of Petronio’s taste for collaborations so utterly New York. Excitement simmers as the opening tableau of Merce Cunningham’s Rainforest is uncluttered. To see so much stillness after so much motion is unsettling; it helps to punch away an approaching pillow or two (ultimately participating in David Tudor’s soundscore) while acclimating to a radically different expression of time. The 1968 masterpiece is comprised of considerably more quirk than line. Triplets initiated by jerking hips to sensual morning stretches look at home on a Petronio dancer. Even Toogood, a Cunningham Fellow, uses the company’s distal sensibility to allow herself to be swept up to new extremes as she swings in straddles and directs a cabriole to propel between corners.

It takes guts for a choreographer to close his own show with the work of another. Such humility highlights dance-making over dance-maker, and rightfully so. For Petronio, a fervent believer in the dance company as research hub, adopting equally idiosyncratic movement languages is the ultimate experiment. Translation requires something to translate. It is not common generalities, but shared specificities that build bridges.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

April 9, 2015
Stephen Petronio presented his newest work “Locomotor/Nonlocomotor” during his company’s season at the Joyce Theater Tuesday night. The premier was a part of the “Bloodlines” series that will take place over the next 5 years encompassing works past and present. This year the bill included Cunningham’s “Rainforest,” (1968).

Part one of Petronio’s work has been danced before but this was the first time the piece has been shown as a whole. With an original score from Clams Casino (Michael Volpe) and costumes by renowned designer Narciso Rogdriguez, the piece packs a collaborative punch. “Locomotor/Non Locomotor,” revolves around circularity and the continuous cycle of movement threads. Dancers enter the space running backwards and between every third step they brush their leg back into a jump. They break apart, crumbling into sharp jarred hand gestures that wind them back into the round landscape Petronio has crafted onstage.

Petronio a protégé of Trisha Brown, and the first male dancer of her company, has Brown type qualities but has developed a lush movement of his own, steeped in post-modern history but decorated with a sexiness that is at once tasteful as it is risky. In a male-male duet danced by Barrington Hinds and Nicholas Sciscione, the energy is robust with an athletic yet gentle dynamic. Its primitive delicacy, practiced and nuanced. The lifts are so comfortable and the tosses so easy, that the duet takes on an androgyny. At base it’s about movement, not about the characters at play.

“Non Locomotor,” starts out with four dancers continuing the circular pattern but this time their jumps escalate in to full on split leaps. Davalois Fearon takes center stage. In a fearless solo, she commands before whittling away to let the men have their light. The fluid Joshua Tuason joins Gino Grenek and Nicholas Sciscione in a trio. They counter balance as one drops to the floor and the others stand, before seamlessly changing places. It’s the roundness we’ve become familiar with but it takes on a new form. Always changing, but always retaining the integrity of shape. Lovely yet a reminder in the novelty of the mundane.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

April 5, 2015
By gathering together an undeniably winning combination of artists, Michelle Dorrance wows audiences in a reprieve of “The Blues Project.” After befriending her life-long musical hero on Facebook, Dorrance sent Toshi Regan a “happy birthday” tap dance shout-out that sealed their future collaboration. Well, more or less….. Live roots music bent through the distinctive warmth and intelligence of Toshi Regan shapes the tap and sound journey from Southern plantations to contemporary times. The quintet called BIGLovely sit on an elevated strip behind the performers who execute dances found at indoor and outdoor events. What’s immediately noticeable is the level of choreography. The strong sense of group construction and musically motivate energetic patterns. Of course, the solos generally originate with the performer, expanding on that individual’s movement personality. The music’s deeply funky bass informs the earthy movements that dig feet into the earth while allowing the torso mobility. It’s a fusion of tribal connections and the passage of time broken into different songs that morph from the rhythms of plantation hollers, into church music, blues, jazz and oh, so much more. Shaped into an hour, the multi-faceted dancers spring into action slipping into outfits that reference the 1940’s or 1950’s. Each section tells its own story of defiance or love, sharing and competition.

At one point, the group couples up and breaks into a frisky Lindy Hop. Dorrance in particular excels in this style due to her slinky, loose-limbed style and facial expressions that resemble a female jazz bandstand singer.

The three main dance creators execute individual solos. Different in weight and approach, Dorrance projects a jazzy swing style, knees easily bending, feet feathering out in mid air and taps that skitter lightly but with a variety of color. Derek joins a witty demeanor to a heavier, funkier format, flipping up on his knees, gamely clicking his air born legs. And finally, Dormisha carves out a highly individual, be bop style, leading the musicians into abstract and surprising improvisations.

In the program notes, Dorrance notes that she collaborated on the choreography with the impressive Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Derick K. Grant along with the company members. However, the idea originated in the Dorrance’s desire to speak tap in larger dance circles. And she did.

The choreographic integrity keeps the steps in exchange, and the time is right Overall, the piece draws a loose thread from plantatian to now.

An undeniably winning concept matched Michelle Dorrance and Toshi Regan in a reprieve of “The Blues Project.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 4, 2015
The ceiling crackled blue and snapped red, like a horizontal firecracker, suggesting a cartoonish electric charge between two people connected, though standing off kilter, far apart. A young woman (Melissa Toogood) reached up as though to touch the heavens, while a star-studded floor implied that she was already there. A man (Silas Reiner) with his thick hair hanging mid-back slapped his bare feet, which jiggled his naked behind, as he repeatedly circled a pulsing light center stage; his shadow preceded him and then followed him; sometimes, his hip veered left or his jaw jutted forward as though unseen forces determined his alignment. A metallic, multi-textured body suit, metaphorical threads compressing time between the medieval era (coat of arms) and today (space suits), sparkled as Hiroki ichinsoe isolated his body parts, moving as though invisible.

Silas Riener, Cori Kresge, Hiroki Ichinose, and Melissa Toogood had their own extended solos, giving the 55 minute performance four styles - stoic, jagged, lyrical and disjointed, though each possessed a meditative quality. Yet, when the four shared the stage, sometimes Mitchell threw in an action hero still, for example, when Riener stood with his legs in parallel second, his chest high, fists triumphantly on his hips while the other three dancers sprawled on the floor.

Davison Scandrett designed each moment as desired by choreographer Rashaun Mitchell, who said in the talk back with Will Rawls, “We had lit the floor, the walls, and then I asked Scandrett, couldn’t we use lasers to light the ceiling?” A life-long sci-fi and fantasy fan, Mitchell asked his dancers to respond to text taken from “Nova,” written in 1968 by Samuel Delay when he was 25, and James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” (1956). He asked them, “What parts of us are borrowed or stolen or native or intrinsic?”

Light Years (working title) felt like a whimsical sketch, its images evolving slowly, its impact scatter-shot.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

March 27, 2015
Spring is in bloom on stage at Radio City where the New York Spring Spectacular is charming audiences. This new show celebrates the history and attributes that make New York unique. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, with an additional hip hop opening number by Mia Michaels, the Rockettes get an opportunity to show their technique, diversity and skills, and they are fantastic!

The story, (written by Joshua Harmon,) centers on an angel, Jack/ Derek Hough, who in order to earn his wings, must try to help Bernie/ Lenny Wolpe, from losing his tour guide job to a corporate magnate. Jenna, the billionaire, (played with adorable vivacity by Laura Benati) wishes to make the tour a "virtual reality," so Bernie is given one last opportunity to convince her.

Spring is in bloom on stage at Radio City where the New York Spring Spectacular is charming audiences. This new show celebrates the history and attributes that make New York unique. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, with an additional hip hop opening number by Mia Michaels, the Rockettes get an opportunity to show their technique, diversity and skills, and they are fantastic! The story, (written by Joshua Harmon,) centers on an angel, Jack/ Derek Hough, who in order to earn his wings, must try to help Bernie/ Lenny Wolpe, from losing his tour guide job to a corporate magnate. Jenna, the billionaire, (played with adorable vivacity by Laura Benati) wishes to make the tour a "virtual reality," so Bernie is given one last opportunity to convince her.

The tour starts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the paintings come alive and show the evolution of dance through classic art works. From Degas' dancing ballerinas to Picasso's Matadors, Mr. Hough joins the fun, bopping with medieval suits of armor and Egyptian Pharohs through lavish 3-D projections. On to Central Park they go, complete with flying kites, dogs, a bicycle and a hot dog cart, until it begins to rain. Mr. Hough and the fantastic Jared Grimes, tap dance in the downpour á la "singing in the rain" with the cheery Rockettes in bright yellow slickers, rain boots and umbrellas.

As the stage gets mopped up from the downpour, the discoveries continue with a visit to the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State roof deck, and the various sporting events the city has to offer. The Rockettes strut their stuff as NY baseball, hockey, football and basketball players while current sports idols encourage Bernie from the Jumbotron. Jenna is reminded of the intimacy and glamour that make NY the special and romantic city it is. Finally when Jenna waltzes with Jack, she realizes the best way to experience NYC is to take part in all it has to offer!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deborah Wingert

March 22, 2015
The first half of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance program saw two classic Taylor pieces: “Aureole,” and “Troilus and Cressida.” Originally premiering in 1962, “Aureole” is broken into 5 segments. Lovely live exerpts from Handel’s “Concerti Grossi in C,F” and “Jephtha,” serenades.

A quartet in light shades of blue opens the piece. They run across the stage with purpose, their chest springing forward, arms tucked tight at their sides. In typical Taylor fashion, the movement is buoyant but restrained. A dancer will perform a series of jumps, but every continuous bounce stays at the same level. Quick sissonnes are sharp and turned in. Between the jetting from on to off stage and vice versa, are quiet moments. A series of couples enters upstage. One by one they strike a low arabesque. Slowly rising onto releve, some, like Michelle Fleet sustain the position flowing into the next movement with ease, while others move more swiftly from one moment to the next.

“Troilus and Cressida,” (2006) is an imaginative and humorous Taylor piece. Set to the classic “Dance of the Hours,” the curtain rises to a sleeping Cressida and three cupids. With shimmering costumes and small wings on their backs, the cupids flutter around the stage awakening the young woman from her sleep. Cressida doesn’t move in the same way the cupids do, and without fail, she slips on her pillow and lands flat on the floor. Cue Troilus who is just as clumsy as Cressida.

They manage to meet for a short duet, but for comedy the choreography is sacrificed. It’s funny to an extent. Enter three Greek invaders to the mix, with velvet capes flowing behind them and drink in hand, the chaos becomes more confused on stage as the different groups mix.

The dance turns more slapstick in your face comedy than is intended to be. In the end the group piles into a final pose, Cressida lifted above the rest by the invaders. It’s a perfect picture ending that doesn’t entirely share all that came before.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

March 20, 2015
Ori Floman commands attention through subtlety and detail. In “First Move,” at Gibney Dance in lower Manhattan four dancers take to the stage (Floman included). Their loud pedestrian garb signifies a casualness jumpstarted with a splash of mismatched prints and colors. The music slowly escalates as the dancers survey the space, taking loops around themselves occasionally connecting focus with one another.

As the group forms into a small box shape, they careen across the stage, a sense of urgency behind the motivation, but still calmness in their delivery. One dancer might make several gestures with his hands but his other half body stays disconnected- its multitasking with ease.

At one point, pieces of paper are splayed out in each dancers corner they have staked as their own. Harmony becomes muddled here, with a mixture of dancing, and speaking, pushing papers and reading them. Spatially it has merit, a dancer will filter in and out of the space as the others stay entrapped in their corner, then all four will connect in the center, leaning onto one another for support and comfort.

Floman knows his movement and the intricacies that flow between- his next task might be to refine his second move.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

PAUL TAYLOR'S AMERICAN MODERN DANCE-The Word-Rite of Spring-Promethean Fire
March 20, 2015
Compensating for spring’s hesitation is the inauguration of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. Sharing Lincoln Center with Limón, Humphrey, and Shen Wei, this notion of an all-encompassing modern dance company has been in the works for some time now – Taylor has simply put his stamp on the phenomenon. Truth is, the up-and-coming generation of contemporary dancers is one of mongrels most malleable. Specialization is obsolete. We are equipped to view a company that can successfully tackle work from both ends of the 20th century as something not just plausible, but necessary.

Tuesday evening’s program bound eclecticism in ties of musical relationships. 1998’s The Word emphasized Taylor’s inimitable ability to visualize sound, yet, within non-negotiable timing, still convey ideology. The company, dressed in the delicacies of Catholic school uniformity, treads pious restraint and sensorial indulgence. Eran Bugge, in a nude unitard, demands knowing thy physical self, spiraling wildly through David Israel’s chromatic clarinet writing. Dancers are hoisted, as through crucified, on backs, upside-down, and in pairs, perverting iconography to overcome self-repression, sculpted in phrases of cyclical, tedious motion. Bugge’s concluding chaînés push the dancers offstage, leading them from behind to carve their paths past the proscenium.

Opening the evening was Shen Wei’s Rite of Spring, a structural examination of Stravinsky. The four-hand piano arrangement leaves the score naked for optimum grappling. Where Taylor embodies instruments with people, Shen assigns pure motif to his bodies. Stravinsky’s complexities required simple melodies for clear manipulations. Movement is equally blocked off into modules of verticality and floor-work, exposed one at a time. Beginning in silence with a pedestrian prelude of locomotors, at the score’s most bombastic, the company, in line, absorbs microscopic detonations. We’re witnessing Stravinsky’s impulses. Minimally moving dancers, spaced as vulnerably as a piano reduction of an orchestral score, teach us how so much can come from so little.

In Promethean Fire, Taylor breathes new life into trite music selections by way of orchestration. Leopold Stokowski’s arrangements of Bach’s organ works magnify the distance between fingers to the space of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. The moves are rhythms – crisp jumps that scintillate when braided through space. Balancing might with docility, formations alternate between grids and heaps – a cradle close to the earth balloons into a far-reaching press overhead. Its coincidental capturing of 9/11 aside, the movement’s purity retains and transcends formidable connotation, mirroring both victim and survivor. Taylor’s movement arrangements encourage analogously re-orchestrated meanings if they are to exist in the present and beyond.

A work that visualizes a commissioned score, a Rite that disregards Stravinsky’s libretto for formalist dialogue, and a repurposing of music no one will touch – these strategies are emblematic of how Taylor’s vision can succeed. How must one work with a contemporary versus an icon? How must new generations be inspired to actively extend their lineage by their own volition? The synergy of the above processes, malleable as the mongrels that will be dancing them, is a good hint.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

PAUL TAYLOR'S AMERICAN MODERN DANCE--Death and The Damsel/Cloven Kingdom
March 19, 2015
Before the curtain of the David Koch Theatre rises on Paul Taylor's American Dance, Margaret Kampmeier sets the catastrophic tone of “Death & The Damsel” with her excellent piano performance of Bohuslav Martinu’s Cello Sonata No. 2, played with cellist Myron Lutzke. Written in 1941 by the Czech composer, this duet is fiendishly difficult, exuding great depth of feeling, mostly conjuring terror and sadness. A blonde belle, Jamie Rae Walker, rises from a bed set downstage while a cityscape painted with vivid theatricality by Santo Loquasto. Initially, the damsel wearing a short pink dress, light heartedly scampers on and off the bed. But the lighting by James F. Ingalls turns ominous as she stops herself. Clearly she remembers a nightmare, whereupon nine men and women, clad in black bondage attire, invade her space.

In the course of this grim dance, which premiered this season, the set changes three times; first to a dance hall and then to a sinking skyscraper, each one equally compelling. In the choreographed gang rape, no one, male or female, comes to aid the damsel, nor does she ever visibly resist. The rhythmic richness and range of the music implies control with anguished struggle, while Taylor’s damsel appears helpless, clueless. Each man who flips Walker, sets her on her back, opening her legs into a V, stone-faced, commits the implied deed with no obvious enjoyment. The dance ends as if a black cloud has eclipsed the damsel.

The score is equally fascinating for the classic “Cloven Kingdom,” first performed in 1976, with music by Arcangelo Corelli (Italian 1653-1713), Henry Cowell (1897-1965) and Malloy Miller (1918 –1981). Alternately stately and lush, percussive and predatory, the score perfectly conveys Tailor’s theme perfectly captured by the Spinoza quote printed below its title in the program: “Man is a social animal.” The men dressed in evening tails have most of the fun in this piece, excepting the four women who appear in John Rawling’s mirrored headpieces which throw light-freckled patterns on the back wall.

The courtly dance of the men and women is pleasant. Off by themselves, the men come alive, drop their hands at the wrists and prance, with their knees pumping high and later jump side to side with their arms curved like wings, the backs bent. The ladies, each wearing a different bold colored long dress, hint that all is not completely secure with a graceful step on tiptoe, a pique, that then buckles slightly as hips pushes forward. Clear, musical, with highly memorable moments, “Cloven Kingdom” deserves its reputation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

March 16, 2015
HEWMAN presented their second installation at the Manny Cantor Center in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A glassed in roof top housed the hour-long performance of “Once We’re Lit”. Audience members were encouraged to walk around the space, inhabiting new perspectives.

The group comprised of four Juilliard graduates: Jason Collins, James Lindsay Harwell, Ingrid Kapteyn, and guest collaborator Taylor Drury, played with light and space. Victoria Bek created tight, teal costumes that enhanced the directiveness of movement. One light stands in the center of the room and conducts the interactions of the dancers. Four larger lights surround the center light. The dancers turn them on and off at various points, lighting only certain spaces at a time. The audience follows its own personal direction but subtle acknowledgements, sometimes physical, nudge us in a suggested route.

Partnering is firm and comfortable. A dancer will climb onto another with vigor and tact. Meanwhile, another will float off to a corner and complete a solo. Drawing us in rather than distracting, one qualm is that one nugget of performance can’t be savored before our attention deflects to something else.

Last year’s performance, which took place in three different spaces relied on many of the same ideas that “Lit,” tries to permeate. It is that viewership can be owned and tailored; it makes an audience feel involved, and special.

While some of us cringe at the thought of becoming apart of, others bask in the chance to be in the art. The group has once again sparked my attention, now I crave for an extended work, where the ideas they have planted can become fully realized.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

March 15, 2015
There’s a dark side to Paul Taylor expressed in dances that rip through social ills and sexual cravings. Two of the most riveting examples are “Big Bertha” and “Speaking in Tongues.” And once again, Mr. Taylor dangles ideas of forced sex shadowed by nightmares and the walking dead. A bit of Roland Petit’s “Le Jeune homme et la mort” (the young man and death) made famous in a film starring Rudolf Nureyev and Zizi Jeanmaire, scents Taylor’s new work, “Death and The Damsel.”

Sleepless in a small, surrealistic bedroom framed by windows and doors all askew, Jamie Rae Walker is plagued by fathoms in black, shiny, suggestive outfits. Suddenly, Michael Trusnovic snatches a pillow and smothers her.

This fades into a gritty club scene where men and women stalk Ms Walker. In the most graphic moment, Ms. Walker is pitched to the ground; her legs grabbed by the ankles and spread apart revealing a man kneeling behind, spine upright, leering at her crotch. He doesn’t touch any other part of her body, but there’s no second-guessing the brutality of the gesture. To what end—is not clear.

Is this a comment on the current campaigns to address “date-rape” on campuses, or the coupling of death and sex? Partners embrace in a destabilized social dance punctuated by arms held tautly upright at an angle, bodies leaning apart. Regardless, the dancers commit themselves to the “dance macabre” designed and costumed by Santo Loquasto.

The program opened on Mr. Taylor’s visually satisfying “Beloved Renegade” (2008) and closed on the glorious “Esplanade” (1975).

In “Beloved Renegade” bodies combine and recombine, layering in an artistic human topography sculpted by Jennifer Tipton’s lighting. Supported by Poulenc’s “Gloria,” the dance nods to Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and brother love (philadelphia). Deeply poetic, “Renegade” is a fine counterpart to the giddily rapturous “Esplanade,” a musical romp that finds complex simplicity in pedestrian movements led by poignancy and sheer joy. Happily, live music by the Orchestra of St.Luke’s firmly conducted by Donald York accompanied the evening’s repertory.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 12, 2015
Paul Taylor Dance Company has launched its 60th anniversary season along with its new name - Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. In the spirit of this new collective for modern dance masterworks - new and old, his and others - the three week season will also feature the work of Limón Dance Company and Shen Wei Dance Arts. .

His ever-mesmerizing “Arden Court” opens the second program of the season. The 1981 work is an airy journey through various encounters and budding relationships that come to be through the swirling patterns that drive the choreography. Before Gene Moore’s elegant soft pink rose splayed across the backdrop and amidst William Boyce’s baroque symphonies, the dancers evolve into sprite-like creatures. The five men of the ensemble are particularly memorable.

In this same vein, the iconic 1975 work “Esplanade” showcases Taylor’s talent. It’s a playful exploration of running, pacing, walking, sliding, and builds in its intensity. Nearing the last moments of the work, the dancers sprint across the stage one by one in an unrelenting series; they leap and slide onto the floor, rolling up and off.

Curiously, between these two classics came the New York City premiere of “Sea Lark,” a work Taylor created in October. Excerpts from Francis Poulenc’s energetic “Les Biches” are met by a neon-clad, smiling-wearing ensemble on a boat adventure featuring spontaneous dance breaks. The work exudes a youthful aire in its mimed interactions: jumping into the ocean, sitting aboard a sail boat that glides across the stage, fits of hand-holding and chasing one another.

The movement remains fairly simple throughout, with an occasional showy lift or leap. The most dynamic moments surface in a beach party dance scene with a few stepping forward to show off their moves while the rest remain in a line. This line of onlookers provide a percussive element through their clapping and barefoot foot tapping, and even a few shuffle hop steps.

The entire evening was presented with live music by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, under the direction of Donald York. It was a fantastic treat to see Taylor’s work with this live accompaniment, a wonderful upgrade from recent practice of taped recordings.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

March 12, 2015
Plenty of Paul Taylor graduates, and enthusiastic supporters gathered for Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance 2015 Gala performance at the David H. Koch Theater. the evening opened on a perennial favorite, "Company B" (1991). World War II seeps through the upbeat, tight harmony of the jazzy Andrew Sisters and the peppy dances shadowed by bodies dropping silently into the floor.

Suited to the Taylor fleet footed ethos, the dancers airily pop up in skipping turns, wagging fingers at groping men or steal romantic moments before departures. Everyone gets into the spirit, particularly the intensely present Michael Trusnovec. Decked in nerdy, black-rimmed glasses, he strings along a chorus of female admirers in the spicy "Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!" Dancers gayly embroider movements in the foreground while war's (or disease's) insidious death knell knocks off one man after another in the background. At once joyous and poignant, "Company B" strikes an enduring chord.

