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.

Performing Arts: Dance
September 28, 2022
Time to charge up the fall gala season with NYC Ballet's 10th Annual Fall Fashion Gala on Sept. 28. One of the most anticipated fall events, this year's celebration spotlights a commissioned world premiere score by Grammy-Award winning singer, songwriter, and visual artist Solange Knowles choreographed by a rising talent, Gianna Reisen.

With the release of Solange's critically acclaimed albums, A Seat at the Table and When I Get Home, Solange has invoked themes of identity, empowerment, grief, and healing that have resonated with millions of voices. The ballet includes costumes by fashion designer Alejandro Gómez Palomo for Palomo Spain, featuring Swarovski crystals; and lighting by Mark Stanley, NYCB’s Resident Lighting Director.

In addition, the evening will include a World Premiere ballet by Kyle Abraham (costume design by Giles Deacon), the live performance premiere of Justin Peck’s Solo (costume design by Raf Simons), and excerpts from George Balanchine’s Symphony in C (costume design by Marc Happel).

This year’s event will honor Sarah Jessica Parker, a vice chair of the NYCB Board of Directors, who conceived the Fall Fashion Gala in 2012 with a celebration of the legendary designer Valentino.

Joining Parker as Chairs of the 2022 Fall Fashion Gala are Honorary Chair Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America; and co-Chairs Georgina Bloomberg, Andy Cohen, Laverne Cox, Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, Jill Kargman, Diane Kruger, Mazdack and Zanna Rassi, Deborah Roberts, Jordan Roth, and Lizzie Tisch.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 26, 2022
Robyn Orlin’s New York City premiere delivers on her legacy of long and cryptic titles: And so you see… our honourable blue sky and ever enduring sun… can only be consumed slice by slice. The piece, presented by FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival at New York Live Arts, and performed by Albert Ibokwe Khoza is a powerhouse of solo performance art, as it runs a gamut across style and genre that is entirely transfixing.

Taking the seven deadly sins as a compositional road map, the performance is unconventionally staged with Khoza spending nearly the entire time facing away from the audience. A leather armchair sits a few feet from the first row and seats, and in it lays a body shrouded in strips of white fabric.

As the lights go down, video manager Thabo Pule begins to unwrap the motionless figure of Khoza. From the projected overhead view, the cloth gives way to the glistening cellophane wrapped tightly around his body. This constriction seems dangerous with only Khoza’s lips and shoulders escaping the binding, but his voice emanates from the plastic cocoon vacillating between soaring pure notes and rumbling growls.

With his arms released, Khoza brandishes a bowl of oranges and a knife, carefully peeling the first in an elegant spiral and vivisecting it, plunging each quarter of the dripping fruit into his mouth between bouts of tittering laughter as the knife’s edge darts around his mouth with excruciating precision.

Likewise, much of the performance exists in the closeup view of his body, fingers and hand bedecked in glittering jewelry flitting about a mirror or his virtuosically agile face leaping from animal impressions to serious glamorousness in the blink of an eye.

While painting on the makeup Khoza declares that he has an incredibly important date to prepare for. It is with none other than Vladimir Putin, whose involvement with Africa stretches back before Orlin’s conception of And so you see…in 2016. Khoza tells him: “my people dance with our weapons. Can yours make such beautiful sounds?” and the skirt he wears, made of woven whips and brightly colored fabric, lifts like the plumage of a peacock and swishes across the floor as he dances. Indeed, the sounds are beautiful.

Orlin’s superb composition with Khoza’s magnetic personality and exquisite vocal talent, make for an evening of art that is thoughtful and challenging while retaining a wonderful sense of humor.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

September 23, 2022
Works by George Balanchine flooded NYC Ballet's opening night making it a particularly satisfying program.

Surrounded by a cast of dominant young dancers, Balanchine's 1956 Mozart ballet Divertimento 15 formed a musical springboard for a traditional form invigorated by neo classical invention. Split between 3 soloists and 3 principals, six variations showed-off each individual dancer's personality: Sara Adams, Erica Pereira, Unity Phelan, Emilie Gerrity, Joseph Gordon and Megan Fairchild. Style and clarity colored their solos with an extra dollop of attention going to Periera, Phelan, and Gordon.

Scotch Symphony headed for the highlands led by the air borne Ashley Bouder, along with Jovani Furlan and Baily Jones. Echoes of the 19th century La Sylphide's sprightly sensibilities seeped through the buoyant jumps and springy turns that nodded to the master 19th Century choreographer and ballet master August Bournonville.

When a poet and a beautiful sleepwalker meet, mystery ensues in Balanchine's La Sonnambula. Charming and flamboyant, The Coquette (Sara Mearns) circulates through a masked party, commanding everyone's attention and stealing into the dreamy Poet's (Taylor Stanley) arms. As if in this world, yet part of another, Stanley effortlessly moves through the party, gallantly partnering Mearns in affectionate, suspended holds and flawless lifts.

Bounding from the wings, Harlequin (a NYC Ballet stalwart, Daniel Ulbricht) dazzles all with his technical fireworks jumping twice his height and pirouetting into perfect landings. As the guests dissipate, a light appears in the windows of the house revealing a beautiful Sleepwalker (Sterling Hyltin) holding a candle in one outstretched hand while quickly slipping on point across the space.

Whenever Stanley reaches out to grasp her, Hyltin sways forward and back, or round and round like a fluffy cloud blown by a sweet breeze. Desperate to hold her, Stanley approaches, but Hyltin executes a series of fleeting steps (bourrees) backwards that blur into an inexplicably ephemeral flight -- a breath-taking sight.

The rapt audience roared its appreciation for a company emboldened by its impressive ranks and commitment to American dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 22, 2022
Opening night of Fall For Dance, fans filed into a line that stretched up 55th Street to Seventh Avenue. Once inside, Arlene Shuler (overseeing her last Fall For Dance Season before stepping down as executive director) stood in the middle of the lobby enthusiastically greeting well-wishers. Afterall, this was her idea in 2004--an idea that grew into a NYC dance staple.

An animated audience enthusiastically received France's Compagnie Herve Koubi's excerpts from Boys Don't Cry. An all male troupe of physically fit black and brown men decked in white pants and shirts gracefully blend street dance with martial arts and social dance. Artfully moving on a white floor framed by white curtains, the compact Mohammed Elhilali breaks from the group. With microphone in hand, he relays a poignant tale of being bullied and his father's tough response: learn Judo. Mohammed's takeaway: "Boys don't cry."

Frequently swirling in circles, the adept company alternates between remarkable tricks like spinning on one's head only to corkscrew slower and then speed back up, and snapping into kick flips that fold into a satisfying, communal huddle.

Balletomanes revelled in the grand Pas de deux from Le Corsaire choreographed by Marius Petipa and performed by two Portuguese artists Margarita Fernandes and Antonio Casalinho. Pristine technique supported the requisite flair indispensable to executing an intricate string of fouettes and sky rocketing barrel turns.

A relatively new NYC dance company, Gibney Dance (founded by Gina Gibney) closed the night. Attractive dancers saunter through Bliss by Johan Inger to a piano score by the astonishing jazz artist Keith Jarett. Bliss' friendly ambiance extends to house lights remaining up and the dancers sporting everyday, casual outfits.

Under the bright starburst light suspended overhead, dancers pass and mix, sharing kinetic stories and repeating bluesy refrains: loose prances, bent arms pumping up and down, and dancers shifting from one foot to another in time to the divine piano riffs.

Throughout the ballet, optimism pervades the jaunty runs, and shoulder shimmies that float over light footed trills and flirty duets. What could make this better? Keith Jarrett playing live!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 18, 2022
For Jeanne, an awkward French teenager, going live on Instagram is a rare occasion but when she has the house to herself (father’s on a business trip, mother’s at a church meeting) she presses record and starts to talk to her followers. Created by Marion Siéfert and presented by the French Institute Alliance Française as part of their annual Crossing The Line Festival _jeanne_dark_ is a tour de force one-woman show, performed by Helena de Laurens.

The stage of the lovely Florance Gould Theater is transformed into a white box, fabric walls devoid of decoration and flanked by two tall and equally plain screens--onto which English supertitles and Jeanne’s live video are projected. Jeanne herself is colorfully clad in Valentine Solé’s costumes, smartly tasteless in a way that endears her to the audience. She babbles about controlling parents, faith, school, and her jealousy of the fact that her sister is no longer a virgin, punctuated by the occasional dance break.

In these moments the performance is at its most sublime: Jeanne’s strange and erratic dance moves reveal things about her relationship with her body that her words cannot. And as each dance passes her language loosens and her relationship with sexuality becomes more lucid as she provocatively adjusts her clothes and dances along to Cardi B’s WAP.

As the performance spirals things start to get weird: one of the various Instagram accounts commenting on Jeanne’s video begins to address the audience, providing commentary and comedy. Jeanne smears lipgloss across her mouth and eyelids and, in a surreal turn, produces a sparkling knight’s gauntlet from her backpack and runs it across her body, imbuing herself with violent self-empowerment.

Climactically the disembodied voice of Jeanne’s mother arrives, knocking loudly on her locked bedroom door and demanding to know what Jeanne is doing. In their argument Jeanne lashes out with her words and hands, leaving her mother crying as she displays a capacity for cruel honesty that is alien to the timid version of her that began the play. Retreating into the corner of the room and readdressing her digital audience, she peels off her shirt and writhes slowly to ethereal music as the light drains away.

_jeanne_dark_ is an invaluable addition to the growing pantheon of hybrid format theater, providing a unique and intriguing experience both live and online, and pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a stage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

September 13, 2022
On Skirball’s bare stage, the walls glow with an eerie light as the audience settles in for the premiere of John Jasperse’s Visitations. The piece, taking its inspiration from “spiritualism, Mesmerism, the occult, hysteria, and the exoticization of myth” is a spacious 75 minutes danced by three exceptional performers: Tim Bendernagel, Cynthia Koppe, and Doug LeCours.

As the lights go down, the dancer’s heavy footfalls settle as a puddle of light pools upon a figure draped in pale fabric, their back arching and falling as their shroud rises—a classic silhouette, ghostly beneath a sheet. A sound forms in the darkness; huge cracks and rumbles ripple across the silken mantle as a single foot emerges, gently carrying the specter away into the dark wings.

Now Bendernagel and Koppe fill the stage with their spare movements, languidly rolling and contorting about the stage as the cacophony of Hahn Rowe’s soundscape intensifies until it is almost unbearable. The sound breaks when LeCours enters and begins to move through a series of preternatural gestures, grasping at his face and arms in the newfound silence.

Rob Gould’s set and Amy Page’s costuming complement each other very well, and the textures of their varied fabrics turn sublime under Stan Pressner’s stark lighting.

In a tender duet, LeCours steps away from the prone Bendernagel, whose outstretched hand traces the back of his calf, fingers splaying into the air. Nothing here is hidden, even as the dancers subtly enter and exit, the soft drift of a curtain at the back of the stage anticipates each arrival.

In its penultimate moments, the piece is defined by another piece of fabric that floats through the air drawn by a smart system of pulleys and weights. Landing between Koppe and the other two dancers whose shadows bloom like a Rorschach inkblot across the cloth, it wrinkles and bunches where her hands grasp at their invisible bodies as she executes a possession-esque backbend.

Met with a standing ovation, Jasperse’s new work is a triumph of singular focus, which the performers deliver with a trance-like intensity. The audience is transported into a space charged with the supernatural, a sensation that is not easily shaken.

Even after departing the theater into the bustle of a Manhatten evening, spirits still float in its periphery.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

September 6, 2022
You might think it's too early for the start of the "award season" but The Clive & Valerie Barnes Foundation, under the leadership of Holly Jones and Lloyd Mayor, announced The finalists for this year's Theater Artist Award are Justin Cooley—Kimberly Akimbo; Jasai Chase-Owens—Sanctuary City; Erin Wilhelmi—To Kill a Mockingbird; and Samantha Williams—Caroline, or Change.

This year's Dance Artist Award finalists are Zimmi Coker—American Ballet Theatre; Erica Lall—American Ballet Theatre; Mira Nadon—New York City Ballet; and Jake Tribus—Gibney Dance Company.

The winners will be announced during the ceremony on Sunday, September 18, 2022. Recognizing excellence in theater and dance each receive an award of $5000 while the finalists enjoy a cash prize of $500.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

BAAND Finale
August 29, 2022
Lincoln Center’s second memorable BAAND Together Dance Festival, a week-long series of open-air dance workshops and performances at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch featured Kevin McKenzie in the closing ceremony. American Ballet Theatre’s departing Artistic Director, McKenzie hailed the festival as a testimony of New York City’s thriving united community.

Three years ago, the Artistic Directors of ABT, Ballet Hispanico, Dance Theater of Harlem, and NYCB, got together during the pandemic’s onset to collaborate in finding strategic solutions to keep dance performances and educational workshops alive.

Irradiating excitement, Robert Battle, Eduardo Vilaro, Virginia Johnson, John Stafford, and Wendy Whelan joined McKenzie on stage. With the audience cheering, Whelan presented McKenzie a gift for his contributions to the BAAND festival and recognition for his 30 years leading ABT (1992-2022).

The dance program then opened with ABT performing Children’s Songs Dance, a delightful, creative work by Jessica Lang to Chick Corea’s homologous score, played live by pianist Emily Wong. Through a set of tableaus of Matisse-like playful imagery, eight dancers delineated impeccably fluid compositions of a blend of fresh neoclassical and contemporary ballet.

Ballet Hispánico followed with an exhilarating bang of Mambo trumpets and dazzling couples performing excerpts from Club Havana. Honoring Tina Ramírez’s legacy, the contemporary dance company’s contagious swings, swirls, shimmies, and plethora of lifts spiced up the flavor that distinguished this choreographic voyage in time to choreographer Pedro Ruiz’s native Cuba.

New York City Ballet's performance of Allegro Brilliante delighted the audience with a gush of George Balanchine’s signature whirling enchaînments to Tchaikovsky’s variations, starring Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia.

In contrast, Dance Theater of Harlem's When Love, choreographed by Helen Pickett, brought a sense of intimacy to the stage. In an open-hearted distinctive contemporary pas de deux, Amanda Smith and David Wright drew in space through the collage of music, song, and spoken word in Philip Glass’ Knee Play 5.

Next, Ghrai DeVore-Stokes superbly conveyed Alvin Ailey’s Cry with an enrapturing powerful, and moving performance.

In closing, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s One for All brought the five companies together, interweaving their signature aesthetic and dynamic qualities with her distinctive configurations.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

August 16, 2022
Kyle Abraham's ambitious new work Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth is an "Afro- Futurist exploration of death, reincarnation, and the after-life" which certainly delivers in metaphysical splendor. The score—drawn from Mozart's Requiem in D minor—fits right in at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater, where jazz and classical music often find a home.

However, as pulsing bass so deep it makes vision tremble reverberates through the theater alongside choral voices, mixed live by the tremendously talented electronic musician Jlin, Mozart's work becomes a point of departure for the exploration of Requiem's epic themes.

Similarly, when the curtain rises on a stage strewn with ten dancers who undulate in Abraham's signature genre-bending style, balletic form serves as a base into which modern and Black social dance are folded. The dancers find elegant diagonals and extensions interspersed with organic twists and leans, all delivered with athleticism and grace. Their costumes, designed by Giles Deacon, are all soft colors and bunches of pleats forming skirts, loose pants, and even a stiff tutu -- all of which shuffle and bounce with fashionable panache.

Canons of choreography send the dancers oozing across the stage before it becomes a bare and bright space. In this sudden vacuum a lithe solo becomes a taut duet that evolves into a liquid trio before the full ensemble crashes back into the fray roiling in the nightclub lights. Violent seizures punctuate the performance, moments of collapse and spasm that disrupt the churn of choreography.

When a dancer falls prone and convulses their companions swiftly lift them from the floor as they are folded back into the throng. But before long, dancers pull away from the floor by their companions back into the thick of it.

Dan Scully's lighting design is excellent, with sharp lines and precise circles that cut through the hazy air in saturated neon colors. A particularly striking moment finds a footlight casting the dancer's shadows huge against the wall in angular silhouettes that overlap to make surprisingly soft shapes.

Throughout, a neon circlet floats above the heads of the dancers like a sun hanging low in the sky, and within it images swirl: Curling fingerprints, ink dripping in water, and upturned soil are projected into the dark hollow.

In the final moments rippling water alights there, superimposed over the face of a black child, who soon after wades knee-deep into a river. The dancers stand watching, their back facing the audience, as the curtain falls.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --- Noah Witke Mele

August 12, 2022
REJOICE - RECLAIM - REMEMBER… words on banners framing the stage were important reminders of New Yorkers’ celebration of dance following the pandemic, as five iconic companies joined together in the second BAAND Together performance on Thursday, August 11. BAAND Together Dance Festival, (which is an acronym for Ballet Hispánico, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem), showcased all five companies on a spectacular summer evening.

One for All, a World Premiere by Colombian/Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, featured fourteen dancers from all five companies, set to music by Dizzy Gillespie & Funky Lowlives, opened the evening. Costumed in white fluffy tutus, black tights and formal long sleeved black gloves -- men bare chested and women in nude colored leotard tops -- the dancers enveloped the stage in various formations of solos, duets, trios, sextets, and a final unison grouping, preening, posing, and flirting with the audience to the sexy rhythms of the music.

Pedro Ruiz, Cuban born and trained choreographer, used ten Ballet Hispánico dancers in his signature work, Club Havana (2000), with Afro/Cuban/Latin musical selections by Israel Lopez, Rubén Gonzales, A.K. Salim, Perez Prado and Francisco Repilado. The rhythms of the conga, rumba, mambo, and cha cha helped bring to life scenes of Cuban night clubs and mating rituals. Five men and five women embraced, swaggered, and tangoed, in sensuous dreamy duets, trios… lifting, draping, and surrounding their partners, while cigar and cigarette smoke embellished the atmosphere. Costume designer, Emilio Sosa, dressed the women in dramatic gold, red, green, blue, and magenta cocktail dresses and the men in stunning suits to match.

Pas de Duke, An Ailey classic, originally choreographed in 1976 for Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov by Alvin Ailey, is set to classic music by Duke Ellington, (“Such Sweet Thunder” (1957), “Sonnet for Caesar” (1957), “Sonnet to Hank Cinq” (1957), “The Clothed Woman” (1948), “Old Man Blues” (1930)). It featured performers, Jacqueline Harris, one of Ailey’s finest, dressed in black, who found her match with ABT’s Herman Cornejo, in white. They enjoyed the ease of a friendly, competitive partnership in five sections: solos and duets, which showcased their technical brilliance and light hearted self assurance.

New York City Ballet’s Red Angels, choreographed by the late Ulysses Dove in 1994, was absolute perfection on stage as four exquisite, flawless dancers: Emilie Gerrity, Ashley Hod, Davide Riccardo, and Peter Walker, all costumed in flattering red unitards by designer Holly Hynes, and lit in red by Mark Stanley, embodied technical magic on stage to composer Richard Einhorn’s unrelenting score (Maxwell’s Demons) which was performed live by Mary Rowell on electric violin. The stunning ending silhouetted the dancers at the back of the stage, lit in white from above, truly angels on earth.

When Love (2012), a duet by choreographer Helen Pickett partnering with composer Philip Glass’s "Knee 5" from Einstein on the Beach, repeatedly asked the question “How Much Do I Love You?” Dance Theater of Harlem’s Daphne Lee and Kouadio Davis achieved a fast paced, sometimes frenzied connection, in Pickett’s desire to represent timeless love and devotion.

Love Stories (2004) (excerpt), the finale of the evening, choreographed by Ailey Artistic Director, Robert Battle, did not disappoint and was the highlight of the evening. Nine prolific dancers in shades of red and orange jumpsuits banded together to express imagination, playfulness, joy, enthusiasm, the power of community, and the power of dance, to Stevie Wonder’s riveting rhythms and inimitable harmonica. A standing ovation followed the performance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

July 1, 2022
An inexhaustibly enthusiastic crowd cheered Skylar Brandt (Odette/Odile) and Herman  Cornejo (Prince Siegfried) in the popular story ballet Swan Lake.  Based on the revised 1895 ballet by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov Swan Lake with poignantly lush music by Tchaikovsky, Kevin McKenzie adapted the ballet and added a front-of-the-curtain prologue visualizing the evil sorcerer snatching a beautiful woman and turning her into a forlorn swan.

In celebration of the Prince's 21st birthday, peppy villagers frolic and toss off festive gigs, topped off by the diverting pas de trois danced with verve by corps de ballet members, Zimmi Coker, Breanne Granlund and Patrick Frenette. Although fully capable, Frenette's body holds tension until he loosens up in whizzing barrel turns. A natural jumper, Granlund airily springs into the rafters and Coker endearingly ferries through lacy hops and directional shifts.

A mainstay of ballet companies, Swan Lake demands technical and dramatic mastery and in her debut performance, Brandt took control of her destiny. Steady in Cornejo's embrace, Brandt's winged arms undulate over the signature, straight-arrow arabesques, framed by her torso folding into soft backbends guided the whole time by Cornejo's eyes and sure-hands.

Surrounded by a shimmering corps de ballet that breathe as one, Odette-- at first concerned by this man with a lethal crossbow -- succumbs to Prince Siegfried. Learning that "true love" can break the the sorcerer's spell that transforms Odette from a woman at night to a swan in the day, Siegfried swears he will love her throughout eternity.

When Siegrfried arrives at the ball the following day, processions and courtly dances abound until gate-crashers materialize to the sound of trumpets: Odile (Odette's evil twin) and the evil Rothbart (performed by Gabe Stone Shayer). Both Brandt and Shayer exude youthful eagerness rather than radiating ravishing wickedness and sexual allure. Constantly gaining in performance strength, Shayer-- like Brandt-- exhibits a love of dance. 

In the duet with Cornejo, Brandt strikes out in a wide, arabesque tilted rivetingly off-balance, nearly tipping over but for Cornejo's perfectly timed hand grasp. Fully prepared, Brandt sustained extended balances and tossed off the centerpiece 32 fouettes. 

Cornejo soars through his solos, finishing in immaculate landings, executing clear beats and the signature leaps that stretch into longing back arches. Individually, each step and gesture speaks of his anxiety, despair and love. Invariably retaining visual or physical contact with Brandt, like all great actors, Cornejo reveals his interior thoughts and emotions through his interpretive skills.

A large scale production, the ballet ascends and wanes, but the central solos and duets remain compelling. It will be a pleasure to watch Brandt mature into the role, find more breath and expansiveness in Odette; danger and attitude in Odile. Otherwise, brava to a rousing debut.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 29, 2022
The advent of modern dance saw expanded movement vocabularies within newly invented techniques. The postmodern movement of the 1960’s was concerned more with motion, as well as breaking from classical structures with new choreographic methods. As a student and professional dancing in the 21st century, I’ve often wondered how we might identify the guiding principles of what is so frustratingly vaguely termed “contemporary dance.”

Gibney Company’s Up Close provided an answer – we are no longer interested in movement, nor in motion; we are interested in dancing itself – making and performing it as dazzlingly as possible, alongside increased advocacy for fair and equitable compensation for artists, so historically conditioned to working tooth-and-nail for next-to-nothing.

Up Close is not a piece; it is a sort of programming format. It is never made clear in the program for Gibney’s New York Live Arts run what this format is, but what unfolded was an evening of three short to mid-length works, made by two guest choreographers, Yin Yue and Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, and one “Choreographic Associate,” Rena Butler, who additionally performed as a dancer in the Company.

Their works were ordered with a keen sense of digestibility – two short dances (Butler’s and Yin Yue’s), followed by Sansano’s longer piece on the other side of an intermission. The combination of dazzling dancing and program digestibility melds into how Gibney aims to solve the problem of an underfunded dance sector – strip away the esotericism of contemporary dance to appeal to a wider audience.

For a program featuring three choreographers of diverse and intersecting identities, these digestible dances were disappointingly similar in an aesthetic I can only encapsulate as “opening ensemble number on Fox’s "So You Think You Can Dance.” Gibney’s remarkable ensemble of dancers are all masters in infusing American competition-grade contemporary movement with convenient notes of contemporary European styles. If you notice I’m saying “contemporary” a lot, that’s precisely the problem.

Rena Butler’s Re / Build / Construct (Part I) tries too hard to make something of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” with a collaged score by Darryl J. Hoffman and a modular set, designed by Tsubasa Kamei to illustrate the Allegory’s images of shadows and light. The movement falls dynamically flat, dancers vigorously hobbling around like Coppélia dolls and yammering gibberish to express their unenlightened state.

A Measurable Existence allows itself to be about nothing specific, and more purely showcases Yin Yue’s athletic moves.

Sansano’s To the End of Love nods to Pina, strewing the floor with posters of online dating lingo, shed a la Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Quirky music choices and sudden affective contrasts will not so much delight tanztheater enthusiasts, but allow novices a way in.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

June 23, 2022
Operatic ballets wowed late 1800's audiences in Russia. Exotic themes, extravagant costumes and lush music accompanied star-crossed lovers, battles, heady dreams and reconciliations.

Well, you get all that along with imaginatively scored choreography in Alexei Ratmansky's Of Love and Rage.

Spread out over a popular score by Aram Khachaturian, the ballet references the first known romantic novel "Callirhoe" possibly written 1-2 BCE. Set in the Greek city of Syracuse during the Golden Age of ancient Greece, 400 B.C.E., gods, kings, pirates and the goddess of love Aphrodite make appearances.

As if ripped from the friezes of ancient Greek vases, the production opens on a bevy of beautiful maidens outfitted in long, filmy tunics (by Jean-Marc Puissant). Lyrical cascades of soft movements led by the exquisitely expressive Catherine Hurlin (Callirhoe), fan across the stage like soft Mediterranean waves cresting against sun bleached shores.

Difficult to fully capture Ratmansky's unending invention, women partner women, men partner men in balances and lifts that incorporate unexpected points of support and quick directional switches between partners. At times, Ratmansky's unending movement options invite editing, but on this occasion, his immaculate choreographic originality is framed by clarity.

Perfectly suited to play Callirhoe, the woman whose beauty captivates men, Hurlin theatricalizes her role without over dramatizing by simply interpreting Ratmansky's intention-laden choreography.

Based on an entangled narrative that incorporates everything from Adonis-like Greek male athletes to strong-willed noblemen, pillaging pirates, and fanciful women, the ballet loosely follows the lovers Callirhoe and Chaereas (a fervent Aaron Bell). Wooed by many a noble young man, Callirhoe choses to marry Chaereas and they exchange gold wrist bands as a token of their unbroken love.

At this point, Jose Limon's The Moor's Pavane comes to mind, because a similar plot is hatched when Callirhoe's maid helps the unscrupulous suitors replicate the wedding bracelet for the maid to wear and causes Chaereas to believe Callirhoe to be unfaithful. Chareas rushes into her chamber and kills her--arms rise behind the bodies of witnesses.

Taken to the mausoleum, Callirhoe survives only to wake up in time to witness pirates carting off her funerary possessions and make her their captive.

Part of Ratmansky's choreographic allure is the logic imposed on one passage after another. Unlike other colleagues, Ratmansky's choreographic arc is not interrupted with oddities parachuted in for no discerning reason.

A grand scale ballet, strands of dancers file into diagonal patterns that break into flowery chunks, reconvene as noisettes and split into the air. Fanciful folk dances abound and simple typical ballet jumps are embellished with additional twists, or directional changes that required not just a buoyant pop, but a vertical balance.

After Callirhoe is abducted, she's deposited in Anatolia, where the nobleman Dionysius (the compellingly brooding Daniel Camargo) mourns his wife's death until....the sight of Callirhoe undoes him. After some cajoling, she marries him (in part because she's pregnant and requires a husband). Camargo's smoldering dark looks amplify his earthy dips and expansive leaps, as he and Hurlin entwine in a duet of majestic lifts, and elastic embraces.

But all is still not well because Callirhoe captivates Mithridates (Jarod Curley who admirably replaced an injured Cory Stearns), another nobleman in Babylon who dukes it out with Dionysius until--voila! Chareas appears. Ok, the story is a bit circuitous, but it gives lead dancers an opportunity to dramatically invest their dancing with oversized emotions embedded in intricate choreography.

In Puissant's massively colorful production, gorgeous costumes festoon the narrative, color-coding one tribe from another and splashing the ballet with light by Duane Schuler.

Hurlin and Bell soar through the ballet capturing the lovers' passion. Invested with technical facility and interpretive bravery, Hurlin seamlessly fastens the dance to the character.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 20, 2022
Paul Taylor Dance Company usually performs at such large venues as Lincoln Center, a fact that made their weekend at the Joyce in Chelsea a wonderful opportunity to see the dancers at work in an intimate space. The programming for this limited run centered some of Taylor's less performed work, along with mainstays of the repertoire like Aureole, and put them in dialogue with new works commissioned by contemporary choreographers.

Program B featured four works by Taylor, and a New York premiere of Peter Chu’s A Call for Softer Landings, which—given the rather immense stylistic differences—complimented each other incredibly well. Chu’s piece was much more narratively driven than Taylor's, whose work is marked in the grand scheme of modern dance for its departure from the storytelling style of Graham, whose company he danced for.

Chu’s sharply contemporary choreography gesturally evoked rich relationships between the dancers, from fraught to loving, violent to tender. Lee Duvenek’s duet with Madelyn Ho was exceptional, a carefully composed sequence, where she beat him with fists, knees, and elbows, in a thoroughly dangerous bit of dance executed with precise control.

Beyond Chu’s work, pairs of dancers stood out across the evening in dynamic partnerships. Taylor's work lends itself to geometrically athletic sequences, most clearly in Profiles, where two duos made a series of hard blunt angles, arms bent up at the elbow giving way to stern fists. The dancers were deft and careful as they lifted each other precariously on their shoulders or in gravity-defying leans, exemplifying the piece’s near two-dimensional staging.

Stunning in its simplicity Events II, offered an entirely different take on the duet form: Eran Bugge and Jada Pearman stood, sat, and lay across the stage in relative stillness, done up in dresses, up-dos, and heels. Besides the economical adjustments of their positions, the two were more moved by the soft breeze that drifted across the stage than by each other.

Aureole departed from these partnerships, as dancers dressed in bright white lept playfully across the stage to baroque music, in almost ballet form. Austin Kelly was a standout, his bright smile and saccharine comportment brought affective depth to a performance that could easily have fallen into empty cheer.

Paul Taylor Dance Company has been dedicated to the necessary and precise preservation of Taylor’s work since its inception. This program certainly demonstrates that, and additionally works to keep the repertoire fresh and in conversation with the contemporary landscape of dance with much success.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

June 18, 2022
Periapsis Music and Dance's tenth season culminated in UNBEKNOWNST, a program of five new works by its resident and guest choreographers, in collaboration with the company’s resident composers. All works were performed by an ensemble of dancers and musicians, with two prestigious guest musicians joining the program. Five world premieres, with choreography by: Rohan Bhargava, PeiJu Chien-Pott, Da' Von Doane, Gabrielle Lamb, and Evita Zacharioglou graced the program with original music by: Annie Nikunen and Jonathan Howard Katz, the artistic director.

The program began with “Dissimilate,” by choreographer Rohan Bhargava, in collaboration with four female dancers to music by Annie Nikunen, with Jeffrey Zeigler playing live cello. According to program notes, the piece expressed “the search for individual identity against societal conformity.”

The lights came up on four women folded over, with bottoms facing the audience, showing only half of a body, with arms reaching and curling around upside down torsos before finally rising to erect postures.

Dancers connected and disconnected in estrangement, manipulating and contorting the body of one, while others watched or surrounded dispassionately. The work culminated in a duet where arms intertwined, uniting. It seemed that Bhargava was trying to find redemption through love and connection, in a world of indifference.

“The Subject” by choreographer Evita Zacharioglou, live piano by Jonathan Howard Katz, and musical soundscape by Spenser Robelen, showed three dancers (one of them the choreographer) in suit jackets, lifting, turning, gesturing, swirling, and diving towards and away. The dancing was respectable and professional, the music atmospheric, but there seemed to be little “subject” or point of view evident in this work, more like a work in progress that could be revisited.

Da’ Von Doane’s choreography for two men, in “What Kind of Land” with pianists Melinda Taylor and Jonathan Howard Katz playing to Annie Nikunen’s asynchronous score, did not equal the vitality of the music. The movement, often pedestrian walking, towards and away, around… symmetrical… embracing, and separating, meandered respectably, but without the passion needed to be believed.

Fourth on the program was “Split” by choreographer PeiJu Chien-Pott, danced eloquently by Liz Hepp and Paulina Meneses, in original yellow and black costumes by Lauren Carmen. Live cello, by Jeffrey Ziegler. Original score by Katz. Geometric floor patterns and shifting geometric shapes, in unison and oppositional duet configurations, explored the musical dynamics impeccably.

Gabrielle Lamb’s “”Unbeknownst” ended the evening, displayed the most experienced choreography of the evening. Lamb’s choreography responds to Katz’s music in this piece more than any of the other works, and she uses her dancers well. The piece begins with two minutes of piano and viola music only, and resolves at the end, with only the music.

“Unbeknownst” (the title of the evening) meaning “happening without the knowledge of the other” was too often the irony of this evening's presentation. The original music outweighed most of the choreography in its depth and knowledge, regrettably, often too divorced from the work onstage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

June 16, 2022
New York City's teeming artistic atmosphere bred America's second generation of performing and visual artists in the 1950's and 1960's. Deemed a "naughty boy" by Martha Graham, Paul Taylor left her company and flipped a few cultural mores along the way. These early days of experimentation and agitation are on view at the Joyce Theater.

Spare yet colorful, Fibers (1961) butts against an atonal score by Arnold Schoenberg, wrapping dancers in bright, rope-like fibers by the avant-garde artist Rouben Ter-Arutunian. Contractions edge against hard, athletic gestures and runs break out, arms swinging high side to side, legs gulping space. Inklings of Taylor's technique are outlined while exhaling Graham's influences and perhaps even suggestions of Jean Erdman's mix of myth and design.

Before exiting Graham's company, Taylor choreographed Images and Reflections in 1958 to a score by another experimental composer Morton Feldman and designed by Robert Rauschenberg. Silk-like fringe runs up and down John Harnage's spine reminiscent of a bird or native American headdress; arms stretch and back extends. In counterpoint, Kristin Draucker in a puffy, 50's style dress of tulle goofily shifts side to side in a dreamlike surf.

A jaunty new work by Michelle Mazanales Hope is the Thing with Feathers captures the company's vitality. Line dances and contemporary tunes hark to some of Taylor's own joyful odes to catchy, popular music from various decades.

Another Taylor gem Aureole galvanized Taylor's assertive choreographic reputation. Set to music by George Frederick Handel, Aureole foreshadows the brilliantly structured, lyric pieces to come.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 14, 2022
American Ballet Theater's season opened with sparkling comments about McKenzie's extraordinary service to the company. McKenzie, originally a favored ABT dancer who became artistic director for over 4 decades, will be succeeded by another former ABT dancer, Susan Jaffee. Change is-a-comin' to American Ballet Theater.

Intent on showcasing the company's wealth of talent, the Gala program embellished the major roles in Don Quixote with several different casts. A lively ballet full of comedy and overwrought drama is set to Ludwig Minkus' lushly romantic music flecked with Spanish cadences, crisp castanets and finger snaps.

Loosely based on the story of Don Quixote's quest the ballet hones in on the love story between the beautiful Kitri and her rakish beau Basilio and their village of characters.

In the first rotation, Aran Bell embodies a dashing young beau, raring to sweep away his sunny Kitri, Catherine Hurlin. Joo Won wins over his Kirtri with buoyant jumps that swoon over the powerfully delicate Hee Seo. A strong partner, Daniel Camargo frames Christine Shevchenko's crowd-pleasing technical prowess.

Two of the livelier roles, Mercedes, the street dancer and Espada, a famous matador allows dancers larger interpretive freedom.

The vainly dramatic matador finds favor in Thomas Forster who has his way with a cape, while Calvin Royal III charmingly claims his ground and Gabe Stone Shayer fires up tons of dash and daring. All three Mercedes' -- Devon Teuscher, Katherine Williams and Cassandra Trenary -- toss off impressive kicks, and flirtatious skirt flicks. A newer face, Williams (ABT soloist) demonstrates fresh verve and the pleasingly theatrical Teuscher returns in a convincing turn as the Queen of the Dyads (Act II).

Someone who nearly steals the show, the wispy corps member Lea Fleytoux, streaks through blurry quick point work, and pliant leaps and turns in the role of Amour.

Facing a new age, American Ballet Theater is building a strong foundation for a creative future that promises to continue its legacy of excellence and broaden its ranks to embrace America's rich cultural, ethnic and racial heritage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 13, 2022
Sergei Prokofiev composed Peter and the Wolf in 1936, after being commissioned by the director of Moscow’s Central Children’s Theatre, Natalya Sats, to write a work that, through marrying narrative and musical motif, would introduce children to symphonic instrumentation. Prokofiev ended up writing the libretto as well, creating an airtight educational piece that has since been filmed, televised, staged, and danced.

In 2007, Guggenheim’s Works & Process series premiered a production with fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi narrating, which, under Mizrahi’s subsequent direction in 2013, would go on to include dancers, choreographed by John Heginbotham and costumed by their director/narrator.

Nine years and a pandemic later, Mizrahi has concocted a sequel – a companion piece, written by the designer, entitled The Third Bird, adding composer Nico Muhly to the collaborative mix.

Muhly, like Prokofiev, prioritizes clarity in cross-medium analogs, but departs from Prokofiev’s combination of instrument and theme to achieve it, relying more on instrumentation, and replacing strictly set, varied, and recapitulated themes with the rhythmic atmospheres of modern minimalism contemporary choreographers can’t get enough of.

Some instrumentation/characters carry over – The Bird/Flute (and now Piccolo), the Duck/Oboe (and now English Horn), The Cat/Clarinet, and the Grandfather/Bassoon. Strings have been reassigned from Peter to an Ornithologist, a Central Park Zookeeper is represented by a combination of Harpsichord and Whirly Tube, and the titular Third Bird is an Ostrich, sounded by a Bass Clarinet. The Moon, oddly, has no musical correlate, and was danced by Heginbotham himself when an eleventh-hour injury prevented its intended Gus Solomons, Jr. from performing.

Mizrahi’s narrative, however, is all over the map. What is, in theory, centered on the Ostrich’s journey to embrace itself as a flightless bird is, in practice, distracted by wit for wit’s sake, told as a string of meandering “and then’s” that corner Heginbotham into representing much of the action via dancers reacting to events we are left to imagine.

With the central medium so diffused, it’s anyone’s guess as to the work’s purpose. Mizrahi speaks with child-like awe at the sounds Ensemble Signal uses to portray the characters, and yet his (very entertaining) voice overpowers the score (we’d rather hear more of). His costumes are crafty and clever, but relatively humdrum despite being Mizrahi’s actual medium.

Third Bird is marketed as children’s theater, but when The Duck, after learning to fly to escape Grandfather’s Cat, is sucked into the turbine of an airplane, a young audience member vociferated, “THAT’S NOT FUNNY.” We can perhaps best understand this who’s who of a collaboration as a living New Yorker cartoon, its tongue too far in its cheek to touch any hearts.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

June 13, 2022
Kudos to the faculty, artistic director, repertory director, executive director, production manager, and most importantly, the students of Ballet Tech Kids Dance! Opening night at the Joyce Theater gave a complete and satisfying celebration of the end of an era and the beginning of a new period for the company as Eliot Feld retires and Dionne Figgins assumes the helm. And great honor to Eliot Feld for his vision in 1978 to build this school which has developed many professional dancers throughout its existence.

The two hour opening night spanned decades of choreography, from a 1957 version of West Side Story with choreography by Jerome Robbins and music by Leonard Bernstein, to excerpts of Feld’s 1992 Hello Fancy, and a 1994 First Movement of his 23 Skidoo in the first act, and a 2022 piece choreographed by Figgins.

Throughout the evening, the Ballet Tech students were well rehearsed, polished, and confident in a variety of styles and moods. A complete ensemble of dancers dressed in black and white, opened the evening with Feld’s Hello Fancy. Dancers lunged across the stage with twisting torsos, figure eight arms, kicks, sauté’s, in varied groupings, and ending with the entire cast on stage.

Eureka! (2022) choreographed by Artistic Director Dionne Figgins, cast students in street attire of red, blue, green, and pink, jackets atop sweat pants, accompanied by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor. A combination of hip hop, break dancing, and balletic pirouettes intertwined to make a cohesive whole.

Jacqueline Scafidi Allsopp, repertory director, fabulously staged sections of Robbins’ West Side Story” weaving “Jets and Sharks,” “Dances in the Gym,” “Cool,” “America,” and “Somewhere” in imaginative configurations, reminiscent of the stage and screen versions of the work.

Raymonda, choreographed by Petipa and set to lush music by Alexander Glazunov, demonstrated the company’s exquisite mastery of classical work, featuring soloist Raven Barkley (guest artist courtesy of Charlotte Ballet and former Ballet Tech student). Her subtle upper body nuances and gestures, commanded the stage.

Guardians by contemporary choreographer Men Ca, set to dreamy and dramatic music by Joseph Trapanese and Max Richter, stretched dancers across the stage in runs, pique arabesques, with arms slashing and cutting through space.

Manhattan Research by John Heginbotham showcased a group of younger dancers dressed in “I Love New York” tee shirts and shorts. A light- hearted work set to jazz music by Raymond Scott, rows of dancers bounced and ran, snapped fingers and clapped in shirting circles.

The evening ended with Infrastructure by Michael Snipe, Jr., opened with smoke on a dimly lit stage. Dancers in navy leotard tops and long grey unisex skirts, walked forward and back, side to side, arms gesturing large. Bodies lowered to the ground, contracting and lengthening, ending in low lying lunges.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

June 13, 2022
Kudos to the faculty, artistic director, repertory director, executive director, production manager, and most importantly, the students of Ballet Tech Kids Dance! Opening night at the Joyce Theater gave a complete and satisfying celebration of the end of an era and the beginning of a new period for the company as Eliot Feld retires and Dionne Figgins assumes the helm. And great honor to Eliot Feld for his vision in 1978 to build this school which has developed many professional dancers throughout its existence.

The two hour opening night spanned decades of choreography, from a 1957 version of West Side Story with choreography by Jerome Robbins and music by Leonard Bernstein, to excerpts of Feld’s 1992 Hello Fancy, and a 1994 First Movement of his 23 Skidoo in the first act, and a 2022 piece choreographed by Figgins.

Throughout the evening, the Ballet Tech students were well rehearsed, polished, and confident in a variety of styles and moods. A complete ensemble of dancers dressed in black and white, opened the evening with Feld’s Hello Fancy. Dancers lunged across the stage with twisting torsos, figure eight arms, kicks, sauté’s, in varied groupings, and ending with the entire cast on stage.

Eureka! (2022) choreographed by Artistic Director Dionne Figgins, cast students in street attire of red, blue, green, and pink, jackets atop sweat pants, accompanied by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor. A combination of hip hop, break dancing, and balletic pirouettes intertwined to make a cohesive whole.

Jacqueline Scafidi Allsopp, repertory director, fabulously staged sections of Robbins’ West Side Story” weaving “Jets and Sharks,” “Dances in the Gym,” “Cool,” “America,” and “Somewhere” in imaginative configurations, reminiscent of the stage and screen versions of the work.

Raymonda, choreographed by Petipa and set to lush music by Alexander Glazunov, demonstrated the company’s exquisite mastery of classical work, featuring soloist Raven Barkley (guest artist courtesy of Charlotte Ballet and former Ballet Tech student). Her subtle upper body nuances and gestures, commanded the stage.

Guardians by contemporary choreographer Men Ca, set to dreamy and dramatic music by Joseph Trapanese and Max Richter, stretched dancers across the stage in runs, pique arabesques, with arms slashing and cutting through space.

Manhattan Research by John Heginbotham showcased a group of younger dancers dressed in “I Love New York” tee shirts and shorts. A light- hearted work set to jazz music by Raymond Scott, rows of dancers bounced and ran, snapped fingers and clapped in shirting circles.

The evening ended with Infrastructure by Michael Snipe, Jr., opened with smoke on a dimly lit stage. Dancers in navy leotard tops and long grey unisex skirts, walked forward and back, side to side, arms gesturing large. Bodies lowered to the ground, contracting and lengthening, ending in low lying lunges.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

June 13, 2022
Entering its 36th year, the Performance Mix Festival, hosted at Abrons Arts Center, is the longest-running women-led experimental theater festival in New York City. This year featured 12 shows between Thursday and Sunday, platforming more than 35 artists. Friday night’s Program B included works by David Lee Sierra, Kayla Hamilton, and Blaze Ferrer, a wonderfully diverse trio that complemented each other in their immense differences.