More a front of the curtain teaser, "Troilus and Cressida (reduced)" (2006) to the "Dance of The Hours" conjures up memories of "Fantasia" and Micky in White tie and extra Tails. It's reminiscent of an Ancient Greek, two-dimensional relief, or possibly a quaint Baroque opera surrounded by colorful cutouts. A trio of Cupids float around Troilus, King of Troy (Robert Kleienendorst) fending off invaders until Cressida (Pasha Khobdeh) tosses about her special charms.

Unlike previous years, The Orchestra of St. Luke's conducted by Donald York accompanied the pieces. In "Brandenburgs" another one of Taylor's full fleshed concert ballets, dancers spread across the floor in clusters and duets. The choreography twists and bobs to Bach's coursing strings. Dancers pause in sculptural forms that fan into swift leaps and turns that end in surprising physical connections. Moving in three distinct latitudes--low, medium and high--the company forges architectural outlines animated by hardy dancing.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 12, 2015
Before he formed a company, George Balanchine founded a ballet school in 1934 called The School of American Ballet. To insure its cherished heritage and future, SAB threw itself a gala spearheaded by the evening’s chair people: Julia F. Koch, Serena Lese, and Laura Zeckendorf.

Women in sparkling frocks and men in tuxedos gathered on the orchestra level of the David H. Koch Theater indulging in cocktails, appetizers and animated conversations about SAB’s programs. Dr. Susan Krysiewicz’s fantasy tulle gown swooped through the proceedings nodding as a number of the guests proudly described the first time their child appeared in the Nutcracker, insisting SAB helped the youngsters focus in school.

Visible in the center of the crowd was Peter Martins who heads both SAB and the NYC Ballet. Dance alumni swooped in and out including Daniel Ulbricht, NYC Ballet Principal and teacher and former NYC ballet principal, Helene Alexopoulos.

Contributing to America’s position as the dance capital of the world, SAB molds the next generation of brilliant dancers, now so very visible at NYC Ballet. The Gala raised over $1.39 million for much needed scholarships and school programs.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 11, 2015
Considering the Cunningham aesthetic, it seems implicit that next steps involve disseminating the disbanded company’s material to foreign groups. Like a body replacing its cells, such processes begin well within the original company when members cycle through; core identity, however, remains. Compagnie CNDC d’Angers has the privilege to have such a specimen, Merce’s assistant of seventeen years, Robert Swinston to assemble Event, a shuffling of eleven pieces spanning thirty-five years, at the Joyce Theater. Rather than flipping a coin, Swinston seems to have handpicked his materials for a conceptual unity all the harder to find when pulling from disparate sources. Within the wafting perimeter of Jackie Matisse’s vibrantly spotted banners, and the surprising melodiousness of John King’s strings and Gelsey Bell’s voice, cross-generational harmonies support integrated approaches to aleatory work.

Event is introduced academically, eschewing intellectualism. Phrases play out utterly “en croix.” Classroom atmosphere distorts when one, as a plank, is rapidly tossed like a cubic pancake on all four sides. A double duet has one couple’s torsos bending sagittally with its coupés and tendus; the other keeps coronal. Academicism is instantaneous. You see your choices. The cognitive leap is actually choosing - focused ideas, carefully exposed. To begin, all eight dancers run individually to fourth positions. The uneven pacing, scattered spacing, and distribution of facings inhibit realization until the last moment that all that’s happened was a straight diagonal line. The copious immediacies of the academic are made organic by singular, circuitous intellect.

Swinston rarely allows a maverick dancer. Soloists are actively subverted as focal points. One treads in back as the company cavorts up front. In unison, one will break, walk to a new space, and resume until the form transposes. When a soloist actually executes non-pedestrian movement, others phase through space, creating incidental duets and trios that expand possibilities of distance relationships required to achieve ensemble status. The inherent separateness of the materials ties them ever more intimately as associative composites.

The duets share consensual contention – winding struggle to achieve momentary reprieves from gravity. Three encounters outline three maneuvers: elbows hinging elbows, armpits clamping armpits, hands slipping shoulders. Limiting one’s ability to support, partnering behaves as a solo spanning two bodies. Like the Rose Adagio, exchanges of seemingly impossible movements transpire with and without assistance. In tilted pirouettes and jumps that spring from nowhere, the partner is just as dependent on the movement to be moved at all. It is an anarchy most peaceful; each body requires another.

Reconciling immediate repetitions with elliptical digressions is their packaging into rondos. A circle leans away from its grips, falls, breaks into counterpoint, and returns with new memories to begin again. This ordering of sameness and newness allows us to see the same material differently than if we were to see it looped, recapitulated, or through-composed. As movement transforms when left alone or supported by a partner, entire sequences are colored by how near or far another veers before returning. Since no soloist is ever fully autonomous from the group at large, sequences are validated by how they weave through other sequences. In performers, materials, and forms, Robert Swinston’s latest event uncovers deep interconnectedness in Cunningham’s oeuvre – disciplined entropy.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

VICKY SHICK "Pathetique, Miniature Details"
March 7, 2015
Seven women, move as one, their bare feet moving stage left, calm faces front, with their right hands gently turning up, turning down. An image of Nijinska’s “Los Noces” comes to mind and then fades as those hands suggest “Maybe yes, maybe no.” The movement is exact, the impact immediate. Shick, a whimsical movement poet of downtown dance for over three decades, gets us from the get-go.

Presented as part of Harkness Dance Festival Stripped/Dressed series, curated by Doug Varone, Shick sidestepped the “Stripped” explanatory portion of the program confessing her discomfort with public speaking. With a mound of brown hair pulled high, hanging loose, she shyly stated her appreciation of her dancers: Olsi Gjeci, Lily Gold, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Marilyn Maywald Yahel, and her long time collaborators: costume designer Barbara Kilpatrick, sound designer Elise Kermani, and Bill Schaffner for his lighting design. While Shick shed little verbal light on her work, she did say she loves duets, the dancers’ vulnerability and intimacy.

Shick’s every phrase has the concise timing of a minimalist composer, such as Federico Mompou. She expects her audience to be observant because she repeats sparingly, rarely building the dances to a climax or close The small theatre of 92nd Street Y, with its painted ceiling, is a perfect venue to experience Shick’s work, aptly titled “Pathetuique, Miniatures in Details.”

Occasionally, her dancers travel with a high, slow jump or step as though they are trying to massage every part of the foot. More often, one dancer, or two, stay within a tiny range facing the audience, directing a ripple of energy through their bodies, registering certain moments with a pause. Rarely does that ripple go above the head, or across the floor. A head drops on another’s arm or nestles in the other’s neck.

Always languid, these deadpan dancers are quietly intense, with focus points finely edited. It all might be taken seriously if not for the whimsical costumes of Kilpatrick: yellow caution tape drapes over a hula hoop hung from the waist with knotted rope, framing bags that bounce on the hips for one outfit; a plastic knotted robe, draped over the arm for Shick; a third costume appeared once as a skirt that Shick pulled up on stage, and secondly, as briefly as a Saturday Night Live gag, as a mad hat.

This year’s Festival is dedicated to the late Theodore S. Bartwink, long-time executive director of the Harkness Foundation for Dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

PLATFORMS 2015-Mearns/Raushan/Hyltin/Melnick
March 6, 2015
Levity wrapped in friendly competitiveness charms Dansapce when Sara Mearns, Sterling Hyltin, Raushan Mitchell and Jodi Melnick appear in Platform 2015 that connects dancers from different disciplines in process-style performances.

This week, four mega-talented dancers toss a big red foam die, call out actions, run, drop and roll, read snippets written by choreographer James Waring and every now and then, dance.

It’s a springboard of concepts still whirling around in the remarkable dance bodies of NYC Ballet principals Mearns, and Hyltin; and modern dancers Melnick and Raushan.

By using chance techiques, the actual performance will change with each night, but look for Raushan in a solo that smashes Cunningham technique through urban moves and Hyltin instructing Melnick on how to die during Balanchine’s famous “Sonnambula.”

Programs are sold out, but risk standing in the “wait” line and try to sit in the middle section.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 5, 2015
Wooden chairs, toppled on each other, stretched across New York City Center’s stage, in front of six drawings mounted on partitions of flamenco legends: Paco de Lucia, Camaron de la Isla, Antonio Gades, Enrique Morente, Moraito, and Carmen Amaya. Sara Baras, lithe and elegant, dressed in black pants and white jacket, slowly walked the width of the stage, gazing at the sketches of the guitarists, singers, and dancers, all of whom set standards that flamencos everywhere try to adhere to. She slipped upstairs as the chairs disappear, and six dancers dressed in black burst forward, dancing in unison.

While the spotlight was rarely off Baras, her husband, the engaging Jose Serrano complimented her calm, immaculate presence with an off-kilter charm revealed in “Sequirilla,” a duet that showed more love than flash, and in his solo “Solea.” Baras dances with the precision, clarity, and speed of guitarist Paco, more than with the animal fierceness of gypsy dancer Carmen Amaya, or the raw, rattled energy of Camaron. No doubt as famous as Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, Baras’ flat footed skitter is her signature, along with her thrown-to-the-rafters smile. Her arms have the ineffable sweetness of Morente's voice, while the delicate sensuality of her hands is a marvel all her own.

Throughout the program, a male voice recited in Spanish some reflections on flamenco – reprinted in English in the playbill – from the honored artists. Moraito is quoted as saying, “Sometimes this pain also pleases your soul; its spirit pleases you because sometimes pain is necessary for your soul.”

Torres Cosano designed the costumes, two of which quite memorable – a multi-layered chiffon dress, a section of which Baras could flip over her shoulder, tuck into the top of her dress, or lift to the side to create the illusion of a full circle while turning, and a green, three-tiered fringe dress, later transformed by a green velvet, embroidered bolero.

Keko Baldomero directed the excellent cast of seven musicians, including himself on guitar, along with Andres Martinez, singers Rubio de Pruna, Israel Fernandez, and Miguel Rosendo, and Manuel Munoz Pajaro with Antonio Suarez on cajon.

Miguel Marin, the organizer of the Flamenco Festival, stepped in front of the curtin to honor Valerie Gladstone, a New York writer recently deceased, whose enthusiasm for flamenco contributed to the success of this internationally touring festival now in its 16th year.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

March 1, 2015
Frigid temperatures did not diminish the spirits of guests arriving for the Dance Theater of Harlem Gala at Cipriani’s 42 Street. People dressed in festive attire spoke enthusiastically about the evening’s awardees and the Dance Theater of Harlem’s Renaissance under the direction of Virginia Johnson. Once ballerinas star in her own right, Virginia Johnson helped move the company founded by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook into the spotlight.

In April (8 – 11), the company arrives at City Center for a dance-packed four- day season and the gala evening was dedicated to several cultural leaders who were instrumental in buoying the company and school into the 21 century. When everyone settled in their seats, the tributes began to roll in.

Before one of the evening’s highlights, Dance Theatre of Harlem Company members Ashley Murphy, DaVon Doane, Jenelle Figgins, and Samuel Wilson performed "September" by Robert Garland in honor of Ms. Norman.

For many, the combination of Gloria Steinman, founder of Ms. Magazine and a leader of the feminist movement, and the imperial African-American opera singer Jessye Norman, was awe-inspiring.

A fan of Ms. Norman’s, Ms. Steinem applauded her journey from a rural setting to the greatest opera houses in the world. Devoted to DTH, Ms. Norman graciously accepted the Arthur Mithcell Vision Award and to the utter delight of everyone in the audience, she broke into a spirited version of the traditional folksong “This Little Light of Mine.”

Although it was hard to top this moment, after the animated Dance Theater of Harlem students finished their cheeky ballet, "Villanelle" by Robert Garland, they formed a line and walked up to Ms. Norman’s table, one by one, to shake her hand. That nearly elicited a standing ovation of people with cameras in hand snapping away.

Wendy Whelan, the NYC Ballet principal who recently retired, recalled the wonderful dance supporter Ted Bartwink and presented the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Family Medal to Mr. Bartwink. It was accepted by his widow, Barbara Bartwink and long-time foundation trustee, William Perlmuth. A dance lover, the indomitable Mr. Bartwink led the The Harkness Foundation for Dance for many years before passing away a couple of months ago.

In addition, Hannah Storm presenting Virtuoso Award to Under Armour, Inc. - Accepted by Leanne Fremar.

With the help of the effervescent auctioneer Audrey Smalls, the gala raised $500,000. Proceeds benefit the Next Generation Fund, which provides scholarships and financial assistance to the Dance Theatre of Harlem School and the Community Engagement Fund, supporting arts education and community programs.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 1, 2015
Dance and music are Argentina and Cuba’s major exports. American jazz is indebted to Cuba’s complex musical rhythms and the Argentinean tango has fascinated the world since it raided dance floors around 1913.

At City Center as part of their Latin Dance Festival, two companies entertained audiences with superb musicians and accomplished dancers portraying their country’s expert social dances.

From Cuba, Rakadan dance company members performed in front of exceptional musicians strung across the back of the stage. At times, the music was so commanding one could hardly concentrate on the movements. Choreographed by Nilda Guerra, the smart staging keeps the sections moving at a clip.

The themes revolve around the influences of European and African cultures on dances—rumba, mambo-- enriching Cuban life. Hips swing in alternating rhythms against upraised arms and snappy heads. Despite some corny sections, the men and women are equally mobile, energized by the incessant beat. An attractive company, the production was a colorful overview of Cuba’s joyous dance heritage.

For the many who recall Tango Argentina, the most recent production “milonga” choreographed by Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, has more in common with “Dancing With The Stars” than an inward look at the sensual dance known as the tango. Five Argentinean tango dancers and one contemporary (interpretive) couple connect their formidable dance wares.

There was a great deal of flashy acrobatics--spectacular lifts, men hoisting women over their heads and spinning like an ice dancer while razor fast legs cut around men’s thighs and between their legs.

Recalling the Argentinean beauty and warmth, projections of a sun-soaked Buenos Aires flash behind the intense dancers. However, the traditional Argentinean musicians situated in the corner were the major prompnents of tango’s earthy roots.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

PLATFORM 2015: Gilliand/Rawls/Riener/Danchig-Waring
March 1, 2015
Dancers are connecting and experimenting as part of the “Platform 2015: Dancers, Buildings and People Series curated by Claudia LaRocca at the Danspace Project. One chilly evening, former NYC Ballet dance Kaitlyn Gilliland and Will Rawls sat at a table and repeated texts sent to each other about their new friendship, dance, daily routines, physical sensations and passing musings.

While they speak, text symbols, and emojis are projected on the screen behind them. Once the verbal duet ends, and time passes, they both dance. Kaitlyn’s lean torso arches lyrically over fluttering feet. Brief and abstract, it expresses a level of yearning and the upward lift of ballet’s form. Closer to the ground, Rawls’ long strides grab-up larger pieces of space while retaining a sinewy style that exposes an engaging personality.

After intermission, the superb dancer Silas Riener, once a member of the Merce Cunningham Company collaborated with the NYC Ballet dancer Adrian Danchig-Waring. However, Waring was unable to appear in person, so instead, the audience watches a film of the two practicing a ballet-based duet. Most interesting was Reiner’s ability to execute the ballet movements.

Generally, modern dancers, even wonderful ones, are not generally capable of equaling the technical caliber of their counterparts in ballet. It’s just a different technique. But, the two men were well matched in the complex ballet steps that lead from turns to beats connecting jumps.

At one point, Riener courses through the space. His vitality shakes the molecules in the space and you feel his movement dynamics at once balanced and explosive. Actually, both parts of the evening felt like a fascinating sketch.

Now that they’ve met, the artists are probably ready to make a dance. As part of the Platform 2015 series, dancers taught workshops where participants learned snippets of ballets and tasted different dance techniques. Those who did want to actually move could sit and observe.

Silas introduced his group of students to the basics of Cunningham technique. He generously demonstrated joint rotations, tilts, swings and walks.

On the following occasion, Kaitlyn taught the first part of George Balanchine’s mesmerizing “Serenade.” Although relatively simple in composition, each gesture- –from the famous outstretched arm to the parallel feet flashing open, was full of music. In the conversation following the energetic rehearsal, Kaitlyn described her growth as an artist. At first, a dancer wants to get the steps exactly right. Later, experiences gathered in time fill in the grey tones of the ballet’s spirit.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 26, 2015
The Martha Graham Dance Company presented their NYC season at the Joyce Theater. Program B on Tuesday evening saw works from past and present, classic and novel. The evening opened with “Essential Shape and Design,” which included “Frontier,” (1935) and “Steps in the Street,” (1989). It of course comes as no surprise that these works were among the night’s highlights. These dancers breathe the Graham technique. Articulation and gesticulation is in prime form. Blakeley White-McGuire in “Frontier,” exudes a stoicism and quiet glamour that is sharp and succinct. Every step has the appropriate chin placement and focus, no step unfinished. “Steps,” offers Graham’s powerful feminist views with intricate stage design from Frank Gehry. Most notable in the Graham series was “Errand into the Maze,” a striking and passionate duet, based on the story of Ariadne and the Minotaur. It was in fine form Tuesday night, with a ferocity and refinement that rings synonymous with Graham and her legacy.

“Lamentation Variations,” closes the first half. Originally premiering in 2007, the piece commemorates the anniversary of 9/11. A mix of choreographers offer dance studies on Grahams famous “Lamentation.” Offerings from Michelle Dorrance, Liz Gerring, and Bulareyaung Pagarlava are used for Tuesday’s program. Dorrance, most well known for her tap dancing, uses the music and sound as her strength, with movement echoing the sound, complementing and building on top of each step. Gerring’s variation is more muted and subdued, cupped hands act as homage, a minimalist almost baroque feeling amplifies her subtleties. Pagarlava’s version is much more movement centric, with steps strung together in a wave like effect. However, nothing quite compares to the original.

Annie-B Parson’s “The Snow Falls in the Winter,” is the show’s weakest moment. Inspired by the absurdist play “The Lesson,” Snow is nothing short of absurd. A microphone, table, and books are just some of the props used. More theatrical than dance based, the piece uses movement patterns to lend a voice to the text. A dancer pauses on her tip toes, picks up the microphone and speaks. This pattern continues. The risk taking with the blending of elements is applause worthy. It’s a step out of the box for the Graham dancers. In the final moments a dancer explains how to write a thank you note while the others jump around her. It’s a step out of the box for Graham dancers, stretching their performance skills, but perhaps its not the right step.

The final piece of the night is Andonis Fonaidakis’ “Echo,” (2014). Inspired by the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo the dancing is dramatic and fluid. Each movement stirs into the next. Add in the whipping of long draped skirts and the image is rather arresting.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY--Bailey Moon

February 25, 2015
Kate Weare presented her 10th anniversary season at BAM. The first half of the program paid homage to her early work, with excerpts and original company members Doug Gillespie and Leslie Kraus. While the second half displays pieces of what’s to come.

Weare wears her emotions on her choreographic sleeve. She rolls it up to get tough, with harsh, jarred movements yet compliments it with soft, gooey lushness that leaves an audience full. This transparency most often comes across in her duets. No two dancers carry her message better than Gillespie and Kraus. It’s that studied partnership that has history and trust. In “Bridge of Sighs,” they strike one another with playful and sometimes calculated slaps, hits, and punches. One action gesticulates into a bodily domino effect, limb collapsing into limb.

They close the first half with an excerpt from “Bright Land,” Kraus rolls her body on top of Gillespie. Weare’s woman is a feminist with a complex movement vocabulary. In the final moment still sitting on top, she hits her head into his chest…hard. She hits again, and again. It may hurt, but the pain empowers her.

Two guest dancers from ODC/Dance perform a sultry male/female duet “Drop Down,” from 2007. Following, is an updated response in the form of a male/male duet with Gillespie, and the internally stirring T.J. Spaur. Weare doesn’t use big tricks or over indulgent moves to get her point across. The two men glide gently into each other’s arms, in a sort of a tango. Polite, and romantic it’s seasoned with just the right amount of tenacity, a reflective look into the relationship of give and take.

Juilliard Dance’s class of 2016 returns with an excerpt from “Night Light.” The piece reads even more honest in an intimate setting such as the Fisher theatre. Once again powerful duets, set the tone of the groups interactions. Two dancers fall into each other’s grasps as a line of ten stands still, slowly rippling away, an ocean’s waves sifting onto a sandy surface and pulling away any remnants of what has been left behind. As the dancers turn their attention towards the audience at the end, their moves remain intact, dazzling pieces of sand swept back to shore.

“Unstruck,” the newest work in progress, closes out the program. A trio of Weare’s newer dancers compliments one another with their whisper like qualities. Some beautiful and intricate patterns flesh out the piece but the dancers quite haven’t found their footing. Moments of hesitation however turn out to be charming.

They just taste the surface of Weare’s movement castle; all it takes is the knock of a head, and the discoveries will unravel.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Baileyl Moon

February 21, 2015
If you like attending events that benefit outstanding organizations and include fascinating combinations of people, then you will want to be at the Dance Theatre of Harlem Vision Gala Black Tie on February 24.
Several awards will be bestowed including: The Arthur Mitchell Vision Award: Grammy-Award Winning Opera Singer Jessye Norman
The Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Family Foundation Medal: Theodore Bartwink (Posthumously) & Harkness Foundation for Dance
Virtuoso Award Honorees: Mario L. Baeza and Under Armour, Inc.
ESPN’s Hannah Storm
Author and Activist Gloria Steinem
Patina Miller (Tony Award Winning Actress, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, and CBS-TV’s Madam Secretary) Wendy Whelan (Retired, New York City Ballet Principal Dancer)
Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director, Dance Theatre of Harlem Jody Gottfried Arnhold
William Perlmuth and Patty Dugan-Perlmuth
Joan Finkelstein and Alan Kifferstein
Barbara Bartwink
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s most prominent fundraising event of the year features cocktails, dinner, dancing and performances by the Dance Theatre Harlem Company and students from the Dance Theatre of Harlem School. Proceeds benefit the Next Generation Fund, which provides scholarships and financial assistance to the Dance Theatre of Harlem School and the Community Engagement Fund, supporting arts education and community programs.
Cipriani 42nd Street, 110 E. 42nd Street

February 21, 2015
The 92Y presented Adam Barruch’s Belladonna, the first work in Doug Varone’s “Stripped/Dressed” series. Based on the short story “Repuccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Barruch’s duet explores a man’s desire to save a “wild” woman, but in failing to see her beauty, suffers. Danced by Barruch and long time collaborator Chelsea Bonosky, these dancers use their deep kinesthetic understanding to move each section gracefully into the next. A sacred Baroque feeling is emanated through the soundscape, designed by Barruch, the costumes (designed by Marine Penvern) and the props utilized in telling the story.

Barruch’s distinct style is present through the piece, with a non-stop kinetic energy. Each movement begins blending into the next as the dancers get lost in the motion and the audience becomes hypnotized. Using Gothic props lends itself to the storytelling. These visual cues help the audience line up the dance and the story in a way that communicates the development of the characters relationship.

From poisoned wine to an executioner mask, props play an important role, most important being a large fish tank that sits upstage on the second level. The tank begins and ends the piece, encapsulating the wild energy that Barruch’s character failed to glean the beauty from. All the props create a very theatrical set to the dance, and with all the movements feeling more organic there is a slight disconnect created. However the decision to use these items was a necessary one that helped frame Barruch’s distinct movement style in telling this particular story.

As part of the “Stripped/Dressed” series, the first half of the evening is dedicated to dissecting the dance. Barruch takes the stage to explain what his choreographic process for this piece was like. Purposefully giving the heady context up top, the second half of the evening is the discussed work danced in full. An interesting series that allows viewers a unique access into the mind of those working within the choreographic field.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

February 19, 2015
The New York Theatre Ballet’s Legends & Visionaries performance on the New York Live Arts stage is delightfully fun. The first half of the night consists of three pieces, including two world premieres and a piece by Merce Cunningham. The Cunningham piece Cross Currents is quite different than the rest of the night, but the three dancers rise to the challenge of this specific, abstract movement and knock it out of the park.

It is followed by a new work, There, and Back Again choreographed by Nicolo Fonte. After the first two dances, this piece grabbed an audience that seemed to be waning and brought it back to life. Dynamic in movement, story, and mis-en-scene, There, and Back Again was a triumph for Fonte.

The dancers in the company prove their fortitude as they glide through each moment, accompanied by the live scoring of original music composed by Kevin Keller. Inspired from the Grimm fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, the choreography is grand and sweeping, capturing the larger than life story. Dancing the witch, Amanda Treiber, has much more abandon to her movement than the other dancers. Set apart from the family unit, they are explosive but still, less wild than Treiber. Beautifully cohesive, the dance's costumes and lighting add texture to a great foundation.

Best of show ends the evening evening with the vaudevillian inspired Alice-in-Wonderland Follies. An exploration of Lewis Carroll’s classic, this ballet is overtly charming. Using whimsical takes on classic ballet structure and movement, the mapping of this story is heartwarmingly fun. Even as the program runs two hours and thirty minutes (thirty minutes longer than advertised) the performance is so engaging that time feels lost, like Alice is in the that world. From the impossibly long tail of the Cheshire Cat (Amanda Treiber), to the the White Rabbit’s (Steven Melendez) impressively high hops, the magic and mischief is palpable.

Elena Zahlmann’s Alice is on point, in both dancing and acting. Her natural charisma and expressiveness helps to sell every crazy creature that joins her onstage. Amidst the arabesques and the pas-de-chat’s the music stops and the company takes the stage to perform the Jabberwocky section. Structured as a creative reciting of Carroll’s famous non-sense poem, the dancers create a spellbinding rhythm with their hands and bodies. Using words and movement, this moment is enough reason to go see the entire performance by this talented company. Legends & Visionaries is appearing at New York Live Arts.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

February 16, 2015
By the 20th century, contemporary dance found two sonic comrades: Stravinsky and Bach. While Stravinsky’s innovations pushed dance to find proportional inventiveness, Bach became someone to turn to when one was ready. Concerto Barocco and Esplanade remain landmarks in their creators’ repertories. Even now, Baroque accompaniment in dance reads as a statement of reverent maturity. For Aidos, Douglas Dunn has not so much partnered with Bach as employed him. The Cello Suites, selected and arranged in new combinations, is a formal tool for preventing conceptual humor from toppling physical beauty.

The piece shares its name with the Greek goddess of shame. It places Aidos, historically dramatized, in a sterile environment of abstraction, splitting her embodiment between two towering dancers, Jin Ju Song-Begin and Jessica Martineau. In bright hues they move with mournful confidence, stretching time with mere steps. They consistently co-inhabit space, but express no point of view to one another. Branching into counterpoint, they converge only on matching postures.

The act of splitting one feeling between two people calls for scrutiny as to whether a feeling is ever one thing. Between Aidos’ halves, it is never clear if their manifestation of shame is self-reflected or projected on the others. When together, six other dancers, bound tightly in a variety of black unitards, surround, separate, frame, pretend to eat, and wrestle the dual-goddess to the ground, yet are never affected by her, even when it seems they should be. Their obtrusive linearity and percussive prancing endow them with the advantage of a mutinous Greek chorus. They only tell, carrying necessary information with no dramatic weight. Aidos finds herself, too, in Dunn’s toolbox, stripped of power when surrounded by data that initiates but never responds.

For half of the piece, this data is all we have, as though shame herself is ashamed to appear in her tale. Within BAM Fisher, mirrored duets encircle the perimeter and reckon with the junctures of diagonal lines. Dunn himself makes ensemble cameos, gracing the marley in holographic jazz slippers. His age irrelevant, he asks that you see him as an equal member of his ensemble, even as his men promenade and waft him majestically to the cadential flourishes of Ha-Yang Kim’s playing. Dunn combats the hubris of a creator performing his work by making it impossible to ignore, then shaming you for noticing.

He might as well, considering the eclectic physicalities of the troupe. Timothy Ward floats between twisted balances with a sharp gazes reaching beyond his shapes. Jake Szczypek barrels through phrasework with crispness that highlights the insertion of gesture into pure technique. Uniformity of costume and formality of movement fail to forbid these qualities to stand out individually. In his investigation of the inherent embarrassment of the dance act, Dunn avoids falling back on ridiculous displays by using them to frame the unthreatening nature of difference.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

February 13, 2015
The Martha Graham Dance Company's current 89th season is defined by its Shape&Design program, an homage to the pioneering American modernist's sculptural choreography. Delivered in three sub-programs over the course of the two-week season, each features Graham masterworks and the choreography of contemporary guest artists. This commitment to tradition while embracing the innovative has been spearheaded by Artistic Director Janet Eilber since 2005. Her approach is working; how rewarding it is to experience classics, appearing ever-relevant, alongside today's own creative genius - all as equal players.

Every evening opens with a visual treat by Peter Arnell. His silent film, or rather 2,000 photos montaged together, showcases the athleticism and architecture of Graham dancers' bodies, zooming and slowing down for each contraction, release. "Satyric Festival Song" is satiric indeed - a rarity among Graham's serious, drama-ridden tendencies. Soloist XiaoChuan Xie morphs between a stoic follower bounded to the flute's demands, to a self-aware individual acknowledging the audience and whipping her hair.

"Embattled Garden" throws us into Adam and Eve's Garden of Love, troubled by the presence of a stranger and Lilith - allegedly Adam's first wife. Isamu Noguchi's sets in all their abstract, colorful, part-nature/part-playground glory are an incredible asset to the work. The four become entangled in interactions, often two by two, driven by a universal themes of temptation, jealousy, and danger. Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch adds a particularly feisty touch in her performance as Lilith, the woman scorned.

"Lamentation Variations" follows, which has evolved into perhaps one of the most dynamic adventures conceived by the company in recent years. An event that began in 2007 as a 9/11 commemoration, it has since become a process where guest choreographers are invited reflect on a 1940s film of Graham performing her legendary, purple-cloaked solo, and create their own movement response. Larry Keigwin - an original "Variations" contributor - brings an ensemble to the stage in dark-hued evening wear, swaying to the romantic music. They touch their face and stare directly ahead as if before a mirror in a vulnerable state, soon overcome in syncopated jolts, collapsing limb-by-limb to the floor.

Kyle Abraham brings two male dancers - Lloyd Knight and Lloyd Mayor - in his stark version. The duo achieves a balance of tenderness and strength that becomes mesmerizing in its often slow-paced, nuanced structure. Sonya Tayeh's contribution begins with gasping, whispery chant as female dancers in bright purple cutout leotards enter the space. Joined by others and some male dancers, their movement is sensual, pulsating, and powerful. Here Tayeh draws on the company members' technique in different ways, showcasing a new breadth.

Nacho Duato's "Rust" opens the second act, celebrating its NY premiere. The male quintet has a way of lingering with you; it's aggressive and dramatic. Three push, fall, and manipulate each other's movement in a rapid unraveling, but then there are pauses where all to be heard is their unified breathing. A memorable image comes when all lift the front of their shirts over their head, faces covered and kneeling - a reference to torture and terrorism that remains today.

Closing with Graham's iconic "Chronicle," the nod to societal violence continues. In this triptych Blakeley White-McGuire shines as the leading soloist, especially in 'Spectre' as she tosses and collects her red lined black skirt. Soon the stage is filled with dancers crossing paths, their upper bodies in statuesque poses, and the all female finale builds the momentum and energy in whirling, relentless patterns of leaps and runs until all, together, succumb to stillness.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jenny Thompson

February 13, 2015
I was disheartened to read Ms. Villarreal’s recent article on the “dying field” of dance. She claims that reality TV star Maddie Ziegler is a hopeful force to reinvigorate the dance world, and sets herself apart from millennials whom Villarreal calls “an especially lazy and self-indulgent lot when it comes to performance” in the Huffington Post.

She goes on to say that these dancers “lust to be stars without putting in the work to deserve the title.” While I agree that Ziegler is talented and ambitious the focus of my response is more to tackle the faulty comments and misconceptions used to support Villarreal’s argument. She makes a broad, unsupported claim that proves the disconnect between the average middle America TV dance audience and those that understand and respect the other kind of dance: the one where dancers work their asses off day in and day out to receive little money and little recognition.

The athletes of the commercial dance world are talented and hard working, and I’m not trying to discredit their efforts. However, because of their exposure to a large audience via reality shows, commercials and movies, a distorted and distant view of concert dance and “the alternative dance community” as Villarreal labels it, develops.

Before you make general claims, let me inform you of something- take into consideration the hundreds of thousands of dancers who’s parents drive them hours to the closest studio so they can take class, the dancers that can barely afford to take technique classes to improve their skills but they love it so much they take on a job, or two or three, the dancers that take out several loans to attend their dream college so they can work with the best professors and be surrounded by inspirational peers, the dancers that can’t afford health insurance, or rent, or food because they took on a performance for free in order to make their choreographer friend’s dream become one that is realized. Don’t discount them, don’t discredit them. Their efforts should not be overshadowed due to overconsumption of the media’s version of “dance,” which has been altered, edited, and produced.

Dancing is tough. It takes courage, passion but most importantly, Will! There are countless unrepresented dancers that perfect their technique and artistry day in and day out just for a shot to dance professionally. Try visiting Danspace at St.Mark’s church in the East Village to see an exciting burgeoning crop of thinkers and makers creating new work, or go to Lincoln Center and watch the young, fresh corps of the New York City Ballet rock soloist and principal roles for the first time. The dancers of this new generation are working so hard, just to get noticed. There is a sliver of a chance that they’ll be lucky enough to make a career out of it.

I’m here to tell you that dance as a field is alive and thriving. So You Think You Can Dance and Dance Moms does not dictate what good dance is or how the art form progresses. Dance isn’t validated by how many tilts Ziegler can do in one competition routine. You allude that nothing exciting has happened in the dance field but you forget David Hallberg’s historic partnership with the Bolshoi Ballet, Misty Copeland’s Under Armour ad and her ground breaking exposure for African Americans in ballet, the emergence of the LA dance project, Benjamin Millipied’s appointment to the Paris Opera Ballet, Lil Buck bringing jookin to the international stage, Company XIV’s burlesque enterprise, and the inexplicably creative Crystal Pite who is paving the way for female contemporary choreographers just to name a few. After all, Ziegler most recently shot to heightened popularity for her solo role in Sia’s music video “Chandelier,” due to the choreographer Ryan Heffington, who has not gotten nearly enough recognition for his efforts and vision.

Go see something new and avant garde, donate to a choreographer’s kickstarter campaign, or better yet when you meet a dancer tell them congratulations and good luck. They are a part of a tremendous network, defined by passion and history, exemplified by an older generation that has enriched the form, and innovated by a new group of artists to carry it forward. Job prospects may seem limited, funding competitive and finite, but the possibilities for creativity, movement and love are endless.

To be a dancer takes guts.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Bailey Moon

February 11, 2015
In a novel twist, EYE ON DANCE (EOD), the television series that captured the stories of thousands of artists and was recently named an “Irreplaceable National Dance Treasure,” becomes the touchstone of new piece by choreographer Chafin Seymour. Program curators Celia Ipiotis and Julie Malnig designed the evening “African American Footprints Leading to the Future” to include the EOD screening, live dance performance and panel discussion.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the EOD episode (shot in 1991) features David Roussseve and Pat Hall Smith discussing an artist’s understanding of cultural and racial identity through family narratives and how the creative process re-routes lifelong confrontations with racism. Moderated by EYE ON DANCE creator and producer, Celia Ipiotis, the program is peppered with performance excerpts by Rousseve and Smith.

NYU Gallatin Interdisciplinary Arts Program commissioned Chafin Seymour. The evening concludes with a panel discussion moderated by Celia Ipiotis featuring Chafin Seymour, David Roussève, and NYU professors Julie Malnig, and Michael Dinwiddie.
> The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts theater, 1 Washington Place

February 10, 2015
Suzanne Beahrs Dance presented “Rise,” Saturday evening at Danspace in St. Mark’s Church. The 50-minute piece opened with two members of the all female cast, in a duet. Sparkly pants accent neutrals, in jumpsuits, pants, and dresses. The shimmer hints on the precipice of a rise and fall action that occurs throughout.

In Beahrs’ mind the piece serves as way to get closer to a comfortability with self and others. An internal examination that gives glimmers of understanding but never achieves the peak of full realization. The dancers whisk and whip, falling into deep lunges and playfully hop, skip, stepping in tune. It’s movement based in the fundamentals with a frothiness that lightens and also deeply grounds. Beahrs herself takes the stage and in the highlight moment performs a solo with fierceness and direct confidence.

Each movement is extended and contracted with an end result. In the first moment of clarity, Beahrs shines. As the other dancers begin to join, the focus becomes slightly muddled. The piece picks up, throwing in jumps and turns, the energy elevates but sinks again with a change to piano. Beahrs has figured it out for herself, but perhaps not quite yet for the others.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

February 4, 2015
Whimsically clad in sparkly black dress, dancer Nadia Tykulsker stares down at the uncooked chicken resting on the plush red pillow in front of her. In one hand she holds a knife and in the other she hold one of the many lemons that have been thrown at her by invisible hands offstage. This visual from the opening solo, Cluck, is one of the many magical moments present during Shannon Hummel /Cora Dance presents Stories at the BAM Fisher theater.

Choreographer and Artistic Director, Shannon Hummel took to the stage at the top of the show to perform in her first collaborative work with hip-hop dancer, Solomon Goodwin.

This “pre-show” work set the stage for the evening of dance, which was inspired by the way the Red Hook community in Brooklyn influenced the work the company created in their studio that was located there, until that very night. Before Stories began, Hummel took a moment to explain that this very day was the company and schools last day in that community due to the rising rent prices in the area. With a heavy but completely gracious heart, Stories is an exhibition and love letter to the diverse community that has welcomed them over the pat 6 years.

The children who attend the Cora Dance School, 90% who are on scholarship, performed during the intermission in the hallways and common spaces of the building. These site specific pieces were a way of showing the diversity of what Cora Dance has begun to grow in terms of movement and style.

The second solo performance of the night, Enough, was made for and performed by Katie Dean. A Brechtian take on performance and practice, Dean moved, marked, and stood silently in the corner as explored all the ways a dance practices and inhabits work. The house lights stayed up as she went into the crowd, greeting family and friends and excusing herself as she cut in and out of rows. Though interesting and very different from the other pieces in the evening, it was quite long and lost the audience a bit towards the end, though to Hummel’s credit, I believe she was intentionally walking that line.

down here, a full length work, was the final piece of the evening. Danced by Katie Dean and Calia Marshall, it lived within Hummel’s strongest asset, which is the ability to create a new world onstage. Communicating through feelings through a set gestural language, the two women navigated their relationship as it was influenced by tiny tin foil dolls. What sounds silly on paper, was eerie to see. Whether fun or creepy, the evocative nature of the stage picture and the graciousness of the dancers was palpable through every second of the forty-five minute dance.

Though their studio in Red Hook is now officially closed, Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance has a long and rich future in front of them. The evening had an air of community and was a truly magical night of dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

February 3, 2015
The work amassed into Program B of Parsons Dance’s Joyce season flows in a unified sensation that is hard to name – that is, until Elena D’Amario takes the stage in the 1982 landmark, Caught. Parsons is a trickster, yet avoids the mischievous and tasteless connotations of the term. His trickery stems from a curiosity to flush out simple ideas most wouldn’t give the same time of day. As D’Amario teleports through a mid-air manege, Robert Fripp’s back-fed tones seem to pin her to her next destinations. We are reminded of Parsons’ eclectic collaborative habit – he keeps a comprehensive deck of cards.

Guest choreographers outline a flexible movement language that extends the collaborative sensibility. Trey McIntyre’s affectionate Hymn is essentially a petit allegro, the challenge being to make each moment of contact enough, no matter how fleet. Ian Spring and Omar Roman de Jesus catch each other with no extra commentary and surrender to gravity knowing their partner is there. They function in a tender system to assist each other, as gratified to be lifting as when they are suspending in space.

Train gives us a glimpse into Robert Battle’s pre-Ailey process. A Parsons alum, his lineage is clear as he explores the act of bursting from various bonds through what are initially cells of movement strung into complete phrases only by the very end. Applause in the recording of Pankaj Udhas’ percussive marathon goes unedited. Battle chooses to have this loaded sound accompany the dancers’ quieter moments, allowing virtuosity to read as something more necessary than pure flash.

The most notable trick bookended the program. On the opening end, Parsons premiered Whirlaway and closed with 1990’s Nascimento. The premiere felt familiar. Analyzing the structures, it becomes apparent that the pieces are fundamentally the same. Twenty-five years after Nascimento, Parsons recycles his spatial configurations of groups dividing into thresholds to primary foci. Quick passes of brisk movements in separate paths converge in harmonizing patterns. They are equally confusing in expressing concept. Whirlaway shows us a group of ostensibly white people as an example of Allen Toussaint’s vision of peaceful living while Nascimento shows the same group dancing to Brazilian pop as if they were on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Individual qualities still surface. Whirlaway examines social dancing, tapping into the sensation of the partying self. Abby Silva Gavezzoli dances long solo sections while isolated duets execute patterns of grands jetes, highlighting the border between independence and aloofness in social gatherings. Nascimento is more visually inventive. Phrases contrast the South American rhythms. Arm patterns are kaleidoscopic and multiple tempi are danced at once, distilling post-modern devices into pleasant imagery. Both have the ensemble sitting to watch whoever is meant to be watched from behind, despite that person performing for us. Perhaps they are watching their colleagues. Perhaps they are watching us watch as well.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

NYC BALLET Concerto Barocco-Goldberg Variations
February 1, 2015
Unquestionably a magnificent piece of choreography, George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco keeps giving and giving and giving to its audience. It’s a marvelous dance puzzle that’s as addicting as any computer game. Of course, the dancers have a thing or two to do with this season’s stellar performance to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The musically luscious Sara Mearns coupled with an outstanding Teresa Reichlen in a demonstration of grace under technical pressure. Arms move boldly against legs drawing wide circles on the floor and lifting into leaps.

The music's structure is fully revealed in the choreography. Complex details add up to an elegant simplicity. Dressed in white tunics and tights, the dancers bear a youthful look enhanced by the 8-member corps frisky movements outlining and embracing the central female couple.

Because Mearns is larger and expansively generous in her movements, Reichlen is a perfect counterpart with her easy head and effortless leg manipulations. The conversation between the corps, two lead women and one male, Ask LaCour is scintillating. Tightly rehearsed, the corps flanks the leads; two dancers skittering sideways, while two others slowly peel away.

At one point, the corps faces each other in 2 lines, raise their arms to form an arcade, and Ask Lacier lead by a string of girls run through the arcade only to stop just before passing under the first arm, twist around and start supporting one dancer after another. A magnificent performance, this cast magnifies the ballet’s inherent eloquence.

The second half of the program saw the return of Jerome Robbins’ nearly 90-minute, evening length dramatically abstract ballet choreographed in 1971 to Bach’s score of the same name. A suite of dances, the ballet starts with a couple, Faye Arthurs and Zachary Catazaro executing a Brogue-style dance followed by contemporary section and returning to a mix of contemporary and historical sensibility.

Courtly etiquette, delicate hand gestures, and neat footwork stretches into full blooded athletics wonderfully delivered in Part 1 by the droll Joseph Gordon and nicely stretched Anthony Huxley. Particularly astute at making ballet steps look very contemporary, Robbins’ draws some of the sections out beyond their natural gene pool.

When Sterling Hyltin, Maria Kowroski and Tiler Pick command the stage in Part II, some of the choreographic vigor returns. Recently featured in the Kennedy Center Honors Awards Ceremony, Ms. Peck danced in tribute to the honoree, former NYC Ballet Principal Patricia McBride—the equivalent of “America’s Sweethert ballerina.” Similarly, Ms. Peck is nothing short of exceptional in her ease, pluck and openness.

In truth, the whole company navigated the choreography’s stylistic shifts with boundlessly youthful vigor.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 27, 2015
I’m experiencing a wave of dance nationalism in a week of embarrassing ballet riches. New York City is host to Russia’s premiere dance company, the Mariinsky at BAM and NYC ballet at Lincoln Center. The Americans no longer look to France or Russia as exemplars of superb classical dance because many of the best are right here in New York City.

The first week of programming at New York City Ballet featured works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins.

. Dancers in alluring Russian folk-style dresses by Santo Loquasto eased on stage in Peter Martins’ Symphonic Dances to the lush music of Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Both Sterling Hyltin and her partner Andrew Veyette draw gracious, plucky performances out of their featured duets. Arms swing forward and one-legged hops suggest folklore roots tipped in ballet. A strong corps of stormy dancers, particularly Harrison Ball, surrounds the lead couple making the tension between the lead couple and corps most satisfying.

Angular forms strike staccato rhythms in Jerome Robbins’ scary dance “The Cage.” Lauren Lovette’s petit form erupts in venomous force out of a female corps sporting Don King style electrified hair. Her thin limbs snap in and out hands shake tension out until she spies a male intruder, Craig Hall, and chokes his head between her thighs. Created in 1951, Robbins’ choreography suggests Martha Graham’s use of torso contractions, hyper extended backs and hellacious women.