David Lee Sierra opened with Public Structures of Feeling, a rich and disturbing endurance performance. Entering at a sensuous pace with all the gravitas of a high fashion pop star, she sported ten-inch pleaser heels and, as her costume changed from glittering chains dripping down her chest and thighs into tight latex, little was left to the imagination. Pounding techno music and droning synthesizers accompanied Sierra mounting a piece of scaffolding, where she found precarious balances and excruciating holds tangled among the bars. Bathed in deeply saturated light she smeared herself in blood, turning her platinum blonde hair dark and stringy.

In stark contrast, How to Bend Down/How to Pick Up by Kayla Hamilton, was introduced as “still in its dreaming stage”. Such a dreaming stage involved description and experimentation of what the performance might become as it explored the history of cotton as it “threads between Blackness and visual Disability”. Striking moments included a verbally guided dance solo that evolved with the inflection of the repeated choreographic directions and the final dance, set to Lead Belly’s "Pick a Bale of Cotton", that had the dancers executing repetitious motions as they moved up and down the stage.

Blaze Ferrer closed the show with Diamond Dessert Cuck, a queer romp featuring two dancers in bedazzled bodysuits with Furby faces affixed to their crotches. As a dreamy score played they ran in circles side by side, arms swinging with increasing verve, punctuated by moments of stillness where they rose into careful relevé. The expansion and contraction of their bodies’ heavy breathing was accentuated by their glittering costumes. In the performance’s climactic moment, a shining cape was lifted into the air by a fan. The billowing fabric evoked a queer jellyfish, under which a dancer churned and rolled about the floor.

All in all, a thoroughly entertaining night at a performance festival whose work feels necessary, not only for an audience but also for the development of the presenting artists.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

June 6, 2022
In West Side Story, composer Leonard Bernstein uses what, in Western music, is understood as a dissonant harmonic interval to aurally symbolize the plot’s tensions. Alternatively, this same interval (the tritone) is a common feature of the Jewish music Bernstein grew up hearing. In Somewhere, choreographer Doug Varone exploits a similar duality in the score itself as an (excerpted and instrumental) whole: Yes, it is the music from West Side Story, a groundbreaking musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but it is also just music – music that is really fun to dance to.

The concept is daring, considering the savage territoriality of New York’s musical theatre fandom; however, when one considers Varone’s interests and track record as a choreographer, it makes perfect sense. Varone is clearly aware of this, and has offered many an Easter egg that prevent Bernstein’s orchestral selections from being totally divorced from their source material.

The exposed brick of The Joyce stage’s back wall immediately conjures vintage NYC alleyways. The costumes read as pajama variants of 50’s street gang-wear. Aya Wilson, who opens the work, exudes Anita’s aura. Speaking as a musical theatre lover myself, this effort to include aesthetic handholds for purists prevents the work from fully achieving its simple (and pure) purpose of repurposing.

Still, Varone succeeds at a symbiotic relationship between mediums – he gets to choreograph an iconic score, and West Side’s musical details we either take for granted or overlook altogether get their chance in the limelight. Varone achieves this with his tried-and-true method of visualizing musical texture, often assigning bodies as direct correlates to instruments and lines.

The raucousness of “The Dance at the Gym” is allowed to be fully embodied as such, rather than as a utilitarian accompaniment to an evening social at a time when people socially danced in a certain way, as heightened by Jerome Robbins. We forget the musical gunshots interspersed in the chromatic fugue of “Cool” when dancers simply follow Bernstein’s dizzying entrances. We can (and do) still revere Robbins; there is simply more we can do.

The challenge to strip away and replace a score’s primary association allows Somewhere to succeed at what Rise attempted in 1993 (and as this program’s finale). John Adams’ Fearful Symmetries is stuffed with fun sounds and grooves, but it lacks the overall cohesion and dance-readiness guaranteed by distilling a hit Broadway score into defined selections (quite literally “symphonic dances”).

The same trademark-Varone swings and swells of sprawling movement, slicing through space in shimmering swirls that somehow come to crystalline order are relatively at odds with and at the mercy of a long piece of music concerned more with its own formalism than riding momentum.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

June 6, 2022
The Valentina Koslova Dance Conservatory’s Studio Company premiere took place at Symphony Space last Saturday night. A fledgling group of committed dancers between the ages of 15-19, danced several classical excerpts and one contemporary piece by Koslova herself.

The evening began with a short excerpt of the rare, recently revived Petipa ballet Ruslan and Ludmila based on the 19th century Pushkin poem. Costumed in pretty blue-green long chiffon dresses and tiaras, some jitters and shyness were evident in some of the young corps de ballet dancers, as they warmed up to being onstage. The soloists danced with assurance and Courtney St. Cloud’s circle of jumps was impressively buoyant in this excerpt reminiscent of Ondine and Les Sylphides all in one.

The classical excerpts showed the different personalities and levels of the dancers. Emma Tatum was charming in the Walpurgis and Fille excerpts, and Jullian Schubert danced a technically assured Black Swan variation. Mary Elsener and Albert Davydov danced the first act Don Q pas de deux with pizazz but needed more technical precision while The Napoli excerpt should have more stylistic clarity.

Clement Guillaume’s energetic presence and technically strong variation in the classical Graduation Pas de Deux complemented his strong partnering of the tall and delicate Katherine St. Jean.

Kozlova’s choreography Overcome, created twenty years ago in the wake of 9/11 wrapped up the evening. Revival of the piece included assistance from alumna Lyla Medeiros, whose mother designed the costumes. The bouncy, sleeveless black dresses moved nicely with the sharp gestures and moving, emotional solos to uplifting gospel music. It was a joyful way to end the program.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy

May 31, 2022
The vase, made of mycelium, weighs next to nothing. It is around 14 inches tall, and its solid root structure—that usually distributing nutrients to the stems and caps of mushrooms—is smooth to the touch. A band around its widest section is rougher and pressed into the surface is a woven texture from a hand-embroidered textile that was incorporated into the vase’s mold. This is the information relayed to a viewer by the house manager at Danspace during a preshow touch tour of iele paloumpis’s In place of catastrophe, a clear night sky.

In fact, a large portion of the dance performance itself takes place through what, in other more conventional dance spaces, would be called accessibility accommodations. But in paloumpis’s show, audio description of performance becomes a performance of its own, so that visually impaired and blind people (performers and audience members alike) are more than accommodated as the dance works to “de-center sight as a primary mode of experiencing dance”.

In similar fashion, Alejandra Ospina provides a rich narrative audio description of the performance from inside a laptop wheeled by the performers about the stage.

The in-person cast is excellent: Ogemdi Ude, Seta Morton, and Marýa Wethers are exceptionally grounded in their performances, delivering dynamic and swirling movements along with concise and evocative descriptions of each other’s moves. When the cast’s vocalizations take center stage M. Rodriguez’s voice soars, often lending powerful and glittering melodies to the space which brings a welcome unity to the sprawling and lush soundscape. Additionally, Marielys Burgos Meléndez brings a verve and playfulness that beautifully rounds out the group’s presence.

When Krishna Christine Washburn appears projected into the arch of Danspace’s sanctuary she remotely leads the rest of the cast in a joyous dance from her kitchen dance studio, making a beautiful stage picture. Below her image, the church’s altar is covered embroidery by paloumpis, and strewn with burlap roses and colorful braided fabrics. At intermission these set dressings are tied around the performers into stunning harnesses, which accentuates the more movement driven second act.

In the final moments of the performance the dancers form a strong diagonal line across the sanctuary floor and walk through a series of sacred hand gestures which the audience is invited to mirror, an act which ushers in a gentle close to paloumpis’ wonderfully caring performance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

May 24, 2022
The Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis School, the official school of American Ballet Theatre, gave its first in-person performances in years at the NYU Skirball theater. By presenting a handful of classical ballet repertory excerpts, the school positioned itself as steward of classical ballet style, and beautiful classical ballet style and training was evident in each and every one of those dancers.

The clarity of their port de bras and their joyful stage presence are just two essential elements of this tradition that are clear values being instilled in the young dancers. Kudos to outgoing JKO Artistic Director Cynthia Harvey for shepherding the students with such integrity throughout the many challenges of the past few years.

The program began with Conservatoriet, a classroom exposition by the 19 th -century Danish master August Bournonville staged by Petrusjka Broholm. It begins with a nerve-wracking series of grand-plies (in pointe shoes!) in the center of the stage, which will bedevil even the most seasoned dancers. Aside from one or two nervous baubles the dancers managed the fiendishly difficult choreography with assurance and aplomb. More than few dancers stood out for their ballon and carriage during batterie sequences – key ingredients for Bournonville technical virtuosity. Impressive control was displayed by Savannah Quiner in her variation, and the young men controlled the ends of turns and double tours with ease.

Le Petit Ballet by Robert LaFosse with lovely music composed by JKO student Charles Chaitman showed off the up-and- coming-dancers with well-executed simple steps and partnering.

Excerpts from Sleeping Beauty staged by Ms. Harvey herself showcased the gifts of particular dancers, especially the clarity and musicality in the Prologue fairy variations danced by Audrey Cross, Caroline Quiner, Rachel Quiner, Cle´mentine Boulle´, Julia Norr, and Fiona Quirk. It was nice to see the relaxed banter and mutual admiration expressed between outgoing ABT main company Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie and Ms. Harvey, as they spoke while costume changes were happening backstage.

A lively rendition of Moiseyev’s Jota Aragonesa opened the second half, in a stellar example of cross-cultural homage. It’s hard not to love a Soviet Russian’s balletic transformation of a traditional Spanish folk dance danced by young American- trained dancers with respect and joy, to Glinka’s rousing score.

A bravura rendition of Black Swan by ABT company members Lea Fleytoux and Jarod Curley showed what the future might hold.

And excerpts from the beloved classic Coppelia, seamlessly staged by Robert LaFosse with Carmella Gallace and Ruben Martin spotlighting different couples sharing the leading role, wrapped up the evening. In the first and third act pas de deux, Ellie Iannotti and Max Barker, Silvie Squires and Brady Farrar, were charming and assured. And Vince Pelegrin radiated with joy while the corps de ballet supported through their own ballet dancing well done.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

NYCB- Apollo/Orpheus/Agon
May 19, 2022
Before the evening opened on three major Balanchine/Stravinsky collaborations, the orchestra played Stravinsky's playful "Suite No. 2 for Small Orchestra," a fitting start to an evening bowing to George Balanchine's remodeling of American ballet.

Balanchine migrated from Europe to NYC in 1933 at the invitation of Lincoln Kirstein and and over 12 years later, choreographed Orpheus(1946) in collaboration with Igor Stravinsky and  Isamu Noguchi (best known for his collaborations with Marth Graham). Nogouchi's eerily ancient abstract sets and mythical costumes (featuring long tail-like fringe, stringy hair and serpentine motifs), animated the Greek myth about Orpheus and the tragic loss of his wife Eurydice to Hades.  Blessed with the voice of an angel, Orpheus embraces his signature lyre (handed down by the God Apollo) and fiery love for Eurydice. 

With his back to the audience, Orpheus (a sleek Joseph Gordon) stands dejected, his beloved lyre dropped by his ankle. Visited by the Dark Angel (Andrew Scordato) Orpheus is guided through the menacing Furies, Lost Souls and Bacchantes, led by a strong Megan LeCrone, to find his Eurydice (the striking Sterling Hyltin).  Throughout the ballet, Noguchi's sets convert from rocks to clouds, illuminated from behind and shifting silently into mazes and mythic puzzles. As much a visual/theatrical event as a ballet, Orpheus is built on dramatic movement interpretations. 

A classical ballet of god-like proportions, Balanchine's Apollo (1928) relies on dancers' clarity and classicism. An introspective Taylor Stanley steps into the role of Apollo, the ancient Greek god of music. As if cut out of white marble, the choreography frequently situates Stanley in profile--like a sculpture in relief. 

To instruct the young god, Apollo is joined by the three muses: Tiler Peck (Terpsichore), Brittany Pollack (Polyhymnia) and Indian Woodward (Calliope). Woodward, the muse of poetry, navigates her measured steps with aplomb, gesturing outward from the diaphragm with one hand while pricking the floor en pointe in silvery arabesques.

The muse of mime, Pollack bolts into rapid-fire attitude turns tied to speedy steps. Again, the difficulty level is upped because one hand remains near the mouth in a "sushing" position while the other is extended.

Finally, Peck arrives bending and extending the music's interior, as Terpsichore, the muse of dance and song. Like a youthful colt, she playfully paws the ground, and circles in jetes and springy, coquettish walks on her heels. Unlike the first two muses, Peck 's choreography gives free form to both arms.

Finally, Apollo rises to dance a contained solo marked by legs crisscrossing in front, melting into heroic poses and thoughtful dips. Balanchine brings the three muses together for a romp with Apollo in a jaunty series of exchanges between the muses and their Apollo.

Agon brings into focus Balanchine's neoclassical style. Choreographed in 1957, the ballet opens, unusually, with dancers' backs to the audience. An example of Balanchine's signature speed, it breaks into fractured timings, cutthroat partnering holds and balances suspended over whiplash directional changes.

This season, NYC Ballet is testing the mettle of many younger dancers. From the looks of it, the ranks are well seeded with talent we can all look forward to in the near future. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 16, 2022
Ugemdi Ude’s I know exactly what you mean, presented by Danspace, was a dance about lying. Upon entering the historic St. Mark’s Chruch in-the-Bowery the audience wandered past a large printer, a dormant and tantalizing detail that would eventually pay off, before finding their seats.

Exquisite in the simplicity of its premise and the rich depth of its execution the show began with the performers, Selah V. Hampton, Symara Johnson, and Ogemdi Ude, sitting on the steps beneath the arch in St. Mark’s sanctuary. Projected above them were distorted music videos, collaged movement and color from which bodies and faces emerged.

These figures were perhaps Ludacris or Lil’Kim whose sounds, among those of other hip-hop performers, DJTONYMONKEY used to score the show. As the performers began to speak—recounting stories of adolescent untruths into handheld mics—their words replaced the projections with fragmented texts, print overlaying itself to the point of illegibility as their stories interrupted each other.

These words were in excellent literary company; the performance’s program cites Toni Morrison and Suzan-Lori Parks as inspirations for using fictitious storytelling as a method for healing Black Americans. On this Ude writes that “we are addressing the fissures in personal and collective memory that a traumatic event creates. When we don’t remember, we fabricate to make sense out of what we do”. These themes are elevated by a narrow lane of design decisions, lights and costumes alike stick to the colors orange and black.

The dancing itself was excellent, each of the performers demonstrated not only technical skill in hip-hop and modern technique but also the affective components of the performance.

The choreography, sometimes riotous and others molasses-slow, found impressive shifts between joyous movement, plucked out of a wonderful nightclub in sync with the music’s pounding beat, and a raw vulnerability that felt equally melancholy and sharp as if it could have physically wounded the performers as they danced it.

Climactically, the printer began to spit forth its ream of paper, which fell to the ground in folds, grasped and stretched— but never torn— by the performers as their voices rose cacophonous against the thrumming music.

All the stories that had been told throughout tumbled from new mouths bringing into question the factuality of the narratives, even as they clarified Ude’s promise that “lying can often help us make sense of an essential truth”.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

May 9, 2022
The air was crisp and chilly as the audience arrayed themselves of the bleachers of Sky Rink at the Chealsea Piers to watch Ice Theater of New York’s Home Season program. A family event through and through, the atmosphere of the rink was jovial, and the show—running a tight 50 minutes—left the audience sated but certain to attend again. This is in no small part due to the immense talent of the performers who collectively hold a considerable number of ice dance and figure skating titles and awards.

The audience certainly appreciated the technical skills on display erupting in applause as impressive lifts, turns, and jumps were landed with ease. Equally compelling was the choreography, as in Mauro Bruni’s Body Parts, which stood out as a glowing example of modern dance on ice. The five performers wore bright monochromatic outfits, and moved with the flowing grace of waves crashing on a shore, shifting seamlessly between gentle lyricism and roiling bedlam.

Often, the dancers arrived to moments of stillness with knees, hand, and sides pressed against the ice to great dramatic effect. Between each dance the sound of skates on ice was titillating, the gentle scraping of dancers setting themselves kept the audience leaning in for the appearance of the skater in the spotlight.

Such a moment was the opening of Emanuel Sandhu’s performance to Madonna’s Vogue, where he snapped along to the song’s rhythmic start. Then, oozing with charisma, he deftly executed the choreography by Joanne McLeod and Cesar Valentino -- full of smart footwork and dynamic gestures that brought the music to life. In a particularly delightful moment, he threw off his black suit jacket and dynamically spun on the ice, revealing the glittering back of his crisp dress shirt. But as fun to watch as Vogue was, it’s sparkling queerness put many of the other dances into an odd perspective, reminding the audience that (much like classical ballet) ice dance easily falls into heteronoramtive pairings, where men and women perform very specific gender roles dictated by the form.

But by the end of the show, such worries were far from mind, instead one might marvel at the map that spread itself across the vast plane of ice, a myriad of rivulets cut into the rink by skates, tracing how the performance unfolded in gentle arcs, tight spirals, and delicate piles of ice shavings.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

May 2, 2022
Before a packed audience at the Joyce Theater, the Limon Dance Company opened with Waldstein Sonata. The dance featured eight strong, confident dancers, dressed in costumes by Haydee and Maria Morales; the women in shades of apricot and pale dresses, the men in loose pants and tops, reminiscent of the 70’s modern dance scene when this piece was first created. Dr. Danny Lewis reconstructed the original work in 1975 on Juilliard dancers, and today it still holds its stature. The dancers exchange positions from center circles, often reaching arms high with clasped hands in prayer-like positions, with lower body variations of stag leaps, attitude hops, and lunges. During the second half, with neutral light on stage, and adagio (from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Opus 53, played live by pianist Soheil Nasseri).

Three duets emerge-- women are lifted, rising effortlessly and softly landing to the floor, then lovingly cradled in the arms of their male partners. The piece ends with all eight dancers on stage, smiling expressively moving forward and back, completing their trajectory in low lunges to the ground, as if quietly spent from the seemingly effortless work. The work shows its deep attention and respect for Beethoven’s work, and displays Limón technique at its best; a stage palette designed with integrity and imagination.

Danzas Mexicanas, a series of five solos, originally choreographed by Limón in 1939, and reconstructed for this season by Artistic Director Dante Pulieo. It features three men and two women expressing Limón’s homage to the spirit of his native country. “Indio” danced by Robert M. Valdez, Jr. enters in white with background projection of green grass. Savannah Spratt dances “Conquistador” in black dress, boots, walking and pounding her feet majestically as she reigns over the stage, depicting the European infiltration of Mexico.

“Peon,” danced by Terrence D.M. Diable, arrives bare chested with white pants and red sash, arms often in prayer position, symbolizing the enslavement of the native people. “Caballero,” performed by Johnson Duo in a red tuxedo jacket, represents the new generation of conquistadors, with “all of the cruelty and none of the strength of the originals.” Finally, Lauren Twomley enters upstage right in “Revolucionario” initially crawling on her belly until the driving music allows her to rise and fill the space with brave, exuberant jumps, signifying the “contemporary, descendants of those before who now fight against oppressive systems of power.” Live pianist Soheil Nasseri accompanied each dance with music by Lionel Nowak.

Migrant Mother (World Premiere) by contemporary choreographer Raul Tamez completed the evening, using the brilliant skills of eleven dancers. Billed as a tribute to the magic of Mesopotamia. It opens with dancers in still shapes, surrounding a central figure created by two intertwined dancers swathed in gauzy fabric. Tamez’s work expresses the repressed and wandering emotions: rage, fear, possession by evil spirits, reflected in the primal scream of the victimized woman, and referring to an earlier pre-catholic form of religion.

Highlighted by numerous musical works, it rambles on without a coherent statement, but perhaps that is the point. A dancer dressed as a stag (helmet of antlers) leaps, staggers, and “dies” on stage in the finale, reminding us of the vulnerability of nature.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

April 22, 2022
What's left to say about George Balanchine's mesmerizing ballet Serenade. As if part of a dreamscape, ballerinas in knee-length, tulle dresses resemble a mystical tribe of ephemeral women bathed in moonlight and poised to move.

Their balletic incantations surface in simple movements--feet snap open from a parallel standing position; arms rise, wrists drop, and soon there's a silent rush into swirls of motion, spiraling inward and outward.

Coinciding with news about the heartbreaking carnage in the Ukraine, watching Serenade delivers an even weightier jolt of melancholy through the tug of Tschaikovsky's mournful score and Balanchine's contemplation on the fleetness of life.

The evening closed with Jerome Robbins' epic Goldberg Variations which comes in at one hour and twenty-four minutes. Effectively an evening-length ballet, it is set to Johann Sebastian Bach's popular "Goldberg Variations" composed in 1742. A veritable ballet time-machine, Variations loops from the delicate, filigree Baroque dance forms and costumes to the athletic and quick modern ballet technique birthed by the courts.

Susan Walters, the valiant piano soloist, accompanied and inspired the dancers. Strong in will and execution, all the company members (regardless of rank) negotiated a flurry of swift footed runs and leg beats happily maneuvering through impish rhythms and surprising changes of focus. At times ballerinas' hips swiveled inside balletic poses, and males cavorted, arms swinging and attitudes swaggering. Each section exuded a different personality tied together by one, very singular vision.

The ballet opens with dancers in Baroque styled costumes, travels into the new-age leotard and tights routine back to the elegance of Baroque. In Part II, six of the company's Principal Dancers usher in an air of resilience and expressiveness to the closing cadences. Unity Phelan and Taylor Stanley fill the ballet vocabulary with warmth and fluency; Sarah Mearns and Tyler Angle exalt in expansive extensions and commanding lifts while Tiler Peck and Joseph Gordon's tight knit turns and explosive jumps radiate inside rhythmic acuity.

A demanding work, Goldberg Variations deservedly received gales of applause.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 21, 2022
New York City Ballet is getting spruced up for its Spring Gala on May 5. One of the more artistically compelling ballet galas in NYC, this year's glittery event features a new work by former NYCB dancer Silas Farley and energizes NYC Ballet's two week Stravinsky Festival that pays homage to the landmark 1972 NYCB Stravinsky Festival.

Currently the Dean of the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute in LA, Farley excelled in his intellectual interests in dance and his curiosity about all forms enlivening the field. Farley's first major piece, Architects of Time for 16 NYC Ballet dancers to a commissioned score by David K. Israel (inspired by Balanchine and Stravinsky), is joined by Jerome Robbins' delightful Circus Polka featuring 48 students from the School of American Ballet (there was a time when 48 professional dance students in NYC was unheard of!).

George Balanchine's lighthearted Scherzo A La Russe, and the exhilarating Stravinsky Violin Concerto close out the gala chaired by Diana L. Taylor, Chair of the NYCB Board of Directors, and Liz and Jeff Peek, the President of the NYCB Board of Directors.

This will be a night to remember.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 21, 2022
The José Limón Dance Company celebrated its 75th Anniversary two week season at the Joyce Theater. Week one they presented three iconic works and one contemporary premiere. All four works exalted the human spirit during this time when our culture aches for redemption and relief after pandemic and world atrocities. The evening also revealed Artistic Director, Dante Puleio’s commitment to bridging the past with the future by featuring the work of contemporary choreographer, Olivier Tarpaga. Each dance in the program was prefaced with recorded narration by Dion Mucciacito, providing important historical notes and context.

Doris Humphrey’s Air for G String (1928), (music by J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D Major, “Air”) opened the evening with a blessing of grandeur and reverence, reminding us of her influence as Limón’s mentor and artistic director of his early company. Five tall, willowy women, draped in cascading, golden silks, (original costumes by Pauline Lawrence, rebuilt by Ali Lane) circle, arch, and curve, in slow promenades, connecting through spirit and breath, suspending and seemingly floating to heaven while never leaving the ground; angels on earth.

Psalm (1967), considered to be one of Limón’s masterpieces, with the original musical score by Eugene Lester, features 15 dancers in community surrounding a central heroic figure who suffers life’s burdens and responsibilities for the group. Grief, suffering, longing, searching, hope, caregiving, redemption -- all human experiences -- embody the half hour work. The exquisite choreography and the dancers' technical brilliance confers a complete depiction of Limon's depth of humanity.

Johnny Gandelsman (solo violist) and Donovan Reed (solo dancer) captivate and mesmerize the audience in Chaconne (1942), Limón’s inspired first work, with music by J.S.Bach’s Partita #2 in D Minor. A majestic, austere solo, with deep lunges and arabesque pirouettes, the figure floats in space on one leg in endless moments of suspension to the impeccable brilliance of Gandelsman’s violin interpretation of Bach’s score.

The final work by contemporary choreographer Olivier Tarpaga, sets the company’s sights on the future in Only One Will Rise (2022), a premiere for the ensemble group to original music by Tarpaqa and Tim Motzer includes live percussion, guitar, and bass musicians. Narrated explanation describes Tarpaga’s identification with Limón’s search for redemption and the celebration of the human spirit.

Opening with twelve still dancers surrounding a central grieving figure, the work develops with slow moving dancers juxtaposed next to quick, eccentric movements by others, offering alternatives in the experience of time within the same moment. Projection design by Michael Clark changes our perspective of location and space, alternating between abstract contemporary art with nature images.

Continuous changes in groupings, from solos, to trios, to sextets, to unison group work, show Tarpaga’s respect for Limón’s use of “fall and recovery” in the choreography, dancers often rising and falling to the floor, but with his own signature style based in his African roots from Burkina Faso.

The evening ended with a Q & A discussion with Artistic Director, Dante Pulieo, Choreographer Olivier Tarpaga, and Company member Savannah Spratt, moderated by artist/scholar/educator Kiri Avelar.
Mary Seidman

April 12, 2022
The Martha Graham Dance Company has done it again – while sublimely honoring their founder, an icon of mid-twentieth century modern dance, they also managed to blow the audience away in the most contemporary, heart-pounding way. From the hoots and hollers elicited by Hofesh Schecter’s new work, to the joyful theatricalized staging of Graham’s Ritual of the Sun from Acts of Light (1981), the Graham company’s programming cut across generational divides and excited their gala audience like few major dance companies today.

As a clean and clear-eyed exposition of Graham technique, Ritual of the Sun is choreographically simple: group sections, solos and duets highlight signature qualities: a proud, open chest that contrasts with the concave use of the torso, joyful bodily expression, and the amalgamation of ballet technique into a new dance language.

Dressed in bright yellow unitards designed by Halston and Graham, and proudly exuding their Graham heritage, the dancers danced to the heroic music by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen with total commitment and gusto, uninhibited by the dated nature of the work.

Canticle for an Innocent Comedian, a work inspired by Graham’s work from 1952, was commissioned by Artistic Director Janet Eilber from eight different choreographers. Sonya Tayeh’s excerpts were as mysterious as they were absorbing. Groups of three to four dancers lined up behind each other, limbs out and fingers splayed in branch-like shapes, bodies shifted, stretched, and circled around each other, slowly changing configurations.

The gorgeous costumes by Karen Young – long skirts with alternating sheer panels and colorful mosaics – swayed with the sensual movement, as circling bodies pulled and embraced each other, in contrast with our pandemic world. Smoke emanated superfluously from behind each group, seemingly for “atmosphere” that was already present in the music and choreography. A Sun solo, in a radically different ritual from the previous work, was impressively embodied by the sinewy and supple Lorenzo Pagano.

A break in the dancing brought CNN’s Alina Cho, the evening’s host, onstage to honor five women whose collective accomplishments are beyond impressive: Tracy Richelle High, Dr. Kathryn Jansen, Jackie-Michelle Martinez, Jane Edison Stevenson, and Carol Wincenc. A wonderful nod to the positive impact of female power.

Last but not least, Hofesh Schecter’s CAVE, a co-production with Studio Simkin, brought the evening to a wild and exhilarating close. Simkin, a former ABT principal, fit right in with the spectacular Graham dancers as they all showed off the athletes of the Gods that they are, while still part of a cohesive group. In an intensely hot amalgam of highly structured dancing blended with individualized club moves and shades of other forms, the dancers moved nonstop to a relentless house mix by AME and the choreographer.

The impact of CAVE reminded me of what I have heard about Twyla Tharp’s Deuce Coupe: a theatricalized exploration of what it means to be young now: energized young people (in spite of the pandemic, or perhaps because of it).
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 10, 2022
Clad in a gown sewn full of roses Carmina Cortez tears the room open with her voice. It is like an excavation, digging toward the depths of roiling emotion that are at the heart of flamenco. The rest of Noche Flamenca’s program at the Joyce Theater was equally full of such Herculean tasks. From castanets clicking together at what seemed like inhuman speed to subtle wrists twisting with bombastic Spanish bravado, Martin Santangelo’s choreography is both thrilling and heartbreaking.

The stage was adorned with a raised platform which, aided by microphones along its lip, amplified the sounds of the dancer’s feet. Such a setup was invaluable, as the sound of Pablo Fraile’s toes dragging across the floor might be missed otherwise, and such intimate details brought a tenderness to the solo that tempered the matador jacket and masculine attitude that Fraire rakishly inhabited.

Similarly, in a solo danced by Antonio Granjero, musicians classically arrayed themselves across the back of the stage as Granjero exploded again and again and again, eliciting cries of “Olé!” from audience and performer alike. Astoundingly it seemed as though Granjero never stopped dancing, as he mopped sweat from his brow with his kerchief his feet continued to accelerate.

In a moment that audibly draw gasps, he inched backward stopping just short of falling into the first row of onlookers. Catching himself at this cusp he playfully stuck his heel against the edge, its sound whispering into the microphone. From here the program ran a gamut of intensity, turning to vocalist Manuel Gago whose rich voice filled the darkened theater with mourning, singing of his lost son and the depth of his loneliness.

Through all of this shone Soledad Barrio, who ended the show with a firey dance composed of precise rhythms and stomps. With her skirt gripped just above the knee she demonstrated not only mastery but restraint, holding back as if to not give everything to the tragic dance. This proved to be an impossible task, and in the final moments, she pounded her way to the front of the stage, her shadow cast huge against the brick behind her.

Here she let out a guttural yell, unspooling herself, this sound cut through the music, bringing it to a halt and the audience to their feet in roaring applause and tears.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

April 8, 2022
At a time of great unrest, and only 3 years until the start of World War II, Martha Graham's 1936 "Chronicle" stood as a fierce manifesto rejecting the rise of fascism in Europe. Unnervingly aprt for our time as well.Despite the all-femlae cast, there's nothing delicate or pretty about these warrior women pounding their feet, and slashing, angular arms against leaps propelling them to freedom.

The youthful Graham dancers plunge into politically charged Chronicle particularly the determined and stately Leslie Andrea Williams who fans her full skirt exposing the blood red bottom under the black sheath in the "Spectre" (created in 1914--the start of World War I). Section II, "Steps in the Street:Devastation--Homelessness -- Exile"  finds  a fine and intense Marzia Memoli commanding the throng of dancers demanding everyone be attentive.

Leslie Andrea Williams and Memoli announce "Prelude to Action: Unity--Pledge to the Future" which draws together the fiery female corps resolving the fear and devastation into hope and determination.  A masterwork, it's difficult to catch your breath after this piece, let alone absorb works of lesser power.

Prior to the performance, Artistic Director and former Graham dancer, Janet Eilber welcomed the audience to the company's more than 5 decade history. Importantly, Eilber concisely delivers brief notes on the dances, contextualizing them for the benefit of everyone. Over the years, Eilber has mastered the art of enhancing the public's understanding of Graham's creations and the company's forays into new choreography.

This season, the Graham Company commissioned the creation of a new work inspired by the themes of Graham's 1952 work Canticle for Innocent Commedians organized by Sonya Tayeh, and featured sections contributed by Dristina and Sade Alleyne (Earth), Jenn Freeman (Water), Juliano Nunes (Fire), Micaela Taylor (Stars), and Yin Yue (Death) Sir Robert Cohan's Wind. Although much of dance is lost in time, Graham's Moon section survived in a film and takes its place among the newer sections.

A popular choreographer, Hofesh Shechter’ frenzied Cave steps into the Graham repertory. Daniil Simkin (former ABT dancer) serves as creative producer and performs in the crowd-pleasing closer.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 2, 2022
Founded by the powerhouse Tina Ramirez, Ballet Hispanico is now a NYC institution. In honor of their over 50 year legacy, the company, under the direction of Eduardo Vilaro commissioned a full- length work by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Based on the life of Eva "Evita" Peron, Dona Peron plumbs the life of the controversial Argentinian woman who rose from poverty to the palace. Equally loved and maligned, the First Lady of Argentina was spellbinding, dying at age 33 due to cervical cancer.

Bathed in white light, Eva Peron(the excellent Dandara Veiga), a larger-than-life figure, stands proudly far above the crowd in a long white gown that flares to the ground. Within minutes, this mesmerizing figure undoes her bodice and drops her skirt only to reveal a ladder which she climbs down (only to climb back up during her political reign) and joins the throngs in the streets waving white hankies. A dynamic cast draws from several contemporary dance forms tracing Argentinian street dances from the tango, to upper class waltzes, modern and ballet elements.

Eva Peron's rise from the streets evolves through several scenes describing her harsh upbringing, to nights performing in dance halls and finally her fortuitous meeting with Juan Peron (Chris Bloom). The various locations indoors and out are depicted through Christopher Ash's lighting, and projections onto a long white rectangular object suspended from the rafters.

Both Bloom and Veiga deliver commanding performances, particularly Veiga who not only dances nonstop, she changes outfits by Mark Eric just about every 10 minutes.

Constantly surrounded by the masses, Bloom and Veiga are fed by a Greek-style chorus that stamps and twists in unison fueling a rhythmic soundtrack over the score by Peter Salem. Dancers throb in the Argentinian streets of the 1940' and 50's, one moment playing, the next rebelling. Tight hip switches side to side punctuate straight backs and sharp feet compounding the dramatic tension.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and artistic collaborator Nancy Meckler excel at capturing the mood of the masses. Less successful is an actual reading of such a complicated scenario. Despite any dramaturgical questions, Dona Peron radiates energy throughout the evening and showcases Ballet Hispanico's outstanding dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis
Photo of Dona Peron with Dandara Viega and Ballet Hispanico by Paula Lobo

March 29, 2022
Ladies of Hip Hop: Black Dancing Bodies, presented by the Guggenheim as part of their Works and Process series, was a wonderful suite of dance and history that brought together many generations of Black women in celebration of their contributions to hip hop.

The show began with a film by Loreto Jamling, made during the company’s residency at NYPL for the Performing Arts earlier this year. The dancers grooved in the stacks of the reference library and strutted their way down the long tables, transforming what is usually considered a quiet space into a wonderful dancehall, filled with energy and the sounds of clapping and stomping.

After the film was met with raucous applause we were treated to a series of live performances, beginning with a dance choreographed by LOHH’s executive director Michele Byrd-McPhee, whose exquisite footwork will be sticking with me for a long time. From little jumps that landed before you’ve realized they left the floor, to taps and hits that revealed the rhythms inside the music, the dancers effortlessly moved about the stage.

While Bryd-McPhee was credited as the choreographer for the first dance, it was only the structure of the pieces that she provided. As the night progressed, company members brought their own expertise to the stage. Hip hop dances are communal and before they were performed behind a proscenium they were pioneered in dance clubs, where moving together was paramount.

Byrd-McPhee is clearly aligned with house dance, but a menagerie of other styles like jazz and swing were also present in her choreography, and company members contributed vogue and whacking as well as stepping and West African. Even when the dancers were in unison their individual styles shone through—revealing the rich and varied tapestry of experience that the company brought to the stage.

The final dance began with a playground scene, dancers double-dutching and playing rhythmic hand games before morphing into competitive freestyle and breaking battles, met with cheering and whistling from the crowd.

In a triumphant scene near the end, Byrd-McPhee and LaTasha Barnes, another of the “dance elders” in the company, found themselves dancing on stage together, silhouetted against a bright orange backdrop, kicking their heels up and bringing the house down.

Dance lovers should keep their eyes open for this company in the future, they are a delight and not to be missed!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

March 25, 2022
This spring, four major dance companies are appearing under the umbrella of the inaugural City Center Dance Festival. Paul Taylor Dance Company kicks off the season followed by Dance Theater of Harlem, The Martha Graham Dance Company and Ballet Hispanico. The Taylor Company dove  into the utterly gorgeous Roses, Lauren Lovette's premiere Pentimento and the romantically idiosyncratic Brandenburgs.

Sandwiched between two major Taylor works, Lovette's Pentimentoto a score by the classical Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera excels in the ease with which the dancers embody the movement. Like Taylor, Lovette dispenses with over-wrought choreography, and instead aspires towards a cleaner palette. In fact, it makes sense to import a NYC Ballet dancer turned choreographer, because Paul Taylor actually appeared as a guest artist with NYC Ballet from 1959-1960.

Although retired from NYCB, Lovette remains an eloquent performer and her embodied experiences translate seamlessly to her interpreters. Effectively locating dancers' comfort zones, Lovette forms highly organic choreography filled with spatial clarity.  In this instance, Lovette imbued herself in the Taylor athletic style -- one that pulls dancers to the ground rather than into the heavens. Despite this earthy technique, speed remains central--similar to her native Balanchine tongue. In Pentimento a red scarf appears in the arms of a dancer and later it's passed among the 14 performers. Duets filter through the scenes, mixing genders, heights and forms traveling in tandem, lunging and lifting one another.

An open-chested expansiveness filters through outstretched arms and a surprising shimmy or two. Compassion and hope color her easily communicable choreography. Now the company's Resident Choreographer, Lovette will have an opportunity to go even deeper into her own aesthetic in communion with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

The evening included the wistfully romantic Roses and uplifting Brandenburgs.In Roses groups collect and fan out across the stage in nimble counterpoint contrasting against curved, angular forms. Five pairs of dancers share time, and when not dancing, they lay in repose, with women leaning back against men's bodies as if in a sun soaked glen. Clad in white, the lead couple scoops up huge hunks of space with elongated arms, and body lengthening dips.

Taylor's Brandenburgs, to the baroque music of Johann Sebastian Bach, establishes a classical dance frame and quickly upends it with an all-male corps followed by a trio of women who are part of a single man's entourage-- not unlike Balanchine's "Apollo." Dancers weave through thickets of dancers and sail effortlessly through the air.

Throughout the evening, the Orchestra of St. Luke's performs under the baton of David Lamarche. Currently, many of America's major modern dance companies are coping with the generational and COVID-related loss of dancers, and still, the Taylor magnetism continues to buoy this new generation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 24, 2022
You have only four days to experience Mark Morris' sublime L'Allegro el Penseroso ed il Moderato performed to music by MMDG music ensemble, conducted by Colin Fowler and joined by the choir of Trinity Wall Street.

The imprint of L'Allegro on the modern dance community is profound. Delightful in its musicality and powerfully rhythmic accents, Morris masterfully toys with Handel's music -- which he oversees as much as the dance.

Climbing up and over each other, the spatial design enriches the soul-satisfying, intricate choreography.

More than 50% of the company includes new dancers, but regardless of their tenure, Morris shapes and sharpens each individual's form at the BAM Opera House.

Bodies clump together  forming corporal scenography resembling trees and hills gracing sylvan gardens. True joy imbues L'Allegro, a dance not easily forgotten.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Celia Ipiotis

her body as words
March 13, 2022
Contemporary dance icon Peggy Baker’s new dance film, her body as words, is an exploration of what it means to be a woman today. Presented by Baryshnikov Arts Center, it is made up of nine solo dances, created in collaboration between the performers and Baker herself.

Filmed in portrait (as if to be viewed on a phone) by Jeremy Mimnagh, the dancers move in a dark room, where the lights transform air into smoke, rendering the space countless shades of grey marked by only the barest traces of color. The editing is excellent, almost seamlessly cutting in and out of proximity to the performers. Similarly, the dances are delivered with seriousness and poise, catching complicated shapes between swift articulations of the hands.

Alison Neuman’s solo builds a steady and driving momentum in the repetitions and subtle shifts of her arms and head, drawing attention to the smallest moments, where her eyes flicker upwards or her chest becomes a cradle for her fist. And when Anisha Tejpar grasps a small doll in her sharp hands, its loose arms splaying out as she twists and spins, the choreography is at its most delicate and intense.

As each dance finishes, the screen fades to black and poetry rolls up like credits. These are the scores for the dances, each reflecting its dancer and their relationship to womanhood. They are endlessly rich texts, addressing race, motherhood, ability, desire, age, sex, labor, and more, cascading into ever more entangled complexities of gender.

Baker cites Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex as the inspiration for this project, and that influence shines through in the deliberate investigation of female identity, but it is also clear that Baker is making this dance for today. The work does its best to extricate itself from the transphobic tendencies that some feminisms descended from Beauvoir still propagate.

The sound design by Debashis Sinha is outstanding, mixed from the ambient noises of the studio, dancer’s breath and footfalls paired with the sound of an ambulance passing on the street outside.

In Baker’s own solo the long sticks strapped to her arms scratch across the floor, their sounds spectralized to create a textured and often haunting experience. All in all, her body as words, works exceptionally well as a dance film. Its premise and form are precise and executed with great skill. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Peggy Baker, I was thoroughly wowed.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

March 8, 2022
Cheers cascaded from the balconies to the orchestra during Tiler Peck's inaugural program at City Center. Commissioned to create a new work and curate an evening of dance, Tiler assembled world class dancers and premium choreographers in a deeply satisfyingly evening of dance.

An iridescent ballerina, Peck has stopped hearts with her exquisitely musical and technically electrifying performances as a principal dancer with NYC Ballet. And in fact, the incredibly busy, Peck just completed her season with NYC Ballet in February! Composed of Peck's 2019 ballet Thousandth Orange commissioned by Vail Dance Festival, the program was buoyed by premieres from Lauren Lovette, Alonzo King, Swift Arrow; William Forsythe, The Barre PRoject, Blak Works II and a collaboration between Michelle Dorrance, Jillian Meyers and Peck, Time Spell. In the world of modern dance, performers commonly become choreographers. Not so common in ballet, unless of course, you're a member of NYC Ballet, a company consistently producing young choreographers.

Before COVID-19 stalled the world, Peck created an appealing work for 6 dancers to music by Caroline Shaw played live at City Center by the Bergamot Quartet. Visually clean, the lights reveal a tableau of dancers posed in layered vertical levels. Featuring the original cast of top tier dancers--Isabella Boylston, India Bradley, Herman Cornejo, Jovani Furlan, Christopher Grant, and Lauren Lovette -- Peck played to each dancer's strength, composing balletic steps shaped around relationships. Most striking are the richly textured patterns. Thankfully, unison dance is not the dominant feature. By plumbing her inherent musicality, Peck forms movements that work in counterpoint to one another or fan out forming painterly snapshots of dancers moving on two different spatial levels. Dancers partner up regardless of gender performing on a scale few ever achieve.

California based Alozno King paired Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia (son of ballet dancer/choreographer Paul Mejia) to the most of the stellar jazz pianist Jason Moran performed by Sequoia Snyder. Compressing a battery of shape-shifting steps into a single note of music, the duet sharply outlines the dancers' remarkable technical acuity within the parameters of jazz's asymmetry.

William Forsythe's popularity erupted when he was commissioned by NYC Ballet to create a ballet in 1988 "Behind the China Dogs." So it's a homecoming of sorts to have Peck commission another mind-altering Forsythe piece "The Barre Project, Blake Works II" to the soulfully jazzy, sonic sounds of James Blake. Exciting to watch, Forsythe packs a wallop with his off-center/hyper-extended moves, and slightly savage encounters--the kind that throw people off-balance only to be caught by exquisite, last minute timing. All four dancers, the fluid Lex Ishimoto, Brooklyn Mack, Roman Mejia and Tiler Peck flesh out the steps giving them definition sheathed in a sultry swag that says: Forsythe.

Finally, the explosive piece that brought the audience to its feet, "Time Spell" was a collaboration between Michelle Dorrance, Jillian Meyers and Tiler Peck to percussive and vocal music by Aaron Marcellus and Penelope Wendtlandt who appeared on-stage.

Dorrance, a premiere tap artist; Meyers, a contemporary choreographer; and Lovett, crafted Time Spellwith optimism and skill. "Time Spell" seeds the stage with ballet vocabulary pressed through voguing and athleticism. Limp hands, swift weight changes fueled by hip leading struts and sultry glances heightened the heat along with the giddily consumable tap dancing. In a clever turn, micked platforms are swiftly pulled out for the tap dance elements, and then swiftly removed.

Frequently, when tap, club, and street dance shimmy with ballet, the result is lopsided. In this case, all the practices maintained integrity and together they produce a seductive, joyful song. The team of dancers included India Bradley, Michelle Dorrance, Christopher Grant, Lex Ishimoto, Lauren Lovette, Roman Mejia, Jillian Meyers, Tiler Peck, Byron TIttle, Cassandra Trenary and Chun Wai Chan.