A sweet, but choreographically inconsequential “Andantino” by Robbins proves Tyler Peck’s panache and over achieving commitment can raise the quality of any choreography.

But in the end, the dancers in Cortege Hongois swoop on stage exhibiting the company’s excellent ballet chops. Choreographed by George Balanchine as tribute to Melissa Hayden in 1973, the pomp and circumstance of this piece thrills with its nod to the 19th century Eastern European courtly splendors and folk traditions.

Partnered by a solid Tyler Angle, Sara Mearns commands her space shooting her energy far beyond the perimeters of the theater. Proud of bearing, Mearns communicates the music’s plush melodies and grandeur in the snap of a wrist or the upward tilt of her chin. It sends chills up the audience’s collective spine to see someone so immersed inside a dance. Another impressive performer, Georgina Pazcoguin flings her head back over a deeply arched back almost shouting with glee in the colorful czardas section. The New York City Ballet dancers honored the choreography of Balanchine, Robbins and Martins.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 23, 2015
Fans packed the BAM Gilman Opera house for the opening night of the Mariinsky Ballet’s production of Swan Lake famously set to Tchaikovsky’s melancholy score and conducted by Valaery Gergiev, Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theatre. This visit offers audiences an opportunity to experience a production based on the 1895 production by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov) and remade in 1950 by Constantine Sergeyev. Known for a haunting final act, it includes the colorful character dances and single-breathing corps.

Perhaps jet-lagged (having arrived a couple of days earlier from Russia), the ballet company and orchestra shifted in and out of focus on opening night. However, a few nights later, the music and dancing was far more coherent.

When the young bachelor Prince Siegfried (Vladimir Shklyarov) goes hunting, a flock of swans materialize on a lake and suddenly, the Swan Queen, Odette (Viktoria Tereshkina) transforms into a beautiful woman. A low-keyed dramatic ballerina, Ms. Tereshkina does not register large emotions. Cool and contained, her technique features a long, pliant back, secure turns and elegant extensions; however, her feet look dowdy and she does not connect emotionally to the Prince, Vladimir Shklyarov.

The clear ribbon of corps dancers encasing and revealing the Swan Queen, remind the audience of this company’s proud tradition, one that stretches back to czarist Russia in the 18th century. One of the great pleasures of the company is watching the traditional character dances. Particularly delightful, the Neapolitan Dance (Anna Lavrinenko, Alexey Nedviga) and the Hungarian Dance (Oleg Belik, Boris Zhurilov) capture the spirited turns, prances and head flings that unfurl bright hair ribbons and full skirts.

Under the spell of the evil Rothbart (Andrei Yermakov), Odette and her swan court revert to avian forms when the first rays of dawn strike. After pledging true love to Odette, the Prince faces a castle full of beautiful ladies at a ball organized by his parents. Uninterested in anyone, suddenly the horns blare and a mysterious guest appears. It’s Odile (Odette’s mean twin) escorted by the sorcerer-like Rothbart.

Immediately, the Prince partners the fiendish Odile as she snaps into dagger-like arabesques, spits out crispy turns—all the while, casting knowing glances at Rothbart. Ms. Tereshkina perks up a bit in this section, and reels off an impressive string of 32 fouettes peppered with double revolutions. Sexual heat remains at a cool simmer, but in the final act, the Prince and Odette exude a sense of despair. Undone when the Prince rips off his wings, Rothbart writhes on the floor, dies and the two are united. Yes, this version has a happy ending---maybe that was intended to suggest Russia’s future as a communist nation?

The second Swan Lake program was palpably stronger. Featuring Oxana Skorik (Odette/Odile) and Zander Parish (Prince Siegfried), as well as a nastily, sterling Rothbart (Yuri Smekalov), the music, conducted by Gavriel Heine, and dancers proved much clearer and sharper. Skorik’s creamy arms appear to originate from the middle of her back, framing her body in airy, undulating waves. Her Prince, Mr. Parish demonstrates a fine classical line and good dancer’s body, but he betrays unfinished landings from turns and jumps. Once Odette breaks out of the virginal white into Odile black tutu, Ms. Skorik’s eyes flash, casting them down seductively and then opening them wide looking first at Rothbart and then at the Prince.

One must note as well the strong technical and theatrical performance by Yuri Smekalov—in a ferocious death scene—and the Two Swans Yekaterina Ivannikova and Anastasia Nikitina.

Despite the company’s inconsistencies, there’s something marvelous about watching a Swan Lake production that engraved the Mariinsky Ballet’s international reputation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 21, 2015
Oh my, what a panorama of characters invades Alexi Ratmansky’s Cinderella. One of this generation’s most prized ballet choreographers, Ratmansky fiddles with the fairytale Cinderella and comes out with a confusing, character clashing full length ballet that does not burnish his applauded choreographic gifts.

At the center of the ballet, a work-worn Cinderella (the exquisite Diana Vishneva) longs for acceptance, and a chance to meet a prince at the ball. Her alcoholic father (Soslan Kulaev) is shunned by the wonderfully outrageous step-mother (Lyubov Kozharskaya) who competes with everyone including her two ungainly daughters. There are a number of changes in this fairy tale’s characters—dancing master is replaced by a haughty hairdresser couple Khudishka (margarite Frolova) and Kubishka (Yekaterina Ivannikova), four men represent the four seasons, for no more apparent reason than to show-off the costumes by Elena Markovskaya.

The fairy godmother ambles in dressed as a homeless old woman and is taken in by the warm hearted Cinderella. A captivating Cinderella, Vishneva applies her stellar imagination to a role lacking in invention. Technically confident and theatrically compelling she, like many a great actor, can bring untold greatness to the most meager work.

Cinderella is performed to a score by Sergei Prokofiev with a libretto by Nikolai Volkov after motifs from the fairytale by Charles Perrault.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 10, 2015
It was a lively presentation of dance at The Joyce Theater this week, thanks to the creative genius of choreographer Doug Elkins and his capable, genre-shifting dancers. Elkins has quickly made an impression in the performing arts world, even prior to formally assembling his company, doug elkins choreography, etc., in 2009. Perhaps most notable to date is his 2006 “Fräulein Maria” – a creative deconstruction of the beloved The Sound of Music.

The program opened with the New York premiere of his most recent brainchild, “Hapless Bizarre.” Immediately the vaudeville, comedic flare of the work consumes; the “hapless” Mark Gindick unsuccessfully races after a scurrying black bowler hat. Gindick, in fact, is a comedic actor welcomed by Elkins into the creative process and performance.

Soon he is joined by five other performers, donning psychedelic-patterned ensembles (Oana Botez). The odd guy out, he swirls between their caricatured interactions as they saunter across the space, pass the token hat, mirror mimed make-up application, and engage in atypical partner work. Most memorable is Deborah Lohse – her lankiness and impressive height is played up well, allowing for humorous, even awkward, moments.

Though the non-linear “Hapless Bizarre” succeeds in its lighthearted captivation, it’s the second and final work of the program that steals the show. “Mo(or)town/Redux” is a polished piece marrying Shakespeare’s “Othello” with the popular music of Motown. Inspiration is further credited to Jose Limon’s masterwork, “The Moor’s Pavane.”

Similar to Limon, Elkins too pins four dancers as the central characters, though in an entirely contemporary imagining with choreography that spans emotive, almost balletic, moments and movement phrases that evolve into spurts of impressive technique and break dance. Here Alexander Dones shines. His masterful solos showcase swift footwork and clean delivery – not to mention an impressive, aerial fan-kick turn which he seemed to suspend midair.

The focus on the universal themes of love and betrayal serve the abstracted narrative dance well. A white handkerchief is the sole prop – the prized token of love, stolen to mislead Othello’s trust. From the Jackson 5 to an acoustic version of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” the music further adds an element of fun of fun, familiarity, and alluded plot.

“I am interested in the collision of high art/low art, trash and treasure…taking pre-existing things and passing through them to find something entirely new,” Elkins notes. As this program reaffirmed, his open-minded, collaborative mentality is exactly what makes the work so intriguingly dynamic.

The performance was part of a return engagement run at The Joyce Theater featuring the LA-based company, BODYTRAFFIC, and doug elkins choreography, etc. on alternating nights.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

January 9, 2015
Bodytraffic, the LA based dance repertory company, brought four works to the Joyce. Founded in 2007 by Lillian Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett (who danced in all four pieces), the company is a mixture of contemporary and modern theatrics, with different choreographic influences rounding it out.

The program opened with an excerpt from Barak Marshall’s “And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square…” A strong opening and closing ensemble dance helped save the piece from becoming drowned out clichés. Hand and arm gestures make up most of the movement, and the dancers are sharp and practiced in their execution. At one point a suitor sits on a bench reading a paper while different women vie for his attention- each of them failing to do so and being killed off in the process. Perhaps the thorough storyline will help to explain the missing gaps, but an excerpt is supposed to entice not to perturb. Although not a featured dancer, Miguel Perez was particularly enticing to watch when the group gathered to dance. He has a sharp quality that is eye catching.

Victor Quijada’s “Once Again, Before You Go,” is lofty and resolute. Andrew Wojtal glides through the space, sifting through layers of invisible matter, in order to find a quiet place and moment. Two other male dancers join him as Berkett slips onto the stage and into our minds. Every step is subtle almost to the point of forgetting the phrase you just watched minutes before. Just as the movement glides into a static zone, Berkett whisks herself into the air and the three men catch her. Black out.

In usual Hofesh Shecter style, words appear illuminated on the backdrop. “In the beginning,” they read. From that moment, its non stop action and reaction in “Dust,” the evening’s world premier. Three male/female couples in red dresses and black suits rise and fall on stage. Their movement is quick and winding, as if spooling thread back onto a stick, it’s effervescently in transit.

In a piece better suited for the opening, Berkett, Wojtal, and the dynamic Guzman Rosado bring character and spirit to Richard Siegal’s “The New 45.” The music roars the dancers into somewhat of a dance off. She does quick steps. And then his are quicker. This game continues. Laced with fun solos along the way, “The New 45,” is entertaining, and that’s all its intended to be.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

December 16, 2014
Juilliard dance presented New Dances: Edition 2014 last week at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre. Each class worked with a different choreographer culminating in four new pieces from Austin McCormick (2018), Loni Landon (2017), Kate Weare (2016), and Larry Keigwin (2015).

In McCormick’s “La Folia,” the dancers pushed sexiness too strongly and it lost its luster. The ladies wore black leotards with small cage skirts, the gents in pants with suspenders, and everyone in kitten heels. Teen angst seeped through the untidiness of the pieces and although their efforts felt passionate the performance fell short. Perhaps the true detailed essence of McCormick’s work is better suited for an intimate setting instead of a work for 24. His youth and novelty that shine through his baroque contemporary style is deeply alluring and I imagine he will continue to work through the kinks of his own dialogue.

In a post apocalyptic world resides the dancers of the class of 2017. It is not really their world- they just live there- ownership belongs to Loni Landon. Watching her latest work “and then there was one,” is like taking a big exhale- there is an intake that happens prior to- a middle ground filled with action and release and an ending that is satisfactory. The work is full bodied yet transient in delivery. Stop motion movement blends the class to breathe as one entity. Lead by two of Juilliard’s finest dancers at the moment Conner Bormann and Riley O’Flynn, the class has encapsulated a maturity that is unique and still under developed, giving room for exciting possibilities to emerge in the future.

One of the most under recognized dance creators of the moment, Kate Weare's exceptional talent and crafting abilities always moves beyond the examination of steps and music into a study of the human state and psyche. In “Night Light,” Weare’s group is slinky and understated. They saturate the stage with movement at once structured and shimmery. Flocking from lines into small groups there is ease with each formation and movement pattern. She finds sophistication in her arrangement that is fresh and wise. The dancers are committed to the moment, sometimes trance like and at others banging their bodies with the floor to create rhythms and texture. In the final moment two male dancers in wide lunges turn their gaze to the audience for the first time, as their colleagues surround the stage. A single glance that begs the question “do you want more?” Yes we do!

The final piece of the evening was the senior class in Keigwin’s “Exit Like an Animal,” a fun and active dance that helped liven the mood after the previous somber numbers. Jetting across the stage in twos and threes, the dancers jump and prance in high cut black body suits. It comes with no surprise that these dancers have undeniable chemistry onstage. They represent themselves as dynamic individuals but blend together as a group with ease. No examination of technique or artistry is required for they offer it up without question. Like gazelles floating through the space, they achieve a bliss that doesn’t require complicated choreography or ideas. The class of 2015 is enjoying the moment and their performance is quite simply refreshing.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

December 9, 2014
EYE ON DANCE Public Screening: The Politics of Dance in Israel
Gibney Dance Center’s recent “Sorry I Missed Your Show” event delved into the Israeli dance scene -from its slow start to today’s success and international appreciation. The free, public screening featured a one-of-a-kind EYE ON DANCE episode that originally aired in New York in 1991. In the episode, Producer and host, Celia Ipiotis discusses the politics of dance in Israel with Jeannette Ordman, the well-known director of the country’s (now-defunct) Bat Dor Dance Company. “Dance has taken longer,” Ordman noted, alluding to the Israeli culture’s affinity for music.

A focal point within the discussion is the dynamic between the arts and the government. Plagued by war and unrest, the Israeli dancers were quite used to rehearsing with their masks lined before the studio mirrors. In addition, the country’s mandatory service meant excellently trained dancers diverted to army during their prime years of 18-21. Luckily, some accommodations were possible for artists; many were stationed close to the theater and rehearsal studios in Tel Aviv to continue participation in dance classes with at least some consistency.

As Ipiotis brings up the work of Martha Graham, Ordman fondly remembers attending a performance of hers in London, and “the fullness of her movement, the depth of it.” Differing from the American modern dance icon who is crediting with influencing countless choreographers however, Ordman viewed dancers and choreographers as very distinct artists. “What would you say if I wanted to write a book in Hebrew?” she once told a dancer expressing interest in choreography. “You must learn your language before you can talk with it.” In the same vein she discusses the significance of teaching dance, describing it as an incredible responsibility, and one over someone else’s body. It is clear that her systematic dance training and high standard of professional etiquette are certainly remaining legacies.

Following the screening, Ipiotis moderated a panel discussion with the Israeli dancers, choreographers, and filmmakers Ze’eva Cohen and Dana Katz. As Ipiotis noted in her opening remarks, “EYE ON DANCE was meant to be timeless, to connect the world of dance with much broader social, cultural, historical and political themes.” This proved true in the rich experiences, memories, and opinions shared by the panel guests, bringing the issues of two decades past into a contemporary light.

Both Cohen and Katz served two years in the army while training as often as possible. In fact, Cohen recalls being stationed in the dessert and hitchhiking hours to Tel Aviv and back in order to take classes at night, until she was caught and asked to be relocated. Katz, who trained under Ordman during the final years of her life, remembers her powerful presence in the studio even following two hip surgeries (after which she returned to stage) and a difficult bout of breast cancer.

Funded almost entirely privately, as no government funding was readily available, Bat Dor marked one of the leading contemporary dance companies of the country at the time. Today, many more are flourishing, even traveling abroad, and Israel is now home to some great dance festivals. Cohen asserts, “Dance used to be very isolated [in Israel] during my time. Now it is very porous.” This January, New Yorkers will have can experience the benefits of this cultural shift at the 92nd Street Y’s “Out of Israel Festival,” curated by Katz. It will feature the work of her company, DanaKa Dance, along with other Israeli-influenced choreographers.

And for those who want to share in the continuation of an unmatched resource chronicling America's dance heritage, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to the EYE ON DANCE Legacy Archive Campaign HERE
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

December 8, 2014
The American Dance Guild held their performance festival over the weekend opening with a Thursday evening Gala at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. The gala presented awards to honorees Joan Myers Brown, Douglas Dunn, and Bill Evans.

In the first half of the program, some of the festival’s choreographers presented works from the past and present. In “Sketch #1,” the fierce and dynamic Jody Oberfelder was tossed around and tipped upside down by the flexible Ben Follensbee. Their piece was fun and quirky.

After intermission Celia Ipiotis founder and host of the no longer running PBS series Eye on Dance, which has transitioned into an archive being restored for digital access, presented archival clips and interviews of the honorees. A special live interview between Ipiotis and Evans followed. Afterwards Evans took his taps to the stage for an inspiring solo to music by George Gershwin.

Hope Boykin of the Alvin Ailey Company paid tribute to her teacher Joan Myers Brown with a self choreographed solo. Whipping a long white dress as she spun, Boykin captured a finesse and ease in her powerful movements. Eyes trailed her patterns over the stage as she whisked quickly about. Too soon her performance was over but her energy resonated still on the stage.

Finally Douglas Dunn joined some of his dancers on stage mixing performance art and classic modern movement. Each honoree was moved by short speeches given by former students and colleagues. In the final moment a young Jacob’s Pillow scholarship winner taped his way over to Evans as he gave him his award. An impromptu tap duet followed. The audience couldn’t help but be moved as it became clear the power of dance knows no age but only passion and heart.

And according to Ms. Ipiotis, those who want to participate in the continuation of an unmatched resource chronicling America's dance heritage, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to the EYE ON DANCE Archive Legacy Campaign HERE.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

December 3, 2014
“Sorry I Missed Your Show” presents
EYE ON DANCE (EOD) video screening: Episode #326 (produced 1991)
Topic: “Dance in Israel”
DATE: Dec. 3, 2014 at 6:30pm
Location: Gibney Dance Center 890 Broadway, 5th Floor
Tickets: FREE
Guest: Jeanette Ordman, Director of Bat-Dor Dance Company
Moderator: Celia Ipiotis, EOD creator, producer, moderator
Performance Excerpts: Oscar Araíz' Cantares, Gene Hill Sagan's And after, Nils Christe's Luminescences, Domy Reiter-Soffer's Notturni ed Alba, and Rodney Griffin's Piaf vaudeville.

Celia Ipiotis invites Jeannette Ordman to describe the riveting path forged by artists to establish contemporary dance in Israel. Produced in 1991, the conversation covers the rise of a dance company in a land of constant upheaval, and Ms. Odrmdan’s own battle with a life-threatening disease. Ms. Ordman underscores the many obstacles facing dance like mandatory army service as well as the company’s audition process, selection of choreographers, Martha Graham’s influence and dancers’ health issues. Copyright 1991, Arts Resources in Collaboration, Inc.

Post-Screening Panel:
Moderator: Celia Ipiotis, Curator of the EOD Legacy Archive
Guests: Ze’eva Cohen, Israeli dancer, choreographer and filmmaker
Dana Katz, dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and co-curator of the Out of Israel festival of The 92nd Street Y.
Discussion: Similarities and developments within the Israeli dance community since the 1991 EOD interview, and the upcoming 2015 Israeli Dance festival at the 92 Street Y.

November 20, 2014
Three Centuries of Russian Ballet, danced by the Mikhailovsky Ballet, provided a welcome respite from the bitter cold at the Koch Theater Wednesday evening. Opening with Le Halte De Cavalerie, a revival of rare choreography by Marius Petipa, was either charming and delightful or dated and provincial. It was definitely a showcase for the supple and skilled Leonid Sarafanov. His partner Anastasia Soboleva had difficulties, especially in the balances and promenades, but everyone committed to the absurd nature of the piece and made it fun.

The most interesting piece on the program was Class Concert, with choreography by Asaf Messerer, a distinguished dancer, ballet master, and choreographer from the Moscow Ballet School and Bolshoi Theater. This piece, from 1962, exhibits the classical training that one expects and relishes from Russian ballet. It is a staged class with company members doing the most advanced work, supplemented here by students from local American school such as the Vaganova Ballet Academy, Ellison Ballet, Brighton Ballet, Gesley Kirkland Academy and Greenwich Ballet. It was exciting, polished and energetic dancing meant to show off both the bravura moves and the delicate artistry. Natalia Osipova, with her skirt artfully tucked up, took a spectacular fall, yet virtually bounced back up right into her pirouettes.

The program closed with resident choreographer and former artistic director Nacho Duato's Prelude, (2011). It is a meeting of classical and contemporary dance and while the movement was compelling, the decor and lighting, by Alla Marusina and Brad Fields, was a spectacular addition. From glittering wings that created a canopy of trees, to a chandelier, to a door with glass, each element provided contrast to the simple yet dramatic choreography. A favorite moment was when the dancers held up a scenic back drop of a woodland clearing only to disappear under it when they let go.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deborah Wingert

November 18, 2014
Irish step dance is a captivating form in it’s own right, but that did not stop Darrah Carr Dance from giving it a modern twist. At the Irish Arts Center in Hells Kitchen, The Darrah Carr dancers took to the stage to perform in their collaborative dance form they call ModERIN. Part modern, part Irish step dance this series of dances were a lighthearted and fun way to spend an evening. It is a unique venture to blend these two forms, and though not always cohesive, there were many moments that made you want to jump right out of your seat.

The typical modern vocabulary found new life when sprinkled with patterns and movements taken from the world of Irish Step. This was reflected most successfully in the piece ‘S An Cuan Eadrainn (and the Sea Between Us). The added use of live music, with the vocalist (and choreographer) Christopher Caines stepping from side stage to interact with the dancers, presents a feeling of both Irish and Modern as a continuous blend. A sense of yearning could be felt throughout the dance in both the moments derived from modern vocabulary--reaching arms and an airy quality to the flow of transition--as well as the incorporated details of Step.

The most spectacular moments were seen in the Tradition Tunes performed by musician Liz Hanley and dancer/choreographer Niall O’Leary and Percussive Pause performed by Trent Kowalik. Both these solos highlighted the percussive nature of step. Dance and rhythm were so intricate and fast paced it was hard to match the sounds with the movement of the feet. In breathtaking speed, Kowalik stunned the audience who responded in uproarious applause as his feet came to a well deserved rest. The skill of the dancers, especially those who were highly proficient at Step dancing, really made the movement vital, creating a great showcase for a new style collaboration.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

November 16, 2014
The shows literally starts with a bang. With no announcement or warning, a huge crashing sound emanates from the speakers at the house lights blackout, to stage lights up and Sadeh21 begins. This piece by the Batsheva Dance Company is a mix of intense, captivating, and immensely pleasant sequences. Each section (or “Sadeh”) is decisively original, yet fits together perfectly. As the developer of the Gaga style of dance, Ohad Naharin‘s choreography reflects the larger than life organic movement that Gaga promotes.

Vocalizations and projections add texture to the already compelling movement. Naharin is particularly skilled in presenting simple ideas then playing within the boundaries he has set. A great example of this happens in a moment where dancer Adi Ziatin stands downstage staring right at the audience- confronting them. She begins to articulate what, in the moment, seems like a random organization of the numbers one through five. She repeats this specific pattern of numbers and just as the pattern becomes familiar to the audience, dancers enter the stage and group themselves in ways that reflect the numbers being called out. First Nararin established a vocal pattern, then he laid out how those numbers affect the dancers, and within that structure he then begins to play with tempo, levels, and quality of movement. Taking a small idea and blowing it out until it is fully heightened is a choreographic gift that is present throughout this work. This mix of complex movements and simple repetitions, layer meaning and intent to each section of the piece.

Ultimately the most satisfying moment comes right at the end. After a score comprised of a woman screaming, for what feels like an eternity, the dance transitions to a tranquil space. The dance takes place within a white room built on stage, with the back wall extending up only a fraction of the height provided by the BAM Opera House. As the screaming ends, dancers begin to crawl onto the top of the wall, stand there for a brief moment, then release their bodies and fall to an unseen void. The first person falls and soon there is a constant stream of dancers crawling onto the wall and then falling off or eventually diving into the unknown behind the wall. As this fluid stream of ups and downs continues the credits begin to roll on the wall where they projected each Sadeh title. It is a overwhelmingly pleasant way to cap of a visceral and thought-provoking performance.

EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

November 14, 2014
The Mikhailovsky Ballet from St Petersburg, Russia is dancing a two week run at the David Koch Theatre in Lincoln Center. They begin with the classic two act ballet “Giselle.” As many ballets are, “Giselle,” is a romantic tragedy, with a delicate balance between reaction and over-reaction.

In Wednesday’s performance Angelina Vorontsova danced the title role. From the first moment she dips the tip of her pointe show on to the stage, she plays innocencent but its sincere not forced. Her gestures are authentic, her eyes wide and full of emotion. As the Count (Albrecht in most versions), danced by Ivan Vasiliev, professes his love, she is passionate in her response but tentative. As the ballet carries on and it becomes clear the pairing of the two principals is a little off in connection, Vorontsova manages to maintain a stoicism that saves her from becoming the overacted Giselle.

Vasiliev, is a fine partner and an excellent jumper. Perhaps his smaller stature distracts from the princely element one usually looks for in a count. His expressions in Act 1, lighten up the over used gestures, but at times turn comical which sullies the storyline.

Intricate woodland sets cover the Koch stage. In Act II a piece of a tree covers the Queen of the Willis, danced by the fiercly dynamic Ekaterina Borchenko. As it rises, the rest of the ensemble emerges creating the white dreamy sequence that has become historic. Borchenko plays her Queen part feminist, part slave driver. Each movement is direct and precise, and the corps of Willis follow suit behind her.

The production on a whole is quite lovely, with many fine moments from the principal dancers, however it seems to lack a fluidity in storyline and presentation. Sequencing at times felt choppy when it should have been delicate and sincere. In the final moments as the Count dances for his life, Vasiliev literally jumps until his legs collapse underneath him. An aspect that pertains to the group, that even if all the pieces don’t align quite right, they give it their all and dance to the death.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

November 14, 2014
A few years ago, amidst a spurt of press, ABT principal David Halberg joined the Bolshoi as a guest artist. Part of the allure was the opportunity to partner the remarkable ballerina, Natalia Osipova. But soon after his arrival, Osipova was poached by the wealthy owner/manager (Vladimir Kekman) of the Mikhailovsky Ballet. Determined to compete with the world class Mariinsky and Bolshoi Ballet, Mikahilovsky lured dancers from the ranks of the major troupes. The question remains, can this company compete on a level with its peers.

In a three-week season, the Mikhailovsky Ballet, directed by Mikhail Messerer, intends to answer that question and establish its mark. The first program features the 19th century tragedy Giselle. A village girl falls in love with a Count, who hides his true identity, only to learn the man who pledged undying love is betrothed. Already weakened by a bad heart, Giselle goes mad and dies.

Giselle passes into the realm of the wilis, jilted women who transform into ethereal creatures and alight in the darkness of night. Led by the steely Myrta, any man who enters their haunted forest is doomed to dance himself to death.

In the two casts that appeared opening night and the following matinee, Natalia Osipova and Anastasia Soboleva played Gieselle. Two very different interpretations emerged. Clearly in control from beginning to end, Osipova described a 21st century Giselle. After her robust death, Ossipova's effervescent white tulle form whirls in a cyclone of turns and jumps that compete with her suitor. However, Ms. Osipova shows effort in her expansive leaps, bounding jumps and flashy turns, not a shadowy etherealness.

Ms. Soboleva appeared a more natural Giselle. Easily pleased by her suitor, a technically fine Victor Lebedev, they sparked a chemistry missing in the opening night program. Both Sobleva and Lebedev share an effortless technique and marvelous spines that arch fluidly over lunges and airborne arabesques. Joining Osipova, Leonid Sarafanov, looking a bit like Peter Pan, is youthful and full of mischievous fun. Technically his form is clear and pliant. However, the two never matched energies or hearts.

Staged by staged by the renowned dancer, Nikita Dolgushin, this production is edited and more focused, still the company never really glistens. There’s a good deal of talent being nurtured in the ranks, and after a few more performances, this range will be revealed. All four lead dancers are worth catching in other productions during the run at the David H. Kock Theater.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 7, 2014
Across the back of Danspace at St. Mark’s Church, white paper stretches lengthwise over a white Marley floor. Home movies project revealing a determined little girl, around 3 years old, pumping her arms and tromping down the sidewalk. Next to the projection, Netta Yerushalmy snaps out a brisk walk forward, and twists back reflecting the intent if not the exact steps in the film. The tautly rhythmic passage repeats again and again until it turns into a mental hum. This theme resonates throughout the new work “Helga and The Three Sailors.” It would seem Yerushalmy is Helga and the three sailors are her supporting dancers, Marc Crousillat, Amanda Kmett’Pendy and Sarah Lifson.

In the first half, the slim Ms. Yerushalmy dominates the action. Easy flow straight-ahead steps basted in the modern dance idiom, concentrate on micro movements that grow in intensity and size as they repeat. At one point, body erect over traveling small steps, Yerushalmy’s shoulders undulate sensually. The action repeats until the three steps resemble a secret folk dance. While Yerushalmy dances alone and flanking projected images of a young girl (this time 5 or 6 years old dancing in a kitchen), the three dancers drape their bodies around the perimeter of the space.

About halfway through, Yerushalmy takes to the corners, and the three dancers move in tandem or solo, casting eyes down or up, squinting at the audience and shaking their limbs around in youthful, giddy ways.

Each of the three dancers takes a spin across the floor in a strong, propulsive riffs that’s reminiscent of a scratched LP repeating a groove over and over. The very fluid Crousillat explores the greatest level of expressivity and technique, while Ms. Lifson displays expert control. In a particularly athletic moment, Crousillat and Lifson stand together facing away from the audience as Ms. Kmett’Pendy rocks over their bodies spreading her straight legs, and neatly swinging her limbs through theirs.

These quirky sequences are mounted over a soundscore that taps into the rhythmic baseline performed and composed by Judith Berkson. Still, white light by designer Carol Mullins draws up and down, at times lengthening and shortening the performance area.

Personable and spare, Ms. Yerushalmy is exploring an individualized track that deserves watching.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 5, 2014
Originally seen in Montclair University’s Peak Performance series, Bill T. Jones returns Story/Time to the far more intimate Bessie Schonberg Theater. This works to the piece’s advantage. Seated behind a simple desk on a stool, legs determinedly apart, Bill T. reads – or actually delivers—a number of one-minute stories. They detail events in his life both professional and personal. While he reads, dancers spray across the stage in a variety of athletic movement sequences. Even if the movement is not intended to illuminate the text, the eye and ear work hard to connect the two. For that reason, the smaller space forces a greater compactness of the two, so that dancers frequently passed behind and next to Mr. Jones at the table. Somehow, the closer proximity of word and action benefit overall comprehension. The company is in excellent form and each night, Mr. Jones selects different stories. Let it be said, the stories that relate to this family resonate the most.

November 1, 2014
Austin Mccormick gets it. He understands the crucial changes that are happening in the spectrum of dance and theatre and he capitalizes on them. “Rococo Rouge,” his newest production, is an entertaining mix of song, dance, and burlesque. In their new home on Lafayette Street in the East Village, Mccormick’s Company XVI has transformed a bar and lounge into NYC’s own Moulin Rouge.

Dapper waiters in black top hats and tails take drink orders as audience members settle into the intimate theatre and the cabaret style seating. Glittering, structurally unique costumes from Zane Philstrom and inspired lighting design by Jeanette Yew set the tone as the curtain rises to beautifully toned and glistening dancers.

The show is organized in three sections with several numbers filling each act. Ranging from dangerously hot and sexy circus acts to sinfully soulful musical numbers, on-stage happenings compete with business men in the front area being teased and taunted by a statuesque male dancer. I mean, what’s your natural response to a Swarovski crystal covered codpiece? That’s where the creative team smartly orchestrates the alcohol component. *Swigs champagne*

Standouts include the outstanding pole dance and the ravishing Katrina Cunningham singing a mellow version of Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love.” The mix of tasteful debauchery and an era of the past, coupled with current pop culture is fresh and smart.

I’m eager to see what’s next for this group of performers. Rumors are swirling its an expansion among this project with a food element in the works. But whatever it is I’m likely to be back. With only a few shows left before “Rococo Rouge,” closes and “Nutcracker Rouge,” opens, I beseech you to go see this show. Lovely adult entertainment that is as much romantic as it is raunchy.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

October 25, 2014
Grayscale emptiness becomes a playground when designed by Rolf Borzik and inhabited by the Tanztheater Wuppertal. The dancehall that houses Kontakthof generates complexity in its bareness. Within the grand proscenium of BAM’s Howard Gillman Opera House, a humbler stage is nestled in Pina Bausch’s multi-layered environments. In three hours, its curtains only give way to a documentary on ducks, performance happening everywhere else. Within the arena between the open frame through which we see and the closed frame before which they act, the presentation of self is dismantled through that which requires the self to be presented: human contact.

Bausch contextualizes the open ends of tenderness by abstracting privacy. A relentless need to divulge information is privileged, though not incited by amplification. The quietude of gossip sours the space as Nazareth Panadero and Julie Shanahan recite their complaints into a mike, while blunt insults catapult from Anna Wehsarg‘s lips – our eye’s perception of the action determining on whom her vitriol lands.

Physical expressions of privacy show performance as habit. The ensemble is an audience to anything that happens, applauding and joining in. Couples demonstrate soft touches mutating into torturous probing. A man and a woman sit across the space, undressing. The company barges in, unprotested. The two reverse their process, repackaging their intimacy for a crowd. After Panadero succumbs to affectionate touches, Julie Anne Stanzak enters with a knowing smirk, attracting behind her Panadero’s assailants. She knows we know that they may repeat their actions on her; still, she leads her procession through the final blackout.

Such gestural marches are Bausch’s trademark, yet here, their forward trajectory is emphasized. The company reaches the edge of the stage, runs frantically back, and starts again while Cristiana Morganti and Aleš Cucek brainstorm where to have dinner. Shanahan maintains her motion in both directions as she struts alone – Andrey Berezin scurries about attempting to sketch her. They are executed as though they would continue indefinitely if the stage were any larger, characterizing performance space as routinely territorial and arbitrary.

Forward motion is duly appropriate as the company trudges forth under Lutz Forster’s directorship. Fresher faces can seem awkward, while veteran performers can appear fatigued by the piece’s voracious demands. Considering the material, we have no reason to not see these performative side effects as invariably thematic to the work as a whole. Not setting out to teach us, the experiences generated to create Bausch’s oeuvre undergo experiences of their own with each new embodiment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 24, 2014
Closing in on its 20th anniversary season next year, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is a company that has thoroughly embraced the contemporary. With its two home bases, an ongoing quest for innovation, and dedication to commissioning and licensing diverse 21st century ballets, the eleven dancer company has met much choreographic talent. This week the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet returned to The Joyce Theater for its seventh season, presenting the works of Cayetano Soto, Jirí Kylián, and Nicolo Fonte.

Beneath muted lights, two couples take off in a whirl of slicing limbs and flared fingers, ferocious in their in execution. Cayetano Soto's "Beautiful Mistake" marks one of the company's recent (2013) commissions, showcasing the dancers' technical strength and athleticism. Before long others enter the space allowing transitions to new encounters and groupings; the mood is serious with a hint of seduction. Perhaps most curious about the presentation of Soto's work is its placement in the program, as it was by far the pinnacle of the evening.

Soto's choreographic style is notable; each movement is compelling in its articulation and asymmetry, which the dancers own in their precise performance. Bouts of silence compliment the intermittent pauses in the movement that showcase far more than stillness and rather off-kilter balances. In particular, senior dancer Samantha Klanac Campanile emerges as a stand out performer, proving practice really does make perfect.

From the adventurous place "Beautiful Mistake" leaves us, Jirí Kylián’s "Return to a Strange Land" shifts to a much more subdue and melancholy atmosphere. The formal structure of alternating duets and trios is colored by intricate lifts which unfurl into images of bodies as momentary sculptures. Dancers in pale blue and nude colored leotards carry out the fluid movement phrases against stark backdrops. This simplicity is challenged just once with a section performed before strewn autumn leaves. The musical accompaniment, four emotional compositions by Leos Janacek, is performed live by Pianist Han Chen. Knowing this work was created in 1975 to commemorate Kylián’s mentor John Cranko, adds a more personal lens to the experience.

Closing the program was Nicolo Fonte's "The Heart(s)pace," another commission which just premiered this past February. It's a lighthearted work pairing Ezio Bosso's high-energy score with color, movement patterns, and smiles. A white scrim stage right creates an immediate sense of space, as if the dancers are partially encased in a room. Seah Johnson's dynamic lighting brings the work from an initial point of passion and intrigue with the stage doused in red, quickly contrasted by piercing white lights, and then evolving to color-blocked panels of red, pink, and orange and white circular patterns splayed across the side scrim.

The movement bounces between spurts of ensemble work in unison to simultaneous solos and a few briefly separated from the group. Occasionally the dancers collect in a "v" pattern center stage or return to the floor, balancing on their backs with their legs lifted upwards. Dancer Seia Rassenti shines in a passionate pas de duex that leaves her alone (only briefly), standing and staring forward, in a hallway of white light across the foot of the stage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jennifer Thompson

October 21, 2014
Kathryn Posin returned to 92Y nearly 30 years after her company’s debut there, with a group of dancers comprised especially for the event. “Voices of America and Bulgaria,” presented four premieres as well as two of Posin’s earlier works. Two of the evening’s strongest pieces were created in conjunction with Momchil Mladneov.

The third piece on the program “Century Rolls,” saw eight dancers fly non-stop through the space in tangerine unitards. They whip their bodies into quick jumps and careen themselves into whimsical movement patterns. Groups break away into solo movements, with the virtuosic Dimitri Kleioris taking the lead. Kleioris, a freelance ballet dancer is in his prime. His debonair looks only add to his elevated saut de basques, clean lines and focus. It would be a shame if an American company didn’t snatch the former New Zealand Ballet dancer up. My one qualm with this number was the rather random and unfinished ending. Perhaps it can still be expanded upon for up until the final moment, I was very much caught in the flow.

Ms. Posin’s mish mosh of freelance dancers really aids her in showing off the strengths of the choreography. They each bring something unique to the work, and work past their pristine technique edging toward a true sense of artistry.

The final piece of the night “Buried Cities,” was an ode to Bulgaria with five dancers representing aspects of the flag. Theatrical and congested in construction, the work as a whole was fun. Another stand out dancer was the lovely Yumelia Garcia. Her strong presence and gorgeous arched feet made it difficult to look away. Posin’s return to the scene is a welcome one. It will be interesting to see where else this project takes her.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

October 16, 2014
Multiple dance ethnicities and aesthetics rolled over the stage in the Fall For Dance Program #3 at City Center. Forceful rhythms curl out of African drums played by Isaac Molelekoa, Nompumelelo Nhlapo and the riveting Anele Ndebele (Rarely are women given permission to play African drums).

Luyanda Sidya’s “Umnikelo” performed by Vuyani Dance Theatre from Johannesburg, South Africa is a heady mix of traditional South African dance forms charged by modern dance moves. Dressed in loose, white tunics and pants, the men and women execute the same athletic moves, lifting one another, centers dropped into the earth and spirits high.

One of the dance community’s star ballerinas, Sara Mearns, principal dancer with NYC Ballet, tossed off an inconsequential dance by Joshua Bergasse to George and Ira Gershwin’s “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise.” Flanked by a chorus of good-looking men in tuxes, it was a slight tribute to Mearns’ dramatic skills and compelling stage presence.

Post modern dance splits the stage space into sections of loopy movements, cushioned by easy knees and rotating arms in Trisha Brown’s “Son of Gone Fishin’ “ to the music of Robert Ashley. Program notes state the infrastructure of the piece relates to the cross-section of a tree trunk. But more to the point, loose swings, stir up dancers splitting apart and veering together in a dewy, technically specific piece.

Festivities ended with the National Ballet of China’s spectacle “The Peony Pavilion” by Fei Bo. Adorned in colorful grand robes and headpieces, the ballet depicting 16th century China is adapted from the theatrical production, The Peony Pavilion. Precision and elegant form prevails until the final, shower of pink rose petals.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

FALL FOR DANCE 2014 - Program Two
October 11, 2014
Strands of American post modern dance roped around fractured neo-classical ballet with a dollop of Spanish urban attitude and community dance hall in the second program of the popular Fall For Dance Series.

The many shades of William Forsythe sparkled in the U.S. premiere of “Neue Suite” (2012). Five duets described his genetic dance progression from traditional ballet (raised in the Joffrey Ballet idiom) rippling through the edgy ballet style pinned to Cunningham’s stringent modern dance aesthetic. Performed by the Semperoper Ballet Dresden, all five couples distinguish themselves by executing the steps in a clean, minimalist style steeped in exaggerated hip thrusts, out of hip socket leg extensions and razor fast one-legged spins.

In the last century—the 9170s’ -- Lucinda Childs represented a group of innovators and dance anarchists who pulled away from the traditional dance scene and sowed forms that gave equal weight to all forms of movement whether it be a walk or pirouettes. Well, actually, few pirouettes emerged, but as witnessed in Lucinda Childs Dance Company’s performance of “Concerto” (1993) there was plenty of walking, skipping and directional shifts all plotted against a gleaming geometrical gird. Childs fleshes out the ornamentation of performative modern dance and ballet, and leaves the essence of steps against strict rhythm and patterns in space.

Again, in the 1970’s there was a fear that hip-hop would die before it took root. Well, that’s hardly a concern because it spread globally and reappeared last night in a strong duet “AP15 choreographed and performed by Sebastian Ramirez and Honji Wang. Opening in silhouette, the slim Wang assumes the profile of a shadow puppet, arms dangling, and legs silently sliding along, twisting and crumbling until Ramirez appears. Like magnetized mechanical toys, they move in tandem. He grabs her head and she twists round and round, the two becoming one.

Finally, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater made the best of Ohad Naharin’s engaging “Minus 16” that brims with a sense o community, belief and ecstasy. First, the remarkable Samuel Lee Roberts stands alone crinkling his arms, legs and torso into spongy moves slinking up dance down his spine. Israeli folk dance elements accent all the stamps and handclasps rotating forward and back over scuttling slides.

Dancers in black suits and white shirts, sit on chairs curved around the stage, dropping their torsos forward and back, popping up into a frenzied solo and then rejoining the corps. In the finale, house lights rise and dancers stream through the aisles selecting people to come on stage and engage in Mideastern style couples dancing. Oddly enough, many of the chosen civilians wore red, and had a mighty fine time—equaled only by the audience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipioits

Fall for Dance 2014– Program One
October 9, 2014
The opening night program of New York City Center's annual "Fall for Dance" festival brought Black Grace, San Francisco Ballet, Russell Maliphant/Sadler Wells London, and Mark Morris Dance Group to the stage in what was a very musically driven evening.

The New Zealand-based company Black Grace presented two of Artistic Director Neil Ieremia's correlating works, distanced in their creation by a decade. Together they proved a great opener for the festival, which aims to showcase diversity and high-level talent. First, the male-only "Minoi" features six in close-knit arrangement, their stances wide as their movements - pulling from traditional Samoan dance style - beget the elaborate soundscape. Stomps, claps, slaps, snaps, synchronized exhales, and deep-voiced chants riddle the purposeful choreography.

The second is an ensemble piece, "Pati Pati," continuing in the same vein with four female dancers introduced into the mix. While more full-bodied, music-making movement comes into play here, it's really the simple elements of ripple effects and contrasting movement patterns that shine within the specific formations. The coordinated uniformity in the Black Grace dancers' timing is enchanting; one can truly see the journey of their rhythms.

Taking a turn for the classical, San Francisco Ballet’s "Variations for Two Couples" follows. Choreographed by Hans Van Manen, this double duet pins the dancers in an evolving maze of largely partnered movement to the various string quartet accompaniment. The work relies on an a balance of abstractions and challenging technique -which its four dancers have an abundance of.

British choreographer Russell Maliphant's "Two x Two" features a barefoot duo in a fluid movement dialogue. However, it's the production effects that become most memorable here; Michael Hulls' lighting is integral, housing dancers Fang-Yi Sheu and Yuan Yuan Tan in their own cube of lit space. Near the end, slivers of light highlight the building speed of their flailing arms and extended feet as Andy Cowton's percussive score intensifies in pace.

Though the program lineup marked two New York premieres and one U.S. premiere respectively, it is the local Mark Morris Dance Group that presents a world premiere, "Words," as a "Fall for Dance" 2014 commission. Mark Morris's choreography here is straightforward, accessible, and yet intricate in its musicality. An added treat, Felix Mendelssohn's "songs Without Words" - to which Morris' work is set - is performed live by the company's associated musicians, violinist Georgy Valtchev and pianist Colin Fowler.

Created for 16 dancers (and 8 while on tour), the heart of Morris' newest creation centers on duets ornamented by surrounding organized chaos - entrances, exits, group moments, contrasting and evolving timing. A screen walked on and off stage serves as a peel away tool, changing the enveloping goings-on by concealing certain exits and additions, triggering a shift in scene and mood. Ultimately the work embraces a carefree aire; the dancers collect, arms extended and gazing upward in a series of dizzying turns.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

October 8, 2014
A minimum of talk allowed maximum flow of dance during the nicely paced Career Transitions for Dancers 29th Anniversary Jubilee at City Center. The evening’s grand honoree was the gracious film and theater star Angela Lansbury. New York City broadcaster Chuck Scarborough opened the ceremony and handed it over to the fabulous looking Chita Rivera who presented the Career Transition for Dancers’ awards honoring Janice Galli Becker, Fe Saracino Fendi and Joe Tremaine & Tremaine Dacne Conventions and Compeition.