This is the type of program that truly draws new audiences to dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY--Celia Ipiotis

March 8, 2022
The latest iteration of New York Theater Ballet’s Legends & Visionaries, program featured three dances, beginning with Merce Cunningham’s 1967 Scramble. Made up of eighteen sections that can be performed in nearly any order, the dance has become emblematic of Cunningham’s style. This company certainly lives up to Scramble’s reputation, executing the classic choreography with all the humor, drama, and dedication to line and color that an audience of dance lovers could expect.

In Pam Tanowitz’s 2013 Short Memorya playful contemporary ballet, dancers don neon pointe shoes, working with and against the conventions of the form: a ballerina is held in a virtuosic arabesque—-the idyllic image of an evening at the ballet—-as the other dancers lay in a lovely line across the floor, legs upstretched and toes pointed save for the wry flex of Julian Donahue’s green-clad foot.

Here Alexis Branigan shines from the ensemble, pas du chat-ing with the hint of a smile, cluing us into the wit of the precise ballet vocabulary. Michael Scales plays a piano upstage, which mirrors how the choreography tests the edges of balletic form when he stands and strums the piano’s strings like a harp.

The program closed with Toulouse’s Dreama commission that marks NYTB’s first foray into multimedia dance. Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer’s choreography and video projection certainly delivered the lush dreamscape of post-impressionist French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The projections were sometimes clumsy, light bleeding around the edges of dancers’ bodies or vaguely distracting shadows, but much more often beautiful moments were conjured, such as the stunning image of three dancers letting their hair fall forward over a bolt of aquamarine fabric, sharp elbows silhouetted on the wall behind.

Below them, Toulouse (played by NYTB’s artistic director Diana Byer!) laid, as projections of the dancers in crisp suit tails tread carefully over his stomach. The costumes by Anna-Alisa Belous were a triumph: pale skirts cascaded and shuffled along with the roiling choreography, becoming stages for the projections to alight upon, and providing the atmosphere of the Parisian brothels that Toulouse is famous for painting.

Toulouse’s Dream is ambitious and effective, and exactly the kind of multimedia dance that makes me want to see what exciting and innovative projects these artists will create next.

This, together with Tanowitz and Cunningham, made for a rich and dynamic evening that earned all of its applause and more at the Florence Gould Hall.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Noah Witke Mele

February 25, 2022
Overcome with delight, Kyle Abraham thanked his dance collaborators on An Untitled Love, introducing them one by one during opening night bows at the BAM Harvey Theater. Then he paid tribute to the influence of choreographer Ralph Lemon's Charley Patton -- both works journey through extended family experiences shaped by love and joy, lightness and darkness.

A group of friends sit on a plastic covered, terra cotta-colored couch and enticingly bob their heads, twist their wrists, cross and uncross their ankles to the bluesy sounds of D'Angelo & The Vanguard. Soon others enter the room (Scenic & Lighting design by Dan Scully), chatting and flicking hands in recognition of one another (reminiscent of Alvin Ailey's Revelations). Very much a close/bickering family, Abraham's dancers are remarkable in their ability to seamlessly shift from ballet and modern to street/club dance--all in one phrase. It's as if they speak one language with three tongues.

Friends enter and exit, changing outfits by Karen Young and partnering up in supportive balances and holds. The company shares a loose, cool style that rarely nods to an angle or sharpness. They all dance smoothly and soundlessly, like cats effortlessly pouncing onto a shelf, or swirling round and round.

When the dancers chat with one another, the scenes begin to resemble episodes from the popular TV series "Friends." And even though the text personalizes the performers, the audio balance makes it difficult to fully understand the words. Also, the dancing is so appealing that whenever it stops-- the exuberant energy drops.

Over the past several years, Abraham has made a number of successful dances for NYC Ballet and other major companies including Alving Ailey. But seeing Abraham work with his own company is to see his soul.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 14, 2022
Under a full moon on a chilly February night, NYCB warmed up the audience with no fewer than a dozen company member debuts. Romantic repertory bumped up against a Neo-classical ballet masterpiece and shimmering ballet duet.

George Balanchine's masterful Four Temperaments fully reveals the dancer in the dance. Lean choreography dominates, tightening the vocabulary to a handful of steps combined and recombined to the music of Paul Himdemith. Legs slice the air, hands snap at the wrists and shards of unison movement thrill all.

For sheer female warrior power, there's no better example than the invasion of the stage by four women advancing towards the male, legs flaring up, then stabbing floor followed by sharp pelvic thrusts forward and back.Hair rasing.

All those who debuted: Jacqueline Bologna, Jonathan Fahoury, Kennard Henson, Ashley Hod, Peter Walker, and Emily Kikta plumbed details that amplified their individualistic qualities.

Sonatine, a quiet, unassuming yet tingling duet by George Balanchine to music by Maurice Ravel played on the piano by Elaine Chelton featured an incandescent performance by Ashley Laracey and Taylor Stanley. Delicate phrases fluidly spin between Stanley and Laracey. Over the years, Stanley has discovered a meditative stillness that silemces the air and magnetizes the viewers. Similarly, Laracey seamlessly floats through the folk dance kicks and regal backbends.

Flashy and uber theatrical, the Black Swan Pas De Deux by Peter Martins was dominated by Mira Nadon and Chun Wai Chan. Both were convincing, and clearly moving towards making it their own. Technically crisp and dramatically sharp, Nadon has all goods. A secure partner Chun Wai Chan opens up to the movement. With the acquisition of a little more stamina, they will be a partnership to watch.

Nearly flawless, Tyler Peck's immersive musicality, and effortless technical acuity, frees her up to indulge in George Balanchine's abbreviated Swan Lake interpretation. A new suppleness and vulnerability support her Swan Queen performance. A well matched partner, Joseph Gordon's clear, strong classical line and attentiveness secures his place as a dancer of uncommon talents.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 4, 2022
After a minor delay due to COVID, NYC Ballet opened its doors to dance lovers eager to bask in company premieres and classics. Season festivities bounced open with the premiere of Justin Peck's sneaker ballet Partita. Enriched by Caroline Shaw's thoroughly intriguing a cappella composition Partita for 8 Voices performed live by Roomful of Teeth, a tribe of 8 dancers mirror the vocals. Dressed in casual shorts, tops and tights, by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, the energized dancers slither through Eva Lewitts whimsical set design of colorful, scalloped fringe.

Frequently cast as the breathing center of Peck's ballets, the serene Taylor Stanley breezes into view, chest open and arms extended in a meditative embrace joined by Harrison Coll. in contrast, Tyler Peck sparkles into action, legs clicking out layered tempi. Overall, these two artists encapsulate the ballet's ethos.

Always able to tap into NYCB dancers' youthful exuberance,  Peck's colloquial moves feed into ballet extensions and voguing style arms signaling cryptic messages. A strong cast, India Bradley and Claire Kretzschmar unite in a fluid duet built on mutual support while Ashley Hod, Roman Mejia and Chun Wai Chan generate a splash!

Taking a post-modernist turn, NYCB performed Merce Cunningham's elegant "Summerspace." Originated in 1958, the pastel colored pointillist backdrop merges into the moving bodies covered in unitards of a similar palette created by Robert Rauschenberg.

The demanding vocabulary is surrounded by Morton Feldman's Ixion, a sound score filtered with sounds of nature.Stillness and spatial awareness penetrate the leggy combinations spilling out over internal meters. Dispensing with visible preparations, dancers instantaneously pop up on one leg, into a stag leap with foot to crotch. This happens not just once, but three times in a row!

Torsos float over elongated legs poised on top rotating limbs. Despite the foreignness of the vocabulary, the dancers fearlessly navigate the angular terrain even if the torsos lack a bit of the top-of-spine contraction and fluidity.

Nevertheless, a bond exists between Balanchine and Cunningam's focus on legs, feet, directional changes and speed. Considering the amount of time  they've spent living with a decidedly post modern dance language, the company's facility in Summerspace is quite remarkable. You can see their brains working.

The evening closes on DGV:Danse a Grande Vitesse a mysterious, dystopian looking ballet by Christopher Wheeldon. Originally a NYCB ballet dancer and choreographer who has successfully transferred his talents to Broadway, Wheeldon's ballets are always smartly crafted and joined to strong visual elements. In this case, the undulating, silver sheet by Jean-Marc Puissant exudes an industrial hardness.

 Wheeldon generates pools of activity breaking up his 26 dancers into discrete units working in contrapuntal relationships against four central duets.

Originally created for the Royal Ballet in 2006, the ballet is set to a strong score by Michael Nyman written in 1993 to "commemorate the 1993 inauguration of the north European line of the French 'train a grande vitess' -- otherwise known as the TVG."  Despite intriguing combinations bubbling up in different spatial pockets, a chill permeates the onstage community.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 24, 2022
Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith have been making work together for 15 years. Their BAC Digital commission, gloria rehearsal (excerpt) shows what is relationally possible in performance with such collaborative tenure.

The 90-minute video consists of two large sections: a disjointed opening, followed by a comparatively unified closing. Filmed in a Baryshnikov Arts Center studio by Tatyana Tenenbaum and Colin Nusbaum, the pair begins on separate tracks, somewhere between a warmup and a performance.

Smith takes up space, which Lieber frames with the studio’s mirrors. Lieber takes things further, partnering with the mirrors, and arranging them into a cubist view of the studio, occasionally catching the videographers within reflections of reflections. They find each other, engaging in laborious partnering that meshes their bodies as one.

When Smith brings on a set of microphones and stands, tenderness turns invasive as the two probe themselves and each other with live mics, contributing to James Lo’s 3D sound design. The two trade incomplete renditions of familiar songs: Smith comments on the section as a whole with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Getting to Know You,” while Lieber’s use of Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” remarks on their increasingly nude interactions, erupting in a screaming fit. Smith closes the section belittling Lieber’s emotionality as “too much” as the lights shift to a gender-reinforcing hot pink.

After so much unraveling, the remainder of the work finds the two stuck in a durational jazzercise routine to a schizophrenic sound score that stretches Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” to epic proportions, interspersed with urban soundscapes, a colonial military march, and scant but equally evocative other sonic bits, to which the pair’s tempo remains resolute.

Once more the pink peters in as their simultaneous solos slowly melt into an awareness of and care for each other. They come to mirror each other and tangle as before, however more able to surrender to each other, as though having cleansed themselves of patriarchal toxins.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews Guzman

PILGULIUM/Baryshnikov Arts Center
December 15, 2021
Ella Rothschild’s Pigulium portrays a different flavor of loneliness than a lot of digital performance that has come from the pandemic. Instead of focusing on isolation, Rothschild shows the desolate effect of sustained unhealthy relationships in a bitter trio. Adi Zlatin performs a vengeful spirit, constantly berating all that is around her. Ariel Freedman shares some of this fire, but also falls into more whimsical affective shifts. Keren Luria Pardes contrasts Zlatin with a chronic, submissive depression, hanging on the edge of each scene, showing true concern only for a small, red book she whips out as her only solace.

Pigulium utilizes a dreamscape structure in which events blur into one another to illustrate feelings and mood swings. The events that may have caused these feelings are absent, leaving us in a one-note wash of pure subjectivity. There are times when the three performers share moments in which they grimace, keep their distance, and tangle in uncooperative folk dances.

Elsewhere, they occupy their own worlds. Freedman delivers a long monologue by herself with her arms absurdly extended by a prosthetic set of two right forearms. Sitting profile, she turns her head to the void, reciting a litany of her troubles in alternating tones of stoic remove and prideful gloating. Any reference to anyone else, however, conjures associative suspicion of her cast mates.

What grounds the material is a dinner table designed by Ofer Laufer. Perfectly timed for the holidays, it is the primary prop on which dysfunction is staged. A table cloth is used as a shroud for Zlatin, first atop the table, and later beneath it, her slow pulling of it over her head inches a sprawling table setup to near collapse as Freedman works quickly to condense it all at the edge.

A supportive ensemble of dancers from Maslool Professional Dance Program enter not so much as dinner attendees, but as a visualization of energetic interpersonal wavelengths that keep the three primary performers from achieving peaceful coexistence. Movements ripple through them, eventually landing on and manipulating the main players into new configurations of mutual avoidance.

EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

December 2, 2021
Evocative visuals and non sequitur text channeled through inventive choreography arouses existential images that come in and out of focus in Annie-B Parson's Mood Room at Bam Fishman Theater.

A family of dancers, Elizabeth DeMent, Kate Moran, Michelle Sui, and Myssi Robinson, and Michelle Sui confidently speak and move throughout the dreamlike performance.  Japanese inspired cream and pastel colored outfits set against a predominantly white set (Lauren Machen) contributed to the dreamy content. 

According to the program notes, Mood Room is based on Five Sisters by Guy de Cointet with additional text from Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov with a dash of Reganisms clarion call to indulge in a materialistic society.

The cast riffs on looks and acquisitions, environmental disasters, self-indulgence but mostly it's a sensual, movement theater production that's seductive in its mystery and perplexing in its dramaturgical stream-of-consciousness.

Whenever the performers fall into a movement sequence of simple rolls, hand waves and natural gestures primed through a distinctive, nonchalant style -- energy sparks. The dancing speaks more crisply, daringly and intimately than the text.

For those feeling comfortable about entering theaters in this time of transmissible COVID variants, Mood Foom at BAM's Fishman Theater is worth your time. 
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 21, 2021
As with so many performance makers, the pandemic forced Jordan Demetrius Lloyd to figure out an engaging way to digitally present material he had intended to stage live. Working in residence at Baryshnikov Arts Center, Lloyd made the choice to present a documentary of his process, rather than making a film of the intended work. Trip Gloss does more than merely document, however. Working with Chandler Clamp to take a choreographic approach to editing, the film sits somewhere between documenting a work that has yet to be performed, and being a filmic performance all on its own.

The meat of the material consists of snippets of Lloyd directing rehearsal. The clips are curated to show the choreographer in moments of creative vulnerability – wonder, confusion, and problem solving in which only questions arise. He is interested in the space between audience and performance, as well as creating choreographic loops that he struggles to resolve to his own satisfaction. Periodically, audio of Lloyd speaking to his collaborators will cut out, and we merely behold the body language of rehearsal – a choreographic loop all its own of diligent practice in a multiplicity of attempt.

The loops we do see Lloyd construct stem from patterns of footwork, over which arms move in syncopation. Pieces of different clips layer on top of one another in geometric relationships that would be impossible to solely produce live. Instead of performing retrogrades, some sections are simply played in reverse.

Lloyd’s cast is so sensitively unadorned in performance that the reversed footage doesn’t have a sense of being rewound; an explicitly articulated footnote plainly tells us how the footage is being manipulated. In lieu of lighting, clips are tinted in neon hues as Ryan Wolfe’s music reinforces a digital environment.

As dancers are either engaged in contemplative or rhythmic tasks, the film situates the captured material either at peace with no editorial meddling, or in collaged frenzies.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

November 21, 2021
Sooraj Subramaniam has had a wide array of homes. He was raised in Malaysia, where he gained a grounding in the Indian classical dance forms of Bharatanatayam and Odissi. He took on Western forms in Australia and London, and is now based in Belgium, but continues to work all over, constantly refining his vocabulary, learning new ones, and collaborating with independent choreographers.

One can imagine how hard a global shut down would be for an artist of such mobility. Oddly, the turn to digital connection allowed Subramaniam to reconnect with an old friend, January Low. They trained together in Malaysia a few years apart, and essentially lost touch when Subramaniam left for Australia. Reconnecting in 2014 led them to consider collaborating, and the pandemic finally made it an, albeit virtual, reality.

Other Places of Being illustrates a holistic process of an artistic friendship. It so happened that both dancers had been studying with Odissi teacher Bijayini Satpathy; their shared training, as well as common performance ethos, could keep their connection vibrant and fresh despite geographic distance and a history of being in and out of touch.

That said, the work does not focus on the dancing per se. Subramaniam and Low were interested in practicing the craft of filmmaking, knowing very well that the nuance of their dance form can only be truly appreciated in person. In this way, moments of dance are not held up as the main events. We instead see fleeting details of the feet, face, and torso, primarily in moments of practice versus performance – perspectives we would not see, either due to sitting too far away in person, or due to the body parts, visible in rehearsal-wear, being covered in costume pieces in performance. In these moments, the soundscore includes both Low and Subramaniam singing the tal, or rhythmic cycle to which their movements correspond, syncing them rhythmically across time zones.

Elsewhere the focus is more domestic. Evenly dispersed throughout is a variety of clips focusing, naturally, on home-life – primarily cooking, relaxing with family, and tending to one’s property. It paints a serene portrait of a time we collectively remember with great trauma. It is similarly paradoxical in documenting the study of an ancient form in a contemporary context. Overall, it calls us to put more time towards study, self-care, and reinforcing relationships in times of prolonged instability.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

November 18, 2021
An icon of late 20th century modern dance, choreographer Twyla Tharp's "Deuce Coup" for the Joffrey Ballet in 1973 rattled the dance community. A skillful mix of ballet, and modern dance to a sunny Beach Boys soundtrack, Tharp's nonchalant style softened tight ballet knees, loosened dancers' necks and got a syncopated, funky shoulder and arm thing going. Audiences were thrilled, and from that point on, Tharp charted a nearly 60 year career that spanned creative forays in modern dance, ballet, films, theater and writing.

She returned to City Center this fall with a "pick-up" company of stunning dancers. Working during COVID, Tharp revived two duets, created 1 new one and an ensemble work.

Perky and full of spunk, Tyler Peck (NYCB Principal) performed Cornbread along with the animated Roman Mejia (NYCB Soloist)to folksy music by the renown Carolina Chocolate Drops (an old-time string band from NC).

Illuminating her incomparable footwork, Peck trilled backward and forward on pointe. Bouncy jumps and high-stepping turns were reminiscent of hoe-downs where folks shared time together and swung their partners "round-and-round."

Darker in nature, Second Duet (World Premiere) to a score by Thomas Larcher and Aztec Camera, coupled two Ailey dancers: Jacquelin Harris and James Gilmer. Much smaller in size than Gilmer, Harris flipped Gilmer  to the floor, and twisted his arm letting him know that she could do anything he could do better.  

And in an amusing passage, Harris bent her knees, gripped the floor determined to prevent Gilmer from lifting her. The second half resembled a slow-motion aerial Lindy Hop sequence with over-head flips  and a slow pull of Harris' body through Gilmer's legs and back up in the air.

When Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to America, he claimed he wanted the freedom to work with many different artists. One of his chosen choreographers was Tharp. Together they created a now famous duet Pergolesi to music by Pergolisi. Known for his breath-taking technique and dry wit, Baryshnikov was a foil to Tharp, the slinky, haughty modern dancer that could give as good as she got.

This time, Tharp assigned Misha's role to Sara Mearns (NYCB Principal) and Robbie Fairchild (former NYCB Principal, Broadway actor/dancer) assumed Tharp's role. Technically demanding, the duet switched directions and energy levels with alacrity, and generated speed normally seen in Balanchine ballets.

Capable of the intricate footwork and technical brio, Mearns remained contained rather than releasing herself into the energy flow. On the other hand, Fairhild's years dancing many Robbins' works including Fancy Free and West Side Story, helped him sink into his knees, sway his hips and free his head with nonchalant panache.

The final World Premiere All In to Johannes Brahms was a combination of well crafted duets that featured the whole ensemble including Aran Bell, and Cassandra Trenary. In a generous gesture, Tharp plucked young dancers to appear with the company after seeing them on various social media platforms. Giving young dancers a chance to shine on stage--particularly after a period of sequestration--was grand, but  the manner in which they were grouped behind the principals muddied the overall ballet. 

The straight-forward but effective lighting was by James Ingalls and costumes by Santo Loquasto. John Selya (a longtime Tharp dancer) serves as Artistic Associate and Mark Mongold is the Production Supervisor. One more thing: The evening was filled with live music.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 15, 2021
Three veteran dancers/choreographers teamed up as colleagues and performers to present THEN UNTIL NOW, a 75 minute performance without intermission, spanning 40 years in the field. Known in the experimental, modern and educational fields of dance, Vicki Angel, Eric Barsness, Carol Clements served up a series of solos.

The evening began with Carol Clements’ tongue in cheek SO LOW (1986). Dressed in a tight fitting, long, red gown, she shifts back and forth in elegant gestural shapes, before struggling in a tug of war dance against two cement blocks that hold the dress down. The piece speaks to the negative self-thoughts that weigh and limit the character -- though she continues to keep up the front.

Vicki Angel then takes the stage in a three part piece entitled THE HESITATION (2021). With text throughout, Angel elaborates on the importance of taking space between thoughts, the importance of timing, quoting various cliched phrases like “He Who Hesitates is Lost” as she accentuates the text with seamless center stage gestures and body movements.

Part 2 finds her comically lecturing from a podium, again about hesitation, but also “acting as if you are sure of yourself” even if you’re not. In Part 3, she carves through space struggling to learn dance directions from a recorded sound track.

Eric Barsness’s SEVEN ENDINGS, is a twenty minute, hilarious discussion on the history of opera pieces. Starting with an old fashioned record player and vinyl record, he flips between speaking about specific operatic composers, performers, and stage snafus over the years, to singing along with the recordings. Oozing perfect comic timing, the tall, long limbed Barness playfully and ingeniously delights the audience with various personae.

Angel then performs a heartfelt solo UNDERNEATH(1985), to moving music by Scriabin. She dances, leaves the stage, and returns, fighting the knowledge that she might not be on stage much longer.

The final solo, NOW AND THEN I REMEMBER (2021), by Carol Clements, elicits gut- wrenching laughter from the audience as she struggles to recapture a piece made in the early 70’s, forgetting much of the piece as she asks the audience to help her remember and rehearse with her.

The show concludes with a trio, THEN AND NOW AND NEVER AGAIN, with all three costumed in colorful Edwardian type outfits and sunglasses, dancing in unison, employing playful head nods, hip twitches, and shoulder circles reminiscent of 70’s rock groups.

The entire evening reminded us of the talent and perseverance these artists embody, as they rehearsed during the pandemic and waited during a postponed year before the Gibney Studio opened its theater again to live audiences. Well worth the wait!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

November 5, 2021
By the end of the concert, the packed house at the Joyce Theater eagerly stood up to salute Gina Gibney -- not just in support of her new dance company-- but in tribute to her manifold contributions to the dance community.

The enterprising woman behind the Gibney Dance center in lower Manhattan, embraced the independent modern dance community's extensive needs by re-imagining a center for performances, classes, workshops, seminars and field-wide conversations.

For many years, Gibney headed a company stamped with her choreography then flipped the equation and converted her primarily single choreographer company into a repertory troupe just before COVID hit. This global, life-shifting pandemic gave the new group time to gestate until its debut in November at the Joyce Theater.

Three choreographers built pieces on a texturally impressive company of dancers: Lucien Oyen, a choreographer, director and playwright from Sweden; Rena Butler, dancer and Gibney Company Choreographic Associate; plus Sonya Tayeh, Tony-award winning choreographer of Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

Text and movement flowed through a shadowed space in Lucien Oyen's The Game is Rigged set to Gunnar Innvaer's sound design. Pedestrian movements stretched through modern dance forms revealing dancers equally capable of speaking and moving. With roots in the European dance theater movement, most visibly promoted by PIna Bausch, Oyen's choreography honed in on internal narratives spilling out of dancers' gestures.

Stylized acrobatics resounded in, Lusus Naturae by Rina Butler. Three male dancers hunkered over each other imitating primate-like movements teased through hip hop lopes only to straighten into upright gladiators and then plunk back down to earth.

After intermission, the audience was treated to a new piece Oh Courage! by Sonya Tayeh, the Tony award winning choreographer of Broadway's Moulin Rouge. Dancers surround the live music performed by Shaun and Abigail (think Janis Joplin meets Meredith Monk), Bengson. Dancers popped up on a box near Abigail physically emoting improvisational sensations. Complex body isolations punctuated wide, free-wheeling patterns that kept the stage in a dynamic state. The dancers are quite distinctive and talented, however, Leal Zielinska captured some serious limelight.

Eager to catch the next Gibney Company production.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

November 1, 2021
The Graham company looks better than ever, as if covid did not happen to them at all. The program was a perfect mix of Graham classics and excellent new work, and the dancers were simply stunning. The proximity of the Joyce Theater stage made it all the more enjoyable to see the clarity, beauty and commitment of the dancing.

The evening began with a powerful performance of Graham’s Steps in the Streets from 1936, Graham’s response to rising fascism. An all-female work, the Graham women immediately set the tone with their strong unison steps, clenched fists, and intense stares, sometimes looking straight at us, clearly demanding action. Led by the beautiful and imposing Leslie Andrea Williams, the work took on a new meaning with the current backdrop of political turmoil, BLM, and long-overdue change.

In a stark contrast between powerful community and propelling individual existence, the steady Jacob Larsen danced a solo with extended arms and swift changes of direction, created in conversations with Sir Robert Cohan during and after covid, “in the twilight of the choreographer’s life.” None of this was readily apparent in the sharp, angular movement, which speaks to the ineffability of both movement and personal experience.

The biggest surprise of the evening for me was Treading, a duet created by Elisa Monte for the Graham company in 1979, to music by Steve Reich. An image of amorphous life grows into the full-bodied, sinewy Lloyd Knight, moving with stealth motion and bird-like arms. As he receded, Marzia Memoli replaced him centerstage and executed her own unhurried, gorgeous solo floor work, her articulate torso going from extreme contraction to extended arms back like a balletic swan. Costumed in skin-colored unitards with smudges, the two reunited in a series of gorgeous shapes and seamless partnering from some natural world, a slow, deliberate mating dance, unlike nature, a union with stunning control.

Pam Tanowitz’s Untitled (Souvenir) is an homage to Graham, referencing lesser-known works, and to my eye, some Cunningham and Balanchine too. The Noguchi-like set pieces and fabulous Graham-esque costumes modernized by Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin of TOME, complemented the intricate and absorbing world created by this melding of styles. Moments of buzzing and others of stillness lived within asymmetrical structure dotted with very human moments, eye contact, and connection – moments we all hunger for in today’s isolating, covid-limited, smart phone world.

Rounding out the program was an energizing performance of Graham’s Diversion of Angels. The dancers moved with such fullness and joy they breathed new life into this classic tribute to a woman’s love as it changes over time. From innocence to passion to wisdom and back again, we felt the ups and downs of what it means to love, anew.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 31, 2021
A particular lightness filled the lobby of the NY State Theater on Oct. 27, the first Pride Night celebrated by American Ballet Theater. People in sparkly clothes beamed and tipped glasses of bubbly prior to the performance featuring a very special guest appearance by Lypsinka--a renown downtown drag artist.

Percolating with high energy and youthful joie de vive, Bernstein in a Bubble choreographed by Alexi Ratmansky to Leonard Bernstein's "Divertimento" kicked off the festivities. A tumble of dancers swung through jazzy, slinky steps with a nod towards "West Side Story." The playground jauntiness broke into smaller groups including a warm, bonding male duet.

Centered on two men, Touche by Christopher Rudd with dancers Calvin Royal III and Joao Menegussi, is filled with longing and trust. In a "first", an intimacy director was involved in the coordination of the duet. Unlike many other male duets, this one was more specific in its ardor between the two men who fell into each other's arms, and slipped down along the other's body. Effectively crafted, the duet is constructed around an embrace that felt universal.

A much-loved ABT dancer from the 1980's, Clark Tippet started to choreograph a few years before his untimely bout with AIDS. Some Assembly Required demonstrated his wit and architectural sensibility between body and space tied to his pure love of dance.

Musically, the antecedent to Bernstein's "Divertimento", Darrell Grand Moultrie's Indestructible Light sets dancers off on a jazzy frolic to music by some of the greatest swing jazz artists-- Duke Ellington, Count Bassie and Neal Hefti. Historically, they served as Bernstein's inspiration. Unison lines of kicks and loose wristed-hands flapped and snapped adding zest to a soundtrack of classics that can't be beat.

Following the performance, Lypsinka (aka John Epperson ABT classroom pianist) appeared in a full skirted frock to campily "lip synch" some favorite show tunes.  Lypsinka introduced the panel that closed out the evening discussing the making of the works and the inclusion of an intimacy director. 
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 28, 2021
The line outside NY City Center for Fall for Dance was imbued with heightened anticipation – returning to the theatre for indoor performance, adding checks of COVID vaccination status to the ticket retrieval process. Program 3 features a stylistic metamorphosis through ballet, contemporary, and stepping. Sequenced so linearly from ethereal to earthbound movement, a clear commonality of restlessness pervaded the works – to return to the stage as much as we were eager to witness it.

Opening the program was the Philadelphia Ballet with the NY Premiere of Juliano Nunes’ Connection. Ten dancers in tight flesh tones move together as a fluid swarm from which each dancer participates in a highlighted duet. Nunes’ partnering tests limits of flexibility and strength in forward fluid motion that forbids indulgent positional loitering. Even as men unilaterally manipulate women, each mover takes on a viscous form in space.

Limbs tangle and unwind in chains of shifting equilibriums in which arms that might otherwise simply support are absorbed into all-consuming partnerships. Albeit created in pre-COVID times, one can’t help feeling that performing this marathon of contact now helps to make up for the past two years of distance and isolation.

Micaela Taylor sets herself front and center in her TL Collective’s Drift. Taylor’s movement has a similar flow to Nunes, but is subject to sharp rhythmic manipulations in short theatrical spurts of physical sentence fragments, connected by transitions of pedestrian stillness and pacing.

It adheres perhaps too loyally to the soundscore, dominated by a spoken word piece discussing the concept of “drifting” as an antidote to modern life’s pressures.

Initially establishing an intricate ensemble texture, Taylor, whose towering, narrow, and bendy form already makes her hard to miss, takes the reins and relegates her company as backup dancers to her authoritative execution of her aesthetic.

All authority was dismantled by Step Afrika!, who turned the house on its head with Conrad Kelly II’s The Movement. Of the three works, Step Afrika! succeeded at achieving an equitable balance of ensemble and spotlighted dancing. They had to, given the subject matter. Created most recently, The Movement is a Black Lives Matter rally, conjuring the pain of 2020’s breaking point of racial violence and seeing it through to a call towards a brighter future.

No movement other than body percussion can equally satisfy the intensity of community grief and the levity of celebration, so much so that, by the end, they had the (largely older, white) audience on its feet, clapping more or less on beat, fully on board.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

Fall For Dance Program #4
October 26, 2021
Now in its second week of programming, Fall For Dance retains its popularity with audiences. Program #4 drew performances from ballet, modern dance and swing dance. Unable to perform, Lil'l Buck, a jookin' favorite was replaced by Caleb Teicher's exhuberantly bouncy piece to an excerpt from Meet Ella.

Lar Lubovitch, a master builder of classically based modern dance invited two much watched young male ballet dancers from NYC Ballet, Adrian Daching-Waring and Joseph Gordon to embody City Center's newly commissioned ballet entitled Each In His Own Time. Both men exude clean, classical lines allowing movements to be startling visible. An intuitively lyrical choreographer, Lubovitch locates the melody inside the bodies.

A nonstop duet to a score by Johannes Brahms the dancers wove their arms in loops around each other's bodies, and overhead -- reminiscent of the Olympic loops. Dressed in white loose shirts and pants, long arabesques pulled into rippling turns unfolding into supported lifts. A constant flow of motion, one can only hope this duet makes its way into the NYC Ballet rep.

Projecting an urban mentality and sensuality, BalletX returned with Matthew Neenan's wistful piece Mapping Out A Sky set to the orchestral music of Stephen Sondheim. Bluish splashes color the thigh-high cut leotards suggesting a timeless theme. Lines of bodies rippled in succession, rolling forward and sideways with the precision of the Rockettes. While solo or duets broke away from the wave of connected humans, the dancers cut a sharp silhouette of sleek bodies against the never-ending flow of motion.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY ----- Celia Ipiotis

Fall For Dance Program #2
October 17, 2021
Fall For Dance Program #2 launched the evening with Stephen Petronio’s 2019 American Landscapes.  The curtain opened with a view of three side-by-side box-type projected images on the backdrop (Robert Longo and Don Cieslik) that changed throughout the work from forest, to moon, airplanes, American flag, Earth, and animals. Petronio’s ensemble work featured nine dancers executing modern/balletic movement vocabulary in Cunninghamesque tightly choreographed quartets, duets, and interchangeable group work, with twisting torsos atop legs of exquisitely performed traveling steps, jumps and leaps.

The dancers were costumed in grey leotards by designer H. Petal. Lighting (Ken Tabachnick), changed from stark black and whites to sepia shades at the end supporting warmth and community as the dancers held hands while performing unison, interdependent partnering.

Next came Sons de L’Ame (2013), translated in English to mean “Sounds of the Soul”, choreography by Stanton Welch, Artistic Director of Houston Ballet. The piece opened with male dancer Connor Walsh on stage, with live pianist Vladimir Rumyantsev eloquently playing Frederic Chopin pieces as Karina Gonzalez enters en pointe. Dressed in matching leotard pants and a halter top that strategically exposed her incredible torso muscles, she seamlessly performed rising and falling movements, jumps and leaps in the air.

Walsh lifted, supported, and shifted his weight and strength throughout to feature her dazzling technique, poise, and virtuosity. At one moment, Gonzalez balances en pointe by the piano, suggesting the love and interdependence between the dancer, the dance, and the music.

The final piece of the night, a definite crowd pleaser, ODEON: Redux (2018) by Ephrat Asherie Dance Company, was accompanied by live musicians, playing guitar, bass, and percussion instruments to Latin-influenced music by Ernesto Nazareth. Six dancers dressed in assorted black costumes and sneakers, performed intricate body percussion claps, stomps, and finger snapping rhythms weaving the movement throughout the stage.

A female duet featuring fast moving footwork with rapid, articulate arm gestures was the highlight of the piece, which ended with the musicians joining the dancers on stage in a final jam session, the audience accompanying them with enthusiastic clapping.

ODEON Redux, playful and beautifully performed by the entire company, was an inspiring, spirited celebration for all who have survived and returned to the proscenium stage and theater after pandemic-induced separation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

October 15, 2021
Many may be operating as though the pandemic is over, but choreographers are continuing to get great mileage out of themes of isolation. Dancing spouses Mats Ek and Ana Laguna contributed their own variation on the theme with a semi-reciprocal dance film project, swapping roles of dancer and videographer of two new Ek solos that amplify the movements of domesticity.

Medans (“Whilst”) finds Ek seated on a wooden chair in an empty kitchen. Using Liszt, Ek relies on deliberate, though atmospheric musical phrasing to guide his transformation of quotidian gesture into formalized physical patterning. His hand wipes up and down his lap until Ek’s limbs, like vines, tangle about the lattice of the chair. His 76-year-old body is enviably articulate, fluid, and in control of every moment, even as his character descends into a schizophrenic aimlessness.

Pedestrian non-sequiturs such as holding the chair as jail bars, briefly flashing his belly button, or trying out his coat inside-out and right-side-in speak to idiosyncratic quarantine coping mechanisms. Largely naturalistic filming, editing magic swoops in when Ek falls backward in his chair, only to be rewound into a second chance.

Laguna depicts a more concretely relatable scenario, however blown up to cartoonish proportions in Mitt Brev (“My Letter”). To Bach’s first Cello Suite, Laguna goes through what we more often experience these days via email. She fears opening a letter, her avoidance channeled into subtly manipulating the paper into the physicality of a yapping chihuahua. She Shakespearianly wields a steak knife to carve open the envelope, only to drop it, tip down, into the floorboards.

A similar sort of editing allows Laguna to stab and eat the blank page inside, only to regurgitate it, unmarred and filled in with a message that wasn’t so bad after all. Ek ends staring blankly out his window; Laguna, relieved and able to laugh at herself.

As an explicitly pandemic piece, the project is hard to get behind. We can’t all empathize with a pair of renowned dance artists who had a peaceful and productive refuge during lockdown, but we can certainly applaud their ingenuity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 15, 2021
Amber Sloan has no particular movement language. A long-standing member of The Bang Group, a curator, and a composition teacher, Sloan has her toes dipped in too many niches to settle on one way of doing things. Her first full-evening presentation at Arts On Site demonstrates a rigorous commitment to ideas and a devout authenticity in composing the results of deep research. There is no ulterior motive, and no fat to trim.

Sloan performs in Apart/Together, alongside Nik Owens, alongside a sheet and a shelf, respectively. They examine every way of interacting with the props in a combination of partnering and puppetry. When the two meet, they keep the shelf between them. More than a creative task, the work was begun remotely before the two decided to work in tandem.

Apart/Together is a trajectory of creative problem solving – how to dance in separate spaces, how to partner with minimal risk of infection, and how to make all of this still make sense in an increasingly vaccinated world.

Rigor remains, though puts on a fur coat for Yma Dream, performed by high camp priestess Sy Lu, who performs a physical companion to the wordplay of Anne Bancroft’s monologue recounting Yma Sumac demanding she introduce accumulating guests at a party who all have two-syllable names like hers. A “physical tongue twister,” Lu patterns movements in an analogous fashion, while maintaining a veneer of old Hollywood glamour that makes the whole ordeal digestible.

Golden Delicious treats plot as task. Jordan Morley and Chelsea Hecht stand, nude, intertwined in an Adam and Eve narrative. After intricately textured partnering, they repeat the opening sequence, now attempting to censor each other at the same time, until the decision to put on clothes spirals original sin into a more universally applicable human condition.

Sloan’s most recent effort, A Tangled Web, aims only for its title’s prescription. In doing so, she achieves the rarely considered option of each member of the trio operating under completely independent sets of dynamics and timings, all stemming organically from the simplicity of starting in a circle, facing inward, holding hands.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 15, 2021
The delightful Sw!ng Out is a throwback to the days when instead of liquor stores or banks on every corner, dance clubs dotted NYC streets--particularly in Harlem.

The spirited Caleb Teicher, salutes the grand dance ballrooms of the past in Sw!ng Out--an  energetic Lindy Hop jam at the Joyce Theater.

Famous for it's integrated clientel and the home of the "Happy Feet" the Savoy Ballroom attracted film stars and Whitey's Lindy Hoppers--the most blockbuster talented dancers of their time. Back in the 1930's and 40's, the dance halls were open for business most of the day sporting some of the swingingest bands in the land including Chick Webb, Count Basie and Jimmie Lunceford.

At the Joyce dance club, clusters of dancers partner up: men with men, women with women, men and women -- not unlike the Savoy days when men easily popped up to dance together, showing off their stuff. Although less frequently, women danced together as well, but those pairings were less physical.

With the companionship of an upbeat, very live swing band, the music drives the dancing. Couples mix and match releasing soloists who toy with the music and at times "Trade Sixes" with band members like jazz musicians do in "call and response" riffs. This demands close listening and communication and can produce wildly inventive concoctions.

Composed of innumerable body types,  the on-stage dancing family creates space for all who love to dance. After the bubbly first half, the second half is devoted to audience members eager to Lindy the night away on stage with a live band, top drawer dancers and unrivaled memories.

Avita Arce, Latasha Barnes, Nathan Bugh, Macy Sullivan, Caleb Teicher, and Eyal Vilner appear in the program as the "braintrust" with Teicher as director. Eyal Vilner is also responsible for the charts performed by the animated swing band.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 10, 2021
Guests to the cell plunge into a sound bath drawn by Johnny Butler. Participants are free to wander, chit-chat, and view a video installation on the second floor by Alex Taylor, displaying stark, head-on footage of the members of Gwendolyn Gussman’s HOLDTIGHT answering the evening’s work’s titular question, What Keeps You Going?

The answers continue in physical space, only to re-enter a comparatively analog digital one. Each performer, Gussman included, individually speaks their own recipes for self- sustainment into a tape recorder and plays their answers back in a harmony that joins Butler’s continuing mix of live and pre-recorded sound. A trademark Bausch-ian move to give only answers to unspoken questions, a collage of warm fuzzy feelings wafts above a floor covered in a lot of a substance – here, shredded tires, courtesy of Anna Driftmier.

The performers take deliberate steps along right angles amid the rubber rubble. The occasional bumping of bodies is handled with grace, until conflict, as though a foreign pathogen invading an ecosystem, infects each performer’s objective – Gussman and Nico Gonzales argue over arranging rubber shards in circles or squares; Xenia Mansour rattles off a litany of desires until Emily Haughton pummels her into a wall, Café Müller style. We are not here just to feel good about ourselves.

What follows is a walking tour of solos, each of which follows the same energetic arc: meditative beginning, quirky buildup, climax of rage or sadness, “what now?” denouement. Mansour, Gonzales, Haughton, Gussman, and Dervla Carey-Jones do the dance-theatre version; Butler takes the same ride with his saxophone. Each is a fully committed force of nature, though, in rapid succession leaves the whole both stilted and emotionally exhausting, and your average empath concerned for the well-being of the performers who solo twice, sometimes consecutively.

On the other hand, much of the piece’s efficacy comes from Gussman’s willingness to overlap and overhear. Scenes become richer when one’s text infuses with another’s movement. Either way, more needed to have been worked out by the time we arrived at a premature feel-good hum-along finale when it was energetically clear that tensions were still high.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 10, 2021
I feel an affinity for the Liberty Hall Dance Festival. I danced with its director, Nicole Buggé, whose Buggé Ballet always has a slot in the Festival. It was one of my duo, BREAKTIME’s first public performances in 2017. Four years and a pandemic later, the festival remains a well- organized oasis on the campus of Kean University – if you can get to it.

Knowing the Festival to be a rotating promenade, I took my time arriving somewhere between 1 and 4pm. Though I remembered the Union NJ Transit station to be a mere 15- minute walk away, Google urged me to take a train to Newark Airport, take an AirTrain to Terminal C, and take a (15-minute) cab ride (a mere 42 bucks).

I arrived, disoriented and frustrated, to the Festival in the last hour and went to the nearest movement I could find. The Liberty Hall Museum stands in homage to the American Revolutionaries who inhabited it – a site specific dance festival’s wildest dream.

At the Ice House performed the Cranford High School Dancers, under Emily Donahue. One can’t be as in their program along a site-specific tour as when in a dark room. It was only after seeing erect spines, camouflage leggings, and regimented spatial patterns that my thematic hunch was confirmed by its title, All the Daring of the Soldier.

Another student work, by Mandy Stallings’ class at Packer Collegiate Institute, played before a sprawling Rose Garden in a feminine nod to Kurt Jooss’s The Green Table. Eight female-presenting dancers in Victorian garb form a bouquet of polite postures, from which dissenters digress in earthbound choreographic asides. On Frippery symbiotically benefitted from and cast as a character the space around it.

I concluded with Teresa Fellion’s BodyStories. Back at the Ice House, the 3:30 sun cast a shadow that marked off boundaries for Emma Iredale and Kimberly Murry to pounce in and out of light in contrasting dynamics. Stallings’ preceding use of environment had me wishing for the same ingenuity from Fellion, particularly when the work ended waiting for a blackout in a theatre we were not in.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 2, 2021
Merce Cunningham and Mikhail Baryshnikov share a penchant for collaboration, one that even drew them together as optically unlikely partners, beginning with Baryshnikov adding Cunningham to American Ballet Theatre’s repertory. At Baryshnikov Arts Center, there is a studio named for Cunningham and John Cage, wherein BAC Digital’s In Conversation with Merce was filmed. Liz Gerring and Kyle Abraham take excerpts of Cunningham’s 1972 Landrover as a prompt for their own physical musing on the original work’s fixation on the ways living beings travel in space.

Staged by Jamie Scott, Alvin Ailey company dancers Chalvar Monteiro and Jacquelin Harris brave locomotive obstacles between partnering anyone who has lived through the past two years might describe as “socially distant.” Contact consists of non-hugs – embraces kept at arms’ lengths, promenades in which Harris is fully self-sufficient in her off-kilter orientations with merely gestural support from Monteiro, who focuses more on harmonizing his body with hers in interlocking revolving shapes. That is until Monteiro hoists Harris upside down onto his back at an incline. Harris makes up for lost time by slithering slowly down Monteiro’s spine and hamstring until the two lie, prone, heads yearning for elsewhere.

Liz Gerring’s Dialogue feels more like a report. Landrover’s classical structure of duets flanked by alternating solos is kept for Mariah Anton and Cemiyon Barber, who impersonate Cunningham within Gerring’s vocabulary that draws largely from the fitness industry. A lot of lunges, planks, and chair poses are distorted with spinal adjustments from running starts. There is connection, though with considerably less relation. If Cunningham made the “socially distant” work, Gerring made the “together while apart” dance, Gerring focusing on destinations, counter to Cunningham’s adherence to journey.

Kyle Abraham takes a completely left-field approach, exploring softness, release, and loosely fitting garments (by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung) within what remains an undeniably Cunningham-ian time/space. Donovan Reed and Claude Johnson achieve a male-on-male tenderness rarely, if ever seen in Cunningham’s oeuvre. Where Cunningham engineers independence in partnering, Abraham designs coordinations impossible to execute without an other half. Within this, glimmers of Merce surface in unexpected gestural outbursts that punctuate Abraham’s waves of fluid continuity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 2, 2021
NYCB continues to take bold steps encouraging commissions by choreographers outside of the traditional ballet community. In keeping with a Spring Gala tradition, NYCB paired 2 choreographers with 2 fashion designers. Andrea Miller collaborated with Esteban Cortazar and Sidra Bell (the first African American female to choreograph for NYCB) connected with Christopher John Rogers.