After the introductions, a high level of dance fanned out including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Kirven Douthit-Boyd in a compelling solo Takademe by Robert Battle. Latin flair imbued Ballet Hispanico’s “El Beso” by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, while a quirky solo by experimental dance Jonah Bokaer to Lil’ Kim “Who’s Number One?” followed by “Mother Popcorn” by Robert Garland -- Dance Theater of Harlem’s nod to classical ballet bent around urban dance.

A pas de deux by the very popular choreographer Alexi Ratmansky featured American Ballet Theater’s Veronika Part and Blaine Hoven in “Seven Sonatas” and then things got very funky with the heady tribute performance by Rockette Alumnae to “I Wanna Be A Rockette” by Lynn Sullivan Bowers, Jeannie Martin and Fern Gedney. Earlier on, Tony Wagg led the game troupe of tap dancers (American Tap Foundation) in the smile-inducing Shim Sham X 3.

The evening closed with the mighty voiced James Earl Jones honoring Angela Lansbury and like Ms. Lansbury pointed out, it’s a sensational treat just to hear Jones speak in public.

An eclectic evening of dance helped raised money for The Career Transition For Dancers organization which has assisted countless dancers negotiate the perilous shift from a performance career to another occupation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 6, 2014
Career Transition For Dancers’ 29th Anniversary Jubilee is followed by dinner at The Grand Ballroom at The Hilton New York. Angela Lansbury will receive the 2014 Rolex Dance Award. Broadway dancer & choreographer Alex Sanchez has created a special number with some of the best dancers from the great white way for the show. The music has been composed by Steven Jamall, who is the Music Director and Supervisor for Rosie O’Donnell and her Rosie’s Theater Kids.
Performances by artists from Alvin Aileyr; ABT; Arthur Murray Dance Center; Ballet Hispanico; Jonah Bokaer; Dance Theatre of Harlem; Industrial Rhythm; Silva Dance Company; and Tony Waag’s American Tap Dance Foundation. The Rockette Alumnae and Karen Ziemba will perform “I Want To Be A Rockette.”

September 28, 2014
This past Friday Kyle Abraham shared the fruits of his two-year residency at New York Live Arts. Coupled with his winning of a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant in 2013 and his increased exposure as a public representative for the dance world the expectations amongst the audience were justifiably high. Friday was a showing of ‘The Watershed’ one of two new works, the second being ‘When the Wolves Came In,’ that are continuing their premiere at NYLA over the next week.

In the program notes Abraham speaks of drawing inspiration from Max Roach’s Freedom Suite as well as, in a more abstract sense, from the stories of Hector Pieterson and countless other “women and men facing violence and discrimination.” It is meant as a questioning of freedom and its meaning on a historical level as well as on a personal one. If this sounds like a lot to tackle in a sixty-minute dance theater work, it is. Thematically busy may be an understatement. However, even where it fell short, the work managed to maintain a creatively kinesthetic experience for viewers that showcased the strengths of Abraham and his bevy of talented dancers.

The work is split into two acts along with a “Prologue” and “Epilogue.” The titles were splashed on a wood paneled backdrop to denote section changes. This same text projection was used to show quotes and videos that related directly or indirectly to the action onstage. There is also a white tree made of plastic piping hung with material to resemble Spanish moss designed by Glen Ligon.

At times the work felt like a series of visual metaphors connected by sections of hyperkinetic phrase work, sinuous partnering and sweeping movement formations. These images include Abraham’s first appearance onstage in full drag complete with white courtesan wig. He sits on a bench beneath the tree and begins to cover himself with white foundation. This use of “white face,” while not necessarily innovative, did garner the desired response from the audience with audible signs of understanding and disapproval.

There is a long slow walk up the diagonal by a shirtless male dancer holding a watermelon aloft as if in a procession. The subsequent scene has the watermelon being chopped with a hatchet on a polka dotted picnic blanket as the dancers engage in a series of duets.

Probably the most arresting and heavy handed of these images occurred at the beginning of the second act where Abraham is dancing a solo in black to a prison work song. The solo finishes and a silver chain drops from the ceiling onto the floor unexpectedly, with much fanfare, and accompanied by a blackout. The section that follows sees lighting made to resemble bars on the stage floor and dancers dressed in ubiquitous grey jump suits.

Abraham’s movement vocabulary while distinctive, exhilarating and eclectic, as ever, did little to support the work topically and seemed more alongside the concepts rather than in congress with them. This disconnect leads to an earnestly ambivalent sentiment. To be sure, the work does touch on many important and relevant issues both historically and currently, but it does so in a way that feels spread thin.

As important as Abraham’s voice has become in the last few years we can hope that he continues to hone and strengthen the argument he makes for the shifting concept of freedom and the way in which it faults, fails, challenges and ultimately uplifts us. With his gifts for engaging physicality, gifted dancers and the public eye I like to think that he will.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Chafin Seymour

September 22, 2014
A lively display of Indian dance occured this past week at Chen Dance Center. Sonali Skandan & Jiva Dance presented four dances in the classical Indian dance style of Bharatanatyam. The choreography was ann impressive blending of the strength inherent in the technical aspects of the form and the exuberant emotions that exist in the stories being told.

Titled Mayura: Blue Peacock, each dance was inspired by the pervasive allusions to peacocks in Indian poetry and literature. Ms. Skandan choreographed the majority of the pieces, and performed a number of solos that showcased her mastery of the form. Her charisma on stage permeated every piece and drew the eyes of the audience as she shifted her gaze in conjunction with the movement. The five dancers that performed as part of Jiva Dance were all convincing in their commitment to the dance's precise structure.

Unison phrases stood out as each dancer matched the movements and energy of their peers. The lighting and costuming for the evening elevated the performance from fascinating to stunning. Reflecting the colors of a peacock, these elements of mis-en-scene shaped a cohesive concept in tune with the energy of the pieces. Vitality and joy shone through each dancer as they effortlessly moved their feet in rhythm with the music. Each dancer was clad with bells around their ankles, so their ability to dance together was not just visible, but audible as well.

In this captivating program, Skandan and Jiva dance showcased what it is they do best. Bringing culture and history to dance is so important and these women brought that culture into a modern age, using classical techniques with varied patterns and stories to entrance the audience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

September 15, 2014
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of the BEAT (Brooklyn Emerging Artists in Theater) Festival at the Brooklyn Museum. The event brought together a diverse group of performance artists that will be showing work as part of the festival over the next two weeks.

Upon arriving I was immediately granted a map upon which were shown the floors of the museum marked with “X’s” to designate where performances would be taking place. Twelve artists were listed on the side but there was no indication of who would be performing precisely where and at what time. Needless to say I was intrigued. As I wandered around the museum, along with the equally diverse and sizeable crowd, I was treated to a delightful evening of performance installations or a “moving gallery” of sorts.

The performances ranged from Butoh inspired large-scale dance installation to a single actor giving a monologue in the corner of a small gallery to a couple performing an intimately understated tango in visible storage room. Amidst this wash of color and miscellany emerged some highlights. In the Lobby we were treated to the Bruk Up dance the Bed-Stuy Veterans an excellent crew of Brooklyn locals. Their sinuous movement, freestyle energy, and dancehall beats made for a vibrant kinetic display.

There was also the clever, social media oriented performance by UnderOneDances entitled #Tweetdance. The visitors to the museum were encouraged to tweet using that specific hash-tag. They were meant to use their 140 characters to ruminate on the quote “from where I stand.” The company then chose specific tweets and created 60-second improvised dances in response. The tweet offerings were predictably mixed, as were the movement responses, but this type of direct audience involvement in the creative process is both admirable and innovative.

Overall the format of the evening was enjoyable. Seeing a diverse array of artists across disciplines and cultures in the same evening is always a treat. Like any great museum visit it left me with the distinct feeling I didn’t see it all and wanted to see more. Check out the BEAT festival lineup on their website at
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Chafin Seymour

September 14, 2014
Throngs crowded into the Delacorte theater to see an evening of free dance presented by City Center Fall For Dance and the Public Theater. Originally, Lil Buck, the jukin’ sensation was scheduled to dance but during dress rehearsal the night before, sustained a serious sprained ankle preventing him from performing. Interestingly, the decision was made not to announce his absence until just before the closing piece.

That’s when Damian Woetzel took the mike and explained the painful situation describing a frantic 48 hours of re-choreographing the dance--"Bend in The Road: New Orleans" -- that included Ballet X, NYC Ballet stars, Robert Fairchild and Tyler Peck along with Caroline Fermin and Ron “Prime Tyme” Miles who stood in the place of Buck stood. Miles' rubbery twists, electric boogie slides and pops added syncopated accents to a piece that backed by some of the best jazz musicians including Marcus Printup, Russell Hall, Joe Saylor, Ibanda Ruhumbika, Eddie Barbash, Jaon Batiste and Kate Davis.

Before the show started, Oscar Eustis and Arlene Schuler announced that the free dance performances would become an annual event. The first half of the program featured Hubbard dance from Chicago. Technically strong, the company threw themselves into the tribal piece Gnawa by Nacho Duato. It was particularly effective as an outdoor presentation because the scooping lunges and isolated torso contractions suggested a collection of rain forest dwellers.

Another audience favorite, Hermann Schmerman by the neo, post modern classical choreographer William Forsythe tosses two NYC Ballet dancers, Maria Kowrowski and Amar Ramasar into a series of off-center balances, quirky, street dance head flings, and twisty toe turns that square off the space into physical angles. Ramasar was particularly effective in the slinky, forward hip thrusts and nonchalant ballet attitude.

Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane’s “D Man in the Waters (Part 1)” sent dancers filing out, and flipping back in a ribbon of lines. Very individualized performers, small and tall, slender and fuller bodies dug into the athletic steps that opened out, ready to catch falling bodies. Quick footwork, sharp holds and bodies dropping to the floor gave the abstract choreography an intense humanity.

Despite the disappointment of Lil Buck’s absence, the audience left satisfied.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis Tumblr: Here

September 12, 2014
Visually stunning, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is Bob Crowley and Christopher Wheeldon’s Downton Abbey ballet on hallucinogenics. Set in the Victorian country-side outside a stone manor, the family prepares for a summer supper when the young daughter falls asleep and slips down a rabbit hole to a land of unmatched adventures. Luscious period costumes capture the summery elegance while fanciful fairytale outfits shimmer against the outsized scenic designs, and puppetry by the Tony Award winning Bob Crowley.

An utterly charming Sonia Rodriguez (Alice) was equally comfortable as the cheery young lady and stressed damsel. Her partner, Nayoe Ebe as Jack/The Knave of Hearts was an excellent partner and technically smooth dancer. Robert Stephen (Lewis Carroll/The White Rabbit), the droll Rex Harrington (Father/The King of Hearts), tap-dancing dandy Jack Bertinshaw (Magician/The Mad Hatter) Jonathan Renna (The Duchess), Harrison James (Rajah/The Caterpillar) and Stephanie Hutchison (The Cook) amiably fill in the supporting roles.

But the comedic standout was the reed thin Svetlana Lunkina decked in red (wearing what resembles Mother Ginger’s outsized hoop skirt in The Nutcracker) magnificently flailing against anyone crossing her red path. A natural, Ms. Lunkina digs her teeth into the scenery, and exerts a farcical ferociousness in her curdled facial expressions and physical outrage at the upstarts in her kingdom.

Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon dives into literary complexity that gets lost in the larger, choreographic strokes. Fully capable of devising choreography establishing all the quirky characters, he accents the typical ballet choreography with a little music hall tap dancing, tipsy vaudeville antics and cartoonish jabs.

The National ballet of Canada’s David Briskin adroitly conducted the serviceable score by Joby Talbot. However, some judicious editing would benefit the close to three-hour production—indeed, a two-hour production could even imagine a stop on Broadway.

This massive undertaking at the David H. Koch Theater, presented by the Joyce Theater, featured The National Ballet of Canada under the artistic direction of former principal ballerina, Karen Kain.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 12, 2014
Visually stunning, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is Bob Crowley and Christopher Wheeldon’s Downton Abbey ballet on hallucinogenics. Set in the Victorian country-side outside a stone manor, the family prepares for a summer supper when the young daughter falls asleep and slips down a rabbit hole to a land of unmatched adventures.

Luscious period costumes capture the summery elegance while fanciful fairytale outfits shimmer against the outsized scenic designs, and puppetry by the Tony Award winning Bob Crowley.

An utterly charming Sonia Rodriguez (Alice) is equally comfortable as the cheery young lady and stressed damsel. Her partner, Nayoe Ebe as Jack/The Knave of Hearts proves an excellent partner and technically smooth dancer. Robert Stephen (Lewis Carroll/The White Rabbit), the droll Rex Harrington (Father/The King of Hearts), tap-dancing dandy Jack Bertinshaw (Magician/The Mad Hatter) Jonathan Renna (The Duchess), Harrison James (Rajah/The Caterpillar) and Stephanie Hutchison (The Cook) amiably fill out the supporting roles.

But the comedic standout, reed thin Svetlana Lunkina decked in red (wearing what resembles Mother Ginger’s outsized hoop skirt in The Nutcracker) magnificently flails against anyone who crosses her red path. A natural, Ms. Lunkina digs her teeth into the scenery, and exerts a farcical ferociousness in her curdled facial expressions and physical outrage at the upstarts in her kingdom.

Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon dives into literary complexity that gets lost in the larger, choreographic strokes. Fully capable of devising choreography establishing all the quirky characters, he accents the typical ballet choreography with a little music hall tap dancing, tipsy vaudeville antics and cartoonish jabs.

The National ballet of Canada’s David Briskin adroitly conducts the serviceable score by Joby Talbot. However, some judicious editing would benefit the close to three-hour production—indeed, a two-hour production could even imagine a stop on Broadway.

This massive undertaking at the David H. Koch Theater was presented by the Joyce Theater and featured The National Ballet of Canada under the artistic direction of former principal ballerina, Karen Kain.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 8, 2014
Mazzini Dance Collective presented work for their New York season Saturday night at the Ailey Citigroup Theater to a packed house. Annamaria Mazzini formerly of the Paul Taylor Company choreographed three of the evening’s work and Orion Duckstein also of the Taylor Company showed two of his pieces.

The collective, founded in 2012, has 14 dancers not including Mazzini who danced in two of the pieces. I found myself not to be as exuberant as the rambunctious crowd during the 2 hour long performance. Opening on a dull note was the world premier of “Playing with Angels,” choreographed by Mazzini. Dressed in pale blues, four females retain a box like shape around Andy Jacobs as he gestures rope pulling and sidesaddle riding. The piece was unable to find a sense of consistency, and its lullaby style music and dancing failed to sustain my attention.

The highlight of the show, was seeing Mazzini and Duckstein dance together in his work “When We Rise.” Although I find it hard to come on board with her venture in choreography, Mazzini has a sparkle as a dancer that is timeless and a testament to the star quality she held in the Taylor Company. She illuminates the dark stage with her gaze and shares a natural ease with Duckstein that reflects upon their history, and makes room for risk-taking. In the final moment, Mazzini steps on to Duckstein who is lying face down on the floor. She maneuvers into a standing position on his back as he stands in a flat back, 90-degree angle. The audience squeals, the lights fade.

A steady but potentially dangerous image that begs the question: will Mazzinirise again? EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

September 8, 2014
Traditional Indian dance is no longer a curiosity dance form in NYC, because of the efforts of organizations like IAAC, Drive East, Asia Society and a handful of individual promoters. At Pace University, IAAC organized two days of lectures, interviews, symposia, workshops, classes and performances as part of the Erasing Borders Festival of Indian Dance Indoors at Pace Schimmel Center.

The program, introduced by Aroon Shivdasani, drew together five very discreet Indian dance artists with roots and traditional dance stretching into contemporary dance. All the artists were fine dancers, but a couple very successfully knitted the traditional into the modern without any loss of integrity.

An astonishing array of crystal clear micro movements of the hands, head and feet snapped during D. Mitul Sengupta’s presentation of an episode from the Kurukshetra War in the Mahabharata. After a blazing display of her hands and forearms crossing and opening, she rippled around the stage in a blur of fast, tight turns—moving with the speed of a Tasmanian devil an the serenity of a Buddha.

Urban dance meets traditional form in Veena Basavarajaiah’s “Morphed” performed by the very cheeky Subhash Viman. Wearing western style shirt and pants, Viman astutely slips from the traditional, centered Indian dance structures to the liquid moves and beats issuing from the urban streets.

Emily McLoughlin and Leah Raphael Curtis of Delhi Dance Theater performed “Not Your Mother” to live music performed by Abhik Mukherjee (sitar), Eric Fraser (Bansuri) and Ehren Hanson (table). Contemporary dance forms surface in leg lifts curving to the back, and lyrically floating arms, but the combination of modern dance and Kathak did not express a strong individuality. Carl Jung crosses over Saiva Siddhanta/Philosophy in Manikkavasagar’s Sivapuranam in Mesma Belsare’s enigmatic “The Vermin’s Will.”

The program closed with “We Used To See This” choreographed by the performer Meena Murugesan in collaboration with Shyamala Moorty. Some audience members were seated on stage in folding chairs, forming a silent chorus for the solo. Intent on exploring the presentation of bharatanatyam-based dances in a multitude of spaces, the adept performer Murugesan, skipped from one image to another without ever drawing the circle into a cohesive whole.

By the end, the enthusiastic audience got a taste of the past and future in Indian dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 6, 2014
The Peridance Capezio Center presented their Summer Faculty Showcase at the Salvatore Capezio Theater. Eleven varied and versatile pieces ranged from tap dancing to “ballet”, Michael Jackson to Tchaikovsky, and all kinds of variations in-between.

None of the work was particularly remarkable, but glimpses of fun and entertainment amused a packed Sunday afternoon crowd. Among the work shown, two pieces stood out due to originality and vision.

Aaron Tolson’s Pre-professional Tap Company “Speaking in Taps,” performed “Love Never Felt So Good. A large ensemble of pre teens, clumped in one formation for most of the piece, was clean and refreshing. Sounds were clear, and expressions relaxed and jovial.

The final piece “Feathers,” from choreographer Yesid Lopez, was a satirical retelling of Swan Lake. Three dancers in nude leotards and feather adorments, hip swished and glided through Tchiakovsky’s classic score. At times clever and funny, and at other moments poignant and ornate, Lopez managed to nod to the classic in a respectable yet reimagined way.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

TEJAS LUMINOUS: Fringe Festival
August 26, 2014
Intent on stretching the boundaries of the traditional Bharartanatyam Indian dance form, Malini Srinivasan prepared a program for the Fringe Festival that moved across musical and dance boundaries with varied success.

A stunning dancer, her fluid, beautifully expressive face clearly telegraphs a character’s feelings or intent while her body easily shifts through complicated rhythms and balances. Her company is a mixed group of technically adept performers.

The pieces mixed and matched musical rhythms and dance forms, widening the traditional movement parameters to include modern dance based leg circles, arms and turns.Stillness and motion build into emotional peaks during the 90-minute program that indicates where traditional Indian dance might be headed.

Actually, while watching the performance of Tejas Luminous at the Robert Moss Theater during the 2014 Fringe Festival, images of Flamenco dance kept popping up because of the depth of feeling emitted by Ms. Srinivasan. Perhaps Ms. Srinivasan might consider a collaboration with Noche Flamenca?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

August 25, 2014
Set against the majestic backdrop of tumbling waves, and lady Liberty, “The Downtown Dance Festival,” presented its final day of work Thursday August 21 at Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park in lower Manhattan. A stage is set up close to the water, with audience members surrounding at all angles- in the grass and on the sidewalk. The set up offers a rare opportunity to experience dance from all possible viewpoints.

The outside venue is an admirable feat, yet for much of the hour and a half performance featuring works by Entomo EA&AE, Tangaj Dance, and Battery Park Dance Company.

Male duet “Entomo EA&AE” danced an insect inspired work. Agile and athletic in their movements, they captured the complexities of insects while also reverting to refined qualities in their partnering sequences. Yet more often than not, the duet felt separate instead of united as one.

Tangaj Dance from Romania, was lackluster in intention. The group of six had a laid back, waif like quality that allowed them to float on stage. But they never found grounded weight. Perhaps the outcome of monotonous music selections, the piece drifted along until the end, never holding on to a still moment, or a memorable one.

Finally the Battery Dance Company presented choreography by Theo Ndindwa. Three ladies in black tops, red skirts, black socks, and two men in black ensembles took to the stage with a strong routine like opening. Precise in their detailed hand and arm movements, the full picture shrank from there. Strong moments resonated throughout including, powerful dancing from the male duet.

Maybe the unfocused nature of the performance is more due to the incongruities that exist between the three works. With an outdoor setting such as this, not only is it beautiful and free for audiences, but also with that comes distractions that overwhelm or take away from the main setting- which is of course the dancing.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

August 20, 2014
The conception of Sattriya, a form of classical dance from Assam, is attributed to Madhabdev, in the 16th century AD. Women never practiced until the 19th century, and it waited through the mid-20th century to join the pantheon of Indian dance forms. Sattriya Dance Company, consisting of three women, brought to Drive East a progressive honoring of lineage, so thorough it recognized Madhabdev’s teacher, Sankardev, a multi-disciplinary artist and reformer from Assam, in an evening in which history and myth were actively utilized to contextualize ourselves in the present. An altar stood downstage right. No dancer acknowledged it, but its reverent power over the evening was tacitly palpable.

Two duets by Madhusmita Bora and Prerona Bhuyan showcased a complementary pair. Bhuyan, markedly younger and lengthily limbed, is a crisp mover with clear execution while Bora navigates her joints with freer romanticism. The first duet captures Sankardev’s adolescent praise of Vishnu; the second, to a song by Madhabdev, honors a legendary war leader. Intense theatricality is balanced with subtle pure dance. The two are generally equidistant in all spatial configurations. If one solos, the other waits in stillness. Mudras flow like sign language, and when they swirl, there is no telling where they may end up.

Among the duets Anita Sharma performed two original solos, embodying scenes from the lives of Krishna and Siva. To accommodate the many larger-than-life characters portrayed, Sharma rarely held an emotive state for more than ten seconds, shifting between gods, mortals, and demons. She used classic postures to delineate Krishna’s flute or Siva’s iconic attitude, but through her own dramatic voice, lip syncing and using abstract movement to respond to mimed action. She is fond of falling to her knees, and from the most engaged pantomime on the ground, will twirl on one leg into soaring jumps. Her homogenous composition disguises her virtuosity.

The final piece came from Bora and Bhuyan, choreographed together. Bhuyan wears a modern uniform; Bora remains in her classical dress. They honor Dr. Bupen Hazarika, responsible for Sattriya’s recognition as a classical dance form. The music they dance to is his, but it, in turn, honors the Brahmaputra River, a meeting ground of people, cultures, and religions in Assam. The celebration of a landmark as an inspiration for diversity manifests in slight differences in each dancer’s movement. A foot flexed is firmly planted next door.

Sattriya, while rigorous, has a freer sensibility. Each dancer wears individualized facial expressions when a specific face is not choreographed. Mouths bare teeth. Two dancers might perform the same movement with opposite affects. In unison, upper and lower halves may vary. It’s as if whole bodies stand for sections of our psyches, so vastly beyond our understanding we need someone devoted to each part. It’s a different sense of choreographic counterpoint in which our reactions to the tiniest detail infuse with what is there. Each piece lacked a tableau. Dancers skittered away in gratitude as lights dimmed, never present for the applause. They are transcendent conduits.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

August 20, 2014
Whatever you bring to her performances, Dakshina Vaidyanathan is sure to make you forget. The Bharatanatyam master has a gentle command of her space that eases you in preparation to feel fully. Her inhales draw you closer from your seat. Her gaze radiates upon the environment in an evenhanded appreciation of ubiquitous beauty, but if you’re lucky enough to make eye contact, the intensity of her stare is enough to mistake her performance being for you alone. Dance of Nature could never be that exclusive. Vaidyanathan is an open channel extolling all. Trees begin the journey. Vaidyanathan stands in a spotlight, rooted as a trunk.

Her arms cross overhead before nimbly sinking and rising through lunges, balances, and microscopic isolations between sections where, as a person, she blesses a tree just beyond her fixed point. She reaches to imaginary branches not to have, but to acknowledge. Hands re-embody the tree in oppositions. One roots down as the other, in the same shape, blossoms high, mapping the journey to supreme consciousness wrought by self-introspection. Her ending posture is the beginning’s, but with palms pressed together in anjali mudra, profoundly implicating the tiniest change.

She meditates on life and death through the universal mother, Parvati, and Siva, her destructive spouse. Vaidyanathan accumulates in embodiment of them. Her left hand flows in a sinuous caress while her right chops with fiery articulation. In body halves, her left side slithers and softens, followed by the same shapes more aggressively on the right. Her entire body travels in space to her left in maternal frenzy, and blazes through her right with trembling hands and percussive jumps. The movements blend physically and spatially, distinguished only in stretches of time. Occasionally, Vaidyanathan places herself center stage, human again, as if to assure us she’s ok, then concludes with both deities in her face, looking left with warmth and a furrowed brow and darting right with a grimace of burning eyeballs until the music releases her.

After a lament to a cuckoo bird resembling Vishnu, similarly constructed in representation, the final dance celebrates rain’s connection of all life. To a joyous repeated melody, Vaidyanathan quotes previous sections. She leaps through every inch of La MaMa’s humble theatre. The music has several breaks in repetition in which the singer sits on the raga’s leading tone in short cadenzas, during which Vaidyanathan engages a puddle of rain water. She takes a handful, tosses it, and, after demonstrating how clouds drink up the Earth, takes a sip for herself. Choreographer Rama Vaidyanathan uses physical personification to express parallels in all nature.

He composes movement synonyms, different body parts representing the same image, sometimes simultaneously. One movement symbolizes opposing ideas – trembling hands depicting both Siva’s wrath and a bird’s meek flutter. To depict so much on the same human form shows us hidden similarities and harmony in difference. Dakshina, fully fluent, is able to see and admire the universe in a black box theatre. We only see and admire her.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

August 18, 2014
Dramatic storytelling flows effortlessly through Krithika Rajagopalan’s Bharatanatyam Solo on the closing day of the exciting Drive East 2014 Festival. An expressive art form, anyone tackling Bharatanatyam is called upon to narrate stories through movement, but Ms. Rajagopalan is masterful.

There’s no doubting when she’s a joyous woman or stern man, full of hope and or threatened by despair. A lovely woman who reigns large on a stage, technical facility supports a robust theatricality that reveals a rich imagination projected through intuitive character expressions.

L Animated eyes draw the dancers into her expert articulations. Fingers ripple, and the mouth curves up and down in pleasure and pouts. Unlike the other performers, she did not dye her hands or feet red.

Near the end, she detoured around the usual dances based on myth or religion and executed a solo about a mother and her naughty son. Easily shedding the mother's armor to play the head-strong boy, she alternated between cajoling and scolding the beloved child.

Perhaps Rajagopalan was inspired to narrate a domestic tale because of the recent birth of her own twins. No doubt, children will only enrich her already verdant career.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

August 15, 2014
As part of the Drive East concert series, performers came together at La MaMa Theater to showcase traditional Indian dance and music. The week long series presents various classical forms of Indian dance performed by artists and schools from across the United States. On Wednesday night it was Smitha Rajan and her company that graced the stage.

It is impossible to describe the intricacies in which Rajan manipulated her face and body from the moment she walked onto the stage. Graceful control and feeling abounded as Rajan performed the south Indian dance form of Mohiniattam. Drawing the eye to her at all times, Rajan moved through the space of the stage taking on characters and emotions in fascinating ways. It was pure joy to see such a master perform these stories of Rama and other Hindu gods.

Her precise and stunning performance made it no surprise that the members of her junior company matched her level of energy and commitment. Those three young women were dazzling, clad in the same white costumes, including fan skirt and ankle bells. Working in the circular array of movements essential to the form, these women told vivacious tales, each of them commanding the stage when their solo commenced. Together they complemented each other in the details and fluidity of the stories they expressed.

In the final piece of the evening, another solo by Rajan, she completely consumed the gaze of each audience member as she performed. Elegantly displaying each small hand gesture, known as a mudra, Rajan finished each minute layer in a fluid and captivating fashion. Mohiniattam is a breathtaking dance form and to watch it performed so expertly was truly a treat.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

August 15, 2014
Full frontal piercing eyes gaze at the audience when she breaks open the stage in her first presentation. Considered a young Indian dancer deserving of notice, Niveda Ramalingam proved her athletic skills o the opening night program of the multi-versed Drive East 2014 Festival at LaMama. Divided into five Bharatanatyam (south Indian classical form) dances, the program spotlighted Ms. Ramalingam’s physical dexterity and broad story telling skills.

Dressed in a flame orange outfit, the center portion fanned out in pleats revealing ankle cuffs full of bells over feet stained in red dye. Most pronounced and stunning was her gulping use of space. Generally, contemporary traditional dancers execute complex footwork and hand gestures within a small radius. But, Ms. Ramalingam circumvents the whole stage in wide, low-to the-ground space-swallowing chasing steps.

Even though each piece featured a different choreographer, there were similarities in the expressive use of the face, eyebrows (they can move independently of each other) and solid foot slaps, powerful use of thighs. she drops effortlessly into wide, deep knee bends to the floor as well as plunging lunges and stark, animated stillness.

I the second entry, she executed several passages of technical dexterity that elicited applause from the audience. She's the Merrill Ashley of Indian dance-- for those of you who don't know, Merrill Ashley was considered one of the most technically dexterous NYCB dancers'.

Because of her strength, Ms. Ramalignam is particularly arresting when assuming the male or monster role. Her coquettish women are quite engaging, but they still require some finessing in the more subtle facial expressions.

No question, but she is a young artist to watch. Her technical skill is well formed, and her artistry is filling out.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

August 10, 2014
Music compels Mark Morris to make dances. His musical tastes are wide ranging but he demonstrates a particular fondness for Baroque music. For years a mainstay of the The Mostly Mozart Music Festival, Mark Morris delivered the New Yord premiere of Handel’s “Acis and Galatea.” A pastoral tale of two lovers, Acis and Galatea are torn asunder when the monster Polyphemus chops Acis down in a fit of jealousy. Devastated by Acis’ death, Galatea marshals her powers and transforms Acis into an everlasting fountain.

This version is arranged by Mozart some 45 years after Handel’s final publication of “Acis and Galatea” and includes an English libretto by John Gay, with Alexander Pope and John Hughes. Even though it’s sung in English, supertitles assist. Adrianne Lobel’s screens suggest glens and wooded alcoves that support the airy quality mirrored in the diaphanous Monet-mottled long full-skirted costumes by Isaac Mizrahi.Situated in the pit, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale ably conducted by Nicholas McGegan play while the dancers vocalists merge in choreographic formations on stage.

A brisk opening displays swiftly changing patterns of spins unfurling like little breezes. The movements enlarge the musical currents, every now again snapping into a break dance riff--contracting and expanding the chest against upraised knees. Dancers' arms dart in the air, or flow into a breast-stroke all the while traveling effortlessly in carefully calculated intertwing patterns—that none of the dancers collide is a testament to the company’s musicality and technical acuity.

In the first half, dancers collect into a lot of foursomes—even performing what looks like a campy nod to the famous “Dance of the Little Swans” from “Swan Lake.” After intermission, many of the groupings break into trios and a at one point, a "faux" Baroque male God/Warrior solo breaks out. However, one of the most memorable moments comes late in the ballet when Acis drops lifeless to the ground. Dancers encircle him and Galatea radiating a deep poignancy marked by utter simplicity.

Truly, the company looks wonderful, but watching Lauren Grant is a particular pleasure. She floats across the stage, never exposing preparations for jumps, turns or weightless, partnered lifts.

Expected to move and act while singing, this quartet of vocalists functions fairly well, particularly considering Morris’ choreographic demands integrating singers into the movement’s fabric. Happily, the bold baritone, Douglas Williams (Polyphemus) proves a natural mover and thoroughly convincing actor/singer. Additionally, the fiery red-haired tenor, Isaiah Bell (Damon) pops as an up-and-coming talent. They join tenor, Thomas Cooley (Acis) and the frisky soprano, Yulia Van Doren (Galatea) in making “Acis and Galatea” another hit for New York's Mostly Mozart Festival.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 19, 2014
The eternal struggle between good and evil drives Yuri Grigorovich’s Swan Lake for the Bolshoi Ballet performed at the David H. Koch Theater during the Lincoln Center Festival. However, in this version, the Swan Queen Odette (Svetlana Zakharova, Anna Nikulina) is not the only one shadowed by her evil twin Odile, the Evil Genius/Sorcerer (Vladislav Lantratov, Denis Rodkin) echoes the Prince Siegfried’s (David Hallberg, Artem Ovcharenko) actions.

I saw two casts considerably different in tone and execution. One production starring the long-limbed Zhakarova resembled a silent film; the other with Lupkin suggested a postmodern documentary. Their suitors were equally different. Zhakarova’s prince was the classically pure, but tentative Hallberg, while the airily graceful Ovcharenko projected a youthful ardor.

Much to the chagrin of many a viewer, Grigorovich’s version cuts and pastes parts of the Tchaikovsky score and choreography disrupting the original flow. Variations and the ending are changed but there are some very effective passages, like the first section by the lakeside, and the final act when the black and white swans swirl together in a pool of fluttering distress.

A demanding role, few ballerinas are equally successful in the dual role of Odette/Odile. When Ms. Zakharova first appears, her long, thin tapering arms and legs make her look like a swan come to life. A taut technician, Zakharova’s face emotes plenty while her body remains exacting in execution. Well matched physically, Hallberg’s purity of form and long, expansive leaps soar, but vital chemistry between Zakharova and Hallberg is absent.

Adept at the intricacies and clarity of the Odette’s long arabesques, quivering foot to ankle beats and long back arches against a raised leg, Zakharova relaxed in the role of Odile. A natural at haughty flirtation, Zakharova’s smile and whiplash legs put everyone on notice. Especially comfortable with her partner, the dramatically exciting Lantratov, Zakharova expresses full confidence in her seduction of Hallberg.

The second cast performances were radically different. Ms. Nikulina’s interpretation made Odette a very cool, sometimes sly swan. Again, there’s not much chemistry, but at least Mr. Ovcharenko appears convincing in his ardor for this passive/flighty swan. More internalized than externalized, Nikulina also demonstrates a proud technique, especially when she rips off multiple turns during Odile’s famous string of 32 fouettes. But she remains utterly aloof.

Despite Nikulina’s remote performance, her suitor love struck suitor floats across the stage in light, exquisitely formed leaps and turns that slowly unwind on the fourth revolution to a perfect landing. Ovcharenko is worth watching—assuming the Bolshoi doesn’t lose him to another hungry, international ballet company.

A couple of other dancers deserve mention, in particular the first cast Fool, Igor Tsvirko. An athletic dancer, he’s a manic spinner and buoyant jumper, but most importantly, Tsvirko can act! Every time he appears, Tsvirko teases the audience, and adds a personalized dimension to his clownish role.

Among the young female dancers’ who got tongues wagging was the standout Olga Marchenkova. Light and vitally charming, she sparkled as one of the three Swans and in the role of the Russian Bride. Another eye-catching ballerina, the reed long Yulia Grebenshchikova excelled as one of the Three Swans and in the Hungarian Bride, she added the traditional Baroque snap of the head accenting the musical phrase.

Speaking of music, listening to Tchaikovsky’s score by the Bolshoi Orchestra under the baton of Pavel Sorokin soared. In particular, the brass rang out clear and sharp and next to a luminous harp.

Overall, the company’s talent is deep and the ranks are full of potentially stunning dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

July 17, 2014
The New York Dance and Performance Awards (The Bessies) have become an annual tradition within the NYC dance scene, 30 years in the making. Produced in partnership with Dance/NYC, the awards honor the groundbreaking creative work of independent dance artists - from choreographers and dancers to composers and visual designers. 36 nominees for the 2014 Bessies were announced (see below) at the Wed. July 16 press conference held at Gibney Dance Center's newly acquired space in downtown Manhattan.

The category of Outstanding Emerging Choreographer - with nominees including Rashida Bumbray, Jessica Lang, Jen Rosenblit, and Gillian Walsh - was the only category in which the award was announced. Both Jessica Lang and Jen Rosenblit were recognized for their recent work in the dance field, as the vote was tied. In addition, the 2014 Juried Bessie Award Committee was named and will include Tere O'Connor, Annie B-Parson, and Eduardo Vilaro. These three choreographers will be responsible for selecting a single work/choreographer that is presenting exciting ideas in dance for special recognition.

Nominees for the Bessies are as follows:
Outstanding Performer: Maggie Cloud, Sean Donovan, Julia Hausermann, Sean Jackson, Mickey Mahar, Angela "Angel" McNeal, Sara Mearns, Aakash Odedra, Tiler Peck, Rebecca Serrell-Cyr, Linda Celeste Sims, and Stuart Singer.
Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design: Complete, with guitarist Giuliano Modarelli; G. Lucas Crane, Steven Taylor, and Nicholas Young.
Outstanding Revival: "Dark Swan" by Nora Chipaumire, "Myth or Meth (or Maybe Moscow?)" by Radiohole, "State of Heads" by Donna Uchizono, and "Bach Partita" by Twyla Tharp.

Outstanding Production: Asase Yaa African American Dance Theatre's "Djembe in the New Millennium," Camille A. Brown's "MR. TOL E. RAncE," Mallory Catlett's "This Was the End," Liz Gerring's "Glacier," Maria Hassabi's "Premiere," John Jasperse's "Within Between," Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's "En Atendant/Cesena," Akram Khan's "Desh," Sarah Michelson's "4," MIMULUS Cia de Danca's "Dolores," Okwui Okpokwasili's "Bronx Gothic," and Aki Sasamoto's "Sunny in the Furnace."

Outstanding Visual Design: Thomas Dunn; Patricia Forelle with Jenny Mui, Avram Finkelstein, Kelly Morganroth, Nicholas Vermeer, Olivia Barr, and William Ward; Peter Ksander, Olivera Gajic, Ryan Holsopple, Chris Kuhl, and Keith Skretch; and, Tim Yip.

IN celebration of the Bessie's 30th anniversary, Oct. 1, Gibney's "Sorry I Missed Your Show" series features the screening of an EYE ON DANCE program shot during the 1989, Bessie Awards 5th anniversary event at BAM. Lucy Sexton and Laurie Uprichard will join EOD host and producer Celia Ipiotis in a conversation about the Bessie Awards' roots and expansion.

The 2014 Bessies, where all remaining award winners will be announced, is scheduled for Monday, October 20th at the legendary Apollo Theater.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jenny Thompson

July 16, 2014
Modern dancers generally dance barefoot or don some form of soft-soled shoe, but high heels don’t normally enter the equation. Not so in Anne Teresa de Keersmaker’s Elena’s Aria. Dancers trot around in high heels, swiftly moving across the stage, slumping in a chair or primly sitting on the edge of the stage, under a reading lamp and reciting passages from Beckett, Tolstoy an Dostoevsky.

The actual words mean less than the sound of the text being read out loud and the remaining four dancers--De Keersmaeker, the assertive Tale Dolven, Fumiyo Ikeda, Cynthia Loemij and Samantha van Wissen-- in still frame. Dressed in knee-high slim evening dresses, the dancer set out a dance theme, invert it and vary through speed or accent.

Attitude surfaces in the poses and imagery, like the fan blowing a dancer’s hair back as if waiting for a glamour shot. Sounds of heels click and various musical samples and arias, particularly Caruso’s famous refrain “O sole mio”. A woman’s scent changes according to mood, and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s women are at once self-sufficient and changeable.

THis marks the third production in a series of four presentations by the Lincoln Center Festival at Gerald R. Lynch Theater.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 15, 2014
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas danst Rosas (1983) chops silence into movement blocks over a minimalist score created in tandem with the dance by Thierry De Mey, and Peter Vermeersch’s.

Four women line up one by one dressed in long shirts hanging over flared skirts, black leggings and socks that suggest girls’ school uniforms. They drop to the floor, breathing deeply and squirming on stage at the Gerald R. Lynch Theater.

Pedestrian gestures form emotional fragments captured in tilted snippets by the low ledge of mirrors on either side of the stage. The four dancers-- Tale Dolven, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Cynthia Loemij, Sue-Yeon Youn—tug at their shirts, fuss with their skirts, swivel in and out of chairs in playful and competitive actions. These movement patterns repeat in unison then interact through counterpoint.

Chairs become inanimate partners for dancers playing musical chairs, sitting or stretching out across them. The dancers' facial expressions and actions switch from looking institutional to seductive.

At one point, there’s an extended section when the dancers convulse in the chair, veering side to side, arms angular and tense making it look a lot like an abstract update of Martha Graham’s famous chair dance “Lamentations.” On this occasion, it’s more of angst over youth instead as opposed to profound grief.

Images repeat, but constantly shift in focus. In the opening, one dancer after another appears, back to audience and then drops to the floor. This crumbling action happens again, but this time the body writhes on the floor. It’s intriguing to see how simple movements assume emotional dimensions by simply shifting the tilt of a head or the brain of a choreographer.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

July 10, 2014
Inspired endurance marks the four-part post modern dance “Fase” by Anne deKeersmaeker at the Gerald R. Lynch Theater. Bred in Belgium and inspired by American modern dance, de Keersmaeker studied dance at NYU Tisch where she choreographed “Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich.” Among others, her choreographic style absorbed Lucinda Child's geometric patterns, Laura Dean's spinning modules and Steve Reich’s soulful minimalism.

These influences are pressed inside deKeersmaeker's personalized choreographic voice and movement purity vividly expressed in “Fase” to Reich’s score.

In each of the four sections, deKeersmaeker establishes an evocatively minimalist sequence, punctuated by a sudden thrust of energy. In “Piano Phase” the slim, petite deKeersmaeker dances aside the tall blonde Tale Dolven.

Reflecting Reich’s subtly shifting tones and rhythms, they move in sync and then counterpoint-- their two shadows combining and separating like a ghostly chorus. Clad in dresses, soft shoes and little white socks, deKeersmaeker and Dolven resemble intense school girls as they swing their arms, take steps forward then a few paces back. Patterns are set, repeated, varied by one or two moves.

Sounds switch to jarring voices processed beyond recognition constructing a mechanical background. The two dancers sit on stools, arms shooting in and out like a musical conductor directing a train. Bodies swivel one-quarter turn, and occasionally, they shoot a perplexed look at the audience.

Ms. deKeersmaeker, dressed in a white dress and panties, rips into a solo “Violin Phase” without so much as a two-minute pause between sections. It starts in one corner where a pendulum swinging leg builds into leg circles accenting traveling steps that begin to resemble a deeply post-modern Greek folks dance, and includes her hand slapping the ground, and skirt flipping up ecstatically revealing panties (OK--doubt Greek villagers would be that immodest).

The evening closes on the giddy “Clapping Music.” Back in the pants and shirt get-up, the dancers don huge white sneakers that allow them to pop up and down off their toes, tap dance style. Nonstop action describes all the dances, but in this section, the quicksteps scurry under buckling knees and tippy toes.

An exhilarating evening of movement precision and suspense, “Fase” pours into the enthusiastic Lincoln Center Festival audience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 1, 2014
Remnants of glittering sunlight flood the bright mosaic windows on one side of St. Marks’s Church. As dancers enter the dusky space, the natural light sets up the title for the evening presentation “Darkness, Shadows, and Silence.” Part of the DANCE: Access incentive at Danspace Project Thursday, Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance presented three works including the world premiere of RU.

In “Triptich” (2012), three black and white paneled photographs hang in the backspace from artist Betsy Weis. As four men stand in a line, a spotlight hits the balcony where Claire Westby gestures, reaching her arms long and then bringing her hands in delicately. For much of the piece the mood and dynamic stays at one level, it’s soft and luscious but perhaps monotone. Towards the end a shift occurs, with a full and piercing solo danced effortlessly by Ms. Westby.

“Trieze en Jeu” (2013) set to Schubert’s Trio in E Flat Major is energetic and sassy. Despite being barefoot in “Triptich,” Lavagnino and her dancers seem more at home in pointe shoes and a neo classical style. The women march across in a line in back as Elliot Hammans leaps into the air with gusto and technical ease. In a series of complex pas de deuxs, Kristen Stevens dances uneasy but is strongly supported by her partner Adrian Silver. In the final moment he whisks her into a bird lift and twirls offstage, as the ensemble falls into a pose, their playfulness ever present as the music ends.