Both revealed moments of inspiration and both fell under the spell of NYCB's glittering production values ultimately losing track of the main event--the choreography.

Sky To Hold starts inside a whirling mist. Ecstatic dancers in bodysuits that get more colorful with time, rip through space like sprites ushering in Taylor Stanley who unfolds from an amoebic form. Back-bends transmute into crab-walks making Stanley an oddly compelling character. He's joined by the free-spirited, golden- haired Sara Mearns uninhibitedly commanding her universe.

The commissioned score by Lido Pimienta includes live vocals by Pimienta standing in a glowing yellow gown on the side of the stage. The atmospheric music suggests the Lion King or perhaps that image materializes when dancers on mens' backs, arms spread in angular forms over bent legs approximate untamed--or mystical animals in the wilds. Some of the most propulsive moments are a result of the captivating partnering including a dancer hooking a leg over another dancer's shoulder and releasing the torso into a pendulum swing. 

On the other end of the dance spectrum, Sidra Bell's Suspended Animation to music by Nicholas Britell, Oliver Davis and Dosia McKay shocks the senses with iridescent Baroque-nouveau costumes topped by outrageous hats, some of which resemble 1950's lampshades. Posing and gliding like tiny ballerinas in a music box, the eye-popping costumes are shed -- over the course of the ballet -- to reveal sleek, embellished, body hugging outfits.

Possibly, the opening speaks to  ballet's roots in the sumptuous courts of Louis XIV? Traditional ballet combinations fold over a more flexible modern dance torso, isolated limbs and free-wheeling arms.

In one of the final tableaus, dancers in the high-fashion gowns move behind a screen against the stripped down modern ballet folks moving in front--conceivably suggesting the past and the future remain in active conversation?

The night I attended, the program closed with George Balanchine's joyous "Western Symphony" -- a tutorial on how to make choreographing dance look natural.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

NYC BALLET: Serenade, After the Rain, Symphony in C
September 23, 2021
Deafening applause washed over the exquisitely iconic opening image of George Balanchine's Serenade. Ballerinas in soft blue tulled dresses stand poised in parallel position, one arm raised, as if saluting the grateful audience. In truth, the performance receded in contrast to the audience's pent-up enthusiasm. Built on poignancy and life's etherealness, Serenade generated the kind of  insistent applause associated with wildly voluble TV shows like "America's Got Talent."

At the forefront, Sterling Hyltin achieved a new vulnerability; Ashely Bouder's bounding elevation was not diminished by time catching everyone's breath with a flying back leap into the very capable arms of Adrian Dancing-Waring while the towering Megan LeCrone was vigorously cheered for her perfectly executed one leg arabesque rotation. The tranquility generally felt when watching Serenade gave way to an audience intent on shouting their love.

Christopher Wheeldon's duet of longing and connection, After the Rain to heart-wrenching music by Arvo Part paired Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour in a deftly synched performance detailed in its contrasting movement quality--taut gestures melting into embraces--in a space of trust. Both dancers will be retiring this year which added a dimension of wistfulness to the performance.

Before the final grand ballet, Symphony in C by Balanchine to Georges Bizet, co-directors Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan appeared in front of the curtain to claim "We are back!" To showcase the musicians, the NYC Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of Andres Litton, cheered the audience with a bright rendition of "The Waltz of the Flowers" from the beloved "Nutcracker."

The lavish and technically demanding Symphony in C most definitely challenged the company. In a spirited performance, Megan Fairchild and Joseph Gordon exuded confidence and cheer while Gordon spit out a glowing series of multiple spins and sparkling jumps ingratiating the audience; in the Adagio, Sara Mearns turned her duet into one luxurious musical inhale and exhale while Indiana Woodward and Harrison Ball, Laruen King and Andrew Socrdato swirled through the intricate footwork.

Despite the year and a half hiatus,there was no lack of energy and optimism in the opening night of NYC Ballet.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 17, 2021
In Balanchine's Classroom filmmaker Connie Hochman condenses 100 interviews with current and former NYC Ballet dancers into a portrait of the man they--and so many others--idolized as well as the mystery and science of passing dance from body to another. Inspired by the Americans' outgoing and inquisitive manner, Balanchine took a fresh approach to traditional ballet.

Cutting between seated interviews, in-person coaching and crucial archival material, the film gazes at the man many consider responsible for redefining European ballet into American terms. Unique in the world, the Balanchine dancer shared European and Russian centuries-old ballet traditions streamlined through American rhythms and optimism.

In 1933, when Balanchine arrived in America, Europe was on the verge of WWII before even recuperating from the devastation of WWI. Diaghilev, one of the greatest ballet impresarios was dead, and his renown company, the Ballets Russes, disbanded.

In one questionable section, archival footage of a ballet duet from 1913 includes a voice-over stating Balanchine overturned the staid ballet of his time. However, 1913 happens to be the year Vaslav Nijinsky shocked the dance world with his ground-shattering ballet "The Rite of Spring." Indeed, Balanchine did turn away from the stuffy academy, but his novel ideas were inspired by avant-garde choreographers of the time like Fyodor Lopukhov.

For ballet dancers, a choreographer's interaction with the material is all important. Did he come in with the material set, did he improvise, or ask for movement contributions. According to the interviewees, it was yes to all. Most importantly, if it suited him, Balanchine incorporated "accidents" (a dancer running into a piece late) or unintended gestures into his ballets.

Famously, his daily class was a place of inspiration and bodily assault. When most dance classes might have asked for 8 repetitions of one barre exercise front, side and back; Balanchine went for 64 repetitions at an accelerated speed. Besides speed and musicality, Balanchine took pointe work to a new frontier regarding the foot as a complex, expressive organism capable of micro articulations. Less a teacher and more a movement explorer, Balanchine embraced the classroom as an opportunity for experimentation and the development of exercises that could support his vision.

Suki Schorr, Merrill Ashley, Heather Watts, Edward Villella, Gloria Grovin and Jacques d'Amboise (with young children) are seen coaching or teaching dancers in a classroom. All three taskmasters convince the dancers to not only execute the movements but understand why an accent comes at a certain point, or arm drops down in front of one's face. Despite the exactness of the corrections, or inclusion of vivid imagery, everyone agreed that once the master choreographer passed, his ballets changed. Not surprisingly, Balanchine trusted his dancers to dance and "let the dancers put in their own spice," ultimately feeling "ballets belong to the dancer."

A man whose iconic status only grows with each succeeding year, Balanchine was a man of few words, but when he spoke it was oracular " (the ballerina) don't need to be right tonight, you have to know what's right."

There are some omissions, most noticeably the absence of Suzanne Farrell, one of Balanchine's most famous muses. Even without her personal testimony, many people enthuse about her ability to intuitively interpret Balanchine's choreographic intent in a way few others could.

Running about 90 minutes, "In Balanchine's Classroom" will delight young ballerinas dreaming of a career and reinforce the Balanchine lore. Dance lovers will appreciate the extensive archival footage and those less involved might wonder why dancers "sacrifice" themselves to such a rigorous and frequently disparaging art form.

With time, much changes, but perhaps in the world of dance Balanchine was right when he opined "I want dancers who need to dance."
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

August 18, 2021
How do you know you're back in NYC? Here's one clue: You order food, then ask for bread and the waiter snaps, "You ordered enough food. You don't need the bread." 

Happy days are back, or so we hope, and Lincoln Center celebrated with a "who's who" of dance performance series at Damrosch Park. Energy buzzed  the spiraling lines of dance lovers intent on getting a seat and embracing friends not seen for months on end.

Robert Battle (artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) giddily welcomed the audience and introduced the program that crackled with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performing an excerpt from Rennie Harris' evening length work Lazarus. The punchy, hip-hop based piece revved-up the audience. 

In a complete turnabout, New York City Ballet's Taylor Stanley absorbed the space in a meditative solo Ces noms que nous portons by Kyle Abraham. Radiating an introspective intensity, Stanley stood on one leg and leaned forward, arms reaching towards the audience in a prayer of serenity.

Next Dance Theater of Harlem brought a feisty excerpt from Harlem on My Mind by Darrell Grand Moultrie performed on pointe. Later, In a tribute to the great Tony Bennett -- who just announced he will no longer be performing live -- ABT delivered Jessica Lang's swooning, breathlessly lyrical duet Let Me Sing Forevermore.

The one-hour program ended on a earthy, throbbing excerpt from Gustavo Ramirez Sansano's 18 + 1 for Ballet Hispanico.

The outdoor dance programs will continue through Saturday.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 23, 2021
Near the end of Jamila Wignot's immersive documentary on Alvin Ailey, he states in very clear terms, "I want it to be easier than it was for me" (EYE ON DANCE, 1989). Clearly, the man who built the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater had a vision that included an "easier" future for the next generation of BIPOC and LGBTQ dancers.

Ailey's life unfolds in a series of potent archival clips, performance footage and friends' reminiscences. A complicated man, Ailey and his mother left the heat and dirt of Texas for LA when he was 12 years old. While money was scarce, inspiration peaked in the form of dance. First smitten with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, later he was awed by the Dunham Dance Company. Ultimately, his dance career was defined by Lester Horton, one of the first people to run a multi-racial dance company and studio. Horton became Ailey's lifelong role model.

Thrilling black-and-white footage captures Ailey's full-throated, emotionally committed performances. Oddly, much of the critical archival footage is not credited and neither are the dancers who appear in rehearsal segments one-on-one with Ailey (i.e., Ailey rehearses Donna Wood in Masekela Langage). Citation details enrich our grasp of the time-line and our engagement with the material.

The film faithfully maps out Ailey's growth during the Civil Rights Movement, the wild success of Ailey's masterpiece set to gospel music Revelations (Ailey confesses to Harry Belafonte -- in a 1978 Dance in America program--he tires of the demands to program Revelations), as well as a grueling touring schedule and demands to keep a company afloat in NYC. These stressors contribute to Ailey's mental breakdown sensitively revealed through poignant reflections by Ailey's close dance family members. Mary Barnett, Sylvia Waters, George Faison and Bill Hammond are just a few of the artists who affectionately round-out the story of Ailey.

The Ailey lineage continues through the company and a new crop of choreographers. For the purposes of the film, we enter the Ailey Company rehearsal room several times to observe street dance based choreographer Rennie Harris create his one-hour production piece called Lazarus as an homage to Ailey and the struggles of so many black artists.

Ailey was a trailblazer who concertized his lived experiences and celebrated not only the works of black choreographers, but at a time when modern dance was predominantly performed to classical or modern music, he embraced America's jazz, gospel and pop music.

Impressively edited, the richly varied look of the film is composed of countless visual images sliding over spoken words and music.

Trained on Ailey's personal landscape, Wignot's film bends towards Ailey's emotional arc rather than his life-long challenges keeping a company solvent, attracting audiences, and coping with the critics.

Because of Ailey's passion and compassion, the 21st century Ailey company led by Robert Battle is in the black, sells out houses and attracts praise from critics.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 12, 2021
Nothing like an epidemic to make you appreciate there's no place like the live theater. NYCB is poised to open its 2021-22 season on Sept. 21 with a special one-night-only program in celebration of NYCB’s first full-company, live performance in more than 19 months and includes George Balanchine's classics: Serenade (which I'm positive will make me cry), and Symphony in C plus Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain Pas Deux.

Season highlights: World Premiere ballets by Sidra Bell and Andrea Miller at the Fall Fashion Gala on September 30; Justin Peck at the annual New Combinations Evening on January 27; Jamar Roberts on February 3; Pam Tanowitz on April 22; and Silas Farley, who will create a new work for the Spring Gala on May 5, as part of NYCB’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Company’s legendary 1972 Stravinsky Festival.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 9, 2021
A slew of on-line performances are drawing audiences from all corners of the universe. In a recent contribution from the Joyce Theater, #QueertheBallet embraces simplicity and affection in the premiere of Animals and Angels. And although I didn't see animalistic images, I did see two very self-assured, gentle dancers speak in the fullness of ballet.

Choreographed by Adriana Pierce and sensitively filmed by Emma Penrose, the ballet is perfumed with images of new love dusted in shyness and anticipation. Dressed in creamy white and tan casual pants and tops, Audrey Malek and Cortney Taylor-Key's pointwork is nearly imperceptible because it grows out of a completely organic movement structure.

The dancers face each other, hands entwined and silently rise on point, strolling across the space. Legs fan out, and arms entwine in supportive back drops and balances. Reminiscent of the blue morning light, when everything smells fresh, the duet quickly makes its mark to the music of Olubukola Oladokun performed by Joy Oladokum.

Created, performed and filmed entirely by a team of LGBTQ+ artists, Animals and Angels would be a welcomed addition to any ballet company.
The ballet can be streamed through July 18 on the Joyce website.

EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 22, 2021
American Choreographer Lisa Parra and Portuguese digital media artist Daniel Pinheiro have been making remote performance together from across the globe long before COVID-19 rendered such a tactic the only option for performers worldwide. Together as LAND Project, they have, since 2013, explored the video conference room as an alternative performative plane, on which the two achieve an augmented sort of connection by actively using video and internet as tools (in a concept termed “Telematic Art”), processed through a real-time composition practice (after Joao Fiadeiro), to cohabit a stream of consciousness.

Being showcased by New Dance Alliance’s Performance Mix 35 as New York returns to live performance with a reticent vengeance, what could be felt as mere quarantine art manages to conjure a space-aged hall of mirrors. In this practice, only the setup is premeditated. Placing cameras, computers, microphones, projectors, and screens in a hyper-intentional way establishes an arena for maximal connection to transpire, and any material to emerge. In the case of “_______________nosespaçosescrevemosonossocorpo”, Parra and Pinheiro have made novel use of Movement Research’s PS122 home, installing all of the performance and most of the technology inside the Courtyard Studio, while situating audiences outside in the eponymous Courtyard.

The studio is wide and relatively shallow, visible from the outside between two stretches of windows. Stage right, a large projection of the conference call shines on the back wall, behind a projector near its connected computer, pointed stage left. Center stage, hidden behind wall, a second computer provides another perspective, which may or may not be the perspective projected outside onto the very wall concealing the computer.

Stage left, a third computer, an independent webcam, an HD camera, a speaker, and a microphone complete the set. Stage left is primarily Pinheiro’s, stage right, Parra’s; however, their placements, like the equipment, is situated to allow the hybrid digital/live material collectively generated to ricochet and refract through physical space.

Pinheiro is primarily displayed on the large stage right projection, though his voice is only audible from the large speaker on Parra’s side. To see him you must venture house left, but to hear him, you must sacrifice seeing him. In doing so, you get full physical view of Parra, who meanwhile speaks into microphones not so that we may hear, but to get through to Pinheiro.

Pinheiro’s large projection will toggle, through the intervention of Movement Research stagehands, between full view of Pinheiro and a gallery view of the conference call, comprised of all the cameras being used to bring these two individuals together from as many perspectives as possible. Outside, the projection remains in gallery view, from a different input, though the boxes of video are subject to sudden shifts of position. On both projections, one video box is steadfastly dedicated to double exposing Parra and Pinheiro’s video in visual harmony.

In terms of content, the two simply communicate. Parra reads a letter. Pinheiro makes breath sounds. Parra will emulate them, or dance to them, or both. They try to make the same shape via amplified mumbling. There is no sustained sense of leader and follower other than the distribution of sensory information literally compelling the viewer from one side of the space to another, vainly curious to know what is coming from where.

It is impossible to experience the totality of the work, as well as to fully comprehend how the whole thing works. Still, one stimulus will prompt a search for its cause or effect. Everything else is a digital blur, though equally potential in sparking yet another quest.
EYE ON THE ARTS/NY -- Jonathan Matthews

June 16, 2021
The ultra composed and superior sounding Christine Darrell (Deborah Lohse) greets the audience to outline the evening's dance competition. In tribute to one of the Romantic era's iconic ballets, "Giselle", the contestants, (members of Ballez) will interpret the famous "mad" scene danced by the gullible village girl after she's jilted by that damn nobleman. 

Mad scenes are not uncommon in the European, classical cultural tradition -- famously, there's Shakespeare's Ophelia and Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. But Giselle really takes the prize.

Restrictive and hetero-centrically bound, ballet demands a very specific vision; and because of the form's rigidity, it sets itself up for loving ridicule. And not unlike Ballet Trocakderos, or even Jerome Robbins, Katy Pyle's Ballez company of mixed gender dancers (all female-assigned or of femme experience) simultaneously honor and upend the classics. 

Choreographer and director Pyle sends seven dancers out to audition for the part. They are graded by two judges, Meg Harper and Janet Panetta (beloved dance teachers), the audience and host. One by one, the "Giselle-to-be" performs their personalized version of the mad scene prefaced by a catalogue of renown steps from the ballet. Grades are based on the exquisite perfection of the arms, feet, jumps, turns, hysteria and interpretation.

Outside of the one common denominator -- the wig-- everyone presented a highly individualized, personalized interpretation. In a glorious twist, rather than surreptitiously removing hair bun pins before the mad scene, every Giselle is seen struggling and struggling to unleash their hair until finally ripping out the pins and spinning into a downward death spiral.

Although no one exhibited the ethereal, fairy-like quality (quite the contrary), they all exuded an intense fondness for  ballet. One after another, they executed the famous spins in place with a lifted, bent back leg.  A few broke that pattern and sprinkled in a couple of fouettes  or even the famous, feathery jumps from Act II. 

Perhaps ballet, a traditional European artform born in the courts and supported by the upper class and bourgeoisie excludes many. However, if Ballez: Giselle of Loneliness is any indication, the ballet form is pliable and possesses the capacity to  inspire anyone who wants to speak and tweak its language.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 6, 2021
Time slipped by this hot summer day and I missed the beginning of Cornfield Dance in the East Village. However, once I tuned into their Facebook page, the solidify crafted material sucked me in despite the lack of audio-yes, I forgot to unmute! Regardless, the single, relatively immobile camera, captured the full shape of the dance's quirkiness and style under the blazing sun.

Many companies are dancing in the parks, on the streets and in plazas. Some manage better than others, but most frolic throughout mazes, bop between surprised audience members or express themselves in a free-form cascades of motion. But few engage the mind with the same logic, and open minded choreographic ingenuity as Ms. Cornfield.

Two lines of dancers stretch down the street. A leg goes up and back against a line-up of women pushing their heads around and beating their feet, like crickets against their legs. Cornfield's Cunningham roots are evident--particularly in her clarity, but she charts her own spatial compositions and technical bravura encased in a casual, pedestrian style.

Knees swivel side to side and wide, tilted arabesques convert to frozen poses punctuated by a lone dancer running down the street. Abstract in form, the two dances “Spaced Out,” and excerpts from “Small Stages,” included original music, both live and recorded, by Andreas Brade.

David Pakrer's The Big Bang Group joined the outdoor romp with some of his own brand of kooky hip swings and loping runs not to mention dancers scooting on their rumps across the asphalt. And how exactly does that not burn?

A different feel, a different momentum framed each section that fluidly unfolded in layers of visual intrigue and humanity.

Lucky those who rested in the shade imbibing in the marvels of live dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 22, 2021
If you are looking for a dance de-stressor consider "A Coloring Book by Julie Lemberger featuring more than 60 of today's women dance artists!"

Edited by Elizabeth Zimmer, Modern Women is studded with an array of dance artists. Their heavy black outlines stand out against psychedelic and whimsical backgrounds. More than an artistic diversion, the book animates the choreographers through biographical notes and quotes.

Known as a professional dance photographer, Lemberger captures each dancer's individual facial and physical expressiveness. A quote by the dancer or choreographer is situated below each picture. For instance, this might be an apt feeling shared by all this year: "Dancer Cori Kresge in The New Ecstatic 2.0 (2016), a duet created in collaboration with choreographer Sarah Skaggs. This dance examines the nature of ecstatic dance forms and "out of body" states in the everyday."

Visual complexity and text meld in the creation of a congenial introduction to dancers making history. An extraordinary mix of dance forms take a bow in the pages of a book that Ms. Lemberger dedicates to the "...many women who dance......and receive so little recognition. I made this book to celebrate them!

Ash Chen desgined and constructed the publication available at Modern Women

May 17, 2021
Relaxed lopes invert into barrel turns and floor hugging street dance riffs. Without pointing at the hinges joining modern dance to vernacular forms, Seymour Chafin's vocabulary registers as natural, unstressed and clear.

Co-commissioned by the American Dance Festival and the Limon Dance Company, and presented by the Joyce Theater, new-comer Chafin Seymour's Suite Donuts suits the Limon family. Set to an appealing score, Chafin expertly melds  compositions by Miguel Atwood Ferguson to Erik Satie and Slum Village and mounts them to a resourceful movement vocabulary.

In the opening minutes, a lone male dancer senses the space around him through inquisitive, free flow motions punctuated by gestural comments.  Solitary for only a couple of moments, a communal line of dancers fan out behind him. 

Suite Donuts invites company members into its fresh, fluid, rhythmically concise movement tracings organized around slouchy shoulders, playful lifts and stylish floor patterns.

Dressed in loose, long sleeved shirts and draw pants of warm blues, reds, tans and white by costume designer Keiko Voltaire, the high contrast lighting by Brandon Sterling Baker sharply edges the dancers' silhouettes -- conferring a bit of mystery or even dreaminess to the atmosphere.

Seymour has a knack for making dances feel youthful yet fully mature. His traditional dance training supports concise choreography that can soar or drop down into  some serious funk.

During these days of over-zoomed audiences, Seymour uncannily pulls the audience  in through the screen. Let's hope this is only the first of many commissions by Seymour for the Limon Dance Company.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 17, 2021
Celia Ipiotis and the living legacy of "Eye on Dance" The Dance Boom that began with Nureyev and ended with Y2K still resonates today April 17, 2021
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Surrounded by ephemera: Celia Ipiotis in the "Eye on Dance" Archive, an unparalleled repository of source materials from the Dance Boom, ca. 1980-2000.

Timing, people say, is everything. Dance, people say, is the most ephemeral of the arts. What a stroke of fortune, then, that Celia Ipiotis came along when she did with her long-running half-hour TV talk-show-with-benefits "Eye on Dance," catching America's legendary late-20th-century Dance Boom in full bloom.

Born in Athens, Celia came to America at the age of three, when her father, a polymer chemist, won a fellowship for advanced study in New York. Her father's subsequent employment at General Motors took the family to Dayton, Ohio.

Show Daddy what you learned in class: Celia's fifth position at age six.
Celia's passion for dancing kindled early. By the age of five, she was taking lessons. At 11, she made her professional debut with Josephine Schwartz's Dayton Civic Ballet, landing a precocious solo in the company hit "Archaic Fragments." On tour to Cleveland with excerpts from The Nutcracker, she opened the show, first out of the wings with an air-borne split jeté. At 13, she was creating her own choreography. "I got released from school for rehearsals and performances," Celia remembers, "I got free toe shoes, and I got a paycheck." Such was the company's reputation within dance circles that Allen Hughes, of the New York Times, went out to file what turned out to be a highly favorable report.

Leader of the pack: Celia performs with her all-volunteer Living Arts Summer Dance Company, a magnet for driven artists in the off-season.

After earning her BFA at Ohio State University, Celia founded the Living Arts Summer Dance Company, which she ran for three years. Based in Dayton, the all-volunteer ensemble attracted budding professionals with a compulsion to keep working—and showing their work to the public—in the off-season. No free toe shoes here, but then, none were needed. Celia had switched to bare feet. "I prefer modern dance because I love to feel the ground and grab it with my toes," she told the Dayton Daily News in 1976. Next stop: Manhattan and the New School for Social Research, Center for Understanding Media, her bridge to dance on video, an art form then in its infancy. While still in graduate school, Celia made the cover of Videography magazine, a human tornado the camera morphed to a blur not even her mother could have identified for sure.

A human tornado: Celia's first magazine cover.

All the while, Celia's concept for "Eye on Dance" was taking shape, and it was revolutionary in its way. Like Garbo in Ernst Lubitsch's revolutionary comedy Ninotchka, the dancers would talk! An impossible dream, but it came true.

As moderator for "Eye on Dance," Celia displayed boundless curiosity, free of any agenda. The camera loved her bohemian fashion sense and hairstyles (ribbons, braids, bows!), but what drove the show was her sensibility, her intelligence, her respect for the intelligence of others. She was a demon researcher, always thoroughly prepared. She sat tall in her chair, poised and relaxed, with a Sphinx's smile, ever on the lookout for the telling detail. She made no show of imaginary intimacy, never invaded a guest's space.

Co-creation: Celia develops a new dance with Jeff Bush, video artist, co-founder of "Eye on Dance," and life partner (with the marriage license to prove it).

Over the years, her roster ran from international principal artists to break dancers, choreographers on the cutting edge and choreographers who work like archaeologists, from hieroglyphic notation. Further afield, she introduced audience to musicians, physiotherapists, and intellectual-property lawyers. Topics that in our trigger-happy times would have to be approached with extreme caution if not ruled out as taboo include sexual politics, representation, appropriation, even minstrel shows. Conversation was punctuated with performance segments both thrilling and informative, many broadcast live from the studio.

"Eye on Dance" launched in 1981 and ran through 2004. For the double-length 200th episode in 1986, Celia and her founding co-creator and co-producer Jeff Bush prepared a double-length, 60-minute, highlights reel. On the eve of this year's 40th anniversary of the ongoing "Eye on Dance" enterprise, they have restored their long-unseen scrapbook of wonders. Partly the program serves as a fundraising vehicle. More importantly, it aims to connect new generations of dance professionals and audiences with the inquisitive, inclusive "Eye on Dance" mindset.

"Scholars and historians have been amazed to find that nearly half the archive covers, in considerable depth, artists of color and artists with AIDS whose work is documented nowhere else," Celia says. With every passing year, more of these voices are lost, lending ever greater importance to the archival record, which provides the wherewithal to enrich academic curricula and stimulate original new research. The invitational virtual premiere of the "Eye on Dance" special took place in March on the online platform The Dance Enthusiast; future showings are booking now at educational institutions and libraries.

Though Celia and Jeff produced their last television segment a short lifetime ago, their work continues on behalf of the endangered Eye on Dance Legacy Archive, a repository for some 2,400 analog videotapes, including outtakes, shows never broadcast, studio performances, and demonstrations); 7,500 black-and-white photos from guests' personal collections; 10,000 sheets of print materials, among them personal communications, research, production notes, press materials, and scripts; and 1,000 rare publications, programs, souvenir books, catalogues, and professional chronicles. Most of this material resides in secure, climate-controlled vaults of the international suggestively named information-storage company Iron Mountain (think Fort Knox).

To date, some 60% of the video library—much of it on unstable videotape—has been digitized, and sales of the materials to educational institutions and research libraries help fund the ongoing work. The Archive in its totality, however, has yet to find a permanent home. What's needed is a facility with the space, conservation technology, and the imaginative resources to excite future generations of historians, artists, and audiences.

According to an unverified report, an international tycoon stepped up not long ago, offering to snap up the archive on behalf of his dance-loving daughter for a cool seven figures. But the prospective buyers refused to commit to sharing the contents with the public in perpetuity, and the deal collapsed. Several institutions in the United States and abroad would provide a natural fit. Given Celia's Buckeye roots, her alma mater Ohio State University has a sentimental edge, in contention with the Olympian likes of Library of Congress, the New York Library of the Performing Arts, the Harvard Theatre Collection, the Juilliard Library, the British Museum, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. But placement at any of these would require the largesse of a dance lover with deep pockets—or of a determined consortium.

What's at stake? Documentation unique in its scope and quality of a high point in dance history. Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic of The New York Times from 1977 to 2005, sketched out the parameters in a Critic's Notebook essay the week before departure, virtually simultaneous with Celia's disappearance from the airwaves. The headline read "Thoughts on the Once and Future Dance Boom." "[The year] 1962 was really when it all began," Kisselgoff wrote,

... ushering in a true golden age: Nureyev [who had defected in Paris the previous year, generating headlines around the world], Balanchine at his peak, Cunningham as the pope of the avant-garde, innovative pure-dance choreographers. That was the heyday, too, of the experimental Judson Dance Theater [...] and like-minded rebels whose use of nondancers and nondancer movement questioned the nature of dance itself.

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Towards the end of her piece, Kisselgoff had this to say:

[E]veryone knows that the dance boom has ended. It fell victim to drastic cuts in government and private financing that curtailed touring and put some companies out of business. The creative impetus of that exciting time, especially in the 60's and 70's, also petered out.

But the torches were blazing bright when Celia burst on the scene. And as culturally attuned New Yorkers in the 1980's and 1990's knew full well, they continued to do so virtually to the close of her quarter-century adventure. With the appointment of Arlene Croce as dance critic of The New Yorker in the early 1970's, a whole burgeoning cadre of similarly minded scribes, sharp-eyed and ambitious, invaded the arts-and-entertainment pages to an astonishing degree, colonizing column inches to rival the front-line theater and movie critics.

Critical evaluation has its uses, in the moment and after the fact, but "Eye on Dance" was trading in quite different coin. Airing on the local PBS stations WNYC and WNYE in tristate Metropolitan New York, the show excited mavens—even as it demystified an art many outsiders were apt to shun as esoteric and arcane. Rather than hand the megaphone to the chattering class, it gave a voice to people who lived the life, opening doors and opening eyes. To avoid scheduling conflicts with live performances, Celia's show aired on Sunday or Monday evenings, when dance stages were dark. Lincoln Kirstein, co-founder with George Balanchine of New York City Ballet, watched religiously, never failing to spring his notes on Celia at intermission on the promenade of New York State Theater, in his day the Times Square of the dance world.

"Naturally, we would wonder every year whether our contract would be renewed," Celia said recently. "But ours was one of the most popular programs on our two stations. The executives were floored." Remarkably, "Eye on Dance"—alone in the lineup of the stations' original niche programming—cleared the one-percent market-share threshold to receive a Nielsen rating.

"The truth is that we weren't so esoteric," Celia continues. "People tuned in with their families because the show was intriguing. One week we'd have ballet, then a physical therapist, a lawyer, a sports figure, a tap dancer... And if you can believe it, over 50% of our viewers were men. I'd get letters from men who wrote, 'I never understood or knew about dance.' In public, they might have been self-conscious about expressing an interest in dance, but in the privacy of their homes they would tune in and get fascinated about the ways dancers think and navigate their fragile careers. They became enamored and start showing up as dance regulars."

At this remove, the titans of the late-20th-century dance boom stand out in ever bolder relief, their stature attested in major biographies and/or documentaries. While many of them visited "Eye on Dance," some, for various reasons, did not. George Balanchine was in failing health by the time Celia got cooking, so she recruited dancers of his from the New York City Ballet as surrogates. Knowing that Jerome Robbins turned everyone down, she never asked him. Though Martha Graham and Antony Tudor both agreed to appear, they never managed to ink dates. But individual absences do not detract from Celia's granular panorama of the entire ecosystem. The body of work she created is irreplaceable.

"O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?" Jeff shoots, Celia pushes her limits.

But she does not live in the past. "Our hope today," Celia says, "is that we can trigger conversation on issues we were focusing on back then. Because they're still totally contemporary today! Black Lives Matter, equity, and women, it's all there. Think of the program as a springboard for engaged and thoughtful conversation about dance of all kinds. We never privileged European concert dance as the be-all and end-all. We did street dance, social dance, vernacular dance. We looked at artists' First Amendment rights around gender politics and things the religious right was branding as obscene. There was never a topic I wouldn't face head on. That's why I loved 'Eye on Dance.'" That's why her work still matters and will continue to do so.

Pundicity--Matthew Gurewitsch

April 15, 2021
When We Fell by Kyle Abraham for NYC Ballet
A haunting experience, the camera and dance conspire to produce a ballet that exists in the solitude of exquisite simplicity and restrained ardor. Kyle Abraham's "When We Fell" harnessed ballet's eloquence in a personalized frame of patience that toyed with the elasticity of time and form. Shot in black and white on the promenade of the David H. Koch Theater and completed on the stage in color, Abraham and Ryan Marie Halfant co-directed the exquisite film and momentous work of art.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis --

April 6, 2021

Warm greetings by Susan Fales-Hill introduced the presentation of excerpts from three works by Alexei Ratmansky plus a 2021 debut performed by American Ballet Theater.

Shot on the City Center Stage, I can only believe Ratmansky had a say in the way the dancing was shot because the camerawork remained effectively conservative, framing the whole body and limiting special effects. This approach allowed the dance to speak as purely as possible through the screen.

Full of youthful awakening, The Sleeping Beauty's Rose Adagio captures Aurora, 16 year old princess, gaily unfurling her feminine treasures, and a sly bit of independence, for admiration by the her princely suitors.

In Seven Sonatas, Second Movement a male in white cleanly cuts through space. Clicking his legs together in mid-air, Herman Cornejo's airy jumps and sigh-filled sideways arcs form an unbroken line of motion. Luciana Paris breezes in with gurgling steps suggestive of traditional Russian folk dances.

In turn, Carlos Gonzalez breaks through with focused energy that alternates between short, rapid bursts and thoughtful pauses. Finally, the self-assured Devon Teuscher melds one shape into the other and re-engaging the band of dancers.

A pas de deux from The Seasons overflowing with tenderness and longing binds James Whiteside and Isabella Boylston. Physically well-suited, they glide through lingering looks and matched steps transformed into gentle lifts.

Stepping away from Russian composers, Ratmansky scoops up the music of Leonard Bernstein, the quintessential American composer and conductor, for a piece that heralds a time of hopeful expectations.

In Ratmansky's premiere Bernstein in a Bubble Bernstein cracks into his 1980 composition Divertimento with a chord that's reminiscent of West Side Story's iconic overture. And while the sore exudes optimism, Divertimento jauntily swings from one dancey mood to another. Elbows bent, dancers bubble into the frame, romping around as if in a hoe down--or perhaps it's a wink at Balanchine's Square Dance? Each section giddily toys with the ballet vocabulary spiking it with somersaults and jogs, splits and pumping arms.

Not unlike Michel Fokine, who equalized the onstage status of male and female dancers at the turn of the 20th century, Ratmansky inserts a physical equality between the men and the women.

Male groupings include same sex partnering, while the women mark out their own distinct territory.In one duet, the two men, Patrick Frenette and Tyler Maloney, quietly support and carry each other after somersaulting to the beat, dipping into side splits and glistening in double air turns.

There's a whimsical trio with Frenette and Maloney sailing through prankish intersections along with Skylar Brandt. Tossed mid-air from one partner to the other, Brandt proves she really doesn't need their help to do anything--including a remarkable 2 revolution turn while hopping on pointe in arabesque followed by a trip pirouette. What?????

A bright duet with Trenary and Hoven was playful and exacting while Aran Bell and Catherine Hurlin delve into a coquettish duet studded with languorous lifts and kitschy hip swivels. Soon, everyone in the cast returns for some last minute antics.

Despite the pandemic's toll on dance classes and rehearsals, these dancers are remarkably fit and sharp.

Bernstein in a Bubble is one of this pandemic's more satisfying productions. Ratmansky draws from his Bolshoi tradition, finding athletic solutions to clever and upbeat choices.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 28, 2021
The line outside NY City Center for Fall for Dance was imbued with heightened anticipation – returning to the theatre for indoor performance, adding checks of COVID vaccination status to the ticket retrieval process. Program 3 features a stylistic metamorphosis through ballet, contemporary, and stepping. Sequenced so linearly from ethereal to earthbound movement, a clear commonality of restlessness pervaded the works – to return to the stage as much as we were eager to witness it.

Opening the program was the Philadelphia Ballet with the NY Premiere of Juliano Nunes’ Connection. Ten dancers in tight flesh tones move together as a fluid swarm from which each dancer participates in a highlighted duet. Nunes’ partnering tests limits of flexibility and strength in forward fluid motion that forbids indulgent positional loitering. Even as men unilaterally manipulate women, each mover takes on a viscous form in space. Limbs tangle and unwind in chains of shifting equilibriums in which arms that might otherwise simply support are absorbed into all-consuming partnerships. Albeit created in pre-COVID times, one can’t help feeling that performing this marathon of contact now helps to make up for the past two years of distance and isolation.

Micaela Taylor sets herself front and center in her TL Collective’s Drift. Taylor’s movement has a similar flow to Nunes, but is subject to sharp rhythmic manipulations in short theatrical spurts of physical sentence fragments, connected by transitions of pedestrian stillness and pacing. It adheres perhaps too loyally to the soundscore, dominated by a spoken word piece discussing the concept of “drifting” as an antidote to modern life’s pressures.

Initially establishing an intricate ensemble texture, Taylor, whose towering, narrow, and bendy form already makes her hard to miss, takes the reins and relegates her company as backup dancers to her authoritative execution of her aesthetic.

All authority was dismantled by Step Afrika!, who turned the house on its head with Conrad Kelly II’s The Movement. Of the three works, Step Afrika! succeeded at achieving an equitable balance of ensemble and spotlighted dancing. They had to, given the subject matter.

Created most recently, The Movement is a Black Lives Matter rally, conjuring the pain of 2020’s breaking point of racial violence and seeing it through to a call towards a brighter future.

No movement other than body percussion can equally satisfy the intensity of community grief and the levity of celebration, so much so that, by the end, they had the (largely older, white) audience on its feet, clapping more or less on beat, fully on board.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

January 7, 2021
At a time of great political and social upheaval, on a night when the nation's capital was ravaged by mobs, Molissa Fenley's selection of Igor Stravinsky's harrowing Le Sacre du printemps captured the discord shaking the nation. 

In one of her boldest moves, post modern dancer Fenley reinterpreted The Rite of Spring by fashioning a 35- minute marathon solo in 1988 now available through Jan. 10 on the Joyce Theater website. Originally performed by Ms. Fenley, years later she draped NYC Ballet principal dancer Peter Boal in her solo State of Darkness. It was unforgettable. Now, in the age of social distancing, Ms. Fenley was invited by the Joyce Theater to recast the solo on seven dancers: Jared Brown, Lloyd Knight, Sara Mearns, Shamel Pitts, Annique Roberts, Cassandra Trenary, and Michael Trusnovec. 

Due to time limitations, I was only able to view 3 interpretations. All were fascinating in different ways, but the one that felt most shattering was Michael Trusnovec, former lead dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

A physically as well as intellectually exhausting production, Trusnovec once again, claims his place in the annals of great performances. When the initial notes of the bassoon float in the air, Trusnovec's alert body emerges from the darkness. Clad in black tights and bare torso his body, illuminated in high-contrast lighting, sharpens his musculature.  Within the first few seconds, Trusnovec's arms snap up to the side, underlined by the white light.

That one sharp motion was thrilling and reminded me of a similar moment: the heart stopping second in Balanchine's Serenade when rows of ballerinas in filmy dresses suddenly flip their feet apart from parallel to turned-out position.  That act sends a bolt of electricity through the audience.

Trusnovec's interpretation is marked by the transformation of a human into a prehistoric, predatory creature sensing danger. His spareness and purity of movement expands the stark choreography to encompass a universe of threats and lyrical nuance. Technically, he remains formidable. From windmilling arms, to loping runs and skittering feet, he speaks the language of dance with a specificity and an emotion rarely equalled.

Another glorious dancer, Sara Mearns, principal dancer with NYC Ballet, placed her own stamp on the solo. Long and fair of hair and skin, Mearns dons her signature grandeur and largess to the solo. Less angular, more fluid, she locates a halo of light inside the dance. Releasing her back into a rainbow arch, the music surges through her interpretation.

At one point, Mearns raises on half-point, and arches back -- barely admitting to that small move's difficulty. And that's what Fenley manages throughout the solo--imposing technically difficult details inside seemingly simple combinations.

Finally, an exciting new dancer, Jared Brown sailed into his role. Sadly, the high-contrast lighting that dramatized both Trusnovec and Mearns, muddled Brown's dark skinned body. The light was too low. There was not enough contrast between Brown's body, the black background, black floor, black tights and brown skin.

Theater light must be increased when being viewed through a camera in order to be experienced the same way-- particularly when a camera is reading people- of-color. Fortunately, I've seen this young man dance live on stage, and he's impressive. Despite the viewing difficulties, I could see Brown soar through the piece, adding an element of fragility and defiance to his interpretation. But too often, his body faded in the shadows. Frustrating.

An exciting project, Fenley's State of Darkness claims a hold on viewers. It's obvious all three artists are powerhouse dancers at different stages in their careers who took a mighty risk and grew mightily as a result of this experiment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

December 31, 2020
In 1966, Hilary Harris had a filmic field day with then Paul Taylor rookie Bettie de Jong. Entitled Nine Variations on a Dance Theme, the variations are Harris’s, which refract the danced theme: de Jong performing a short physical palindrome nine times with solemn exactitude. Never established in an all-encompassing static wide shot, Harris demonstrates how movement can only be captured if the camera is moving just as well.

The first two variations slowly circle de Jong to aggregately document two sides of her shapes, generating a three-dimensional awareness of the movement in the viewer’s mind’s eye. As the camera zooms in, finds more obtuse angles, and allows editing to break the sequential flow of the subject, we know exactly (and quite classically) how these increasingly adventurous variations deviate from their prime form.

Nine Variations was instrumental in unlocking the potential for dance-film as its own artform. Today as performing artists must figure out how to operate during a global pandemic, many are turning to (digital) film with a similar spirit. Recognizing this cross-generational connection, Taylor alum Michael Trusnovec and current dancer Kristin Draucker have revived the concept.

Nine New Variations can be seen as a continuation of Harris’s work, as it does not so much replicate, but riffs. Instead of one dancer, we have nine, each a female ambassador from the contemporary Western dance world. Instead of one phrase, diligently repeated, each dancer chooses a physical proximity to de Jong’s theme, sometimes quoting it directly, other times obscuring any trace.

Graham dancer Xin Ying commences, like de Jong, starting on the ground, though with more surrender to gravity. Of the nine, she is the only one to noticeably repeat her movement, setting up elusive structural promises.

Akua Noni Parker, of Dance Theatre of Harlem and Ailey, comes closest to both de Jong’s choreography and Harris’s filming, executing the climactic a la seconde leg lift completely out of frame, though with enough continuity to know exactly where she is headed. Margie Gillis, whose brother Christopher danced with the Taylor company, concludes. She evokes Harris’s penchant to discover bodily frames and topographical beauty in ostensibly unflattering perspectives, however conversely bringing them actively towards a fixed lens.

Others veer in camerawork and editing as well. Taylor alum Annmaria Mazzini wafts in a field, occasionally in reverse. Gallim artistic director Andrea Miller and Kyle Abraham’s Tamisha Guy employ multiple frames to put themselves in counterpoint. Pam Tanowitz’s Christine Flores and New York City Ballet’s Sara Mearns harmonize with themselves via cross-faded double exposures, and Lucinda Childs’ Caitlin Scranton steps between a wooded deck and an urban rooftop.

What Nine New Variations lacks is Nine Variations’s capacity to teach us how to watch it. Nine Variations is a dancer and a filmmaker working intimately together; Nine New Variations is a conglomerate of requisite isolation, in which dancers must be their own director, cinematographer, and editor, whether possessing those skills or not. An homage to radical experimentation yearns for connection where cohesion cannot be guaranteed.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

December 29, 2020
The Jose Limón Dance Company capped off their Kaatsbaan Residency with an online performance showcasing both original Limón works reimagined, as well as new choreography from emerging artists.

A co-commission with the American Dance Festival, Suite Donuts, choreographed by Chafin Seymour, takes on a contemporary feel for this energetic cast. Accompanied by whimsical wind driven music, the work derives its name from the score. With minimal lighting on stage, the piece opens on a soloist; dressed in a simple blue sweatsuit, the dancer moves quickly through gesture and isolations of the body. Soon, the soloist is joined by the remainder of the cast where they meet in in a vertical line near the wings of the stage. Through the piece, the dancers return to this line often, as it acts as a reset button for the group.

Each time, the dancers explode from the line to a cannon, where the movement really takes form. Sudden weight transfers and pedestrian gesturing are at the base of every sequence. There is impressive use of the back and neck softening into the ground as the dancers roll and shift through the floorwork. Harnessing energy in that way can be exhausting, and yet they effortlessly and creatively utilize the back space.

Prompted by a second solo, the piece is split into two sections. If the first section is an exploration and discovery, of the space and of themselves, then the second settles into a familiar understanding of the two. As the lighting brightens on stage, the mood lightens, and the beat of the music kicks in with drums and added chaos among the instruments. Dancers explode into their own movement patterns, but find and catch each other in jumps of unison. Suite Donuts comes to a close as the dancers find themselves in a groove circle, smiling lightheartedly, as the lights fade.

The Moor’s Pavane is one of Limón’s most critically acclaimed pieces. Originally performed in 1949, one would find it hard to believe that this Shakspearian variation could continue to be relevant seventy years later. And yet, with tones of deception, chaos, mistrust and injustice, suddenly The Moor’s Pavane becomes eerily appropriate and suited to this year. Danced beautifully with emotional and individual choices made by the dancers, this work finds new and symbolic meaning as the year closes.

There is a Time concludes the streaming event in a fresh new revival. Last seen on stage in 2010, this 1956 ballet explores community. Reimagined and restaged with gender neutral casting, the company uses the piece as a vessel for healing. Accompanied by a Pulitzer Prize winning score of strings, composed by Norman Dello Joio, the circular theme of the piece is taken literally through formation and movement, and metaphorically through emotion. Alluding to the book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, the restaging tackles the good, the bad, and the ugly that humanity had to offer us in 2020.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

December 22, 2020
Next year the EYE ON DANCE (EOD) Legacy Archive celebrates its 40th Anniversary. This dream -- to introduce the public to the multiplicity and complexity of dance -- became a reality in 1981.

Every week on public TV, EOD became a megaphone for dance introducing hundreds of thousands of people to everything from ballet to hip-hop guided by forgotten heroes as well as acclaimed artists.

By widening traditional perspectives to include all, EOD consistently chronicled artists- of-color (many no longer living) and not documented elsewhere.

For our 40th anniversary year, we will restore video footage of artists essential to their communities yet frequently overlooked as heirs to our history.

Your support is crucial in helping us restore destabilized analog video footage and securing the required $20,000 match for our National Endowment for the Arts award.

With over 40% of the EOD archive containing recordings of artists' of color, we can— with your support— rebalance our dance inheritance.

While everyone waits for the world to reset, EOD will take advantage of the streaming opportunities and assemble curated excerpts of restored original source footage.

In this time of historical reckoning, EOD can communicate how the past informs urgent issues in the present. The archive also contributes towards the remediation of racist interpretations of dance history.

We respectfully accept tax-deductible donations of any size towards the restoration of the EYE ON DANCE Legacy Archive. Please make checks payable to: EYE ON DANCE, 70 East 10th Street, #19D, NY NY 10003.

EOD Sampler: HERE

Restored EOD 30-minute titles are available to educational institutions and libraries.

December 21, 2020
Lincoln Center Previews of Guggenheim Works and Process Commissions The Missing Element, Music for the Sole, Ephrat Asherie
One of the unintended consequences for dance during the pandemic has been the necessity of staging and filming dance in new kinds of spaces and in new ways in order to stay visible, survive, and stay relevant. Suddenly, creative staging and skillful video editing have become key to keeping dancers and choreographers working, and a new way of engaging with art emerges.

Lincoln Center is presenting short video previews of Works and Process commissions from vastly different artists and genres, staged in outdoor spaces around Lincoln Center. The new context just adds another dimension to our (and their) experience of the dance.

The Missing Element, a collaboration between beat boxers, break dancers and rappers that was supposed to occur inside the rounded architecture of the Guggenheim, instead is filmed “in the round” around the Lincoln Center fountain.

Four seamlessly filmed sections (Wind—Kenny Urban and Anthony Rodriguez (Invertebrate), Fire—Amit Bhowmick and Joseph Carella (Klassic), Water—Chris Celiz, Gene Shinozaki, and Graham Reese, and Earth—Brian (HallowDreamz) Henry and Neil Meadows (NaPoM) gave us a closeup collage of street and arthouse techniques that we could never experience so intimately seated in a blackbox theater or straining to watch from the Guggenheim rotunda. Like Wim Wenders wonderful film Pina, we feel like we are inside the action, a very different and vastly more intimate experience. Yes, I wanted to see more.

What can be more fun than watching expert tappers while listening to a Brazilian fusion of funk, house, jazz, and Afro-Cuban music? Watching and listening to Music from the Sole with a moving camera that closes up on them, gives us varying degrees of closeups and angles of the performers to look at with the north side of the Lincoln Center plaza, a sunny, cloud filled blue sky, a reflecting pool and Juilliard school in the background adds to the experience. The film amplifies what we can see, hear, and feel as we watch these artists. I wonder, what will seeing them in a more traditional context do to our already heightened experience of the work?

There are so many ways to describe Ephrat Asherie’s work Underscore, but even one word can capture it: JOY. Her clever use of the architecture on the side of the iconic Metropolitan Opera (who hasn’t wanted to sit or jump up into those concrete spaces?) is like the static medieval sculptures in the niches of so many cathedrals suddenly injected with life, color and unbridled energy. Asherie’s work is fun, infectious, creative, pleasing, and serious, and it communicates so much of what dance is: a means to share life, positivity, and community.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Nicole Duffy Robertson

Fall For Dance #2
November 1, 2020
New York City Center produced the second program of the Fall for Dance Digital series. In stark comparison to the quiet undertones of Program One, Program Two was livelier and felt much more in line with the typical Fall for Dance programming.

Opening the show were excerpts from George Balanchine’s Who Cares?. Formatted in three different solo sections the piece is set to a classical medley of George Gershwin composition. Danced by New York City Ballet dancers Ashley Bouder, Tiler Peck, and Brittany Pollak, and set to a backdrop of the skyline, this excerpt is a high energy ode to New York City. Flashing quick feet, dizzying turning sequences, and flirty poses the three women, Peck in particular, dazzle with their freewheeling performances.

A world premiere and New York City Center Commission for the festival, featured a solo for American Ballet Theater’s Calvin Royal III. Choreographed by Kyle Abraham, to be seen underscores a gorgeous mixture of Royal’s ballet technique and Abraham’s smooth contemporary, West African, and hip hop rhythms. It is within Royal’s DNA to be architecturally crafted on stage, though somehow he is able to remain casual and pedestrian throughout the solo. It is captivating, and entertaining yet smooth and subtle- a juxtaposition that Abraham seems to have perfected in his style. The repetitive nature of the music, Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, felt intentionally used as familiar background noise, so that Royal really is the centerpiece; the one who you can’t seem to take your eyes off of.

Next was Lar Lubovitch’s duet from Concerto Six Twenty-Two. Danced by life partners on and off stage, Joseph Gordon and Adrian Danchig-Waring carry each other through a soft and picturesque partnership. A gravitational pull between the dancers is palpable throughout the piece, with weight sharing and lifting highlighted. Lubovitch describes the piece as a response to the AIDS pandemic, which is perhaps what makes this 1983 duet feel relevant yet again.

Closing the program was Sumbry-Edwards’s self-choreographed and performed Lady Swings the Blues. A world premier and New York City Center commission, Sumbry-Edwards dazzled the virtual audiences, figuratively and literally- adorned with a gold sequin blouse and tap shoes. Joined by three musicians onstage, Sumbry-Edwards and her accompaniment play to one another, and in doing so drew the audience in by creating an environment of livelihood and connection. She thrills the audience as she uses her entire body to move her taps and create and contrast rhythms with the music. Completely magnificent, electric, and free- Sumbry-Edwards offered a perfect and uplifting ending to first (and hopefully last) virtual Fall for Dance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

October 25, 2020
As time goes on during the pandemic, and especially in the wake of the election, I have found it difficult to get excited over online dance. Nevertheless the show must go on, and in a completely COVID-friendly setting New York City Center managed to pull off its first ever digital Fall for Dance. Though hushed and scaled back, the festival no doubt produced stimulating new work.

Opening with a trio of women from Ballet Hispanico, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano’s 18+1 was a gestural and flirty number. Though there were solo moments of silence and seriousness, the piece served to be the largest of the program, making for an adequate opener in an otherwise subtle festival lineup.

The second piece was a standout solo from Alvin Ailey’s resident choreographer Jamar Roberts. Marani/Mungu (Black Warrior/Black God) was self choreographed and performed, and commissioned by New York City Center for the virtual festival. The movement certainly carried allusions to the title, with Roberts’ presence fluctuating from wrathful and vengeful to understated and gentle. A timely reflection on the black male experience in America, Roberts’ solo was filled with graceful strength, and ended with notes of optimism.

Thirdly came a powerful and historic rendition of Lamentation by Martha Graham. Originally set in 1930, there are hallowing parallels to the economic and emotional depression we face now as a country. This was the first time the solo has been performed by a black woman in the United States, and Natasha Diamond-Walker performed the iconic role with elegance. Graham herself described the work as the “personification of grief”, and it is only fitting that the work continues to take shape 90 years later.

Closing the program was the highly anticipated duet between David Hallberg and Sara Mearns. Having never danced together before, the dancers met in a folkloric union choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. Floating along to the gruff sound of Joni Mithcell, Mearns exuded soft joy while Hallberg was a stoic presence in The Two of Us. Together in their pas, their moments of synchronicity left me wanting more.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

October 18, 2020
Many dance companies shifted from the "live dance performance" format to the on-line viewing of company offerings. This change hasn't stopped artists from creating new works, but this virtual medium is particularly effective when presenting archival works by groundbreaking artists.

Th Graham Company's series of on-line programs serve to broaden Graham's biography as well as the tenets of her technique and aesthetics. In the most recent October event, viewers witnessed Graham coaching her company members in the art of her renown work Lamentation. Not only does she discuss the precision of each step, Graham invests each movement with an image or an emotion. For instance she associates the rocking motion with the loss of an infant. Of course, Lamentation expresses profound loss. Watching Graham perform the work underscored the intensity of her choreographic courage and focus.

In response to Hitler's invitation to perform at the Olympics, Graham said "no" and amplified her sentiments through one of dance's most potent anti-war creations called Chronicle. The powerful women of 1936 are seen in archival footage followed by current Graham dancers performing one of the sections --Prelude to Action-- a perfect comment on today's political affairs.

This opportunity to both hear Director Janel Eilber speak fluently about Graham's life and see the actual dances serves the historian, student and dance lover in everyone.
EYE ON THE ARTS/NY -- Celia Ipiotis

August 6, 2020
New York City Center released its second presentation of the series Studio 5: Live @ Home: Great American Ballerinas this week. Featuring New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns, and Artistic Director of the State Ballet of Georgia Nina Ananiashvili, Alastair Macaulay moderates this lecture and demonstration on the classic ballet, Swan Lake.

Sara Mearns and Nina Ananiashvili have never met in person. One is tuning in from New York City, while the other is in Tbilisi, Georgia. However, within the first five minutes of this video call they quickly realize how much they have in common. Both have felt connected to Swan Lake since they were young. Both have danced the role of Odette/Odile numerous times throughout their prestigious careers. While dancing over technology can certainly bring awkward challenges, the two have an immediate bond over the understanding and intricacy of this role.

Macaulay splits the demonstration into four sections from Balanchine’s version of the ballet: Odette’s entrance, Odette’s first variation, the coda, and Odette’s farewell. From the entrance to the exit, the online audience sees repeatedly how the coaching lineage in ballet is crucial to preserving the integrity of the work. While in this instance, Mearns is being coached by Ananiashvili, Ananiashvili continually instructs Mearns with tips from her coach Marina Semyonova. This passing of generational knowledge gives the audience a small glimpse inside the details required by dancers to champion their role in a ballet.

Though steps may change through time and dancers may interpret the work differently, the caricature of the role is maintained. Many times Ananiashvili’s critiques reference mood or emotional translation, rather than technique or specific steps.

She emphasized what Semyonova emphasized to her: eyes, épaulement, angles, musicality. Throughout, the audience is taught a crucial lesson. As much as ballet is a performing art that can be recounted physically, it is also an artform which requires the passing of a detailed oral history in order to be preserved in its fullest form.

You can see Mearns, Ananiashvili, and Macaulay through Wednesday, August 5th on New York City Center’s website, and you can follow the Studio 5 Live at Home series Great American Ballerinas now through September 30th. If you enjoy this programming, consider donating to help sustain City Center as a theater for all throughout and beyond the coronavirus crisis by visiting their website
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

August 6, 2020
Catherine Turocy, director of the NY Baroque Dance Company is generating opportunities for people to experience the pleasures of historical dance through zoom. An avid researcher and historical dance advocate, particularly as it relates to today's modern and ballet community, Turocy explains:
"We are able to take advantage of the zoom platform to bring in people from around the world who have worked with us in the past so they can bring us up-to-date on their latest research.
For example, Claudia Bauer (mentored by Sandra Hammond -- an expert on early 19th c. ballet technique) is teaching a 19th c. ballet technique barre.

Alan Jones is zooming in from Paris to teach the "Mad" scene (which we can all relate to) from the 1786 "Echo and Narcissus" -- a ballet that originally included pantomime and dialogue.

Additionally, participants join in learning the Parisian social dance that predated the legendary "Can Can". Marcea Daiter teaches the Haitian and Cuban Baroque dances (performed to this day) designed to include songs and dances from many parts of Africa. These forms fuse French and Spanish Colonial culture to create new expressions.

Act now to join the workshop Aug. 8 & 9 beginning at noon. Go to:
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

June 20, 2020
As creative artists, dancers quickly find ways to continue their practice throughout world wars, massive budget cuts, and pandemics. These days, they follow classes on Instagram and log onto Zoom classes organized by their teachers and directors. They improvise, film, edit and post sequences of themselves dancing, but in limited and confined ways. Like so many others, after much rehearsal and hard work, they search for closure and new opportunities.

But what about the immigrant dancer, the dancers that by virtue of their raw talent and sheer determination have left their home country to dance in New York City, the dance Mecca, in hopes of making it big, of achieving their dreams?

Shayla Hutton is one such dancer, who has been dancing and training in New York City since leaving Canada for a scholarship that opened the door. She is talented, versatile and was chosen to be in the now defunct Joffrey Concert Group. She danced soloist and principal roles in a diverse repertory of 19th and 20th-century classics and collaborated in the creation of new work.

After a grueling audition period, she is dancing with several small contemporary companies as an apprentice. She is a brilliant, intelligent, and interesting dancer, and she should be sharing her talents without impediment. But the artist visa process is now is harder than ever, and a dancer’s lifetime speeds on.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

NYCB On-Line #1
May 4, 2020
Introduced by Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan, New York City Ballet (NYCB) presented its digital spring season with insightful programming. The two-part thirty-minute program brought a bit of Lincoln Center into the living room.

First in the viewing lineup was George Balanchine’s 1978 ballet Ballo della Regina. Led by principal’s Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley, the ballet (filmed in 2006) exemplifies Balanchine’s iconic petite allegro and geometric formations.

Described by Whelan as Balanchine’s tribute to water, this ballet floats precisely through the space. Juxtaposed against the large group number is Christopher Wheldon’s grounding pas de deux, After the Rain. This sustained duet (filmed in 2005) is elegantly embodied by Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall. Strong and stripped down, these two veterans filled the screen with assurance.

You can participate in NYCB’s Virtual Spring Season on their website every Tuesday and Friday at 8pm, and learn more about their relief fund at
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

May 4, 2020
Nederlands DansTheater shows once more why they champion the contemporary field in their weekly digital series, NDTV. In a musical, yet not overly predictable ballet set to a number of Bach’s concertos, Subtle Dust, performed by NDT2, is another work of distinction by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon.

Danced by eight dancers in the company, this ballet explores cycles of duality. The articulation of both movement and emotion show not only their indisputable technique, but also their commitment to artistry. To so perfectly execute the nuances of their movement vocabulary, even through a TV screen, is nothing short of magnificent.

You can view weekly ballets on the company’s streaming platform, NDTV ( online/) and donate to their relief fund at
EYE ON THE ARTS -- Mia SIlvestri

May 4, 2020
Theaters are also expanding their spaces into the living room, representing artists that have been supported on their stages. The Joyce Theater is streaming weekly performances from their stage in their program JoyceStream: Bring Dance Home.

This week they showed a full length work from Malpaso Dance Company: 24 Hours and a Dog choreographed by Osnel Delgado. With live music performed by Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, the work takes on a smooth, communal atmosphere representing the daily lives of dancers in Havana.

You can view weekly streaming on the Joyce’s website ( and donate to their COVID19 relief fund at
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

March 18, 2020
As an occasional performer of traditional Irish Dance, I have been amazed by what some presenters have expected of me and my fellow steppers. A two-hour show? Sure! Granted, a lot of these demands have no grounding in any actual understanding of the thing being presented; still, it begs the question – what is the extent to which traditional forms work in a concert setting? The company I work with, Darrah Carr Dance, deals with this by producing a blend of traditional Irish and contemporary dance, which frees us from having to be stuck on our toes, but also allows our steps to tackle a wider range of topics.

Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence, A Dance Company, too, fuses its traditional language of African dance with contemporary choreography, though in a blend that remains consistent from piece-to-piece. Most striking about their 2020 Joyce season is Brown’s ability to clearly showcase his traditional-contemporary language across three strikingly different dressings of set/costume, sound, and narrative.

High Life manages to make your skin crawl as you tap your toes to the beat of a musical slave auction by Oscar Brown, Jr. As this unfolds, Brown’s dancers cross the stage in a unified vocabulary, from which some momentarily digress.

This structure’s recurrence as the piece progresses makes clear its intention of tracing African American lineage – both the profound and the everyday, in moments of darkness and light, incorporating suitcases as a signal of constant migration, even as one stays put.

Woven throughout is an unavoidable gesture – a fist, raised upward from a tilting head. Despite the indication of lynching, dancers only ever perform it unto themselves, in and beyond its associated periods of time. After many chapters, the work’s final section features utopian garments by Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya, which leave the dancers’ backs exposed such that all we can see is a lack of scars and, accordingly, an embodiment of freedom.

A sharp aesthetic departure, Mercy trades in period costuming and characterization for a sense of regality, which feels at once archaeological and futuristic in its Tsubasa Kamei set of three illuminated columns.

Contrasting High Life’s collage of musical selections, singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello provides an original score of bluesy reverence. Despite these differences, the lynching motif carries over, however, embedded in a slowly developed canon, which always sequences after the gesture an upward release of the hands, and a return of the spine to verticality.

Grace drove the program home with its intertwining of African American spirituality with relentless rhythmic expression. Originally set on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1999, when performed by Evidence it feels like a homecoming. It is in this work that Associate Artistic Director Arcell Cabuag appeared alongside younger faces who similarly danced for the first time in a performance celebrating not only shades of skin, but also that of masculine and feminine energies in a comprehensive display of how a brown body can look and move.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

March 11, 2020
Remarkable technicians and movement interpreters, the NDT dancers’ talents lifted the choreography presented at City Center.

All the evening’s repertory shared a “film noir” atmosphere and similarity of form. Each ballet placed daring demands on the dancers, but these physical feats were absent a cathartic center.

Marco Goecke’s Walk the Demon scattered dancers in isolated movement gyrations resembling a series of body electric shocks. Transferred from one dancer to the next, cascading leg twitches sift across the band of dancers. Unquestionably, the immaculately controlled dancers reflected one of Goecke’s program quotes, “In their voice lies a torment that points inward.”

Closing the program, Shut Eye by Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot, gargantuan, foreboding shadows dwarf the dancers. Inventive partnering compose inventive architectural forms that morph into pre-historic cellular organizisms, variously combing, re-combining and taking flight.

Of all the ballets presented, The missing door by Gabriela Carrizo most effectively and compellingly drew the audience into an Alfred Hitchcock style suspense thriller. People look fearfully side-to-side, doors open releasing questionable suspects. At first all seems copasetic in a well to do domestic scene until it doesn’t. Earlier in his career, performance artist Ping Chong devised these worlds of upper class privilege that visibly disintegrated as greed, fear, and panic overrides the passive/privileged sheen.

A door swings opens allowing light to seep out sharpening the dancers’ edges. Extreme acrobatic partnering animates dramatic tableaus. A female rockets around like a Ferris wheel over and around a male while a maid flits in and out in various states of solemnity and despair. All alone in a corner sits a disheveled man in a suit; in another quadrant a bloody body punctuates the characters’ unaccountable comings and goings. Lighting by Tom Bevooort contributes enormously to the ballet’s eeriness and theatricality.

Despite the qualms about the chosen NYC repertory, it’s always a pleasure to visit with the Nederlands Dans Theater.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 11, 2020
The Scottish Ballet presented their program This is My Body... at the Joyce with two remarkably different pieces. Sibilo, created by Sophie Laplane, was a humorous number that didn’t do enough, while MC 14/22 (Ceci Est Mon Corps), choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj, was an aggressive number that did too much.

Sibilo, which translates to hiss or whistle in Latin, was inspired by the nuances of whistling. Set to an original score of music and sound by Alex Menzies, the ambiance bounces between quirky humor and disturbing manipulations within relationships. Much like the piece, the score was jumpy and disconnected.

Springing from electronic beats, to 1950’s string ballads, human whistling, and the blowing of a whistle, the score jumps around as the four couples attempt to match it--making it easy for an audience member to get lost. While the movement phrases at times felt overly predictable, there were cleverly placed and intricately partnered duets poignantly thread throughout.

The dancers’ movements skid from angular sequences, to flighty gestural sections which made for an unfortunate energy that just didn’t fit. Though the theme and variation were clear, the obviousness of the work left the piece feeling flat.

MC 14/22 (Ceci Est Mon Corps) was indeed a more grounded and primal work, though no more fulfilling. Noted as a “hymn to the male body”, the piece features twelve men who explore their masculinity in a viscously exhausting way. This work is based on the Gospel of St. Mark, Chapter 14, Verse 22, in which Jesus Christ states, “Take it; this is my body”. Inspired by a story from the Last Supper (the night before Christ is crucified for heresy), the piece begins in a visually stunning ritual as a men dressed in white underwear bathe one another upstage.

The soft lighting by Patrick Riou is haunting. Another man upstage makes a tape pile on the ground. The rest of the eight men are in the back, stacked on a series of piled metal tables resembling bunk beds. They move in slow, rhythmic patterns which curl in and out of fetal position.

It is a striking opening which gave me high hopes. Unfortunately, this beautiful image is unfurled into a messy chaos of anxiety and relentless aggression. The minute the tables are unstacked, the dancers brutally manipulate and violate one another. They choke, gag, and push the breath out of each other. They physically suppress one another by throwing and thrashing in ferocity.

While the beginning felt like an opportunity to explore a beautiful and archetypal concept, the end left me in an uneasy cesspool sick to my stomach. Perhaps since men have been exploring their masculinity on stage for, well for forever, maybe it’s time to leave that memo behind.. no more good can come out of it.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

March 7, 2020
Karen Bernard’s Lakeside is, at the very least in title and chronology, a companion to 2019’s Poolside, my missing of which has me unfortunately unable speak further to their relationship. I did, in the previous year, see and write about Showgirls, performed in 2018 at the currently relocating Brooklyn Studios for Dance. A testament to the way Bernard’s imagery sticks with you, seeing Lisa Parra’s wide gaze and blank smirk again in Lakeside immediately brought me back to her solo on roller skates two years prior – a sort of familiarity typically experienced with dance companies seen regularly over consecutive years.

This aptitude for lasting impressions can be attributed to the way Bernard unfolds moments in time. Lakeside begins with a search. Armed with flashlights, Bernard and Parra alternate between poised seeking and resting in sagging postures in an interrogative interplay of light and movement that removes the sense that Douglas Dunn’s Studio might have any walls. It does, however, have mirrors, which allows their respective rays to bounce about the space in topsy-turvy zigzags, illuminating the slightest glimpses of their features for only so long.

What they are looking for has, meanwhile, lain right below their setup of two foldup lawn chairs. A costume created for Bernard in the late 70’s, they discover a tiny dress in yellow and black segments. With no sentiment towards its history or its cuteness, Bernard and Parra patiently probe it – folding and unfolding – like an autopsy.

Removing her translucent outer layers, Bernard initiates what is ultimately a rather classical structure of traded off solos, concluded by a reconvening duet. Each solo finds each performer engaging the garment not so much as costumery, but in a fluid puppetry, which, despite the performer operating the garment, blurs the notion of which entity is actually playing the role of puppeteer and puppet.

Bernard no longer fits in the dress. She compensates by wearing it like a bib with sleeves. In it, she is transported to a time of childhood dance recitals while maintaining the rage of lived womanhood. The juxtaposition, often attempted by recent college grads, is truly unsettling from a performer who has actually put in the years. As she shimmies and kicks, her smile wavers, emanating rabid growls until her routine is done.

Parra is comparatively serene in expression, though physically demonstrates a similar distance of dynamics. She can wear the dress, and shows this ability off through a slow sensuality, interrupted by clunky episodes. She slowly shakes off the dress to match Bernard in sparkles for a redemptive closing. As they approach the machine projecting vibrant colors onto them, they mutter suggestions at each other on a downward trajectory toward a final resting place.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY — Jonathan Matthews

March 5, 2020
Picture, if you will, a bare, muscled male torso. Visualize beneath it, an earth-toned skirt, intricately draped about the hips and legs; above it, a glistening mask covering the entire head, topped off with two blades sprouting upward from the temples. What does your brain choose to associate with this information, if anything?

Set that aside, and notice what comes up when you hear the word “barbarian.” Now place those associations in conversation with your visual correlate. If you’re like me, who immediately found Hervé Koubi’s fourteen nearly identical bodies to evoke a homoeroticization of Frank, the imaginary rabbit figure from Donnie Darko, your internal associative conversation was likely very confusing.

Les Nuits Barbares, ou Les Premiers Matins du Monde (The Barbarian Nights, or The First Dawns of the World), I suspect, is puzzling to most American viewers, but Koubi and his all-male company make up for it with the sort of relentless physical endurance that keeps lovers of spectacle entranced, no matter how conceptual, in a non-stop blend of breakdance, martial arts, and partnering that injects cheerleader stunts heavily with testosterone.

But what about the barbarians? Koubi, of French-Algerian descent, made the piece as an expression of his research into the myriad of often tribal Mediterranean communities who lived outside the “great civilizations” (Greek, Roman, Christian). His talkback with The Joyce’s Laura Diffenderfer outlined his concept of celebrating peoples whose histories have been negatively recorded by enemy civilizations in a meta performance of Koubi’s limited though intelligible English being vaguely interpreted to the point of audience members verbally completing what were assumed to be his thoughts.

The cast asymmetrically dresses the stage in satisfyingly organic groupings; however, this decentralization doesn’t mean a dancer won’t yank focus to dish out an extended head spin. What’s different is that the whole ensemble is adept at these techniques, allowing dancers to tumble through the negative spaces between other dancers’ upside-down pirouettes.

Every scene is borne from a move which travels through the ensemble in a tighter than usual exploitation of “flocking,” breaking up what would otherwise be pure unison into a more textured web of shared material. Lack of development increasingly dampens the displays’ efficacy over time, and we quickly become hip to Koubi’s primary trick of setting up dramatic reveals time and time again.

Despite its formal and conceptual shortcomings, there is deep value to Les Nuits Barbares’s display of non-sexual male tenderness. Compagnie Hervé Koubi is a community that believes in its work and supports its constituents. To see Koubi greet each dancer with a kiss and have them all say their name and homeland (spanning the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Eastern Europe), is a desperately necessary model of fraternity and masculinity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

February 22, 2020
Not surprisingly, the house was packed with people smartly dressed, anticipating an elegant night in the company of Peter Martin’s Swan Lake.

The evening’s Odette-Odile, Megan Fairchild, claimed the stage in a performance embracing a new command of emotional longing and lyrical ampleness. Always a capable technician, Fairchild is stepping into a more confident persona. This was particularly evident in the last scene, when her prince returned to plead forgiveness for unwittingly breaking his oath of love to her forever (Wonder how many times that oath has taken a dive?)

Floating over the darkened stage, her feet skimmed in tight traveling steps backing away and moving towards her devastating love. Her back arched like a weeping willow over his arm, while exhaling through a never-ending arabesque.

In this production, the Per Kirbey’s bleak sets, recalling Scandinavia’s famed winter darkness, framed his Tudoresque outfits for the royals, and Bournonville style knee-length skirts for the guests.

Tall and imposing, Siilas Marley loomed large as the evil Von Rotbart. Seemingly three times taller than Fairchild, when he leeringly bends over her, his body makes hers nearly disappear.

Ms. Fairchild’s Prince Siegfried, Gonzalo Garcia, was also enjoying his debut, but electricity did not ignite the two. But then there was the explosive Roman Meija jauntily blazing across the stage in the requisite explosion of air turns and spitfire spins.

In truth, the Hungarian dance inevitably exudes a thrilling passion between the two leads—something that always feels lacking in the Back Swan sequence. However, Fairchild made a smashing debut and she will unleash her inner swan with time and seasoning.

February 14, 2020
Che Malambo captured the Joyce Theatre’s audience from the moment the cast of 12 dancers appeared through the dark stage against a bright backlight with a crescendo of zapateo - Argentinean rhythmic footwork - culminating in a roaring shout. Choreographed and staged with rampant showbiz and savoir-faire, Gilles Brinas catered an array of traditional Argentinean dances set in an austere contemporary framework. For the entire performance, the dancers wore a single outfit compose of neutral black sleeveless shirts, plain black pants and Malambo boots.

The evening started with a variation of the widely known Malambo Norteño, characterized by its brisk zapateo characterized by fast shuffles, hip twists, inverted leg whips, kicks, heel scuffs, toe accents, all embellished by its steady elegantly proud stance. A vibrant feast of bombo legueros followed with the cast showcasing their drumming mastery.

Commendable was the soloist that introduced Malambo sureño, still in the black plain shirt and pants, but barefooted, accompanying himself playing with his guitar the pampeño showcasing chords that gradually grow from lethargic cadences to prestissimo tempi. The mood shifted as the leading drummer sang a ballad, introducing a Chacarera, a festive folk dance which is traditionally danced by partners drawing geometrical shape floor patterns within courtship sequences.

The evening’s climax built through a series of acts displaying whirling boleadoras (interconnected cords with round weights on the ends) that decorated the stage with the reflection of their patters effectively embellished by Mr. Brinas’ lighting design. After closing with a comedic improv number and the corresponding bows, the company shared a well-received encore inviting the audience to clap the Malabo rhythm.

Post-performance comments were positive. Argentinean tango artists were very vocal expressing their appreciation of the virtuosic work Che Malambo. The only regrets shared by connoisseurs was Brinas’ choice of maintaining an abstract aesthetic, thus abstaining from including traditional attire.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

GABRIELLE LAMB - PLEXUS: a work in knots
February 13, 2020
Gabrielle Lamb’s co-commission with composer James Budinich, through the CUNY Dance Initiative, has resulted in a work that is curious, confounding, connective, meditative, and sometimes discomfiting, oscillating between transcending the physical and psychic distance between the dancers, and sometimes between us.

Lamb’s distinct movement crystalizes through a flow of bodily connections, the touch of a knee or an elbow caused a reaction that sometimes freezes, and sometimes resolves into something else. Dancers simply and cleanly costumed in grey leggings and mint green tops and socks by Christine Darch inhabited an overly smoky, other-worldly green-lit stage designed by Barry Steele.

They moved with liquid joints while crouching down, in, around and through each other’s limbs, intent on piercing through the other’s space, while also remaining apart. Fingers interlocked like the itsy-bitsy-spider, tense and rotating, and animalistic squats, stealth crawls, and heads pokes shaped our perceptions; each interaction a chain of energy created, transferred, broken, renewed.

Budinich’s music, a creation with wind chimes, metal pipes and electronic distortions, provided an even-toned sound that on occasion swelled dramatically, but never overwhelmed the steady flow of action. A strange, rubbery green tube was brought onstage, physically connecting the dancers, sometimes by having one insert the tube into another’s mouth.

This somewhat awkward use of an object to literally connect gave me a flashback to Martha Graham’s Cave of the Heart, but with none of the melodrama. Later, the dancers manipulated semi-circular, stiffer sections of tube continually composed into circles broken apart by the dancers.

In the most eloquent moments of Plexus, no prop was necessary. One dancer roamed in and around the group, placing the other dancers’ bodies into still positions and then molding her body onto theirs. When she slipped away, she left her presence behind, the negative space now full of meaning. A hollow once occupied melted away, in a very human and poignant physicalization of our search for belonging.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 10, 2020
Historic works rarely revived at NYC Ballet both puzzled and delighted audiences. Last performed in 1993, George Balanchine’s charming Haieff Divertimento (premiered 1947) showcases the company’s new class of ace dancers. In a combination of classical ballet and a jazzy, modern dance vocabulary the ballet features one lead couple, the engaging Unity Phelan and Harrison Ball along with 4 supporting couples. Musically, it flows in a five-part piece that flexes its danceable American music roots—at times referencing Balanchine’s Square Dance.

If Haieff Divertimento resembles bubbly wine, then the 1959 Episodesequals a dry martini—hold the olives. An early experiment meant to bring together two giants of dance world, Balanchine and Martha Graham, Episodes was broken into two parts, separated by one intermission, united through Anton von Webern’s music, and the exchange of a couple of dancers. At the time, Taylor was a member of the Graham Company so Balanchine invited Taylor to dance in his section of Episodes while Graham selected the dramatic NYCB dancer Sallie Wilson.

Taylor performed the solo for two seasons in 1959-60. After that, Episodes appeared now and again in the rep, but minus the solo. In 1986, NYC Ballet revived the full-length ballet and invited Taylor to coach Peter Frame who performed it in 1986 and 1989. Spin ahead to 2019 when Michael Trusnovec, one of the Taylor Company’s finest dancers was asked to perform the solo. Because of Frame’s sad passing in 2018, Trusnovec lost the direct link to Taylor and was coached by another dancer.

However, Frame appeared on an EYE ON DANCE (EOD) television episode produced in 1987 and discussed his performance of the solo. He shared vivid descriptions of Taylor’s coaching, including the fact that Taylor “took out much of the knee work” fearful it would injure Frame. In addition, Frame demonstrated 5 minutes of the solo, verbalizing Taylor’s descriptions.

Armed with mounds of his own research, information from NYCB, EOD and his own body-truth, Trusnovec reconstructed Taylor’s solo. The result: illuminating. Although not as burly, Trusonvec shares Taylor’s intensity. A series of twisted poses resembling an insect caught in a jar (a Balanchine description) Taylor’s signature Zeus tossing the lighting bolt stance (legs apart, body in profile arms straight out, .

Shifting from one twisted sculptural position to another, Trusnovec’s eyes focus sharply, and intently on the audience. Classically built, Trusnovec posses the earthy, mesmerizing stance of a modern dancer embracing the universal Vitruvian Man sphere of movement.

After seeing the solo reinstated, it’s easy to understand why it can stand-alone or be removed from the ballet. The other four sections reflect a singular choreographic hand while the solo is of its own making.

After watching Balanchine’s experimental black and white ballet, Justin Peck’s deconstructed Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes breathes with the wide expansiveness of America’s western frontier and full throttle camaraderie of men, arms interlaced, generously led by Taylor Stanley.

What a marvelous period at the end of a stimulating evening of dance at Lincoln Center.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 7, 2020
In a multimedia production of film, dance, poetry, and music, Deborah Colker presented her Brazilian based company, Companhia de Danca, in Chelsea’s Joyce Theater. Colker’s piece was an eightpart series which focused as much on scenery and ambiance as it did on the dancing itself.

The piece, Cão Sem Plumas (Dog Without Feathers), was inspired by the poetry of João Cabral de Melo Neto. The opening section, titled Alluvium, begins with a projection along the back wall of the theater.

A stunningly cinematic image in black and white shows a child carrying the branches of a tree through a forest, then a dried up river bed. He is barefoot, minimally dressed, and caked in mud. Following him transports the audience into a land which feels vast and foreign, the opposite of a cramped cold, theater in the heart of New York City.

The film continues throughout the work as it follows various protagonists through different scenes. Directed by Joao Elias and Colker, the film couples nature and beast in a beautiful marriage. Through Brazil’s expansive landscapes of sugar cane farms, deserts, and mangrove forests, it explores the rich caverns of Earth’s diversity.

As dim yellow lights rise on the stage, the high energy of the dancers come as a surprise following the tranquility of the film. Colker’s movement vocabulary is hard to nail down, and at times this becomes extremely overwhelming. There are unique moments where the dancers are controlled, emotive, and mesmerizing. However, before the moment can sink in, the dancers have already moved on to meaningless, generic tricks and recognizable ballet vocabulary.

Though not against a fusion of forms, this particular combination eliminates the sacred nature of the work and muddles the thesis of the piece. The set of the stage mimics that of the film. A thin layer of dirt and dust is kicked up into the air as the dancers fill the space and stomp the floor. There are strips of canvas which sometimes hang from the ceiling mimicking the mangrove roots.

The dancers even experiment with metal cages like the holes of the dried river. Dressed in unitards which look like the body covered in mud, they remain androgynous. Neither man, nor woman, perhaps not human at all, their image marries the theme of man’s origins within nature.

All in all, Cão Sem Plumas' stunning interaction feels like a sacred work- which is why the stimulation of elements feels overproduced and misaligned. Arguably, this could have been Colker’s method in a desire to drive the point home. Just as man destroys nature by overly mining its resources, Colker grossly stimulates the work to leave the audience begging for simplicity within sanctified ground.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

February 4, 2020
Known for the width and breadth of his rich dance vocabulary, for his fifth NYC Ballet commission Alexei Ratmansky stepped outside the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, made a right turn down Broadway directly into the lap of the downtown post-modern dance scene. Or perhaps another analogy might be the difference between Tolstoy and Hemingway.

To start, Instead of binding his choreography to a complex, highly orchestrated score by the likes of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, or Leonid Desyatnikov, Ratmansky embraces an sound score by the avant-garde composer Peter Ablinger that super-imposes spoken text over a single piano line. The audio elements are visually projected on the scrim in the form of a recorded signal (looks like a PolyGram in a lie detector test).

In stark contrast to Ratmansky’s filigree choreography the score suggests concise, direct, staccato movements that stop and start like a clock being constantly re-set.

Sharp-shooting ballerinas forging the heart of Voices dance to a single, female activist’s voice. Broken into bits, the voices include: Bonnie Barnett (jazz artist and radio host), Forough Farrokhzad (feminist poet), Setsuko Hara (film star known for tragic heroine roles), Agnes Martin (abstract artist and writer), Nina Simone (civil rights activist, jazz vocalist and musician), and Hjendine Slalien (Norwegian folk music proponent).

Female solos end by linking up to a group of 4 men running across the stage arm-in-arm dressed in glossy colored one piece outfits (by Keso Dekker) that resemble swimsuits of the 1920’s. All exit but one male who peels off to execute a spectacular series of turns, jumps, leaps or leg beats traveling backwards. This bravura exclamation point serves as a humorous bridge between solos and a reminder that these dancers can do it all.

The solos revolve around dissonant combinations that posit space not melody between stretched arabesques with arms up, broken at the wrists looking a bit like a threatening swan suspended in air. Loping gallops allow legs to flare away from the knees, slip in and out of tight little steps, jittery moves or quirky turns only to drop to continue on the floor.

Each ballerina brought her own touch of magic starting with Sara Mearns who can make the most constricted movement spacious; Megan Fairchild’s cheekiness; Georgina Pazcoguin’s passion; Lauren Lovettes’ friskiness; and Unity Phelan’s shadings. In the end, the whole cast swarms the stage -- ballerinas flying into men’s’ arms until they merge to the floor quieting the motion. At this point, the curtain pauses just above the dancers’ heads. Perhaps that’s a sign that movement and sounds continue into infinity?

The rest of the program was filled in with a strong performance of Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia to music by Gyorgy Ligeti; Justin Peck’s romantic Bright to a score by Mark Dancigers and Jerome Robbin’s Opus 19/The Dreamer.

What’s most heartening is to see the theater packed with supportive audience members willing to taste new material instead of another, well-worn story ballet.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 2, 2020
By now Michael Bourne’s reimagining of Swan Lake feels like a NYC institution. Many encountered it on Broadway in 1998, and later in 2010 at City Center where it’s returned. A lover of the production choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in 1895, Bourne kept the bones of the ballet but re-arranged a handful of gender roles and iconography.

Set in the English courts (after all (Bourne is a Brit) the story follows the sultry young The Prince (a fine Andrew Monaghan) who must choose a bride. A flair for the theatrical, Bourne elicits all the dramatic talents of his dancers to paint a contemporary “coming of age” story imbued in all its glorious angst and confusion.

Of course the kicker comes when the Prince escapes the ball, running to a park and sits by a mist-shrouded lake. There, out of the thick night materializes The Swan (startlingly good Matthew Ball). He emerges bare chested, donning knee-length-knickers covered in long white threads (like a lambs wool rug) savage eye make-up, his hair slicked into a V that juts down his forehead. In their first encounter, the amazed prince falls back, awed by the exotic and aggressive male/bird. This tension flourishes throughout the ballet, adding an additional dimension of fear and longing to the original.

Ball’s presence expands with every entrance. A strong technician, he has a gift for displaying the physicality of a predatory and passionate creature. Throughout the ballet, Jung’s theory of the existence of the masculine side (animus) inside every female and the feminine side (anima) inside every male coats the ballet. Barefoot and muscular, the male Swans uphold the beauty of the unison corps, swirling circles and iconic arabesques.

When the action returns to the castle for the ball and preparations for his marriage, Ball transforms into the ravishingly seductive Stranger. Another outstanding performer, the unscrupulous Queen (Katrina Lyndon), executes amazingly sharp gestures. All the fatuous, dolled-up ladies and gob smacked men (including the audience) fall under the Stranger’s flashing smile, peacock stance, flawless partnering and simply mesmerizing presence.

Unable to withstand this deception (Stranger feigning similarities to Swan), the Prince goes mad, and wakes up in an all white sanatorium. Finally, after being jabbed by lines and ladders of doctors in white frocks, he returns home.

The most graphic scene, the kind that forever remains glued to the back of your eyeballs, transpires in the Princes’ bedroom. Physically and psychologically exhausted, the Prince witnesses the Swan pushing through his mattress. Hungering for each other, a romantic pas de deux ensues -- as heart wrenching as Romeo’s last dance with Juliet. They wrap their bodies around each other until wild, rabid swans tear out of the matters and attack the couples! It’s truly horrifying.

If you haven’t seen Sir Michael Bourne’s Swan Lake, take a chance on a refreshed ballet classic.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 28, 2020
When the floor opened for questions in Anjali Amin’s talkback on Complexions’ Joyce season, there were mostly comments. An enthusiastic follower of the company was quick to praise artistic directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson for pairing two impossibly different pieces – Rhoden’s Bach 25 and his latest, Love Rocks.

I sat dumbfounded, wondering how even a non-dancer might see these pieces as distinct, as my experience of the evening largely entailed recalling a perhaps reshuffled collection of the very same moves in 2017. This time, beyond the tired trademarks of sliding into space like Tom Cruise in Risky Business,, or the willy-nilly upward cranking of legs, a more particular gesture, consisting of a standing lunge, over which the torso pitches forward as a continually downward flicking hand is carried by the upstage arm from the dancer’s front to backspace, appeared identically in both pieces.

Surely this gentleman was simply tricked into seeing two distinct pieces because the music was so divergent. It is admittedly quite the contrast from a bunch of disjointed, aggressively recorded selections of Bach, to a medley of Lenny Kravitz sexily preaching about love, morality, and his need to “get away.”

But then how could one ignore the additional parallel of Christine Darch’s costuming? In both pieces the exposed torsos of the men (which, it should be noted, as presented, includes one non-binary performer) are adorned with a kind of sleeve, which, halfway through, is removed, meanwhile the women are consistently left in unflattering leotards without even a bit of mid-drift exposed.

Still, there are aspects of Love Rocks that could be seen as developments from Bach 25. The women get to shed skirts alongside the men’s sleeves. Tim Stickney is costumed differently from the rest of the men, generating a satisfying, if under-realized, sense of “other.” Even partnering begins to become not so homogeneously heteronormative in organization.

This doesn’t do much, however, to mask the continued reliance on male / female-presenting couples, operating within a gay patriarchy where men are free to dance with each other while the women wait in the back until their counterparts are ready to resume. They additionally can only seem to be onstage unaccompanied for about two eights before the bare torsos come out sliding yet again. The biggest casualty of this gender dynamic is Jillian Davis, so tall and powerful she should be lifting literally any other dancer in the company, instead subjected to men who can barely handle her in timing that forbids her to dwell in her fullest expanse.

It turned out this superfan was merely touched by Love Rocks’ occasional use of social dance movements. It allowed him in, he said. Maybe I should get out more.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

January 17, 2020
In a stunningly cinematic portrayal of life and death, The Prototype Festival presented Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro. Conceived and choreographed by Gregory Vuyani Maqoma, this beautiful dance opera takes audience members on an original and fascinating journey through a seamless combination of movement and music.

Smoke fills the stage as the Joyce Theater is transformed into a sacred place of mourning. The space is scattered with the crosses of a graveyard, and the sound of a man moaning pierces the air. Dressed in green and grey robes and black tights, the singer is revealed to the audience in front of a cross on the ground. His sobs escalate to a scream-song that poignantly brings audience members to their darkest, most intimate point of loss.

Through song, dance, and monologues the dance-opera unfolds in an emotional experience for the cast and the audience. The story follows the journey of character Toloki, a professional moaner who aids others in experiencing their grief. Toloki not only tackles the personal grief of individuals, but also the grief of an entire culture oppressed by slavery. This task is no small feat. However, through periods of writhing discomfort come soft victorious reliefs, and Toloki guides the narrative with gentle command.