“Ru,” inspired by a novel of the same name, follows a woman’s life as a post-Vietnam War political refugee. The women in pink and white billowing pants and dresses run throughout the space, their gazes intense and honest. Throughout all three pieces but especially “Ru,” Giovanna Gamna and Christine Luciano have a subtle intensity in their demeanor that draws you to them. Their forlorn expressions come from their eyes and cast outward past the audience and the space setting an appropriate tone. Four men in green pants and short chest harnesses aid the women, lifting them high into the air or abetting their falls. But it is when all the women gather together that their technical and artistic strengths collide. In a field of classical/contemporary dance where so few female choreographers exist, perhaps it’s Lavagnino’s ode not only to Ru, but to women at large.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

June 27, 2014
A grand development in the past decade is the growth of ballet companies outside NYC. NYC is no longer the only ballet game in the United States. This week proves the point by Boston Ballet’s appearance at the David H. Koch Theater. Celebrating their 50the anniversary, the company, under the artistic direction of Mikko Nissinen, showcases two repertory programs.

On opening night, three decidedly modern ballet works underscored the company’s versatility starting with “ The Second Detail “ (1991) by William Forsythe, one of this generation’s most influential choreographers.

Tightly focused dancers twist and extend into vertical pretzels unlocking joints into over-extended leg and arm extensions. Despite the geometric ballet jungle gym, personalities surface within the cubist bursts. Because his stark ballet moves throws bodies off-center, dancers must focus intently on their balance, or fall over. This demanding neo-classical, modern ballet proves the dancers’ mettle.

In “Resonance” (2014) the Spanish choreographer Jose Martinez designed a piece that, although modern in tenor, underscores the company’s lyricism spotlighting a couple of dancers including Lio Cirio, Lasha Khozashvili, Dusty Button and Alejandro Virelles.

Closing with the festively humorous “Cacti” (2010) by Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman, the dance toyed with text, a multi-tiered cube set and plants. Yes, cacti made an appearance, and in a nutty parody, two dancers narrate the steps they are about to execute, and what they think while moving. The nonsensical performance gives the fine dancers a chance to cavort on stage and release their inner comics.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 26, 2014
A slow and dynamic duet enters the empty stage, where two young men brace themselves against a beautiful melody. Synched in unique musicality, the two dancers pull with and against each other in exploration of their relationship. “We Are All… Our Father’s Sons” choreographed by Jacqlyn Buglisi opens the program at New York Live Arts.

A lively beginning to the evening quickly sobers when the world premiere of Jennifer Muller’s “Miserere Nobis” enters. Emotional pain and sombre intent dictates the movements of these nine women, all clad identically in black, adorned in headdresses to wash out individuality. These women carry great power as they move onto the stage, one joining after another until all move in a succinct unison. Constantly shifting levels to a dark and spiritual score, Muller channels loss and grief throughout the performance.

Following a short pause, “Lonely Planet” by Elisa Monte holds as a strong piece connecting the global inter-connectivity of modern life. Beautiful dancers create circular patterns that highlight Monte’s intent and vision. But Buglisi’s piece “Butterflies and Demons” hits the night's emotional high. Inspired by the tragedies of female trafficking, this dance is a non-stop punch to the gut. In a moment towards the beginning, a dancer is lifted onto the back of another. Her arched back balances on his shoulders with swan-like grace, catching the breath of the audience as the balanced dancers slowly move off-stage. The entire piece reaches inside to the emotional core and creates a thrilling audience experience.

The final performance of the night is another Muller premier titled “Whew!”. The title spells it out as this fast paced, jazzy number plays its way across the stage. Dancers move and move and move in bigger bolder ways, until they are left breathless. Muller herself said she chose to look through a “lighter lens”, and she definitely finds the magic in pure exhilarated movement.

Because the styles are well matched, these three choreographers fluidly showcased a cohesive night of dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

June 15, 2014
A blaring trumpet sounds as a group of musicians enter the theater. These fives instrumentalists walk across the audience and take the stage, hammering out a mix of polka and jazz. The energy begins to buzz as these men finish playing and the stage transitions for the first piece of the evening. Five young dancers enter the stage set with a wooden staircase for each of them and perform the rhythmic triumph that is “Stair Dance”. Relentless in it’s non-stop movement, the dancers navigate the ups and downs of the piece without missing a beat. This is all part of Ballet Tech Kids Dance 40th Birthday celebration at the Joyce Theater.

These remarkably talent children perform three works, including the world premiere of “KYDZNY”, a ballet by Eliot Feld. The second ballet of the evening, “Apple Pie” is comprised of continuous allegro. Embracing the large moments, and precisely executing the copious Petite Allegro, the dancers put on a great show.

The first two dances are delightful, but neither compares to the raucous vitality present in “KYDZNY”. In circus-esque costumes, including stripes and silly hats, young dancers find the fun in every movement. Moving in circular patterns and doing quirky traveling movements, the palette forms a collage of kinetic play. Towards the end, just as the choreography is reaching its cacophonous climax, a gaggle of young girls walk across the stage blowing bubbles as they go. That is only one of the many moments effortlessly capturing the fun of this piece.

And the fun does not stop there! As soon as the dance ends, with the whole cast sitting on the ground laughing, the band of merry musicians enters back on stage. A rush of joy fills the space and colorful balloons fall from the ceiling. The audience begins dancing along, as the parents of the performers race to the stage to walk around with their young dancers. Truly a party, appropriately celebrating Ballet Tech and the enthusiastic dancers it creates.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

June 14, 2014
In its Brooklyn Academy of Music debut, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet presented repertory Wednesday evening. The company celebrating its 10th anniversary also welcomes Alexandra Damiani as the newly appointed artistic director. Three different programs were shown over their four-day run, including work by associate choreographer Crystal Pite. Opening night featured only one piece, the hour and twenty minute “Orbo Novo,” from choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Four large walls from designer Alexander Dodge fill the stage. They fold and extend, at times joining together to create large cages and at other points separating back space from the front, consequently entrapping whomever occupies the space. One dancer climbs the wall, calculating every step, as she contorts her body by displacing her limbs in the structured squares that make up the wall. She punctures her body through one empty square space and slinks to the other side.

Inspired by Jill Bolte Taylor’s memoir “My Stroke of Insight,” the first half of the piece is laden with text often spoken by several dancers in unison. Gesturing their hands and arms with delicate precision, their words differentiate the right hemisphere of the brain (the present) and the left hemisphere (the past and the future.)

As the words fade away, the movement picks up. Soon enough the ensemble of sixteen roll over their shoulders in a fish flop before jetting forward to spin in a squatted position. The choreography is tricky and floor work focused. These dancers are technical and strong, but it feels they are working too hard and we can sense it. In part the movement doesn’t give time for soft transitions and the sequencing has no direction.

The male dancers undress at one point and as beautiful as their bodies are the intention isn’t clear. They put back on their clothes a short time later and we can’t be sure why. Cherkaoui’s piece has entertainment value and the set gives way for exciting possibilities, many of which are fulfilled by the sheer athleticism of the dancers. However, as an evening work I’m left feeling underwhelmed.

Damiani steps into an important role in the world of American dance, and her choice of this work is interesting. But perhaps the decision reflects the left brain instead of focusing on what may be right in the present moment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

June 1, 2014
Characters in exotic lands whip up a storm of drama between royalty and servants, warriors and temple dancers in American Ballet Theater’s La Bayadere. Dressed in harem style pants and bejeweled halters, the temple dancers frame the action centered on the great warrior Solar (guest star Vladimir Shklyarov), his secret love Nikiya, the temple dancer (Polina Semionova) and the powerful Radjah’s daughter, Gamzatti (Hee Seo). To complicate matters, the feared High Brahmin (Victor Barbee) favors Nikiya, unsuccessfully vying for her hand.

Delicate and vulnerable, Semionova hovers weightlessly over her poignant arabesques and apprehensive spins until she falls into the arms of her love, Shklyarov. There, Semionova and Shklyarov embrace in amorous duets. Well matched as a pair, Shklyarov has a fine classical form, and clean, long leaps that fan across the stage. Some hard landings did not detract from his solidly dramatic performance. In contrast, Hee Seo, a capable technician, is not a convincing, haughty, lady of privilege.

Determined to marry Solar, she confronts Nikyia, but her anger remains muted. Intent on ending this carnival of mismatched lovemaking, The High Brahmin hides a deadly snake in Nikiya’s basket during her command performance for the betrothed Solor and Gamzatti. Gliding effortless in her bourees, softly curved arms and torso add to the image of vulnerability and when she pulls the snake out of the basket, it sticks to her neck like a leech. (Well, she’s holding it to her neck, but it was pretty gruesome).

After intermission, Solar consoles himself in a haze of opium and imagines his reunion with Nikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades. Dancers in all white tutus, stream down the mountainside in a repetition of legs lifting and stepping forward in a mesmerizing procession. Many think this repetitive passage is about as a post modern as ballet gets. Semionova and Shklyarov ease through the complex simplicities of the sequences conceived and directed by Natalia Makarova. In secondary roles, Sarah Lane and Misty Copeland are animated Shades and Craig Salstein adds melodrama to his role of The Bronze Idol.
EYE ON THE ARTS, Y -- Celia Ipiotis

May 29, 2014
John Jasperse constructs clean, well-proportioned dances. They follow a logic that sways inside personable crossword patterns. In his new work “Within Between” at NY Live Arts, committed dancers invest each movement fully, successfully revealing the piece’s architecture free of dramatics, until of course, dramatics are the choreography.

Gleaming white lights flood the stage and spill into the audience when a dancer enters holding a long, high wire walker’s rod. Balancing the rod in the hands, Simon Courchel gently snakes it out into the audience caressing sides of faces, touching a person’s head, shoulder, nuzzling arms and then pulling it back to stage. In a bit, he retrieves the poker and shares the rod’s length and weight with another dancer, Stuart Singer.

In an exquisite dance of balance, the bar floats onto of shoulders and then later rolls smoothly down bodies to their feet and other crevices and angles.

Finally the rod is retired and two more dancers join, the lovely Maggie Cloud and Burr Johnson. The formality of two against two or all four in unison permeates the piece’s pattern. Strong compositional elements, pared down to a few leg extensions and arm rotations conspicuously draw into a line of coherent steps. Simple steps unfold: pivots, pointed feet slide forward and back, bent knees lift, while arms rotate or punch over long arabesque turns and twists. Lights change color in a strip on the floor taped into quadrants, suggesting a different energy that is supported by a audio track that includes sounds like coughing, laughing, mumbling and snatches of music.

In a solo, Singer breaks off, drubbing forward and back, pulling up his knee, pointing an overarched foot into a strong point and his pummeling arms in and out. All fine performers, the dancers concentrate on the movement without adding context over the steps.

Originally in mixed stripe shirts and shorts, they flip into colorful, floral patterns for the final 1/3 of the piece. Their faces start to contort, eyes rolling and mouths squished like faces in a fun mirror. And that’s how they looked, dancers having fun.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 27, 2014
Precious gems frame the three-part, full evening ballet “Jewels” by George Balanchine(1967). Each section is dedicated to the vibrant properties of different gem.

The ballet opens on the dreamy Gabriel Faure music to Emeralds.Leading the ensemble, are two couples: Abi Stafford and Jared Angle plus Rebecca Krohn and Jonathan Stafford. More musical than Krohn, Stafford eased through the glides and floating balances with her attentive partner. In a clever partnering passage, two ballerinas, Lauren King and Megan LeCrone are matched up with a single danseur, Anthony Huxley. Of the two-featured ballerinas King most successfully located the music’s romantic breath.

Rubies announces the vibrant modernism heard in Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, and pitches Ashley Bouder and Gonzalo Garcia in a playfully competitive exchange of solos. Reminiscent of the famous song from the musical Annie “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better,” Bouder sallies out shaking her metallic, paneled tutu in hip swivels and rapid fire jump turns. Highly aerobic, Bounder and Garcia are in constant motion fanning through traveling spins, sparkling balances and air gulping leaps. Also joining the fiery duo is a technically and musically weak Savannah Lowery.

In the closing ballet, Diamonds to Tschaikovsky’s luxurious Symphony No. 3 in D Major” the graceful Sara Mearns holds the music’s heart. Elegant clarity describes the jewel and the dancer. Fearlessly dropping into Ask la Cour’s arms, Tschaikovsky’s long musical lines pass through her gracious limbs and upwardly arched torso. Slight hops out of held arabesques did not detract from the devotion to extending movement details and the aura of classical glamour.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 25, 2014
These days, Sarah Lane is coming into her own at American Ballet Theater. Thrust into the lead role opposite Danil Simkin in George Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations” Lane fully inhabits each step. Only occasionally unsure of herself, Lane’s partner, the technically exceptional Danil Simkin was a last minute replacement for the injured Herman Cornejo. Despite the last minute changes, Simkin found Lane’s rhythm, partnering her with ease and concern.

Performed to Tchaikovsky’s Theme and Variations, Simkin whips around in air turns punctuated by pirouettes without breaking a sweat. He executes complex sequences effortlessly, landing in neat positions. Lane exploits strong, well-arched feet and is on her way to getting inside the choreography. There was a good deal of variation in the demi soloists’ appearances, but Gemma Bond and Misty Copeland successfully maneuvered through their solos.

In Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant” to the music of Igor Stravinsky, James Whiteside joins a poised Paloma Herrera. Listening intently to the music played by the on stage violinist, Benjamin Bowman and pianist Emily Wong, they exchange looks and steps. An under-choreographed duet, the dancers are asked to impress each step with a depth of intent. Each passage switches up the mood, from languid to jolly, frisky and reflective. A natural Balanchine dancer, Herrera’s long legs and strong feet know how to attack the technique. A fine partner, Whiteside looks less steady, in part because his long limbs don’t snap as quickly into positions.

The program closes with the vibrantly colorful Gaite Parisienne choreographed by Leonide Massine to the popular music by Jacques Offenbach. Veronika Part (Glove Seller) and Misty Copeland (Flower Girl) assumed the leads along with a broadly humorous Craig Saltenstein (The Peruvian), Jared Matthews’ noble bearing (The Baron), Sterling Baca (The Officer) and the dramatically weighty Roman Zhurbin (The Duke). Christian Lacroix’s costumes cheer up the audience, particularly when the legs start flying in the celebrated “Can Can.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 21, 2014
Light soaks the brightly colored village where the lovely and intrepid Kitri (Maria Kochetkova) longs to marry the young and handsome Basilio (Herman Cornejo) instead of her burly father’s (Grant deLong) choice, the wealthy and bombastic Gamache (Craig Salstein). Unable to convince her father of true love’s hold, the lovers escape to a Gypsy camp.

This light-hearted ballet is marked by its flourishes and pyrotechnics. More innocent than coquettish, Kochetkova offers plenty of eye pleasing moves. Effortless turns and easy, long back arches float over sharp, piquant point work and double toe taps. Easily one of the most gifted dancers/actors currently in ABT, Cornejo is equally comfortable in his technique and character interpretation. Sharp and clean, Cornejo whips off six revolutions in his pirouettes, elegantly slowing down the final two before landing in a tight fifth position. More to the point, he’s completely attentive to his partner and soars through complicated choreography with elan.

The buffoon, Gamache, is dragged to new heights of shtick. Even when on the side of the stage, Salstein's theater “business” threatens to overwhelm the central performers--funny, but a little too much too often.

A string of characters add to the joyful mayhem including Sacha Radetsky (Espada, a famous matador) who wheels his cloak around in ruffled flourishes and his merry partner Merceds (Stella Abrera). Of course, the great wanderer Don Quixote (Roman Zhurbin) and his pal Sancho Panza (Arron Scott) shadow Kitri and Basilio. Intent on discovering his beloved Dulcinela, Don Quixote falls asleep and dreams of a universe of enchanted maidens. This is where the corps shines and the feathery Yuriko Kajiya (Amour) lightly weaves through intricate figures.

Technical fireworks break out in the last act when Kitri executes the traditional 32 fouettes layering- in double turns complemented by Cornejo’s soaring jumps, tightly sprung turns and gracious support.
The infectious music by Ludwig Minkus is brightly conducted by David laMarche.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 19, 2014
If, perchance, you end up at SLAM not knowing what goes on there, you might fancy the venue as an elaborate theatre where screenings of historic monster truck rallies show while cage matches play out live for those who prefer their carnage with a pulse. Vapors of fresh popcorn waft up spiral staircases down which muscly individuals rush in spandex. You might worry you missed the memo for a costume party until, upon taking your seat, you see them warming up before huge projections giving us a rundown of who these people are. One came from Dance Theatre of Harlem, another was in Cats, but amidst disparate backgrounds, they are here to put on FORCES, Elizabeth Streb’s latest unlocking of bodily potential through her evenhanded mastery of art and science.

Each of the ten segments is a highly developed study of human interaction with force. Streb eases us in examining the ways one can compliment a plexiglass wall. The company first takes turns ramming into it face-first like deranged birds, gradually sophisticating into dancers dangling off it like tangled Christmas ornaments in architectural counterbalances. Later, the floor spins in concentric circles, allowing navigation of centripetal force into impossible free-standing balances and multi-dimensional spatial patterns traveling through the speed difference between circles.

Other shorts meet deadly encounters with nonchalance. Jackie Carlson and Samantha Jakus play spin-the-200-pound-I-beam, counting their accelerating slaps as if at a slumber party. It goes on to be used as medieval limbo stick by Daniel Rysak who, lying below it, lifts his head, torso, pelvis, and entire body between spins, narrowly avoiding decapitation. “Fly” could double as a post-apocalyptic rendering of Peter Pan. Carlson is secured in a giant double skewer that spins while the contraption as a whole rotates in space, knocking down other dancers strategically placed in headstands. At one point she is upside down, connected by the scalp to one of the lost boys in a slow promenade – a calm beauty evoked on monstrous machinery.

One of Streb’s earliest works – “Escape” – has Felix Hess channeling David Blaine in a dance confined to a rectangular space lit coldly by flickering fluorescent light. Hess plays a tumultuous game of twister, slamming body parts on walls in contorted configurations as he howls. His eyes never reduce their wide-set terror, even as he scoots on his head in a fetal ball. While simply a formal exploration of what the body can do in a cruelly limited space, the pathos rendered by those few minutes of struggle until he dives head-first and backwards into black is heartrending.

Equipment pieces show the human/machine partnership as symbiotic. The last piece, “Rocket,” contains no slamming whatsoever. On a large yellow structure resembling an abstracted ice cream cone, Cassandre Joseph softly runs, leaps, and flips in a circular structure that keeps the whole device spinning. Her colleagues watch, beguiled, and add themselves to the picture. The arrangement of pieces outlines a journey – bodies with that which governs their movement – from chaos to altruism.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 17, 2014
A silhouette in a sequined jacket timidly approaches a mic stand. Avoiding direct illumination from a dim spot light, he poses around it. Fidgety and unable to settle on a proper tableau, he instead shares a fluid duet with it before bringing his focus to us, losing the jacket to reveal his toned torso. This is normally the part when disembodied braziers are catapulted onstage and screams of ecstasy fill the air, but we are at the Joyce. Pierre Rigal capitalizes on the silently seated decorum of concert dance audiences with Micro, a portrait of the rock concert as a rite.

Limbs slither through the equipment onstage – an entanglement of flesh and electronics that converge as the performers rhythmically prod each other with the cord jacks meant for the amps, creating a symphonic buzz of feedback. Childish play delves into the psyche of the rock ‘n’ roller – a kid in a garage whose rebellion depends on a plug and an outlet to be heard.

It is said that, given an infinite time span, a monkey hitting random keys will almost surely type the complete works of Shakespeare. Rigal makes an analogous suggestion with these barbaric musicians, who, after using their guitars as canes, masks, and metal detectors, ultimately rest them on the floor, tapping frets like a gamelan ensemble. Disparate pitches eventually agree on tonality, but the resulting song passes like a daydream as the lights come up on the hooligans from before vehemently vocalizing the sounds the instruments they are now beating on might otherwise be making.

Each section is marked by abstractions of classic rock antics. Rigal restages Roger Daltry’s microphone trapeze acts while Gwenaël Drapeau wears a hysterical smile that, when he drums, is pure Keith Moon. Malik Djoudi’s chanting connotes Gainsbourg, and a sword fight of guitars allegorizes Marc Bolan’s transformation into the Electric Warrior. In a whimsical sequence, Drapeau hums faintly in trance. Rigal leans in as if to kiss him, but, upon removing his mouth, actually absorbs the falsetto whimper. It is hard not to see George and Paul sharing a mic on Ed Sullivan in the image and, harder still, not to be awakened to the inherent homoeroticism. Mélanie Chartreux, through a short-circuited monologue and Rigal’s lewd manipulations of her catatonic form, embodies Joplin among others who were both pioneers and pawns of the industry.

Rigal is both ring master and court jester. He establishes himself as frontman from the start, but never sings nor plays a note. Rather, he inserts himself as a continual secondary focus to the musicians, performing a wide array of activities often in the foreground. This distracting composition harkens to Jim Morrison, dancing and passing out onstage during Jefferson Airplane’s 1968 European tour. When engaged, Rigal holds his microphones up to mouths, cymbals, unplugged guitars, and his own skull. He is a beacon of self-importance who elevates the microphone to a talisman signifying the arbitrary and fleeting natures of agency, be it decreed by self or other.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 14, 2014
A mixed evening of works by George Balanchine traced large-scale works from 1948 to more pared down ballets from 1975.

Strung across a score by Glazounov, Raymonda Variations individual dancers appear in a string of solos centered around a dominant pas de deux effortlessly performed by Ashley Bouder and her partner Andrew Veyette. Each variation expresses a different personality calling for lyrical passages, flighty jumps, and careful balances or traveling spins. Some fared better than others, including Ashley Isaacs’ lovely balances, Sara Adams and Emilie Gerrity charm and Faye Arthurs. A consummate technician, Bouder is expanding her interpretive qualities adding plush nuances next to needlepoint clear attacks.

Balanchine’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin” to Ravel’s score of the same name, fans lightly over the large cast of corps female dancers dressed in classroom white tunics and males and white T-shirts and black leotards. Combinations draw couples into clean patterns that ultimately form an elegant solution to the music’s geography.

Youthful exuberance marks The Steadfast Tin Soldier with the well matched Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley. Set in front of a fireplace, the doll and the soldier make eyes; flaunt their dance chops in perky jumps and dainty turns.

In one of the company’s most dynamic displays of technical aplomb and courtly grandeur, “Symphony in C” to music by Georges Bizet challenges on every level. Tiler Peck and Chase Finlay skillfully charge into action followed by some of the most poignantly romantic music in the Second Movement Adagio. Mesmerizingly performed by Sara Mearns, her elongated arabesques fold out of a supple torso. When Mearns poses in front of her partner Jared Angle, and suddenly releases her weight backwards into his arms, it’s like a profound sigh.

The final two sections challenge all the dancers’ stamina in a marathon of turn combinations peppered by springy jumps and breathless leaps. No better way to end an evening of dance.

May 11, 2014
Cincinnati Ballet celebrates its 50th anniv