He is joined by a quartet of Isicathamiya singers (an a cappella style originating from the Zulu people) crafting seamless harmonies. Onstage, the group of dancers react to their every tone; the singers’ voices prompt the dancers to sustain a pirouette or release a battement. While sometimes they hold a command over one another, other times the distinctions between the actors and movers seem to disappear altogether.

Dancers create rhythms by clicking their tongues, stomping, chanting, and screaming. Singers weave smoothly through formations around the space. This integration between the two forms is what makes this show so successful. The production is not dance and opera- it is both, and both fused impeccably well.

Maqoma’s distinctive movement incorporates African and contemporary practices such that the choreography is always reinventing itself. Rich African tradition, woven with the newer western style, creates a juxtaposition which makes every movement exciting. From the small intricacies among the gestures of the hands to the grand leaps and rapid formation changes, the dancers' dedication is physically exhausting and emotionally thrilling.

As grief is a common theme explored among artists, such subject matter can often lead to shows feeling cliché and unoriginal. Yet, Maqoma’s choreographic style, infused with the unique sound score, resulted in a show that was an insightful reflection on personal tragedy and cultural loss.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

January 8, 2020
The new year will see two world premieres at NYCB by Alexei Ratmansky on Jan. 30 and Justin Peck on Feb. 26.

Another event will feature Michael Trusnovec performing modern dance pioneer Paul Taylor's solo in Balanchines's "Episodes" on Feb. 6 , 9, 26 and 29. Originally created for NYC Ballet in 1959 as a collaboration between Martha Graham and George Balanchine, "Episodes" featured a legendary solo for Paul Taylor, then a member of Graham's Company, in Balanchine's portion of the ballet. Rarely performed, the solo was last seen in 1989 performed by Peter Frame who was taught the ballet by Paul Taylor. Peter Frame taught the solo to Miami City Ballet dancer.

Last winter, Michael Trusnovec (former star of the Paul Taylor Dance Co.) performed the solo with the Taylor Company, but since Peter Frame passed away, he was tutored by the Miami City Ballet dancer. However, in 1987, Peter Frame appeared on an EYE ON DANCE television program focused on "Episodes" and described Paul Taylor's instructions. He also performed sections of the solo live--on the TV set -- explaining the process and Taylor's comments. This became another valuable tool in Trusnovec's search for the solo's truth.

NYC Ballet's enticing season's includes new works by Ratmansky who will employ a selection of pieces from "Voices and Piano," a cycle of works for piano and recorded voice by the experimental Austrian composer Peter Ablinger. Justin Peck's newly minted ballet will be set to a commissioned score by Nico Muhly--their first collaboration for NYC Ballet.

These debuts will be surrounded by a splendid repertory that includes ballets by Jerome Robbins, Chirstopher Wheeldon, and Peter Martins' full length "Swan Lake."

Opening night will also included the presentation of the 2020 Janice Levin Dancer Award to the exciting corps de ballet dancer Baily Jones. Bestowed on a promising member of NYCB's corps de ballet and endowed by Mrs. Levin, the award will be presented to Jones by NYCB Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford. The season runs from Jan. 21 - March 1
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

December 26, 2019
Water is one of those go-to images for dancers and choreographers alike. The first thing Gaga teachers tell you is to “float.” Onlookers love to describe contemporary dancers as “flowy.” It is, however, not without good reason. There is much to be extrapolated from such an all-encompassing substance, from how we indulge in washing ourselves to how our bodies yearn for hydration. Israeli choreographer Zvi Gotheiner embraces these images’ fertile and tired dual nature to venture deeper into the human-water relationship with MAIM – Hebrew for, you guessed it, “water.”

Physically, MAIM’s structure feels quite classical as it opens with a rousing bit of percussive footwork, phases into a medley of smaller groupings of bodies, and reconvenes for a tidy conclusion. This frees composer Scott Killian to utilize a combination of guitar and synthesizer textures, over which a Hebrew song occasionally soars. While the sound is engineered to morph, the dancers are consistent in their Irish goodbyes, departing the space as a family would a communal body of water due to the vibes of some other party.

While formidably danced, Zvi is concerned less with moves, and more with lived and observed experiences of water, as well as forging lived experiences of those observed. Audiences are likely to be taken back to physical science classes as movement fills New York Live Arts as space makes itself available to be filled by liquid.

Bodily relationships are chemically guided. Coinciding duets and trios evoke H20’s elemental ratios. Partnering has dancers holding onto each other while continuing otherwise solo movement, testing the strength of their bonds. When all are present, dancers weave from one side of a chain to continue the formation on the other side, finding sustainability through a capacity for both sturdiness and fluidity.

Further context comes from a video projection by Josh Higgason. Also in three movements, it shows a series of dry landscapes, prolongs a slow-motion waterfall, and displays various presentations of water with different degrees of human meddling. It is only during the waterfall that the dancing explicitly references what is projected – everyone takes a turn to conduct an expression of water, their blown up shadow a votive offering. On either end, the rigorous dancing and heavy footwork fluidly read as a contemporary rain dance during the dry clips, and as drowning during the wet ones.

MAIM, however, is a sort of rain dance – for humanity. When we see water, despite all its might, passing through a filtered pitcher, there is a sense of water’s daily domesticity as a profound roadblock to truly fathoming the drama of climate crisis. Still, the dancers’ final act of taking remarkably restrained sips of water fails to land as impactfully as it wants to. Despite the solid case made, its structural sequencing is too regular, which the work’s other elements have meticulously proven water to be anything but.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

December 23, 2019
Calpulli Mexican Dance Company presented Navidad: A Mexican-American Christmas at the legendary Apollo Theatre followed by a weekend of performances at the Queens Theatre. In pre-colonial Mexico, calpulli was an Aztec clan comprised of families of common heritage who shared land, government, and education. Accordingly, this collaborative production shared authorship with its community of choreographers, performers, music artists, costume designers, and dramatists to create a collage of traditional Mexican folk dance, Latin American social dance, and ballet. All was guided by the dramaturgic leadership of internationally acclaimed actor and dancer, Gabriela García. Calpulli’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, Juan Castaño and Yuritzi Govea, played the role of a young couple who, after immigrating to the US, raised their daughter, nurturing her with their love for Mexico’s folk dance, music, flavors, and traditions.

The storyline begins as the couple prepares to leave their hometown in North Mexico with friends gathering for a goodbye party where they dance the regional polka, Santa Rita. Soon, after arriving in New York City, the couple is employed in a textile factory, as depicted in a theatrical scene choreographed by Grisel Pren Monje. In a rapid transition denoting years passing, the couple is graced by a daughter, Clarita, who is introduced on stage as an adolescent accompanying her parents to church to celebrate the festivity of La Guadalupana. After presenting their flower offerings, the family is surrounded by Los Concheros, Aztec dances often performed at the courtyard of Mexico City’s Basilica.

Transitioning into a Christmas wonderland, Sleigh Ride is performed by two lines of dancers in blue unitards accented by their silver shining shakers and antler headpieces traveling through a choreographic design of pre-colonial Mexican folk-dance vocabulary. The Nutcracker March introduces toy soldiers dressed in black Charro pants, and a ballet pas de deux closes with a musical arrangement mixing Tchaikovsky with Mexican Folk music and Jazz.

En el Nombre del Cielo recreates Mexico’s traditional Posadas. As the couple prepares tamales, their guests dance El Colás, adding a mambo flavor to guachapeado shuffling steps from Veracruz. Feeling isolated, Clarita interrupts the fiesta expressing her frustration and leaves the party to go to bed. In her sleep, Clarita has a nightmare where the Nutcracker’s toy soldiers battle against El Diablo.

The nightmare happily resolves with a colorful interlude of dances from Jalisco with La Negra en Navidad, a festive Son featuring dancers swirling ample red skirts decorated with pine green ribbons and fitted red jackets with furry white rims delineating the edge.

The program closes with Silent Night/Noche de Paz, followed by a joyous celebration with the company dancing to El Canelo and La Vieja. At both venues, the audience, largely comprised of Hispanic families, showered the company with applause. As the company members came out to the lobby to greet the audience, patrons expressed how much they appreciated this unique Christmas program that resonates with many aspects of their lives and heritage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

December 21, 2019
Just when you thought there was no way to create another Nutcracker worth the trouble, Michelle Dorrance Dance gives us a creative, joyful reimagining of the well-worn holiday tradition. Far from nihilistic or cringy parody, this version (which has perhaps the longest title of any dance work ever) gives us a humorous, lively tap dance mash-up to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's fantastic rearrangement of the classic Tchaikovsky score.

We present to you: The Nutcracker Suite or, a Rhythmaturgical Evocation of the Super-Leviathonic Enchantments of Duke and Billy's Supreme adaptation of Tchaikovsky's masterpiece that tells the tale of a misunderstood girl who kills a king and meets a queen and don't forget oooo-gong-chi-gong-sh'-gon-sh'gon-make-it-daddy, and that ain't so bad after all is a collaboration between the dancers, Dorrance, Hannah Heller, and Josette Wigman-Freund, who also danced the role of the Sugar Rum Cherry.

In spite of the many cooks, this cohesive production moves along nicely, providing ample opportunity for intricate tap sequences and all sorts of other movement, from hip hop to ballet to Russian character dance steps. Everything is woven together in a familiar structure and is not likely to annoy even the staunchest traditional Nutcracker devotee. And special mention must be made of Leonardo Sandoval, who was a sweet, lovable gender-bending Clara.

Of course, the playful rhythmic tap dancing is what makes the show, but the dancers are also deployed in fun and unusual ways, like when they add to the score by sitting and swishing the tap shoes on a what looked like cardboard or sandpaper. Softly drifting snowflakes falling onto the stage, and the dancers evoked the wonder of every snow scene. Mother Ginger births Russian dancers, and the Sugar Rum Cherry and her Cavalier perform a show-stopping, virtuosic duet. But the biggest and most entertaining section was the gleeful send-up of the Waltz of the Flowers, where dancers literally wore gigantic flowers on their heads and gave us a waltz to remember.

The first half of the evening was the nostalgia-filled series of scenes titled All Good Things Come to an End (2018). Dorrance, Heller, Wiggan-Freund, and Melinda Sullivan conceived, directed, choreographed, and danced each scene to the music of Fats Waller. The vigor and humor of these four vaudeville travelers telling stories that no longer exist, had a poignancy that contrasted with the pure fun of the Nutcracker.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

December 14, 2019
Juilliard continues to mesmerize audiences with their conglomerate of extraordinary artists. Honoring the description on Juilliard’s dance program, New Dances Edition 2019 showcased four world-premieres by four innovative professional New York-based choreographers: Sight & Sound by Amy Hall Garner, This Great Wilderness by Jamar Roberts, Desde by Andrea Miller, and #PrayerforNow by Stephen Petronio. Damian Woetzel, President of The Juilliard School since 2017, graciously welcomed patrons and guests, and Alicia Graf Mack, Director of Juilliard’s Dance Division since 2018, proudly recognized choreographers Any Hall Garner and Andrea Miller as Juilliard’s alumni.

Sight & Sound showcased the high caliber of the Class of 2023. Rippling cannon phrases and peeling formations elegantly drew out the malleability of the dancers whose lines and costumes glowed like golden brushstrokes in the darkness. Cambrés grew into deep arches that melted into the floor, resuming in off-balance suspensions. Flexed feet gestured alternatively and accented needlepoint light strokes created by the dancer’s jetés. The work’s abstract dynamic narrative accelerated into a crescendo. Transitions were marked by the spatial arrangements of the thick golden horizontal rim of the translucent backdrop. The work ended with the cinematic effect of a descending line of golden light beams crossing against the last dancer to approach center stage.

This Great Wilderness augmented the melodic lines of "The Song of the Silent Dragon" composed by Oded Tzur and played by Juilliard Jazz. The Saxophone’s soothing protagonism was lusciously conveyed by the dense movement quality maintained by the Class of 2022. In counterpoint, sharp gestures highlighted the cymbal’s crisp timbre counterbalanced by oozing isolations, visually amplifying the base’s vibrations. The pleasing simplicity of the geometric floor pattern defined by dancers bordering the stage’s periphery were maintained through subtle merging transitions of effortless shape-flow phrases.

Desdetook the audience on an extraneous fiction journey. Dancers from the Class of 2021 progressively appeared upstage as they crossed through a thick fog curtain contained within an abysm of darkness indirectly lit by an irradiating circumference of backlights suspended center stage. Throughout the storyline, dancers continually dripped into space advancing in intriguing twisting bent shapes in high relevé dramatically enhanced by minimal expressive gestures. Tall figures conveyed by duets carrying their partners in a standing position over their shoulders followed.

As the storyline’s tension built up, massive amorphous trio compositions entered the scene carrying partners wrapped over their torso while dragging another partner by one of their limbs. Some concentric dragging partners gained momentum lifting in mid-air, transitioning into a dialogue of sculpture counterbalance compositions.

Petronio’s legacy furthered the reference to New York City’s post-modern heritage. His choreographic statement was conveyed through a bright white stage occupied by three vertical blackboards, like the ones flanking the house doors of the Peter Jay Sharp Theater’s lobby. The piece started as three dancers entered the space to write on a board a word of the choreography’s title: #PrayerForNow.

As the work progressed, its creative discourse was enhanced by lively suspended prances conjugated with vertically elongated body lines combining straight arms reaching in fourth position decorated by angular attitudes held à la seconde. The costumes for the Class of 2020 designed by Fritz Masten consisted of flowing short A-shape gowns in shades of grays and beiges, reminiscent of Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian collection, which added a unique touch of playful elegance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriella Estrada

December 14, 2019
Acclaimed pianist Simone Dinnerstein sat at the grand piano, center stage, for the entire seventy-five minutes of New Work for Goldberg Variations (2017), her collaboration with Pam Tanowitz Dance. The central placement of Dinnerstein, and her impeccable musicianship, made for a symbiotic and equalizing interplay between music and dancers onstage. Ms. Dinnerstein even appeared barefoot, like the dancers, and knowing glances and small moments of camaraderie were exchanged throughout the work.

Tanowitz has a grasp of the complexities of the score and created a work that responded nicely to Bach’s series of inventions, and it was certainly different than other interpretations (Jerome Robbins’ comes to mind). What was most problematic was already knowing what I was in for: there were few real surprises and no indelible moments.

Charles Rosen wrote, The ‘Goldberg’ variations is a social work; it was meant principally to "delight, and it instructs only as it charms" and that is what Tanowitz delivered: a well-constructed series of dutiful, sweet, unmannered, moments. Although the audience seemed excited and the buzz has been everywhere, to Tanowitz’ “unflinching postmodern treatment of classical dance vocabulary” has exhausted its possibilities: it’s – dare I say – unexciting?

The collaboration featured Jason Collins, Christine Flores, Lindsey Jones, Maile Okamura, Melissa Toogood, and Netta Yerushalmy, all accomplished artists in their own right. The absence of Victor Lozano, who was ill but not replaced, did not seem to matter. Costumed in short tunics with vertical blocks of soft color and sheer pants in soft shades of blue, orange, and yellow by Reide Bartelme and Harriet Jung, each dancer brought a lovely and personal quality to a movement vocabulary that conjured both Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor’s work at different times. Christine Flores stood out for her lightning-quick and expansive jumps, and everyone was pleasant to watch. The sometimes-harsh lighting by Davison Scandrett jolted us a few times.

Tanowitz has spent decades as a NYC freelance choreographer, and has received plenty of support and recognition, including Guggenheim and BAC fellowships, Bessie awards, commissions from the Joyce, Kennedy Center, and more. Last year she finally broke through the glass ceiling that few outsiders can manage: commissions from the New York City Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Martha Graham company, and more. So much sudden high-profile visibility creates higher expectations. Now that Tanowitz has caught the attention of the big leagues – and she is clearly capable – some in the crowd will want to see more.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

December 13, 2019
Buglisi Dance Theatre presented a two-day engagement of their New York City winter season at The Ailey Citigroup Theater: The Joan Weill Center for Dance. Entitled Ode to the Planet and Humanity, choreographer and founder Jacqulyn Buglisi presented a mixed bill of world premiers, original choreography, and up and coming works from young artists.

Moss Anthology: Variation 5 opened the program. Choreographed by Buglisi, the world premier of the work is part of a larger series of ballets which was created as a response to the climate change crisis. A projection created along the back wall engulfed the dancers, and guided them through the sequencing of the work. At the beginning of the piece the projection shows mosses, forests, and streams. The music, composed by Jeff Beal, contains percussion integrated with sounds of the earth. In response, the dancers’ movement quality is light as it swoops through Graham spirals.

Dancers salute the heavens and the earth in high releases and grounded gestures. However, as the projection shifts into blazing fires and desolate landscapes the movement follows. What once was radiant, transitions into anxiety. Dancers gesture by covering their eyes. Beal’s compositional tone moves into bleak chanting. However, in the final movement there is one last shift of hope. Dancers find elegance once more as the score shifts back into its original playfulness. In a reaffirmation of life, the dancers are fearless, grateful, and humble in their bodies and their spirits as the lights dim.

The other world premier on the program was a solo choreographed by Buglisi for Blakeley White-McGuire. In the Name of the Fire, and the Flame, and Grace,/i> is a sizzling juxtaposition to Moss Anthology. Full of angst, grief, and fear McGuire’s movement is stripped to the bone in a captivating drama.

Tension in her body rises to an unparalleled level causing her to shake and collapse. She screams silently, hits the ground in fits of pain and tremors. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the mood captured by McGuire’s body language is worth a thousand more. Even more so than the movement vocabulary, McGuire’s performance is thrilling, captivating, and heart-wrenching.

The rest of the program features the work of young choreographer Meagan King in her emotional quintet about the Central Park Five. Though the choreography and sequencing is under-developed, King’s work is a passionate call to arms on racial discrimination.

Unuman all male trio created by Virginie Mécène, though conceptually clear, felt overpowered by the score’s sounds of medical machinery created by Jacopo Baboni-Schilingi. Another duet by Ron de Jesus, in comparison to the rest of the program, was a very basic contemporary duet about passion. The show closed with an older work of Buglisi’s and a star studded cast of Graham principals. The work, entitled Sand was a class act of movement, design, and performance. It was a joyous way to close the program with a tremendously talented yet humble group of movers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

December 6, 2019
And Still You Must Swing enraptured The Joyce Theater through sheer joy, eloquent rhythmic discourse, musical exuberance, poetic narratives, and evocative lighting. Conceived by acclaimed tap master, performer, and choreographer, Dormeshia Sumbrey-Edwards, the program exuded pizazz with performance, choreography, and, as stated in the program, “improvography.”

Accompanying Sumbry-Edwards, the stage was graced by leading hoofers Jason Samuels Smith and Derick K. Grant in a collegial intricate percussive dialogue. Featured as a special guest, Camille A. Brown added powerful theatricality to the program with her choreographic fusion of West African, contemporary and vernacular dance.

The evening kicked off with an overture by an eclectic jazz band integrated by Winard Harper (drums), Noah Garabedian (bass) and Carmen Staaf (piano), who also served as director establishing the pulse for each work. Rhythm Migration (2016) opened the program introducing percussionist Gabriel Roxbury who entered playing the Djembe followed by Camille A. Brown, who embodied the sociopolitical resistance text of “The Buzzard Lope.”

Bringing the house into an expressive riot, the trio of tap artists and hoofer masters turned the stage into an orchestral instrument. Connecting the lineage of legends like Jimmy Slyde or Gregory Hines, they slid pro and fro, accenting their chromatic sequences with resonant breaks. Their nonchalant percussive conversations progressed, responding to the band and each other with summative musical contributions, to which the audience could not resist interjecting exclamations.

Dormeshia’s slim figure and strong theatrical dance technique painted the scene with embellished lines, coquettish gestures, and the elegance signature of the musical reviews of the 1940's. Smith continued to surprise connoisseurs with the musicality he created from his profound understanding of the variants in the quality of the sound and resonant capabilities of the miked stage. His virtuoso tap sequences faded into whispering nerve tap trills awakened by the drumming power of a single stomp.

Displaying an extraordinary mastery of the art form, Grant delighted the house with his contagious sense of humor. Literally stretching his body to the max , he glided through the stage as if pulled by magnets, and grabbing the audience’s Ohs! and some Oles!

Swing Out presented the trio in another light, swing dancing in sneakers, breezing through time and space with playful ease. As demonstrated by these versatile artists, the essence of jazz and tap is not only in the what but the how; not only in the score or the choreography but in the inner sense of rhythm and musicality of the artist. Patrons had ample opportunity on the expertise of each soloist with numbers titled Dormeshia Swings, Derick Swings, Camille Swings, and Jason Swings. T

he generous program offered two additional choreographic works by the percussive trio: Swinging the Miles (2016), choreographed by Jason Samuels Smith, and Swinging me Soflty (2016), choreographed by the collective. And Still you Must Swing (2016) closed the night with choreography by Grant, showcasing the whole ensemble. Through the last number and encore, the percussive artists brought the audience to the edge of their seats, and closing with a roaring standing ovation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Gabriella Estrada

November 27, 2019
It is often the case that politically charged work is shown to people who already agree with it, resulting in a redundant sort of feedback loop with no impetus to move beyond itself. Alternatively, however, the notion that an artist with a message might be able to gather an audience of the people for whom it is intended is just as nonsensical. Patti Bradshaw finds a satisfying compromise between these issues in a way that is more enjoyable to its audience and more respectful of that to which it ostensibly reacts. Fools in plein air: fermented rain speaks to environmental concerns by presenting a construction of behaviors that are just familiar enough to be considered anew.

Much of this construction is derived from three particular sources: author Robert Walser, and visual artists Marc Chagall and Jean-François Millet. While the artists inform the scenography, a Walser poem is nestled in the work like a gem in a pendant, flanked by Walser-influenced texts by Bradshaw. The resulting texture is an existential pensiveness sprawling within pastoral reveries.

Garments, hung on a clothesline from Dixon Place’s mezzanine, each receive a projected cow before they are worn by the core ensemble of four. Bradshaw, who maintains outfit consistency, later performs a delightful bit of percolation within a box of magnified Walser microscript along with and in reaction to a video of Transylvanian cows marching from some point A to some point B, shot with great patience by Adam Gurvitch.

Valerie Striar, in her boundless length, bends herself cowishly to a voiceover on grazing, written by Bradshaw. Most reverent, though, is Marie-Hélène Brabant’s devotion to her tchotchkes – cow effigies of varied miniature statures. She dotes on them to a John Cage score, which, if you listen hard enough, moos.

Later, the group holds branches as a forested amphitheater in which Lissy Vomacka swirls and settles into position for a baroque sarabande of leafy prosthetics, orchestrated by Caroline Copeland. Among embodiments of cattle and forestation, humanity bookends the piece with a line of swirling hands and flirtatious flashes of beveled heels, from which Patrick Gallagher soars away and faithfully rejoins.

Bradshaw performs another gestural solo to Walser’s “Basta,” whose speaker yearns for a thoughtless existence. This time, however, we are very much in a human space. To see Bradshaw’s witty physical ramblings connect to both a species bestowed with a great deal of responsibility and one that can consciously seek to be rid of it reveals the central problem – opportunistic identification superseding true empathy and action.

We need cows to be mindless, or else they wouldn’t put up with us; trees must do nothing but breathe for our lives to transpire. We can admire the Zen aspects of these existences, but with so much subservient to us, it is on us all the more to protect these resources, rather than permitting our egocentric projections to destroy them.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

November 25, 2019
Ballet Hispanico presented their company at the Apollo Theatre this weekend with a mixed bill of all female choreographers. “The Power of the Latina Voice” was a program curated by artistic director Eduardo Vilaro aimed at highlighting representation of Latinx voices in dance and media platforms.

The program opens with Michelle Manzanales’ work, Con Brazos Abiertos, which explores the depths of growing up caught between Mexican and American identities. Bathed in a bright spot light, and wearing all white, solist Dandara Veiga commands the space like an angel as the cast floats around her.

The choreography integrates folkloric dance with ballet as it jumps from fiery red group salsa phrases to weighted and serious contemporary duets. Veiga’s character weaves through the piece, guiding the cast through these evolutions. While at first these transitions seem choppy and segmented, Manzanales’ structure paints a clear image of her feelings about growing up divided between two cultures.

A boy trots across the stage carrying a planted tree in a burlap sack on his back. This is the beginning of Andrea Miller’s Naci. Moving to the sounds of Israeli folkloric music, the cast bursts out of the wings with bouncy shoulders and weighted postures. Miller’s distorted movement vocabulary challenges the dancers as they move through deep second position plies, chest undulations, and intensely theatrical sequences. Dependent on trust through partnering, the dancers counterbalance and weight-share with one another.

Between each movement sequence, and as the music shifts between Israeli folk and Spanish ballads, Paulo Gutierrez scurries back across the stage with the tree on his back. Through intricate imagery and symbolism, and physically demanding choreography, Miller’s choreography pushes the dancers into uncomfortable places while investigating the uprooting of the self between cultures.

The final entree, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Tiburones reveals a stripped stage. The cast of the company is frozen with lights positioned on them like mannequins on a Hollywood set. A director walks on stage with a marker and snaps it closed as the lights switch on cueing the dancers to pose, move, and snap their fingers. West Side Story's iconic imagery begins to unveil itself as the dancers jump, run, and sashe with theatrical stamina. Dictating the action, the director commands the movements be exaggerated towards the audience.

Yet as the work progresses, dancers begin to counter his demands in acts of defiance. A group of women erupt into a sultry dance party scene. A group of men wear high heels and defy gender stereotypes. By the end, the director has seemingly lost all control as they overpower and bring him to his knees. Though at times overtly literal, Tiburones directly confronts the way Puerto Ricans have been negatively portrayed in the media and aims to create a new narrative of representation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

November 21, 2019
The Belgian dance theater troupe Peeping Tom was founded by Gabriela Carrizo and Franck Chartier in 2000 and has toured the show 32 rue Vandenbranden for ten of those years. The production simultaneously received its North American premiere and three farewell performances as part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival 2019. And what an experience it was!

In the mold of Pina Bausch’s ground-breaking tanz theater, 32 rue was a series of deeply emotional, at times disturbing, and sometimes hilarious vignettes, that took place in and out of three trailer homes with big windows. Set in a snowy, desolate landscape designed by Peeping Tom, Nele Dirckx, Yves Leirs, and Frederick Liekens, the space was as vast as it was confining.

From the very beginning characters came and went but were somehow trapped, unable to escape their physical or psychological entrapments. A soundscape that ranged from gale force winds to strains of Stravinsky’s Firebird by Juan Carlos Tolosa and Glenn Vervliet kept the mood shifting, and surreal lighting by Filip Timmerman and Yves Leirs kept the mysterious and bleak atmosphere throughout.

One quickly realizes all is not well when the silhouetted figure of a woman in heels and a big fur coat appears from behind a trailer, moments later, she discovers a tiny baby in the snow, and to our surprise and shock, covers it up with more snow and shoves it under the trailer. She spends the rest of the time, among other things, rubbing her pregnant belly, linear time now uncertain. From then on, every strange moment of magical realism washed over us, continually demolishing expectations.

From a squabbling couple’s rag-doll duet, where the woman’s extreme flexibility is manipulated by her macho man, to the moment when a tender guy in love tears out his own heart, still pumping and bleeding, every second is full of surprises, tensions and unpredictability. Pushing boundaries and sometimes the limits of taste, one “neighbor” stepped outside and sang into a mike while masturbating out in the open in his underwear as others watch from their windows.

At another time, everyone frolicked in the snow, and the spectacular Eurudike de Beul ended up on the ground with two men suckling at her breasts. Later, she belted out the most glorious aria and then climbed up to the rooftop of a trailer for seemingly no reason. The dancers were acrobatic, consummate actors, dancers and singers, sustaining over an hour and a half of high intensity interactions as an afflicted and disconnected community: prisoners of their own making. Sometimes jumping off walls, rolling in the snow, confronting each other or walking away, each moment rose to a manic pitch, then simmered down, in a strange retreat.

32 rue Vanden-branden kept the audience on the edge of its seat the entire time and received a warm standing ovation. One wishes that New York had seen more of this troupe since its founding; but thanks to BAM at least we caught the last shows of this work – strange, mystifying, unnerving, capable of making us both grateful and paranoid at the same time.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 18, 2019
What happens when artists are given the time and support necessary to develop their vision in a sustained, thoughtful, and engaged way? The results are clear, compelling, and way more interesting than the harried and underdeveloped work seen all too often in the NYC dance ecosystem.

Supported by a two-year CUNY Dance Initiative Residency at the La Guardia Performing Arts Center, Patrick O’Brien Dance Collective presented Enough, a searing critique of today’s consumer culture, in an evening-length work that continually confounded while driving home the point that as a society, we must take action to resist the relentless consumerism that often defines our very identity.

The audience was shepherded down a long hallway littered with new clothing and encouraged to pick it up because “it was free.” Soon an actor was accosted by a cop accusing him of stealing, and we witnessed a rough interrogation and denials as we continued to file past them to our seats.

As people settled in, we observed a large backdrop with twelve tv screen projections showing different interrogations about shoplifting, and a very large pile of clothing in the center of the stage. Suddenly we are asked to part with our “free” items and add them to the pile, immediately challenging our ideas about transaction and ownership.

An original electronic sound design by O’Brien and Michel Banabila, with quotes from John Naish, Jean Genet and Abbie Hoffman (with additional musical tracks by various artists) provided an ominous mood throughout the evening, and a very clear and constant message: “Your very identity is a vacuum to be filled… always in need of more…”

The pile of clothes began to move on its own, and eventually one dancer emerged, face covered by a shirt stretched over his head, torso free to move, but the lower body still constrained under the pile of items. He is eventually joined by others, who slink, lurk, lurch, and snatch pieces of clothing from each other with phenomenal attack, dynamism and a fluid contemporary movement that had a look all its own.

From extreme hands and fingers to smooth floor work, the dancers managed the constant struggle with the clothing, at times partnering each other by the sleeves, often pulling a top over their own or their partner’s heads, struggling to free themselves from the material – an apt metaphor for the main idea that was spelled out perhaps too frequently in the voiceover: we are victims of a runaway capitalist consumerism.

A sinister and forbidding Vader-like figure in a large cloak with lights, a large staff, face covered and crowned with spikes, presided over the proceedings, eventually joined by two others that were revealed when the backdrop was lifted and we realized we were actually sitting on the stage, now facing out into the empty house. The cloaked team recruited one dancer as a fourth overseer, and they dance a short pavane asserting their authority over the space.

A large futuristic chandelier made of mirrors and small cameras lowered into the space like an alien spaceship, rotating as the dancers reconvened. The audience was asked to walk onto the stage space, encircle the dancers, then out into the house, to observe the final section, where the dancers finally managed to strip down to bare undergarments, freeing themselves from the restrictive, tight clothing.

O’Brien’s conception and ability to sustain well over an hour and a half of action without losing the spectators’ interest was impressive and matched by the quality and talent of the dancers. Although the ability to deploy effects other than the dancing itself created surprises, in the end it was the choreography itself that most effectively transmitted the consumerist bind we find ourselves in.

In the parting image, four dancers almost naked dancers held hands and danced in a circle, reminiscent of the iconic, playful and hedonistic painting by Matisse, while on the other side, three other dancers were back in their clothes, trapped and unable to free themselves. On which side are you?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 18, 2019
The Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Company entered into its Lincoln Center season full of fresh new faces and riveting new commissions. In a historic period of transition for the company following Taylor’s passing in 2018, new artistic director Michael Novak presented a company with a revived vision for its future.

The program opens with classic Taylor work, Airs.Accompanied by the Saint Luke’s Orchestra, six dancers float onto the stage. Costumed in Gene Moore’s elegant blue garments, the women’s dresses soar, while the shirtless men in blue tights are a staple of Taylor masculinity. Soft, sustained pique glides are effortless while petite-allegro is musical, quick, and clean. At times the choreography scuttles, at others it slides. Soloist, and Taylor veteran, Michelle Fleet is a true representation of grace and skill.

Pam Tanowitz’s all at once is a stunning portrayal of technique and swagger. With reference to the title of the work, the entire company bursts in view whimsically filling the space. Clothed in pastel green, blue, and yellow unitards which are draped in a gauzy white cloth, costume designers Harriet Jung and Reid Bartelme clothe the dancers in garments which move even in stillness.

Each dancer follows their own rhythm and score, with accompaniment by Bach’s Violin Concerto and Oboe Sonata simply floating over them. Tanowitz’s choreographic vision is carried out with rapid sequencing and alert shifts of weight. The dancers’ technical abilities are highlighted as the choreography tests them with syncopated jumps and shifts back and forth into pedestrian postures.

Composed of continuous sections and uninterrupted dancing, the framework of the piece is a welcome compliment to Taylor’s traditionally segmented work. Dancers move from duets, to solos, to group phrases scattered about. They flee into and out of relationships with one another seamlessly. Sometimes there is an acknowledgement of partnership with a head nod or a hand gesture, other times they are simply occupying the same space.

While this unending sequencing had the potential to exhaust the audience, the dancers’ tranquil demeanor made it so that had they gone on for hours it would have felt like minutes. Through it all, the dancers remain calm in a humorous juxtaposition of exertion and serenity.

After completing a challenging passage of sporadic footwork and gestures across the floor, the dancers relax and shrug as if to say ‘yea... we did that’. Her structural choices, combined with a precise and amusing movement quality, is what makes the piece shine, and highlights this renewed company of dancers.

Closing the program with a sweet nod to nostalgic times, Paul Taylor’s Company B is a quirky, fanciful, and sentimental tribute to war time America. A trio of women harmonize their way through American classics such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and “Oh Johnny”. The structure of the piece follows the musical score, as dancers move through swing, jazz, and classic Taylor movement. Though it references the past, this closing piece of the program reminded Taylor audiences that this company is a group capable of executing a wide array of repertory in the future.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

November 16, 2019
Paul Taylor and Donald McKayle’s friendship spanned over half a century, and both have recently passed away. So it was moving to see the Taylor company celebrate McKayle in a full evening by inviting three other dance troupes to perform some of his iconic dances. The evening began with McKayle’s best-known work, Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder(1959), performed by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.

A signature work of DCDC since they began dancing it in 1987, what was striking about this performance was the high intensity and polish of the dancers, who gave it their all, but whose interpretation seemed slightly at odds with the content: a group of men in a prison chain gang, who are down and out, abused, but still have the strength and hope to long for freedom.

Countess V. Winfrey appeared in different guises as Sweetheart, Mother, and Wife, bringing to life an optimism (and some sexiness) in the mens’ imagination. This cast was big, beautiful, strong, flexible and passionate. But the sheer technical force of their dancing felt almost celebratory, rather than also speaking to the pathos and pain that might have emanated from the original.

The Juilliard School Dance Division dancers performed Crossing the Rubicon: Passing the Point of No Return, a work McKayle created in 2017 for his UCI Etude Ensemble, another student group. A work about the plight of refugees, the choreography was heavy on unison movement and long diagonals. The Juilliard dancers, costumed in Indian and middle eastern inflected garb (by Connie Strayer after Kathryn Wilson) lacked urgency in their movement.

Naya Loveli and Alexander Sargent stood out in their duet, a lovely expression of bonding together in the midst of a crisis. The lighting by Kenneth Keith shifted from white shafts of light in the backdrop to a warm, yellow beam that seemed to weave in the threat of global warming to the refugee crisis.

The evening closed with Ronald K. Brown/Evidence dancers in McKayle’s Songs of the Disinherited from 1972. If you are mostly familiar with Ailey’s Revelations as the iconic dance expression of the black diasporic experience, Songs is an energizing and different alternative, also imbued with the both the pain and the joyous feeling of black spiritual life. Annique Roberts gave a proud rendition of "Angelitos Negros," a song with lyrics by Andres Eloy Blanco that questions why angels aren’t ever depicted as black.

With flamenco flair, Roberts moved from modern dance expressions of pain to defiance with a convincing assurance. And in "Shaker Life," the Evidence dancers gave their all, in a powerful and impressive unison ending, with everyone hopping into an extended extreme layout with the leg high in the air, while changing directions, a fierce finale for a memorable celebration of a modern dance master.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 16, 2019
Kate Wallich’s The Sun Still Burns Here is a rough and tumble tribute to Seattle’s grunge pop-rock scene. Created for her company Kate Wallich + The YC, the work is a radically integrated collaboration with rock band Perfume Genius. Co-commissioned by the Joyce Theatre, Wallich’s concert transformed the Chelsea presenting house into a cesspit of sex, drugs, and rock & roll.

Performer Thomas House sits in the audience and moves in silence before the houselights have even dimmed. Clothed in a black and white striped shirt, layered with a black velvet top underneath, costume designers Colton Dixon and Christine Tran aid in creating House’s mime like qualities.

His movements from the arms and back are gestural and presentational. At times he cues the audience to what is about to appear on the stage with a tantalizing smile. At others he is shy and insecure, concerned with his own appearance. House suddenly stomps to cue the music as the curtain rises. Immediately the audience is drawn into Perfume Genius’ rock den.

The opening scene is an allusion to the somewhat frightening parallels of star quality and royalty. Velvet curtains drape the scenery, gold woven rope hangs from the ceiling, and gauzy sheets sway through the space. Art director Andrew J.S invites the audience into this gritty hazy world. Dancers and musicians scatter on the floor writhing slowly with soft undulations throughout the body. At the center of it all is lead singer Mike Hadreas, stationed on a moving ladder bathed in a bright, white spotlight.

One of nine songs in the set, this opening scene sets the precedent for a motif carried throughout the work. No matter where the dancers go on their investigatory journey, Mike Hadreas is their ringleader, their champion, their king. Whether the dancers play with the curtains in a jazzy mockery of traditional dance steps, or soften into spirals and contemporary turns through space, they are fully manipulated by Perfume Genius’ soundtrack.

The execution of the movements themselves vary dancer to dancer, each following their own unique narrative. Some dancers are CAMP-y and sharp, others are emotional and introverted. Though the choreography is not technically challenging, and the sequencing simply follows the album’s progression, the dancers exhaust themselves with radical energy shifts and intense caricature dedication. The through line for it all is the communion of movement and music.

As the piece progresses to its end, dancers come together with musicians in sloppy unison and head banging disturbances. And, it couldn’t go without mentioning Wallich and Hadreas’ provocative sex scene climax...literally. Overall, the piece is more of a rock concert than a dance show. By the end of the work the audience has been on a roller coaster of fast, furious, and free times. Hadreas described it as “difficult, fun, fucked up”, however The Sun Still Burns Here is a work which could only be described as one thing- rock and roll.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

Mark DeGarmo Dance: LAS FRIDAS
November 10, 2019
Las Fridas was advertised as a dance-theatre duet inspired by painter and revolutionary, Frida Kahlo. The publicity flyers showcased an image consisting of a harmonic duet composition where Mark DeGarmo and dancer-actor, Marie Baker-Lee, appear against a sunny outdoor set insinuating Frida’s Casa Azul (blue house). The show was hosted in a room on the third floor of The Clemente Center an intimate space hosting about 20 patrons. The set consisted of a window flanked by blue wooden folding screens surrounded by plant pots and a wooden bench center stage.

Two figures emerged from behind the set, a woman dressed in a Mexican traditional autochthonous embroidered dress, and a man in a tarnished black suit. With a wondering gaze, the couple approached the bench and sat side by side. They leaned on each other initiating an interplay of hand contact while a projection of a mature woman’s hands appeared on the window. Apparently, the concept for this scene was inspired by Frida’s painting depicting two women sitting side by side. Initially, the production was meant to be interpreted by two women. However, as explained in the program, due to a sudden illness, the woman accompanying Baker-Lee, was assumed by DeGarmo, intending a gender-fluid perspective.

If the performance had concluded with this first scene, there would have been more coherence with its intention as a “love letter to Mexico” and a homage to the mature women in DeGarmo’s life. However, the plot departed abruptly through a convoluted series of 15 sections, that oscillated from grim to dark through murky movement aggravated by a consistent overuse of force, beyond the parameters of improvisation.

The conflicting evening escalated in the sensory challenges it presented. Long sections of the actors’ screaming, throwing a plethora of fabric around the space was followed by aggressive mimicry accompanying the sound of wild animals and puzzling interactions utilizing plastic skulls, a black toy cat, rope, and huge artificial flowers as props.

These sections were intermingled with traditional dancing motifs prompted by popular Mexican songs by artists uncredited in the program. As the scenes progressed, the projection on the window changed to show a woman’s bunioned feet moving in an unkempt bathtub, transitioning to a digital image of fire until the end of the show.

The evening closed with a repetition of the first scene shifting the actors’ front to face the set with their back to the audience. Immediately after the bow, the hosts asked the audience to leave the space promptly to meet the actors in the hallway, allowing eager patrons to approach the artists to ask questions about their intent, engaging in appreciative conversations. However, other patrons left questioning the violence, screaming, and bizarre props, arguing the program’s pertinence to physical theatre rather than dance-theatre.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

November 5, 2019
The Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Company gala night at Lincoln Center this year was a glittering, well-attended event. What a pleasure to see so many people committed and dedicated to a dance company as it goes through a major transition, with the recent loss of its founder and many retiring dancers. With a well-balanced program that both honored the past and pointed to the future, the company made a strong declaration of its new direction.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Michael Novack, the company’s new artistic director, out on the stage in Taylor’s Concertiana (2018), Paul Taylor’s last creation. Unassuming as he joined the group of dancers swirling and swiveling in blue and green layered unitards (a throw-back look by William Ivey Long), Novak both blended in and stood out in what was a glorious summation of movements from Paul Taylor’s dances. From the turns with arms in a V, to the quick little jumps in attitude, highlights from the repertory passed through the dancers’ bodies, and before our eyes, in fleeting and memorable moments.

A highlight of the evening was seeing veteran dancer Michael Trusnovec, in an historically important solo that George Balanchine choreographed for Paul Taylor himself in 1959. Episodes was a collaboration between Balanchine and Martha Graham, for whom Taylor danced at the time. It was fascinating to see Trusnovec, who started out on the floor in a pretzel-like position, unfolding and moving between frantic and slower movements, in a modern dance version of the sharp, sometimes anxiety-ridden feel of Balanchine’s black and white ballets of the period. Trusnovec is one of those dancers that commands the stage with his technically mastery and the clear focus; he always imbues movement with meaning and elevates the quality of an evening.

In Kyle Abraham’s world premiere Only the Lonely, the choice of vocal music by Shirley Horn and the structure of a series of scenes with dancers (costumed by Karen Young) as regular people, felt too similar to Black Tuesday, evening’s closer. A lindy-hopping, butt-shaking couple was quickly followed by a trio with a guy in drag that brought some comic relief, without descending into well-worn tropes. Couples formed and dissolved, ending up with unexpected pairings. But although the dance had some small surprises, as a whole it ultimately lost cohesion.

Taylor’s beloved Black Tuesday (2001) is a series of scenes set to Depression-era songs that show the down-and-out can still have a good time. American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland joined the cast, and stood out right away for her polished strut that was more stylized than the relaxed, pedestrian style of the Taylor dancers. It was a bit disappointing was to see her cast (once again) in yet another sexy solo, just as Twyla Tharp cast her recently in ABT’s version of Deuce Coupe. There is so much more to her than her knock-out body and sensuality; both she and her adoring audience need more. And perhaps it’s time to re-think these works with happy-go-lucky, theatricalized vaudevillians, hookers and hobos. They feel like a part of a nostalgic past with a veneer that needs puncturing, or at least more of a point of view, for today’s audiences.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 4, 2019
In 2015 I was a supernumerary in Karole Armitage’s On the Nature of Things. Of the process I mostly remember running sections ad nauseam, only to end up with my band of fellow Tisch students’ appearances whittled down to but a few ensemble interjections.

I can also recall Armitage asking Megumi Eda to repeat certain phrases again and again, which, unlike with us, wasn’t so much to correct an error; she simply loved watching her, while perhaps hoping that my cohort would learn a little something about how it’s done.

It is, therefore, quite the payoff that for 2019’s You Took a Part of Me, Eda is front and center in a piece that conveniently doubles as Armitage’s take on Japanese Noh Theatre (specifically the Mugen Noh, in which a ghost meditates on their former life). New York Live Arts is accordingly transformed into a stylized riff on the traditional Noh stage. A raised platform with an offset runway, the space is bordered in light, making epic what is usually a simple sanctity.

Naturally, Eda plays the Shite, or protagonist. In keeping with Noh form, she has a Shitesure, or companion, who, in this production (loosely based on the 15th century play Nonomiya), embodies Eda’s “Double,” danced by Sierra French, with whom Eda forms the Shite’s entire personhood. Together, they grapple with each other as well as Cristian Laverde-Koenig’s portrayal of their Lover. As their drama unfolds, Alonso Guzman functions as the Koken, Noh’s visible stagehands experienced audiences are grammatically trained to not see.

Armitage seems to take all this dramaturgical adherence as a green light to overhaul Noh’s centuries old physicality with what I remember of dancing her work a mere four years ago. There is slowness, there is concentration, but mostly there are attitude arabesques, so concerned with being high that the occasional arm gesture that genuinely tries to speak to the characters’ internal landscapes is left obscured.

What are not obscured are the dancers’ physiques, particularly as Guzman suddenly strips the three players down to their skimpies. This bareness, which, given that traditional Noh performers are robed and masked, has the greatest potential to converse with the form, instead reads as a shortcut towards sex appeal as though it is the only way an American audience might be kept engaged.

Guzman, however, was only doing his job as the piece’s Koken, and, in doing so, humbly asserts himself as the true star of the show. Armitage, however, can’t resist throwing him a few choreographic crumbs to show that he, too, can lift his leg high. Perhaps this is what she means when she writes that “by accepting the inevitability of change, we may be inspired to seek enlightenment.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

November 1, 2019
When it comes to collaborations between titans, interested parties usually come to the work on a particular team as a way in. Prior to seeing The Day at the Joyce Theater, I had no clue who Maya Beiser was, was a casual listener of David Lang’s music, had been an admirer of Wendy Whelan’s post-City Ballet projects for some time, and bowed at the altar of Lucinda Childs.

The pair of ladies next to me was clearly on team Wendy, as evidenced by their bitter dissatisfaction at what they took to be a lack of dancing. As they made no effort to hide their frequent phone checking and mumbled kvetching, I became torn between two equally intense reactions – wanting more from both Whelan and Childs, but proud that, even if neither of them had gone far enough for me, they had at least managed to annoy these two that much.

Childs’ choreography is unmistakably hers – musically guided geometric movement, gradually revealed along spatial tracks. Divided into two halves, “The Day” cycles through a collection of interactions with props, whereas “World to Come” accumulates a more continuous idea. What gets in the way is nostalgia for the choreographer’s earlier milestones. Whelan’s navigation of fabric was first and more thoroughly explored in 1963’s Pastime, Childs’ first solo for herself; meanwhile, Joshua Higgason’s blowing up onstage action into counterpoint with itself similarly shamelessly conjures Sol Le Witt’s projection from 1979’s Dance.

Still, Whelan’s dancing is focused, exacting, and all the more naked in Childs’ trademark sparseness. However, being as in the Lucinda camp as I am, I stubbornly insist that the execution be as un-mannered as possible. When Whelan passes through a prop with a lush pas de cheval instead of a simple step forward, I lose track of the aesthetic parameters in which we are operating, and, soon after, why we are here.

Potentially helpful in answering is a string of sentences, spoken by Beiser’s recorded voice in six second intervals throughout the first half of the piece. Collected by Lang via an internet search of the phrase “I remember the day I… ,” the sentences’ conclusions are arranged in alphabetical order, randomizing outsourced, anonymous memories into an equalized expression of humanity.

What doesn’t help is Higgason’s projection collaging a bunch of Whelan’s personal photos while we hear them. Such gestures yank us from the realm of the universal into a cheap charade of identity. To then see, as Whelan rolls up in a white sheet down the ramp from which Beiser had been playing, a slow-motion video of two fellow sheets explicitly stylizing the collapse of the World Trade Center, the original impetus for Lang’s compositions is made subservient to the novelty of a collaboration spawned from his content.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 30, 2019
The Joyce Theatre debut of New Zealand-based Black Grace brought the audience to their feet. Breaking cultural barriers for nearly 25 years, Black Grace founder and artistic director Neil Ieremia fuses Samoan and Maori movement with contemporary dance and sensibility.

Who would have thought a Samaon dancer would take on the fading entitlement of men, which Ieremia does with Crying Men.

“It is the end. I feel it, “ says a matter-of-fact voiceover in the beginning of Crying Men. Three figures wearing two feet (or more) high tuigas, headdresses worn in traditional Samoan ceremonies, sit downstage left. Center stage, a man lifts a girl who squirms and fights until he drops her. Another man gestures to a girl who stays unresponsive in the dark. His summons become more frantic accelerating into a hip hop frenzy until the girl faces him, mimicking his gestural dance with such vehemence that the man slinks back into the shadows. A muscular tree of a man stands and quietly removes his tuiga and his cloth. “It is the end. I feel it, “ repeats the voiceover. “I am broken.”

The premiere of Kiona and the Little Bird Suite begins with the company dressed in black facing inward in a circle. Body percussion along with live drumming by Isitolo Alesana, singing and chanting by the group expose us to Samoan Sasa, a seated dance, and Fa’ataupati, a slap dance, along with canon rhythms.

As Night Falls set to a range of music, including Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons makes clear why these dancers hold their own on their tours around Europe, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Australia, New Caledonia, and New Zealand. Their speed, attack, precision, and flight are all hallmarks of today’s contemporary dancers. One image from As Night Falls that lingers is of the dancers surrendering with the hands slowly rising to eye level, as they cower in the blast of light targeting them from down stage left.

In 2004, Black Grace made its USA debut, performing a sold-out season at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, with a subsequent return to the Festival in 2005. Since then, the company has performed regularly throughout North America earning audience and critical acclaim.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Deirdre Towers

October 26, 2019
What a pleasant surprise to sit down and hear a live orchestra warming up in the pit at City Center! This is so rare an occurrence outside of the major NYC resident companies that it put Houston Ballet on a different level from the beginning. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, under the expert baton of David Briskin, sounded wonderful in every piece. And the Houston dancers look like a company with their own individual style and look – a fresh and welcome difference.

The program opened with Mark Morris’ The Letter V (2015), a delightful work to Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 in G major. On display were Morris’ well-known musicality and bright (some striped or gingham) yellow/blue/green combined costumes by Maile Okamura. The Houston dancers looked at home in the balletic vocabulary (lots of pique arabesques and attitudes) with contemporary accents in the arms and torso. A simple, classical structure with symmetrical groupings, repetition, circles, and canons made it easy on the eyes. Quirky surprises, like a couple coming onstage, only to have one person leave, and a goofy group step where they hunched over and kicked forward and back while swinging their arms wildly gave the ballet a fun twist that both dancers and audience clearly enjoyed.

The most riveting work was Aszure Barton’s Come In, originally created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Hell’s Kitchen Dance in 2006, to music by Vladimir Martynov. The music’s occasional tick-tock sound followed by silence and then a rush of strings repeated several times, anchored us in real time between emotional interludes, solos and an all-male corps that danced impeccably. With a balletic vocabulary that also integrated contemporary movement, this work seemed full of emotional content, and principal Connor Walsh was especially absorbing to watch in his dynamic and moving solos. Seeing a group of men dancing with clarity, strength, and so much to say beyond the usual bravado, trick-laden choreography typically assigned to male ballet dancers is unusual. There was a real beauty and connection between them: men dancing, strongly yet softly, cleanly, and with heart.

The program closed with Justin Peck’s Reflections created for the company in 2019 to a score for two pianos by Sufjan Stevens, played magnificently by Katherine Burkwall-Ciscon and Yi-Chiu Rachel Chao. Peck’s initial sculptural image melts into communal moments where the dancers circle around each other, lifting one woman way above the group then melting into another cascading shape. Playful duets and small groups give a different take on the usual balletic steps; three men take turns “cabrioling” (jumping up and beating the legs together) in opposite directions while giving each other a playful push. Karina Gonzalez and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama’s duet lingered in the mind. But all of the Houston dancers left a positive impression with their clear, crisp technique and elegant charm. They also brought us a fresh look at our own, local, well-known NYC quantities. May they be back soon.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 20, 2019
Bizet’s familiar opera Carmen has numerous interpretations in dance, but few if any that question its basic premise: when a woman is out of line, it will be her destiny to suffer a violent death. As part of the National Day of Action against Domestic Violence, choreographer and dance artist Gabriela Estrada created a solo that brings attention to the sobering facts surrounding domestic violence, and the problem of our blithe acceptance of what amounts to a crisis of epic proportions.

The lovely Ivanka Figueroa began with her back to us, with strains of the opera playing as she moved through flamenco-esque port de bras and the sensual movement often used to portray Carmen. After a tender quotidian moment where she rinsed her hair in a small basin on a table, we heard the sound of a heavy door slam, and the mood instantly changed. Figueroa’s sweet, carefree expression and liquid movement quality became tinged with fear, palpable both through the tension in her body and her sharp gestures, as well as her eyes.

Estrada’s combination of modern dance movements and gesture imbued with meaning expertly transported our attention through Figueroa’s emotional stages: a daydream abruptly turned to nightmare, without any gratuitous show of violence; the mere suggestion of what was coming was enough. At the end, Figueroa slowly and deliberately pointed to three audience members, and lastly to herself, in a strong denial of being the next victim (one in every four women will suffer domestic violence – a sobering statistic). It was a potent and moving solo that successfully avoided the pitfalls of creating a socially conscious art, by not sermonizing or veering into cliché. Estrada is a choreographer to watch.

A full performance of Ni Una Carmén Mas! Not a Single Carmen Morewas given at St. Mark’s Church on October 5th in collaboration with Joy Kelly (actor and storyteller), Regina Ress (storyteller), JoannAnn Tucker (filmmaker). Art still holds out the possibility of making a difference: may their work continue to increase awareness and help women heal.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 19, 2019
There are times when information is inadvertently sexy. As social media accounts (usually of artists) are censored left and right for displays of graphic content, arguably raunchier imagery is more easily viewable in forums that inform. John Kelly’s Underneath the Skin is just that - a live action Wikipedia article on Samuel Steward.

Steward lived a long life (1909 – 1993) with many subheadings – professor, tattoo artist, pornographer, research assistant. Performed by Kelly, each is touched upon with equal weight in an undynamically chronological order, spoken exclusively in Steward’s words with no critical point of view on him or why a show about him is happening now (save Halloween’s imminence).

Steward was a man of many words, so many that Kelly splits the text between himself, too many voice-overs, and a video projection which takes the form of Star Wars’ opening text crawl. When he speaks, Kelly does what one must trust to be a spot-on impersonation – coldly soft spoken. Meanwhile, images and videos shine from NYU Skirball’s big floating screen, bearing so much content and context that we must forgive it for anachronistically disrupting the mise-en-scène.

The show bills itself as “solo dance-theatre,” yet contains a mere four blips of movement-dependency and three additional bodies. A foursome, one of Steward’s early sexual encounters, is a straightforward sex scene we mustn’t discount the craft required to stage. When covering Steward’s alcoholism, Kelly writhes under a sheet while the others strut about in platform heels, tiny underwear, and animal masks. Nodding to Steward’s narrowly missed tenure with the U.S. Navy, the same men, in uniform, execute a meandering walking pattern while Kelly wistfully wafts about, sans shirt. Sexography returns in accompaniment to Steward’s reminiscing, but could have developed further contemporary partnering’s erotic potential.

These other performers, vaguely credited and similar(ly good-looking) in appearance, are primarily props. When Steward takes up tattooing, one sits silently as his client. Until necessary they are stowed, dressed as university students, in box seats. This performative objectification is the only way the work reflects on its subject – a man who logged his hundreds of hookups in a meticulous “Stud File.”

Aged with makeup, Kelly ends the piece singing a melancholic tune while the big screen rattles through photos of mostly male homosexual kisses. The sentiment is initially lost on me. Steward didn’t die in war, succumb to AIDS, or fall victim to the violence that still plagues the queer community. The tragedy is more personal. Steward romanticized an early demise, yet missed his chance. Having left academia to become the sexual renegade he is lauded for having been, his experiences were ultimately channeled into scientific studies on human sexuality. At least now there is an inadvertently sexy show about it.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 16, 2019
Fall for Dance’s last program ended with a most prescient note: the Martha Graham Dance company in a heart-felt rendition of Chronicle, her masterwork from 1936. Created after her refusal to perform at the Olympics as a protest against Hitler and the rise of fascism, the Graham dancers commanded the stage with fierce, precise and urgent dancing. Sequences of speedy, flying jumps across the stage and a strongly delivered solo by Leslie Andrea Williams made that warning explicit, and the resistance clear.

The program began on a lighter note, with Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal offering Dance Me (2017), a series of excerpts by Ihsan Rustem and Adonis Foniadakis to music by Leonard Cohen. On a darkened stage in a downspot, a woman was continually wrapped around her partner, never touching the floor, in a labored sequence to Cohen’s "Suzanne."

Foniadakis’ sections – one doused in falling snow – included a series of duets and trios with liquid contemporary movement that built into sculptural groups, extending a balletic line throughout. The finale with sexy costumes by Philippe Dubuc (pants and bras or vests) to a funky beat gave Les Ballets Jazz its current glamorous gloss. As often happens, fantastic dancers needed more meaty choreography to transcend just being cool.

Kim Brandstrup’s Blancfor New York City Ballet’s Sarah Mearns and Taylor Stanley had some big ideas that ultimately did not come across. In a reference to Romantic ballet’s “ballet blanc,” (the supernatural scenes with fairies, sylphs, etc.) Mearns appeared looking extremely distraught, as Stanley – the apparition – came and went out of her reach.

Accompanied by loud noises like the shutting of a metal door and some Beethoven, Gonashvili and Schumann, the evocation of the 19th century “empty space that the elusive apparition attempts to fill” (according to program notes) felt contrived. It’s hard to make a dance as good as these dancers are – one never tires of watching them. But the sameness and sadness of mood throughout this extended meditation made one lose interest.

In a brilliant curatorical move, the melancholy was quickly banished by Monica Bill Barnes’ fantastic adaption of The Running Show, a group piece narrated by Robbie Saenz de Viteri and danced by Barnes and dancers from each location where it is performed, this time with excellent dancers from CUNY’s Hunter College Dance Department.

Funny anecdotes about the life of a dancer – from the strange obsession with being a ballerina at a young age (danced by a very cute Charlotte Anub from the New York Theatre Ballet School) to the pride of a 46 year-old dancer being in better shape than younger cast members, this piece both demystified and elevated dance as a valuable, enjoyable, and challenging pursuit that attracts special kinds of people. But the message was also that dance belongs to everyone, with the promise of tangible and intangible rewards just one sweaty, humorous work-out away.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 15, 2019
On a sparkling fall day, skate boarders audaciously zipped around Washington Square Park situated in the heart of the 1960’s and 70’s post modern dance scene. A major experimental dance venue Judson Church flanks the park and next door sits NYU’s Skirball Center where the 35th NY Dance and Performance Awards (The Bessies) Ceremony and the Angle’s Party (a fundraiser) took place on Oct. 14.

Before the main event, supporters and friends of the Bessie Awards (a nonprofit organization) gathered in the Rosenthal Pavilion—with wine in hand -- to honor Laurie Uprichard.

Along with David White, Ms. Uprichard guided the Bessie Awards for many years through the auspices of Dance Theater Workshop. Her influence as an arts administrator, promoter and supporter of dance was impressively delineated. When Jawole Will Jo Zollar spoke, she underscored Uprichard’s “integrity” and deep love of the field.

Ms. Uprichard declared, in her usual self-effacing manner, that it was not really about her, but about the cooperation of everyone in the dance “village.” Originally, The Bessies were established to recognize the outsized contributions of downtown dance and performance artists. This community did not have access to the type of support attracted by major dance and cultural institutions, so The Bessies projected a spotlight on an innovative, tireless group of artists who were re-shaping the boundaries of dance.

Ms. Uprichard noted that, under the leadership of Lucy Sexton, the Bessies have jumped into the 21st century. Now the Bessies included downtown and uptown dance as well as ballet and musical theater. Named after the beloved teacher and coach Bessie Schonberg, Uprichard reminded everyone “Bessie was one of the fiercest women to walk the earth.” She exhorted people to always take risks and never settle for less.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 15, 2019
On a brisk, bright fall day members of the dance community streamed into NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts greeting everyone with hugs and kisses, and squeals of delight. In the theater, Lucy Sexton (an award-winning avant-garde artist and administrative powerhouse) welcomed the full house along with her sensational associate the Bessies’ Managing Director Heather Robles (decked in an off-the shoulder dress created by her mother) introduced the evening’s inimitable MC Justin Vivian Bond donning a gorgeous sparkling gown.

The categories for the NY Dance and Performance Awards ran from “Outstanding Performer” to “Outstanding Revival” and “Lifetime Achievement Award in Dance.” A list of all the stellar nominees and winners can be found here:

In between the announcements of the categories and nominees, choreographers presented works starting with a stirring West African laced dance “Migrations” by Camille A. Brown & Dancers and musicians. Other performance contributions came from Hope Boykin and performer Jeroboam Bozeman; Daina Ashbee and performer Benjamin Kamino. The performances represented the wide swath of dance practices thriving in the larger NYC dance community.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement in Dance Award was presented to Joan Myers Brown, founder and director of Philadanco, based in Philadelphia, PA. Introduced by George Faison, the first African American Tony Award-winning choreographer, cultural entrepreneur and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater mainstay, spoke majestically about Ms. Myers-Brown’s talents and vast contributions.

When Myers-Brown arrived on stage, elegantly dressed in a sparkly sheath and black spiked heels, she looked very bit the dancer she once was—both as an aspiring ballet dancer under the tutelage of Antony Tudor and show dancer. She loved ballet, but she made money as a show dancer, which ultimately paid for the school she opened in a derelict block of Philadelphia that ultimately became the renowned dance company Philadanco.

She, like so many other great women of dance, proved that tenacity and passion combine to build and propel essential dance institutions. Coming out of the Jim Crow era, Ms. Myers-Brown studied with some of the greats like Karel Shook (founder with Arthur Mitchell of Dance Theater of Harlem) at Katherine Dunham’s school. While idolizing Janet Collins (the first African American ballerina to dance with a ballet company—Met Opera Ballet) she did not fulfill her dreams of being a ballet princess, but Myers-Brown did widen the opportunities afforded the next generation of African American dancers.

The award for Service to the Field of Dance went to Louis Mofsie, founder and director of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers—a company intent on preserving the dances, songs and cultural ways of Native Americans.

To welcome Mofsie to the stage, Mofsie’s nephew Kevin Tarrant of SilverCloud, an intertribal drum and dance troupe, sang a haunting solo accompanied by a hand-held drum. When Mofsie accepted his award he made an important point: Native American dance is an artform. Mofsie is all about people staying grounded through community, and that community centers around music, dance and stories.

All of the final recipients were deeply moved by the community’s honors. In the case of Taylor Stanley’s (NYC Ballet Principal) award in the category of Outstanding Performer, the presenter Sara Mearns (NYCB Principal) nearly broke down when announcing his name.

When Ana Janevski accepted the award for “Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done,” the audience learned that the extraordinary exhibition and series of performances took three years to execute.

Overall the evening was filled with enthusiasm and gratitude. The only odd moment came during the In Memoriam section. Three artists who had passed were singled out with spoken tributes. This was awkward because the rest of deceased artists’ names were projected in a rolling list.

Perhaps in the future, the Bessies will instead include a one or two-word description of the deceased dance professionals clarifying their identities because the Bessie Awards not only celebrate exceptionalism in dance, they educate the community by linking today’s dance champions to yesterday’s warriors.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 14, 2019
Fall for Dance's fourth program delighted audiences with a luscious journey from contemporary dance icons to thriving choreographic proponents.

Honoring the centennial of avant-garde genius, Merce Cunningham, New York City Center’s ruby curtain unveiled a tranquil cinematic scene: Cunningham's Beach Birds. The aesthetically soothing lighting and costume design by Marsha Skinner allowed the audience to indulge in the sky-blue cyclorama delineating the silhouettes of a cast dipped in white unitards and thick black lines created by their arms, hands, and upper body. The dripping sound of a rain stick interrupted by piano chords added a nature-fresh dimension to the abstract visual composition. As the backdrop transitioned into a warm sunny orange tone, the predominant lilting, curved poses accented by sudden hand and leg flicks gradually grew in dynamic springing sequences embellishing the scene like paint dabs on a canvas.

Geoffrey Holder’s Come Sunday was exquisitely staged by his muse, Carmen De Lavallade. Deceivingly delicate in nature but powerful in performance, the recently appointed director of Julliard’s Dance Division, Alicia Graf Mack, shot energized beams of expression crafted by the magnanimous choreographer. Dressed in a long white gown, Alicia began “Glory, Glory,” the first of the four-song work, sitting tucked down on the dim stage bathed by a moonlight-like gentle spotlight. “Deep River” followed, generous in subtle torso ripples and boundless battements. Literally, with the audience in the palm of her hand, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand” warmed the house to conclude with “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” As Carmen de Lavallade joined Alicia for the final bow, patrons stood to express their endearing appreciation.

For Us, choreographed by Madboots Dance’s artistic directors, Jonathan Campbell and Austin Díaz was originally commissioned for the Fire Island Dance Festival Dancers Responding to AIDS gala, and created in response to the Pulse Nightclub’s shooting that occurred in Orlando in 2016. After running on stage into an abrupt roll over each other that interrupted Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” David Maurice and Austin Tyson engaged in a raw, energetic movement debate throughout the stage. Progressing through a reactive series of explosive grounded swirls while reaching towards and pulling at each other, the narrative reflectively passed into silence under West Side Story’s “Somewhere.” After halting in a colliding embrace, the dancers melted into a slow dance kiss fading into a blackout.

Unveiling displayed Sonya Tayeh's uncanny blend of stars from the theatrical, vocal performance, and contemporary ballet. The work's impact acquired a spectacular dimension with the breath-taking lighting designed by Davison Scandrett. The first scene revealed the statuesque vocal musician, Moses Sumney, poised in front of a microphone stand on a high black box platform showered by slick tubular light rays. Creating a ground-based rhythm loop tapping on the mic, Sumney deliberately added layers of humming sounds, lyrics, and percussion into an augmenting music track.

Meanwhile a male dancer, partially visible behind him, peeled off from the platform to take center stage. In an eloquent crescendo signature of Tayeh’s choreography, Robbie Fairchild’s solo of isolated weight displacing shifts was counterbalanced as Stella Abrera joined him in a pas de deux of viscous mutable lines. Detaching from the platform and sinking into the stage’s vanishing point, Sumney’s voice climaxed as Gabe Stone Shayer entered the scene adding sharp counterpoint elements to the composition and the eclectic quartet receded into the wings. The audience erupted in roaring applause.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

October 10, 2019
While Indian classical dancer Shantala Shivalingappa and four musicians regaled us with five works at The Joyce Theater, the last work Bhairava jolts you immediately with the fierceness of her scolding fingers twitching faster than a typist, held high by the back-lit dancer. For 600 years, Kuchipudi dancers have admonished the heavens in this manner to destroy fear by shocking them with an ascendant lightning rod. This dance makes you feel like a child being intimidated by your mother to Never again do whatever heinous thing you did. Could the inventors of this art have laid the groundwork for radio waves, sending vibrations upward to the “influencers” of their day?

The musicians J. Ramesh (vocalist), K.S. Jayaram (flutist), B.P. Haribabu (percussionist - nattuvangam and pakhwaj), and N. Ramakrishnan (percussionist - mridangam) join the tiny dancer Shivalingappa in every moment and lift us into Akasha which in Sanskrit means Sky or Space. This dancer drops and rebounds in turned out positions, executes the footwork and gestures (mudras) with consistent calm and precision; she is so accomplished that the viewer can muse about what this dance form might have looked like in its first 100 years. How long did it take to gel this art, to decide the timing and exact placement of each mudra?

The other pieces in the program Om Namo Ji Adya, Krishnam Kalaya, Jaya Jaya Durge, and Kirtanam were danced with lyrics dating from the 13th to 16th centuries. The lyric in the first solo with Lyrics by Dhyaneshwar, “I prostrate myself before him (the Supreme Being). In the form of Ganesh, the elephant-headed God, you are the light that enlightens our intellect. The sound ‘A ‘ comes from your lotus-life-feet, ‘U’ emanates from your belly, ‘M’ comes from your crown….”

Before the last piece was an extended percussion duet with a speed and complexity to equal the tapper Savion Glover. Perhaps Glover was a South Indian in another life?

Shivalingappa changed her silk costume only once, from orange and gold which is topped by a headdress that resembles the decoration on the seven lamps, the central one in the triangle being the furthest and highest upstage to a black, green, gold one. Obedient to tradition, yet free to choreograph within those bounds, Shivalingappa offers a profound, thought provoking experience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Deirdre Towers

October 10, 2019
In Fall for Dance’s third program, the first three works were about relationships, and juxtaposing them invited questions about power dynamics, different kinds of connections and agency, and what feels “contemporary” now. Also, why is it seemingly inevitable that every piece has to start (and mostly stay) on a darkened stage?

The Mariinsky Ballet’s At The Wrong Time (2019) choreographed by Alexander Sergeev gave us a light, throw-back conception of heterosexual relationships at their simplest. The cuteness began with pianist Vladimir Rumyanstev looking at his watch even before he began to play Heitor Villa-Lobos pleasant piano waltzes. In an oft-seen structure in ballet, each couple reflected a different kind of love (matching the womens’ dresses by Daria Pavlenko): the light blue was young love, burnt orange was reluctant struggle, and yellow was cute and perky. The Mariinsky dancers are gorgeous to watch, in terms body, line and technical ease. Each man got a short solo after dancing with a woman – like a prize for being a good partner. Ballet steps were executed smoothly, archetypes came across sweetly, and not much challenged our expectations.

In contrast, a young voice in the City Center audience was heard asking “Is that ballet?” when the couple from English National Ballet came onstage for Akram Khan’s Dust Duet (2017), costumed in refugee/immigrant garb in plain off-white colors with a kerchief on the woman’s head by Kimie Nanako. They proceeded to burn their struggle into our consciousness with their circling upper bodies, dejected lifts with her slumped over as he held her with one arm, and Khan’s signature mirroring arm gestures as they faced each other, her legs wrapped around and clutching his waist. Erina Takahashi and James Streeter moved with grace and pathos from violence to tenderness and despair, seemingly on a road to nowhere. It had none of the gloss of the previous dance, and somehow compelled us to feel more.

A most stunning display of strength and resolve came next: in Dare to Wreck (2017), Madeline Mansson in a wheelchair and Peder Nilsson as her “stand-up” lover played, struggled and seemed to emotionally hurt each other over and over again. Mansson’s spectacular core control was on full display as she bent backwards, over, and through positions and multiple sequences where her body and her wheels became a part of a pyramidal sculpture, or she was lifted upside down by her wheels, held aloft and spun by Nilsson. Every tricky transition was seamless, and even though the relationship was aggressive and contentious, pity was not part of the equation. Often, it was Nilsson who seemed more wounded and Mansson who showed the way, and in the end, she left him, to our collective relief.

Lazarus (2018) was commissioned by the Ailey company from hip-hop master Rennie Harris. The initial image of dancers on the floor, undulating their arms like snakes in the grass sets a mysterious mood; later Lazarus emerges amidst the joyful group dancing. The music by Darrin Ross ranges from wind sounds, Gospel, jazz, and the words of Nina Simone, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day… and I’m feeling good.” Although narrative clarity was obscured, the Ailey dancers pushed this high-energy finale to its limit. But the most unexpected and moving moment of all was hearing the voice of Ailey himself, speaking his famous thoughts about “blood memories” – still passionate and prescient words today.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 7, 2019
Fall for Dance is a huge event in New York City every year – tickets go on sale in a virtual waiting room, lines get jammed, and dance performances sell out. The brainchild of Arlene Shuler, NYCC’s President and CEO, Fall For Dance’s low ticket prices ($15!) and brilliantly diverse programs are a recipe for success. The second FFD program this year brought a revival from the Mark Morris Dance Group, a contemporary work by the French company Dyptik, a new ballet by the Washington Ballet, and an over-the-top closer by the Argentine all-male group Malevo.

Mark Morris Dance Group’s Eleven to Mozart’s piano concerto #11 in F major (2006) was a sweet, earnest dance that moved in swirls with wide open arms, turns with head rolls, heart-clutching gestures and lots of walking, running holding hands – reminiscent of Paul Taylor’s seminal works of the 60s and 70s. The balletic steps – jétés a la seconde, ronde de jambes, arabesque turns – were executed efficiently by the cast, with Lauren Grant’s breath and dynamics giving the work a much-needed spark. Interestingly, the men leave after the first minute or two, making us wonder why they didn’t come back…

The French company Dyptik danced Dans L’Engrenage (loosely translated as In the Cycle, from 2017) – a much more energetic, mysterious piece, with a cast that gestured sharply at each other over a long table, like a contemporary version of Jooss’ The Green Table (or Crystal Pite’s The Statement) The way they argued and froze, and later jumped up on the table to make a point to an ominous electronic beat by Patrick De Oliveira pointed to a board room of the future – a diverse and aggressive cast locked in a power struggle. They stalk each other around the table, then join together with forceful, urgent and confrontational contemporary movement, with solos and duets in various modes, including hip hop, pop and lock, and a fierce, crazy shakes solo that made one feel a part of a certain dystopian future.

Washington Ballet’s commission by Dana Genshaft was in the usual contemporary ballet vein, complete with bare legs and non-descript thin, flowy beige costumes and pointe shoes by Reid & Harriet (including unfortunately oversized tights for the lead female). The stark lighting by Joseph R. Walls and an annoying movie-soundtrack-like score by Mason Bates distracted from the more interesting moments of the choreography. A welcome surprise was the variety of bodies and temperaments onstage – as of now, WB is not your cookie-cutter ballet company. But Shadow Lands would benefit from a more original conception and visual aesthetic than the melancholy outsider story that doesn’t reveal something deeper.

Fall for Dance programs usually end with a bang, and the testosterone-fueled finale by Malevo brought the house down -- it’s not often one sees senior citizen ladies jumping to their feet and fist-pumping the air. The dancers, decked out in sexy all-black leather outfits, contemporized use of zapateo based on traditional Argentine folk dance and tore up the joint with their powerful dancing and drumming. Accompanied by stellar live musicians, a solo dancer (later joined by the whole group) executed a sequence of rapid-fire swinging of balls on a string at dizzying speeds that made Salvaje (Savage) the kind of exciting and unpredictable finale that makes audiences want to come back to Fall for Dance, year after year.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 6, 2019
In a mind-bracing piece of choreography -- Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s revival of Rosas danst Rosasbased on the accumulation of movement, rhythm, wooden chairs and sound -- kept the audience rapt at NY Live Arts.

Rhythmically timed pedestrian gestures were transformed into riveting movement scenarios as breath animated the gestures that began with a head lift, hand pushing hair back, floor drops, rolls -- back to the start. Each sequence built on the preceding one, both in the filigree of the gesture and elevated rhythm.

Short-sleeved v-necked tops dropped over short skirts slung over black tights. The sultry, sometimes naughty, ladies of the dance change their expressions from blank faced to come-hither smiles. Slyly seductive fingers toyed with the neckline, pulled it down exposing more neck and chest skin. Simple, but effective.

The score by Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch worked in partnership with the action and most importantly the silences.

After a slow burn on the ground, the dancers lined up wooden, straight back chairs and slipped on work boots. The action sped up as the four female dancers built on the floor patterns adding more arm movements and quicker foot patters. Thin ribbons of light reflected off the dancers in the short, slanted mirrored slats on both sides of the stage area. Sitting, spinning and jumping off chairs, the dancers swirled into a cyclone of motion – and then finally…just stops.

The youthfully committed dancers included Laura Bachman, Yuika Hashimoto, Laura Maria Poletti and Soa Ratsifandrihana. It’s always a pleasure to re-visit Ms. De Keersmaeker’s creations.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

October 4, 2019
The Little Prince is a strange, wondrous and beloved classic, and Ballet X has commissioned Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to tell this simple yet multi-layered story through dance. The production was beautifully crafted and performed, and it captured the melancholy and sadness of the story. Yet something essential – seeing truth through an innocent’s eye – was somehow lost.

Lopez Ochoa wrote a brisk scenario that elevated the Snake character (which represents Death) to a master of ceremonies that appears throughout ballet. Danced by the brilliant Stanley Glover, his slinky, lurking movements in a glittery black unitard showcased his long, elastic physique and the androgynous beauty of his dancing. Yet the somewhat discomfiting sensuality and showmanship of his persona took some getting used to: wearing a bowler hat and spinning a cane, Glover’s smooth, silky, sometimes humorous presence was at times oddly reminiscent of Joel Grey in Cabaret.

The Little Prince was danced with dexterity and lightness by Roderick Phifer, and in each scene where he meets a “narrow-minded adult” it’s clear who is the disturbing the peace. These all work to an extent as characters, but the speed of each interaction makes it challenging to absorb each lesson: most importantly, looking beneath the surface and realizing the uniqueness of each being. Harder still was getting used to the Little Prince sporting shiny yellow spandex shorts and a real moustache. Phifer is black, but it wasn’t color or age that put his look so at odds with the innocent child at the heart of the story – it was the facial hair.

The imaginative, all-white set design by Matt Saunders conjured a different world – square white boxes, some placed inside each other, evoked rose petals, or were stacked to create the illusion of a landscape. A flat, puzzle-plane in pieces is eventually and magically put together for the Pilot’s escape. Ballet X’s wonderful dancers in white danced the gorgeous choreographic transitions from one scene to the next, sometimes holding aloft long sticks with colorful birds or stars that flew as the dancers jete-ed across the stage. The costumes, for the most part, were imaginative and well-executed by designer Danielle Truss, assisted by Martha Chamberlain. The computer-generated music was an eclectic mix of ocean sounds, carnival sounds, harmonica strains, ominous moments, bird sounds, even sheep bleating, played live by composer Peter Salem. Sometimes the dancers would speak, “Who are you? Where are you?” The Pilot, danced with pathos and tenderness by Zachary Kapeluck, eventually finds an answer, having absorbed the biggest lesson of all from the dying Little Prince: “look at the stars to remember me.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY ---Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 2, 2019
Music wafted through the lobby where audience members wondered into pop-up dance performances with wine or beer in hand, either watching slow deliberate moves choreographed by Neta Yerushalmy or joining the raucous, Latin social dances curled inside a hip hop vernacular by Ephrat Asherie.

All this activity led to the opening night of City Center’s Fall For Dance season. Intent on drawing new audiences, the tickets are cheap ($15) and programming varied.

Known for their dynamic style, the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago led the evening with a stealth performance of Crystal Pite’s A Picture of You Falling. Alicia Delgadillo and Elliot Hammans moved silently in a stretch of white light to a “voice-over” by Kate Srong. Like many of Pite’s creations, this mysterious and at times ominous dance- theater piece moves between light and dark spaces—figuratively and literally.

Pite’s text floats over the dancers: “This is your voice…welcome back…here you are again.” Percussive movements swell over Owen Belton’s sound score, which includes elements of musique concrete. Arms slice front and back against bent knees and arched backs framed by a string of white lights that encased the dance in a womb of memories.

The South African Vuyani Dance Theatre delivered the US premier Rise to stirring choreography and music “intended to carry a message of hope to young people.” And that it did with the casually dressed dancers backed up by a dynamic D. J. who jumped up from behind the turntable turning in a deliriously happy solo with crutches and one leg. Indeed, the company has a lot of grit.

The American Ballet Theater ballerina, Misty Copeland, teamed up with modern dance choreographer Kyle Abraham in the solo Ashto music by Ryuichi Sakamoto + Alva Noto with Ensemble Modern. Filmy white material by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung dropped over Copeland’s hips. In a simple, but evocative piece, she pricked the floor with her feet and flared her bare legs into shoulder high extensions. Simple lines and strong movement intent escorted Ash into a satisfying galaxy.

Someone who knows how to gather a group together and put on a fun show is the enormously talented Caleb Teicher. He delivered a world premiere Buzz that included some stellar soloists joined in the happy creation of a tap dance aimed at supporting one another and embracing the audience. Although the whole cast was quite wonderful, Luke Hickey is a dancer to watch. Teicher’s own dance style almost always includes a wink and a nod to the simple delight of dancing. This was no exception.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 29, 2019
Lights flashed, and people posed while sipping Ruinart bubbly on the night of the NYC Ballet Fall Fashion Gala. The evening included two new works by the next generation of ballet choreographers, Lauren Lovette and Edwaard Liang, followed by George Balanchine’s majestic Symphony in C.

Led by the stand-out Georgina Pazcoguin dressed in black pants, white shirt, black toe shoes and black pixie wig, Lovette’s The Shaded Line spread over an enticing, Eastern infused score by Tan Dun. The dancers wore traditional ballet outfits – with a twist -- designed by Zac Posen featuring Tutus swinging upward in back suggesting bird-like swoops.

To her credit, Lovette (a NYCB Principal) takes risks every single time she choreographs a new work. Rather than remain in a comfort zone, she eagerly pushes past her previous explorations and adds or subtracts movement elements.

Couples switch it up in gender-blind partnering, that puts men with men, and women with women but not necessarily projecting anything more than joining people in movement combos. The marvelously spirited Pazcoquin appears at times as an outsider observing a community that spills across the stage in inventive clusters.

At other times, she engages with the dancers partnering ballerinas or being partnered herself. The Shaded Line underscores Lovette’s choreographer chops and as well as her generosity towards young dancers who she skillfully promotes to the front of the stage.

A former NYCB member, Edwaard Liang returned with Lineage to music by Oliver Davis. Currently director of BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio, Liang’s choreography has become much more fluid. In an establishing image, dancers are stretched out on the floor in a long diagonal. Liang contrasted modern dance movements such as torso contractions against feathery, floating arms.

Three lead couples included the: sparkling Ashley Bouder and Peter Walker; eye-catching Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen, plus Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle who produced a moment of sweeping lyricism when Kowroski folds her torso over his arm. Dancers wore shimmering costumes with sheer black tops and metallic, removable skirts by Anna Sui.

George Balanchine came on strong at the end with the grand Symphony in C originally choreographed in 1947—a large-scale ballet that carries the glamour of great opera houses where ballet was raised.

An enthusiastic audience greeted the night with cheers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipitois

September 27, 2019
Many artists, particularly of the solo variety, project, to varying degrees of subtlety, the will to stand out. Ayodele Casel very tangibly doesn’t. Instead, she educates us of the rich lineage of female tappers of color, at which she is currently the forefront. This generosity is not the sort with which one embarks on a career, however; it comes from an active, humbling realization along the way that one is never alone.

“There was only ever room for one,” Casel explains within her recent collaboration with Latin jazz ambassador Arturo O’Farrill, to tell how she journeyed from her Ginger Rogers-obsessed teens through NYU’s drama department to becoming a sultan of tap dance. At tap jams, she discovered a connection between the conversational side of tap with the communicative capabilities of African drumming, and began researching and reaching out to tappers who were not only female, but looked like her, too, whose legacies may have been overlooked, lost to time, or transmuted to whichever “one” there was only ever room for. They should be very proud.

Casel’s tapping bears a logical resemblance to that of Savion Glover, in whose Not Your Ordinary Tappers she was the first and remains the only female member. Like Glover, her feet manage to make more sounds than their movements suggest. Where she becomes distinct is in her specific focus on salsa music, her innate knowledge of which manifests in filling rhythmic gaps versus hitting the same marks as O’Farrill’s ensemble. This frees Casel to push beyond metric limitations, functioning as the timbales player, appropriately absent from the band.

She joins her fellow tappers into tight synchronicity. As though rhythmic prowess weren’t enough, the rest of their bodies move, too, employing spatial patterning and physical counterpoint that highlights each dancer’s contributions to the percussive web. We become intimately familiar with their physical personalities one-on-one. Casel’s bound quality is able to travel swiftly in space with a look of, “Wow, I am doing this,” effervescing about her face. Andre Imanishi, lean and long, slips and slides, nearing his edge though never wiping out. His haphazard presence is balanced by Naomi Funaki’s crisp restraint. Similarly crisp but hardly restrained is Luke Hickey, who occasionally lets his hips do the talking. Dre Torres, while quieter in character, is no less solid a hoofress.

It is the greatest relief that such a talented crew only gives so much. The fast-paced show consists of short pieces, each a new bit of information. The tapping quickly explores its capabilities as accompaniment, most notably to a group of young women of color who articulate their dreams as plans. Casel deftly reels us in with entertainment to get us on board demanding that inclusivity not only be celebrated, but practiced.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonthan Matthews

September 26, 2019
Dressed in a black filmy top and pants, Catherine Gallant greets the audience. She states her age, 63, and enumerates the steps in her life that lead to her dance career. It all clicked when Gallant met and studied with Julia Levine, one of the “Isadorables” – Isadora Duncan’s adopted children.

For the next 90 minutes, Gallant delivers a compelling master class in the life and dances of Duncan. Calmly narrating the evening, Ms. Gallant breezed through Duncan’s biographical time-line bulleting important events through words and corresponding dances.

Midway through, she asks for the lights to come up so she can invite people to come on stage and experience some of the Duncan movement vocabulary. People eagerly step on stage and follow her instruction to find their breath, project with their bodies and locate the weighted swing in skips. Everyone embraces the simple, redolent moves, in a chorus of motion. Gestures followed breath, and motions link one person to another to forge a community.

Conceived by Jerome Bel, many know the outlines of Duncan’s life (born 1877)—her love of ancient Greek culture, dance and men—but every few minutes, another historical nugget is polished. Supposedly Duncan choreographed over 100 dances, but only about 40 exist by virtue of the oral tradition—one that passes dances down from one body to another.

Outfitted in a filmy tunic, Isadora shocked audiences in the early 1900’s by baring her legs and dancing barefoot. If anything was made clear, it was that only Duncan had ownership over her body—nobody could tell her what to do with it, and with whom.

According to Bel and Gallant, Duncan would listen to the music first, then dance to it the second time around. Of course, the dances were set to short preludes and waltzes, but still, it’s like tasting the wine before consuming the full glass.

A producer and performer, Duncan performed throughout the world, and she opened three schools in Berlin, Moscow and Paris. They were free! Children lived at the schools, were taught dance as well as other subjects and learned how to be human. What a beautiful thought.

One of the most poignant depictions arrives when Gallant recounts the death of her 2 children in Paris. For 2 years following the loss, Duncan does not dance. For Duncan, that must’ve been like living without breathing. Finally, she returns to the stage, and performs a piece expressive of her profound loss. Gallant explains the narrative of each gesture: the mother brings a child into the universe, protects and loves it until one day she reaches out and the child is gone. At that point, she waves adieu to the child.

This was a very affecting performance that not only illuminated the simplicity and greatness of Isadora Duncan, but also proved the power of illustrating dance for an audience through a lecture demonstration format.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

September 20, 2019
George Balanchine’s majestic “Jewels” reigns over the first week of performances opening night of NYC Ballet’s brief fall season.

Elegantly expressive, Emeralds calls for fluid torso and arms gracefully framing the upper body. Particularly enchanting, Unity Phelan moves airily, calmly elongating her limbs into soft arcs of motion distinguished by the swan-like use of her elegant neck. Abbey Stafford and Ask la Cour are engaging and Amar Ramasar delivers his usual, assured and gallant performance, steeped in the romantic sweep of reminiscences.

Rather than Gabriel Faure’s sensual “Pelleas et Melisande and Shylock”, Stravinsky’s “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra” hard, jazzy chords command sharp outlines of dancers with flexed feet, arms bent at the elbows, fingers splayed. Physically demanding, the lead roles were originally interpreted by she former boxer turned ballet principal, Eddie Villella and the technical spark-plug, Patricia McBride Athletic and vibrant, Rubies demands fleet footwork and spinning top turns keenly executed by the lean Sterling Hyltin who packed her steps into bundles of energy, popping into skimming hops and cleanly etched shapes. The sharply attentive Andrew Veyette tackles his solos with a keen integrity. Driven by unanticipated plunges into spread leg, deep knee bends and frisky prances, time is speeded up against the solo piano played with gusto by Stephen Gosling.

In the final, grand Diamonds section to regal music by Tschaikovsky, Mark Stanley’s bright lights sparkle against Peter Harvey’s set design, which switches from the emerald green spider web, or ruby reds baubles to the dazzling diamonds reflected in the white costumes. A serene partner, Tyler Angle guides the gazelle-like Maria Kowroski in a gloriously expressive performance. At one point, Kowroski luminously drapes her back over Angle’s arms while he sways. As the years move forward, Ms. Kowroski finds deeper and deeper reservoirs of compassion and strength in her dancing.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

August 15, 2019
In the summer, ballet spreads out from the Lincoln Center compound to summer festivals and for three weeks, at the Joyce Theater. Ballet Festival 2019 spotlights ballet by top tier ballet professionals intent on enlarging their artistic experiences.

Kevin O’Hare, director of The Royal Ballet, was invited to curate this year’s 5th edition of the Joyce Ballet Festival. Divided into 4 programs, O’Hare shared curatorial responsibilities with Royal Ballet Principals Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson plus designer Jean-Marc Puissant.

Program A, designed by Kevin O’Hare, bulged with sparkling contributions by Sir Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan and Christopher Wheeldon. There were additional excerpts of contributions by Charlotte Edmonds, Wayne McGregor and Liam Scarlett.

In a demonstration of elegance and pathos, Ashton’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits -- performed splendidly by Joseph Sissens -- is an expansive solo that makes the space around the body feel tangible. While traveling in long, serene strides, arms generously open punctuated by pristine directional changes and an airy composure.

Known for his popular full-length ballet Romeo and Juliet Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto Pas de Deux delicately constructs an intensely guided duet between Lauren Cuthbertson and Nicole Edmonds. Built on a lyrically supported adagio, the two, seamlessly moving bodies rarely separated. Another romantic entrée, Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour Pas de Deux challenged the dancers while showing-off their finer skills.

For the grand denouement, Romany Pajdak eloquently performed Ashton’s Five Braham Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan. Simultaneously controlled and abandoned, her lithe torso led the body’s fluid expressivity, creating an airstream of terpsichorean fancy.

Program B was dominated by Maurice Bejart’s The Wayfarer exquisitely performed by David Hallberg and Joseph Gordon. Expertly paired, the two men kinetically spoke the same language, equally mastering the demanding balances and sharp pivots while buoyantly easing through space. Echoing each other’s gestures, Hallberg shadowed the younger Gordon, until they finally linked hands, and Hallberg guideed him into the darkness. A haunting duet, The Wayfarer deserves to be performed many more times in NYC.

The rest of the program displayed the prodigious talents of all the dancers through Emma Bond’s engaging large group premiere Then and Again as well as Kenneth MacMillan’s jolly dance hall caper Elite Syncopations set to jaunty Scott Joplin rags.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 25, 2019
With credits stretching across television and the musical theater community, Al Blackstone reached into his bandwidth of experiences to fashion Freddie Falls in Love, a jaunty dance story at the Joyce Theater.

Blackstone gathered an attractive cast blithely dancing their way through a simple story of love, love lost, lots of pizza, and love found.

The story drops in on a group of friends circling a couple about to be betrothed. But the “happily ever after” doesn’t materialize because the young woman, vividly portrayed by the red-haired Melanie Moore, bolts.

Before departing, Ms. Moore executes a dazzling solo of constant, insistent motion that melds darting steps into breathless turns unfolding into rubbery-back bends. Matt’s devastation triggers the adventure that takes him from America to France and back to hometown USA.

All the dancers assume various characters from goofy friends to a pizza delivery guy and French club host. There are plenty of congenial performances punctuated by a mid-production dance composed of cool strutting shaped by Jason Williams and Chantelle Good’s breezy confidence.

Central to the production is the soundtrack – a collection of imminently danceable standards from WWII to the 1990’s. Conversant in all forms of dance, Blackstone is adept at knitting together different styles to spin a tale of emotions pressured through movement.

The simple set design by David Masenheiner recombines cubicles into Lego-like structures that suggested bedrooms, bars, clubs and living rooms.

By the audience’s reaction, Freddie Falls in Love is a fine summer diversion.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 24, 2019
At some point, people started making music for dancing. This relationship was heightened in courts and temples into classical and sacred traditions. A perceived precedent of dance as dependent on music was subsequently reconsidered by John Cage’s disciples embracing silence and chance. Before, during, and after that, choreographers forged a third avenue, dynamically grappling with extant pieces rather than waiting to be composed for. Mark Morris is one. While his program for Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival features no dances to the festival’s namesake, the collection demonstrates a similar brilliance, clarity, and prodigiousness in tackling a motley crew of composers.

V is a physical sonata, following the form of Robert Schumann’s Quintet in E-flat for Piano and Strings, Op. 44. Danced motifs signal musical ones via spatially shifting, repeated movements, just as intervallic patterns sequence at different pitches into tunes. Costuming visualizes structure. Blue dancers take the exposition, and white dances the oft transposed repeat. Lines of dancers overlap in a way that repositions cabooses as fronts of new trains, mirroring the common tone-based modulations of experimental romantics. Colors mingle as themes intertwine in development, most satisfyingly when the Morris’s tilted grasps are mirrored into voracious hugs.

Similarly utilizing costuming, Empire Garden vividly dresses dancers a la Sergeant Pepper, that the eye may assist the ear in processing Charles Ives’s Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, S. 86. Groupings of bodies reflect the piece’s polytonal layers of popular music quotations. The largely cold formality of the choreography, however, keeps Ives’s wit well above our heads.

Morris’s latest, Sport, delivers Erik Satie’s humor with uncanny directness, thanks to the text and illustrations built into the manuscript. After 21 scenes, anyone with an understanding of classical music as unilaterally stuffy is proven otherwise. Each piece is paired with living tableaus of horses, canoeists, blindfolded hide and seek, and matches of tennis and golf, cartoonishly extending beyond the proscenium’s frame.

Bodies represent individuals and parts of larger organisms, such as an octopus comprised of grounded shoulders buttressing spines under centrally raised legs. Elizabeth Kurtzman’s costuming is integral; form-fitting, colorful suits are legible as uniforms or skins. Fabric is additionally multi-purposeful from boats to a death shroud. Modular physicality defines the ground as grass, or the air as water. Rolling with Satie’s jokes, Morris occasionally has his dancers vocalize, though it fails to be as wholesomely articulated.

Choreographers in this third avenue of musical relationship still fall into traps of musical dependence. Morris avoids them by constantly shifting his analogs. Bodies can be instruments, harmonic components, or sensibilities. Spacing can parallel time or structure. He freely uses the space between movements, particularly with Satie, to dissolve and reform scenarios into more intentional scoring. In doing so, dance remains autonomous as music is revealed on its own terms.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

July 23, 2019
I am no authority on August Bournonville, but our fleeting encounters, in footage and history, leave me an unwavering, if casual, admirer. In a fortunate seating accident, I watched The Bournonville Legacy at The Joyce alongside Anna Kisselgoff (former chief dance critic of the NY Times), who shared with me her knowledge of the technique and repertoire.

While helpful, it did not alter my credibility, and I have nonetheless come to the work as it was organized by Ulrik Bikkjaer – a crash course for the beginner; a greatest hits album, performed by the ones who do it best.

La Sylphide opened skipping straight to the juicy middle. Madge, a witch, is working with minions to create a diaphanous white scarf made from difficult to see, though undeniably, dank ingredients. In the role is Tobias Praetorius. Men often perform en travesti to highlight the ugliness of such characters; Praetorius remains handsome in his ragged robe. His character work is as rigorous as any variation, rousing his team and relishing the evil of his impending revenge.

Given that this selection of the Royal Danish Ballet is traveling lightly, such performative vibrancy is essential to effective storytelling. When Marcin Kupinksi, as James, chases Astrid Elbo’s Sylph, extremity in gaze and locomotion allow us to mentally conjure a sprawling forest on a stage containing but an offset, miniature tree stump.

This gender-swapped performance of preserved steps establishes the ballet as a fairytale reflection of our time. Elbo is swift; James physically cannot flirt, so he must chase this winged female egging him on with momentary breaches of personal space. When James unwittingly kills her with Madge’s scarf, the backup sylphs immediately become pallbearers as though it is to be expected that a periodic confused earthly male will wreak accidental havoc as punishment for being rude to a witch. Their world is chaotic, with unprotested senseless death within a specific community, fueled by erotic misfire. So is ours.

A Bournonville Square lightens the air with a Cunningham-esque event of non- exoticizing nods to social traditions with which Bournonville had contact – British jockeys in From Siberia to Moscow, tarantellas in Napoli, and a ménage of folk dances in The King’s Volunteers on Amager, all framing the Pas de Deux from The Kermesse in Bruges, danced by Stephanie Gundorph and Jon Fransson in unparalleled technical clarity of effervescent splendor.

This collaged pure dance marathon is ultimately made digestible by the acting. Former soloist Sorella Englund is essentially sedentary yet integral to the action, and Praetorius is sublime in his trumpet lip-synching as Napoli’s Streetsinger. Across the board, their onstage watching demands from us the same human engagement.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

July 22, 2019
Maria Kochetkova’s Catch Her if You Can shows the ballet world taking on a downtown model of working. Essentially speaking, this consists of dancers freely bouncing between multiple choreographers, making non-traditional work in collaborative relationships. The unfortunate reality is an oversaturated, factional community, bound together by a rarely realized aspiration for recognition and funding.

Kochetkova demonstrates someone at the rare intersection of excitement and boredom of prematurely peaking. This 35-year-old, Bolshoi-trained ballerina managed to hold simultaneous principal roles with the San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre while guesting all over the world. What does one do with so much accomplished, yet, even by ballet standards, so much still to physically offer? A split-bill show!

The evening runs such a qualitative gamut that the curation can be only explained as “cliquey.” These dancers and choreographers have worked together, are friends, or, at the very least, are aware of each other as contemporaries. Forsythe’s preexisting Bach Duet and David Dawson’s At the End of the Day feature Kochetkova and Sebastian Kloborg in the same collection of simultaneous windy movements that confuse the moments in largely acrobatic partnering that decide to be tender.

Marco Goecke’s Tué and Marcos Morau’s Degunino feature Drew Jacoby and Kochetkova, respectively, in intense physical involvement – Jacoby rolling off sharp gestures from her liquid spine to Monique Serf’s quivering voice, and Kotchetkova sharply folding like a pipe cleaner in the hands of an aggressive toddler.

Jacoby has a piece of her own in which she and Kochetkova, dressed like Jetsons, dance before a large hypnotic display of 3D black and white illusions. Preoccupied with being quirky, primary focus is upstaged by the secondary. The multimedia, however, reminds us of the show’s contemporary interests.

Then there’s Masha Machine, which projects Kochetkova and “non-dance” choreographer Jérôme Bel’s Facebook chat history of humorous dance commentary, footage of a young Kochetkova, and some cathartically awkward exchanges between a choreographer and a dancer who wants to try something new. She eventually takes the stage, in sweats, walking perhaps the spatial pattern of some variation, port de bras floating as she speaks of her tendency to avert her gaze in performance. That Kochetkova put herself through this is a profound example for those similarly looking to truly phase from the traditional to the experimental.

Bel is an avant garde choreographer the ballet world respects. There are others, who all have in common an already generally agreed upon greatness. Part of Kochetkova’s mission is to assist in contemporary choreographers eventually becoming the greats of their time. Bel (and Forsythe) doesn’t need to worry about that. For the rest, the work just needs to be better.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

July 17, 2019
From the first thud of his sneaker, you are primed to the limitless potential of Savion Glover’s feet. In introducing LADY 5 @ SAViON GLoVER’s BARoQUE’BLAK TaP Café, he speaks chummily to Joyce patrons between verses of what feels like an air, until a shuffling hi-hat pattern cracks a window into an unceasingly rhythmic subconscious.

Rhythm is Glover’s genius. He avoids choreographic intricacy, seemingly standing still amid rapid syncopations produced by straightforward shuffles, flaps, and stamps. It is in his unconventional laying of these steps onto familiar musical meters in infinitesimal subdivisions and brain-busting polyrhythms that the tapper maintains both untouchable virtuosity and neighborly accessibility.

It’s even better with friends. Alongside Marshall Davis, Jr. and Jeffry Foote, Glover forms an incorruptible membrane of rhythmic patterning, the spaces through which corresponding musical selections freely seep. Two will ground down to hold up a soloist, running the gamut of articulations from sprawling saxophone phraseology to the wild freedom of the timbales. Together, they expand our capacity to trust in the eventual resynchronization of long forays into interlocking counterpoint.

Still, even tasteful virtuosity does not a storyteller make. Despite communicative potency in Glover’s jazz approach to tap, he sits dramaturgically in limbo between its traditional use as theatrical enhancement, and the potential for the form to truly speak.

In his preshow, Glover explains the show’s intent to put on and remove masks. Baroque costuming scattered throughout the set anticipates anti-colonial takes on appropriation, exoticism, and minstrelsy. We sort of get it at the beginning; dense foot patterns not only fill but seem to pry open the spaces within a collection of accordion solos, many of which utilizes hemiolas, among other European rhythmic tendencies.

Then costumes suddenly shed, music shifts to R & B and we lose that established reciprocal gap filling as selections become more customarily syncopated. Masks proceed to go un-dealt with, from a punchline pair of light-up sneakers to actually dressing the one white performer in momentary blackface.

Additionally confounding is the inclusion of four women and one periodic man on whom the tappers rely for breaks and sex appeal. They are competent jazz dancers but proportionally hold no candle to their hooved counterparts. Taking no cues from what made the tapping so successful, they redundantly dance on beat and, overlooking the inherent theatricality of pure dance, cast jazz as decoratively female while tap asserts itself as shamelessly male.

When contribution to timely conversation carelessly rests on some assumed correctness, the participants actually doing the work must work all the harder to steer the conversation back on track. An attempted subversion of racial status quo dissolved into a celebration of patriarchal heteronormativity, when all Glover had to do to was move his feet.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

June 17, 2019
Last weekend, Paul Taylor’s Company co-celebrated the Orchestra of St. Luke’s 2019 Bach Festival. The predominantly mature audience indulged in the company’s elegant space-carving athleticism embellishing the masterful orchestral performance.

In Junction, the polychromatic compositions of dancers in unitards complimented the robust simplicity of Bach’s excerpts of Solo Suites for Cello no. 1 and No. 4, eloquently interpreted by Myron Lutzke, and counterbalanced Taylor’s abstract, pensive choreographic proposal. Junction’s narratives were conveyed through a series of constructing and de-constructing compositions, created by bodies building structures in space like human lego blocks. Taylor’s scenic choreographic dialogue of swirling rotating shoulder to arm gestures and contained weighted carving shapes was contrasted by the exploration of his minimalistic unanimated statements.

Last weekend, Paul Taylor’s Company co-celebrated the Orchestra of St. Luke’s 2019 Bach Festival. The predominantly mature audience indulged in the Company’s elegant space-carving athleticism embellishing the masterful orchestral performance.

Acclaimed contemporary dance choreographer, Pam Tanowitz's All at Once invested in a dialogue of vertical angular thematic reiterations. Accompanying the score for Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor and Oboe Sonata in G Minor, the company issued reflective, indirect, contained movement phrases throughout the work. The unitard costumes enlivened the stage with their aqua tones of light green and pale blue hues covered in white transparent veils. Commissioned in part by Teresa and Douglas Peterson, Tanowitz created this interesting, recitative modern work. As the piece progressed, a series of groupings interchanged within a prevailing staccato vocabulary. Abundant parallel sissonnes were framed by arms in 1st position, and temps levés in sturdy third arabesque were counterbalanced by spiraling attitudes en tournant within Carlo Blassis’ aesthetic.

Tayor's Promethean Fire, choreographed as a reaction to the destruction of New York’s twin towers, conveyed a sense of triumphant harmony resurgent from the ashes of struggle. A constant flow of interweaving circles alternated with shuffling parallel lines of dancers, merging into architectonically mounds of overlapping bodies. Taylor’s poignant musicality dynamically highlighted the accentuation of the orchestra’s crescendos, vividly painting instrumental cannons on stage, and encasing grave tones through powerful gestures. Especially captivating in this work was Taylor’s coiling lifts, and intrepid running fouetées caught in mid-air. Paul Taylor’s rampant choreographic statements left the audience breathless with Promethean Fire’s visceral cry, enlarged by the burning red atmosphere designed by Jennifer Tipton, which enhanced Bach’s compelling Toccata & Fugue in D Minor orchestrated by Leopold Stokowski.

June 16, 2019
The transfer of leadership has begun at PTAMD and Michael Novak, the newly appointed artistic director succeeding the late Paul Taylor, is off to a good start. The company is dancing as part of the Orchestra of St. Luke's (OSL) Bach festival, presenting all six dances Taylor created to Bach’s music. This programming is also a declaration of Novak’s intention to mine the company’s rich history, positioning the company as an important steward of classic American modern dance, while moving it forward with new commissions.

Tuesday night’s program opened with Taylor’s Musical Offering (1986) to Bach’s Das Musikalische Opfer, BWV 1079, orchestrated by Anton Webern and Michael Beyer. A curious work with a simplified movement vocabulary and a somewhat limited range of motion, the dancers worked with a spatial restraint that seemed unusual for Taylor. Inspired by wood sculptures from New Guinea, its stiff, side to side rocking bodies and angled arm positions with flat palms belatedly inserted Taylor into a long history of Western choreographers and artists who have appropriated “archaic” form from other cultures to explore their own. The costumes by Gene Moore have an outdated “Tarzan” look, presumably to match the “primitive” movement. I wonder if Taylor had been aware of the art historical controversy that exploded over MoMA’s exhibit “Primitivism in 20th Century Art” just a few years before the premiere of this work.

Either way, this dance’s abstraction of visual art into movement was reminiscent of dances from Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun (1913) to Jerome Robbins’ Antique Epigraphs (1984), as it created a different world from those, where a community simultaneously celebrated and mourned a young woman’s imminent death. Yet the stilted beginning gave way to something more spectacular, embedded deep within the structure of the work. Toward the end, veteran leading dancer Michael Trusnovec, who is retiring after this season, danced a solo with such exquisite artistry, technical precision, and intent, that suddenly we understood Taylor’s movement, the logic behind it, and the beauty in it, even in this constricted form. Through Trusnovec’s dancing, Musical Offering went from an unusual exercise to that place were dance outdoes words.

The program closed with Taylor’s masterpiece Esplanade (1975) to the Violin Concerto in E major and sections from the Double Concerto for Two Violins in D minor. It slowly built to its unforgettable finale, where the speed and daring of the dancers as they run, jump, roll, and catch each other make for an exhilarating closer. One eventually gets used to the costumes in shades of bright orange (brighter than usual?), becoming absorbed in the patterns and fearlessness of the dancers. The last two movements, which are danced to the same music as Balanchine’s iconic Concerto Barocco (1941), demonstrated a true feat of a great choreographer: through the force of his own vision, Taylor completely remade the indelible images some of us associate with this epochal music, giving us another possibility, and a superlative gift.
EYE ON THE ARS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

June 4, 2019
The Limon Dance Company presented four works at the Joyce this week, in a well-curated program that included Limon masterworks alongside new works. This simple formula satisfies everyone who wants to see dancers embody their history but also challenged in new and different ways.

Artistic director Colin Connor’s The Weather in the Room opened the program with an “intergenerational” cast that included veteran dancers and teachers Miki Ohara and Stephen Pier (formerly with Martha Graham and Limon companies, respectively). Dressed in casual cocktail wear by Krista Dowson, they faced each other and interacted with big arm gestures, spiraling spines, and dynamic drops (clearly related to Limon’s technique) while evoking a wide range of emotions that belong to a couple that has weathered years of being together. Three young couples walk, sometimes standing still and observing, sometimes dancing around them with an energy that suggests the older couple’s past is still within them.

There are few dance masterpieces with as powerful a narrative and dramatic force distilled to its heart-breaking essence as Limon’s The Moor’s Pavane (1949). Based on Shakespeare’s Othello, a cast of four dancers moves between the public and private spheres, building a tale of jealously, deception and cruelty that methodically brings us to its horrific conclusion. Jacqueline Bulnes as His Friend’s Wife and Savannah Spratt as The Moor’s Wife were both charming and displayed their differences in character through the bend of the torsos: Spratt’s extreme range of her head conveyed Desdemona’s delicate innocence to the extreme, while Bulnes expressed both Emilia’s spunk and grief with her whole being. Mark Willis was too lightweight as The Moor; each gesture needed to rise more from deep inside his core, and he could have been heavier and more grounded in his movements. Jesse Obremski was effective as a sly and compelling Iago.

Francesca Harper’s Radical Beasts in the Forest of Possibilities” (world premiere), created in collaboration with the dancers, showed how work created on the dancers themselves gives them an opportunity to shine. A young Asian woman with bangs killed it with a dynamic and forceful swirling solo; others clearly enjoyed the freedom of this kind of work. Best of all, the music composed by Nona Hendryx (on piano and computer) was played live by her.

“Psalm” (1967) excerpts are always an appropriately sweeping and grand finale to any Limon evenings. The fervor of the music and dancing, especially by The Just Man, danced by David Glista, has an inevitably inspirational feel. Yet this staging seemed a bit muted, perhaps by the small size of the Joyce stage. Having seen it recently with live orchestra, I missed the power of the music propelling the dancers’ fervor. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see this kind of drama and emotion onstage, when so much of today’s contemporary choreographer lacks gut-felt force and unabashed humanity that is essential in Limon’s work.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

June 3, 2019
The Theatre at St. Jeans housed Alessandra Corona Performing Works featuring Just Joy, Interaction, and W2! (Women Too!). The Italian founding director and dancer in her company proudly welcomed an intimate audience graced by dance colleagues and friends such as renown choreographer Pedro Ruiz, with whom Corona had partnered years ago in Ballet Hispánico’s company.

Alessandra Corona’s production philosophy fosters the interaction of European and American multidisciplinary artistic initiatives, welcoming dancers and choreographers from both continents to join in the creative process of her repertoire. She actively incorporates voice, song, audiovisuals, and abundant narrative gestures into her dances.

The evening’s opening number restated the potential of dance as a tool for advocacy. Denouncing the status quo perpetuating gender roles through history, Paris Lewis intertwined contemporary choreography, recitatie, and opeartic songs against the Baroque music. As explained by W2!’s choreographer, Manuel Vignoulle, his proposal emphasizes “how women have struggled to accomplish recognition, and how men have been influenced by women’s attitudes.”

Unfortunately, on July’s 2nd performance, the noble intentions of the work were slightly tarnished by technical mishaps in the venue’s lighting logistics and costumes. After an initial moment of silence in the darkness, the red curtain unveiled a quartet of women dressed in black corset tops and plain long black skirts gathered around a tall while armchair. As the choreography evolved, four men dressed in black pants and casual black suits joined the women onstage in a dialogue of gestures and movement phrases. The piece progressed through a series of partnering interactions with the women and men going through a gradual transformation assuming opposite stereotyped gender roles while scattering and reuniting around the white armchair. The work climaxed as Parris climbed up the armchair while the cast lifted it high in the air promenading her through the stage, concluding in a sculptured ensemble composition surrounding the armchair.

The seamless transition between Jost Joy and InnerAction made the two works appear as a longer unit. Both pieces, created by Guido Tuveri and the company, explored the stages of life and relationships “without emotional barriers” respectively. The storyline opened as a male trio mirrored a female. Both engaged in an antagonistic struggle to reach the other group - the leading male dancer held by the firm grasp of his group partners, while the female lead was restricted by her fellow dancers pulling the draping laces in her costume.

Alessandra’s release set in motion a series of choreographic partner encounters flipping through moods and themes created by the music choices and continuous costume changes. As the piece progressed, elegant silhouettes oscillating from playful softness to cold sharpness were traced on the stage against the projection of a series of images from The Rose by award-winning Italian Film Director, Giovanni Coda. It culminated in a pyramidal formation placing Alessandra Corona at the apex.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

May 19, 2019
Absolutely remarkable! Celebrating New York Dance Project’s second year, Davis Robertson, Co- Founder and Artistic Director, and Nicole Duffy Robertson, Co-Founder and Associate Artistic Director, showcased a series of choreographic treasures from America’s unique dance scene at Symphony Space on May 13, 2019.

Curated by both directors, former Joffrey dancers and répétiteurs for The Gerald Arpino Foundation, the program titled “Beyond Ballet” offered a gamut of styles ranging from Bournonville’s Romantic ballet to neoclassical repertoire, as well as post-neoclassical and contemporary dance works created for their company.

With a commitment to artistry surpassing any expectation, the program was embellished through an array of fine and audacious dancers demonstrating a profound investment in the style and choreographic intention of each signature choreographer. From the breathless delicate grace expressed in Napoli’s Romanticism to the rampant ground-shaking afro-contemporary Battlefield, the audience erupted in a mix of gasps and shouts of praise.

The evening was graced by the elegant chivalry displayed by guest artist, Joaquin de Luz, New York City Ballet Principal dancer and upcoming director of Spain’s Compañía Nacional de Danza, whose appointment will start this summer.

The program opened on the cutting-edge slick Sonnaufgang (Sunrise - 2019), choreographed by Davis Robertson with music by Joseph Haydn, exploring the musical motifs of unpredictability, conflict, and harmony resolved through defiant contemporary dynamism within a post-neoclassical ballet aesthetic.

Robert Joffrey’s Gamelan (Excerpts - 1963), dormant since its 1968 revival, was welcomed back. His harmonious compositions were enlivened by Maria Gabriela Perez Quintero in the role of the Warrior Goddess, and the delicate trio of The Bird, The Wind and The Hunter, performed by Brittany Larrimer, Joseph Peñaloza, and Ivan Tocchetti respectively.

Work in Progress drafted shape-flow-bold trio compositions by Dwight Rhoden, Founding Artistic Director/resident choreographer of Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

The dance community happily celebrated Nicole Duffy’s restaging of one of the most popular works by Gerald Arpino, Birthday Variations (1986), a work created to Giuseppe Verdi’s score commissioned as a gift to the Chicago Opera House owner. Embellished with costumes designed by Stanley Simmone the versatile ballerina quintet comprised Megan Foley, Cheyenne Fitzsimons, Maria Gabriela Perez Quintero, Jenna Torgeson, Ashley Eleby, and Francesca Kraszewski was supported by Steven Scarduzio’s elegant partnering.

After a brief pause, A Suite of Dances (1994) paid tribute to the chameleonic choreographic talents of Jerome Robbins. The three variations honored Bach’s emotive solo cello suite composition, masterfully interpreted by NYCB former Principal, Joaquín de Luz, in alliance with the solemn performance of internationally respected cellist Sujin Lee. Each suite evolved as a heart to heart conversation between Joaquín’s pensive pizzazz, Sujin’s melodic embroidery, and each patron.

Peace Piece (2018) shifted the evening’s tone with a contemporary work collaboratively choreographed by Tyler Gilstrap and the cast’s dancers. Soloist, Ivan Tocchetti, eloquently melded rich movement qualities against the conglomerating the corps as they morphed through contrasting jazz tones from Bill Evans’ album “Everybody Digs Bill” and the interjected percussive beat by Chemical Brothers.

Delightfully, the company’s youngest talent, Francesca Kraszewski, brought to life August Bournonville’s Napoli (1821) which relays the story of a young Italian girl in love, admirably conveying the beautiful aesthetic essence of Denmark’s ballet legacy.

Robert Battle’s Battlefield (2001), a contemporary choreographic uproar amazed everyone. Thoroughly invested in the piece, the dancers unleashed earthy African and Caribbean movement references. It was amazing to witness the young company’s versatility, commitment, and stamina as they concluded their second evening’s back to back program.

A remarkable amount of artistic investment fueled the NYDP pushing forward our rich ballet and modern dance heritage. Certainly, the transcendence of their work will endorse the future legacy of the dancers who embellish their vision. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

May 12, 2019
Mark Morris and the Beatles sounds like an interesting combination, and it is… but in Pepperland, not the way one imagined. In 2017 the City of Liverpool commissioned MMDG to create an evening length work celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Sgt. Pepper album and Morris enlisted jazz composer Ethan Iverson to reinterpret six Beatles classics.

Using voice, theremin, soprano sax, trombone, piano keyboard and percussion, Iverson composed a “Pepper-inspired” original score that illuminates the LP’s broad-ranging roots (including vaudeville, classical, jazz, avant garde and blues). The result is a different musical experience that will disappoint if you are expecting to hear the Beatles themselves. Unfortunately, the sparse, brainy score inspired a lukewarm collection of group dances, duets, endless entrances and exits that, to quote the Beatles’ Nowhere Man, “doesn't have a point of view, knows not where he's going to…”

A promising beginning has a group of dancers in a clump, slowly walking backwards as if unraveling back into time. The costumes by Elizabeth Kurtman in bright, bold cartoonish color combinations (hot pink pants, yellow shoes, turquoise suits) recalled the LP cover and Morris’ Act I of The Hard Nut. Each dancer is introduced as a character from the 60s, or not: Marylin Monroe, Oscar Wilde, Shirley Temple, Ringo… This sets up the audience for some sort of narrative that never materializes.

Two men dance together, heterosexual couples dance together, two women dance together, they dance alone, and in unison, in an eclectic mix of ballet, pop, modern, and a hint of Indian dance. We see the Charleston, balletic lifts, yoga poses, neat patterns, and it’s all very sedate. Even the cool space-age set of aluminum rocks lining the back by Johan Henckens and excellent lighting by Nick Kollin couldn’t take the edge off dull.

Each section is well-crafted, but there is no moment where we feel a shot of adrenaline or much of anything. In one sequence the dancers execute a sideways “assemble” jump with both legs together in the air, and by doing it in different directions and in the same angle created a visually invigorating moment where everyone seems to fly, even though spatially constricted. But for the most part, the dancing seemed secondary to the dissonant extensions of the score, turning what could have been an exhilarating evening into one of polite dancing.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

collective terrain/s
May 12, 2019
There is nothing that St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery cannot frame into a heightened beauty. Considering all the work presented through Danspace Project that enjoy this luxury, it is all the more refreshing to see pieces that not only remind us of the sanctuary’s beauty just as well, but that also sequence together in a cohesive evening of multiple voices.

Drawing on a shared mission of researching embodied sound beyond the limitations of language, collective terrain/s has no problem achieving this sort of programmatic unity. It is instead all the more impressive that two choreographers in the same circle craft distinct uses of shared ingredients.

Tatyana Tenenbaum’s Tidal builds slowly, but in a way that is trustworthy in the direction of its progression. One performer sings the word “circumstance” on loop, carving arms that ease the body into rotation. Six others trickle in, filling the silence between the motif’s iterations with a harmonic cycle that enters warmly, tightens in tension, and releases. In repeating, words become more recognizable – right, here, now – along with phrases that speak of feeling and knowing – a dwelling meditation on any one experience of the present. Movement is casual in presentation, switching between gestures and footwork. Isolated, the elements are simple, but, coordinated, the material requires an unfettered focus in execution.

you think you fancy gathers a larger ensemble, unified in black sisterhood. Director Jasmine Hearn is able to keep herself and her cast busy while directing eyes and ears to focal points that rise and recede into a texture of glittery fabric that connotes southern church attire, inner city discount clothing, and the channeling we perform of our favorite divas within whatever means we have. Movement is more rigorous and varied, and sound wafts more freely on the lower and upper levels of the sanctuary.

Cutting through hazes of echoed snaps and collective sing-alongs are direct monologues spoken through two microphones. Utilizing stereotype to address larger issues, one explains that black girls must indeed be able to run fast so that they can escape mistreatment. Still, each of these moments returns to a thick, celebratory stew of experiential translations, held up and fortified from within.

Tenenbaum’s abstraction is driven by tightly constructed vocals, while Hearn utilizes more collage-based techniques to specifically represent her community. This contrast of form to subject matter between the two manifests in lighting as well, with lamps, both hand-held and swung from above, limiting who in Tidal is visible. Alternatively, you think you fancy fills St. Mark’s with splashes and beams of color, as well as periodic video projections on the ceiling that keep the space constantly shifting in scope. Both seat their audience in particular formations so the works wash over us, leaving us damp in contemplation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 9, 2019
The sound of rushing water and a gigantic, suspended ring hit us right off the bat when the curtain went up on Australian Dance Theatre's evening-long work titled The Beginning of Nature, conceived and directed by ADT’s artistic director Garry Stewart. Inspired by the rhythms of nature, this work conveys both its unpredictability and violence, with a group of dancers with phenomenal strength and agility. This was “physical dance theater,” at its best and most extreme.

ADT’s dancers are a formidable group with big, strong, muscular bodies we are not used to seeing on concert dance stages. They wore canvas-like short, loose dresses by Davis Browne that allowed their flexible, acrobatic, nimble and stunning floor work to seamlessly blend with undulating arms, predatory backbends, squats, bridges and brief spins on heads that seem to come out of nowhere. The dancers embodied animalistic, primal movements – at one point, two dancers hunched over a third dancer lying on the ground and picked up his limbs with their teeth – at other times, they were invisible carriers of nature, literally moving large green branch-like sticks around the stage. Both the men and women used their long, wild hair as part of the choreography, flinging it around as they moved, whether with aggression or tenderness.

The music by Brendan Woithe created an atmosphere that evoked “day and night, the seasons, the tides,” and included recorded strings by the Zephyr Quartet. A voice speaking in Kaurna, a 60,000 year-old indigenous language of the Adelaide plains, recently reconstructed with the help of journals by two German missionaries, completed the score. The gorgeous lighting by Daniel Voss, with its down pools and gradually shifting colors, together with the large ring that hovers assymetrically over the stage, ironically gave a futuristic look to the whole endeavor.

A long, wrenching solo by a very masculine, sweaty dancer with long black hair ended with him lying on the floor, and the relief was palpable when a young woman poured water into his mouth from a conch shell. At that point – not knowing this was supposed to be “the beginning” – I thought we were witnessing the inexorable destruction of global warming: It seems the end might be very much like the beginning.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

May 7, 2019
I have never been to a rave, but I imagine it might turn into something like what Lucy Guerin and Gideon Obarzanek conceived of when making ATTRACTOR: “a unique music/dance ritual.” A group work with dancers from Dancenorth Australia and Lucy Guerin Inc., and accompanied by the Indonesian music duo Senyawa, ATTRACTOR also included audience participation in a semi-improvised way.

The result was an energizing mix of high intensity skill and high intensity demand for attention, from both performers and audience. The music, a score that sometimes sounded to Western ears like electrified animal screeches or indigestion, along with loud reinterpretations of metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, kept the audience (some with earplugs) in a heightened state of… awareness.

The musicians sat centerstage with two microphones, lit from above, with the dancers in chairs arranged in a semicircle around them like at a campfire (sometimes drinking from water bottles in between sections). They broke out into solos, duos and group work with a highly structured improvised quality. A tall blonde woman with mesmerizing liquid isolations and animal-like movements led the group into a volatile sections of seemingly endless thrashing.

Wild falls to the floor and rolls mixed in with unison breath and movement, embodied the creators’ vision of “succumbing to the inherent power of music and dance.” Audience members joined them on the stage, and it was fun to watch all the different bodies, outfits, and levels of skill – “unrehearsed” but uncannily capable of moving together in the same direction, on the same leg and in clear patterns. This was very impressive, until we learned the amateurs were being directed through earbuds. Nonetheless, the non-cast members convincingly joined in the ritual, turning a wild event into well-organized shared experience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY--Nicole Duffy Robertson

May 5, 2019
Damsels in flowing gowns and gentleman in creased tuxes lined the red carpet leading to the 2019 New York City Ballet Gala. With glasses of champagne in hand, the guests merged into the cocktail reception on a lovely spring evening.

Stepping in front of the curtain, Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan, the ballet’s newly appointed Artistic Director and Associate Artistic Director, welcomed the audience to the evening’s offerings and the future of NYC Ballet.

Founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, NYC Ballet closed the evening with Balanchine’s grand Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3, impressively guided by Megan Fairchild and opened the festivities with two premieres by Justin Peck (Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor) and a very active, Pam Tanowitz.

Unlike other Spring Galas that linked couture designers with choreographers, this year both Tanowitz and Peck were paired with costume designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung.

In Tanowitz’s Bartok Ballet the excellent Flux Quartet was seated on the side of the stage. Modeled on the post-modern ballet forms reminiscent of Merce Cunningham, Tanowitz’s brainy, clean choreography included witty gestures and unexpected body combinations.

Actively utilizing the full stage, dancers dipped into the floor and then headed skyward. They stretched across the foreground like human ribbons only to cross-fade into the background against groups of task-oriented dancers occupying various corners of the stage. Dressed in sheer charcoal tops and short-shorts, the first group of dancers merged into a second layer decked in shiny gold leotards.

In counter-point to the severe ballet positions and parallel stances came jaunty unison moves that broke into hop-skips and deep knee drops. Dancers’ backs faced the audience and odd counterparts, like a person rocking on the floor, framed iconic ballet poses.

A new aesthetic for the NYC Ballet, the dancers were a bit hesitant, showing the joints of connective choreographic tissue. Not unlike other choreographers, Tanowitz re-constitutes sequences from previous ballets. This is understandable, but in this case it suggested a rushed creativity.

In contrast to Tanowitz’s studied ballet, Justin Peck unleashed a dreamily lyrical piece that floated through soft lighting and chiffon-like skirts. Bright eased open on the musically gracious Sara Mearns, instantly perfuming the air with a nostalgia that embraced the rest of the impressive cast: Emilie Gerrity, Sara Adams, Gilbert Bolden III, Russell Janzen, and Andrew Scordato. Smooth glides traced the floor while arms and legs unfolded against expansive backs and lifted torsos. Couples played against one another and traded positions in the lingering dusk that left the audience way too early.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

May 2, 2019
New York City Ballet breaks open the Spring Season with its much-anticipated Spring Gala on May 2. This gala stands as one of the most anticipated in the dance world because it features the new works of young choreographers coupled to major designers. This season the compliment of dance creators includes Justin Peck and Pam Tanowitz.

The season happily swings from George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, to the young Turks, There’s always something pleasurable about linking the roots of NYCB and the growth of ballet in America back to Russia through contemporary choreographers like Alexei Ratmansky.

Tanowitz’s premiere is set to Béla Bart?k’s String Quartet No. 5 and features 10 dancers, with costumes designed by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung and lighting by NYCB’s Director of Lighting Mark Stanley. NYCB Resident Choreographer Justin Peck’s premiere is set to a score by Mark Danciger’s “The Bright Morion: II for six dancers costumed by Bartelme and Young with lighting by Brandon Stirling Baker.

The Gala evening is topped off by Balanchine’s timeless “Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3” and the usual glittery dinner.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

ABT Studio Company
April 26, 2019
Talent is growing in American Ballet Theater’s Studio Company headed by Shascha Radetsky. Well rehearsed and enthusiastic, the dancers executed complicated choreography with youthful zing.

The opening night show at the Joyce Theater opened with Balanchine’s animated conversation between a male and female dancer in Tarantella.Tapping tambourines while whipping off turns and multiple leaps, the dancers flew across the stage. Melvin Lawovi, an impressive dancer, proved both technically adept and comfortable partnering the engaging Kanon Kimura.

Two premiers appeared in the repertory:The First Star of the Night by Ma Cong to a dreamy, muzak score by Ezio Bosso, and Overtureby Ethan Stiefel to Beethoven.

Both injected a fresh approach to the ballet vocabulary with Stiefel taking a witty, cock-eyed view of ballerinas. When Overture opens, two tipsy ballerinas are held sideways in a silhouetted tableaux. Stiefel injects a bit of wit in the choreography, but it works best when there’s not an obvious play for laughs like the bent "chicken" arms reminiscent of an old, signature Walter Brennan move.

Ms. Cong’s On The First Star Of The Night demonstrated a strong sense of dance architecture. Dressed In black, and wearing soft slippers, the dancers dipped into the floor, and formed inventive groupings, contrasting the foreground to the background. She’s a choreographer to watch.

Another active choreographer, Gemma Bond’s Interchangeable Text to Phillip Glass’s silky score crafted an effortless ballet built on the company's (12 dancers) many strengths.

For the final selection, two dynamic dancers took charge of the Don Quixote leads: Kitri—(the delicious Chloe Misseldine) and her suitor Basiilo (Joseph Markey). “Flower Girls” Leah Baylin and Kanon Kimura jauntily flew on and off stage while Misseldine and Markey performed promising many good things to come.

April 24, 2019
Every year, the Grand Defilé of the Youth America Grand Prix brings together a cast of over one hundred dancers (the New York City finalists of this popular competition) to dance in symmetrical formations with some solo fireworks in between, marking the true highlight of the evening. Things were no different on the 20th Anniversary Gala of YAGP, where many dance luminaries performed well-known excerpts and a few premieres. The young dancers make us smile; the Stars of Today make us wish to see them in a different context.

Indiana Woodward and Taylor Stanley performed Balanchine’s Tarantella with the right tongue-in-cheek quality and easily tossed off the technical steps and fun rhythms. Excerpts of Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated (with Ekaterina Kondaurova and Konstantin Zverev of the Mariinsky) and Manon (ABT’s Cory Stearns and Hee Seo) made us want to see more; Olga Smirnova (Bolshoi) and Kimin Kim (Mariinsky), made the audience gasp with his breathtakingly suspended big jumps. Catherine Hurlin of ABT and Denys Drozdyuk managed to somewhat sizzle in Paso Doble, and the Joffrey’s Fabrice Calmels and Lucia Lacarra of Victor Ullate Ballet gave a slightly cool rendition of Gerald Arpino’s usually hot Light Rain duet, hampered by the final blackout happening before it was over, depriving the audience of its cheeky and unforgettable ending.

Two world premieres were unsuccessful in different ways: Melanie Hamrick’s Porte Rouge, to music by the Rolling Stones, was unsavable, even with a stellar cast that included Herman Cornejo and Daniel Ulbright. An embarrassing stab at capitalizing on Mick Jagger’s star power – with lots of head rolls, backbends, smoke and spotlights – it lay bare the perils of an inexperienced choreographer under pressure. The duet Nothing Left was choreographed by Juliano Nunes, who danced with Derek Dunn. Male duets are no longer edgy in ballet; these two gorgeous dancers needed to say more.

The strangest excerpt of the evening was the sublime Olga Smirnova (Bolshoi) dancing Fokine’s classic Dying Swan solo, but with Calvin Royal III (ABT) dancing around her, shirtless and in white tights, in a more contemporary manner: a friend likened it to someone photo-bombing her performance. With all the work that needs to be done with ballet and race, the pairing of an African-American male dancer and a white female dancer in this iconic work was perplexing because the point was far from clear. They did not seem equals nor did they relate to each other. What was he doing there? There was an imbalance of power: her choreography is iconic, and she paid no attention to him; his material seemed secondary and subservient. Unfortunately, none of this seemed to occur to anyone, and no one was credited for the idea.

Luckily, Zoe Anderson blasted through David Parson’s iconic contemporary solo Caught, bringing the house down with her fierce body, movement, stamina: caught in flight, or gliding across the stage like a ghost, she nailed this brilliant work of power, weightlessness, and illusion. Film clips throughout the evening reminded us that YAGP inspires, gives opportunity, and promotes dance. And although sometimes it seems scrappily put together, it’s all for the greater good.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 19, 2019
Dance Theatre of Harlem – a beloved dance company with an important history -- is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. Founded by Arthur Mitchell, once a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet who passed away just last year, and his mentor Karel Shook, DTH was formed with an explicit mission: to showcase black ballet dancers and to be “a beacon of hope for the youth in the underprivileged neighborhood where Mitchell grew up.” Throughout its history, DTH has more than succeeded on both counts, and the question now is, “Where is DTH headed?”

Artistic Director Virginia Johnson has kept some DTH traditions, while expanding the repertory towards more contemporary ballet. In Nyman String Quartet #2 (2019), longtime resident company choreographer Robert Garland created a playful opener where dancers grooved in unison in simple patterns, at times breaking out into solos with fierce petit allegros and other short balletic sequences (including quotes from Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco). The dancers smoothly and casually transitioned from balletic to “current” and back, dressed in gendered blue gym shorts and pink short dresses by Pamela Allen-Cummings, setting a celebratory tone of the evening.

This would have worked better if it had not been followed on the program by Anabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Balamouk (2018) to percussive music by Les Yeux Noirs, Lisa Gerrard, and Rene Aubrey. A similar blend of fierce ballet technique (double fouette turns out of nowhere) and more contemporary moves, ironically limited rather than expanded our sense of what these dancers can really do. The fact that the fabulous Da’Von Doane was featured in both doesn’t help.

Ochoa’s works are always beautifully crafted, she understands pacing, building, and effect of indelible imagery: Balamouk ends with the fiery Ingrid Silva in the corner, boureeing on the tips of her toes like the Dying Swan, as she had done earlier, before being swept up into a series of lifts. But this time she’s abandoned by the group, which morphs and moves to exit in the opposite direction. It’s still unclear what this dance and the dancers were really about – it can’t just be that they’re capable of cool – we already knew that.

A montage film about Arthur Mitchell, featuring young dancers of the DTH school made clear the incontrovertible impact of his vision. A “re-imagined version” of his ballet Tones (1971), titled Tones II (2019), followed the film. Mitchell personally coached the current dancers in the work, a fact that cannot be underestimated in terms of its value for DTH, its dancers and their shared history. Mitchell was most demanding of them in terms of ballet: clear, clean balletic technique, line, and partnering required. They danced in silver unitards that don’t hide anything (a 1970s staple), with a starry sky in the background, to the music of Cuban composer Tania Leon. A lovely central pas de deux elevated the whole evening. But questions lingered… the dancers seemed uncomfortable at times. I missed seeing the DTH dancers slay some Balanchine, or even a 19th century excerpt. Why only on opening night?

Few finales can top Geoffrey Holder’s Dougla (1974), a spellbinding hybrid work with gorgeous costumes, choreography AND music by Holder himself. Holder’s roots in Trinidad (and perhaps his time in Hollywood) gave the impetus for creating a ballet that celebrates life, dance and the uplifting and powerful effects of syncretic art – in this case African and East Indian (Dougla) culture. Holder deftly and beautifully blended ballet with his memories of African and East Indian dance and rituals into a whole that celebrated what can happen when “people can come together.” May it continue to be so, even in our cynical and divisive times.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 12, 2019
Ballet West’s premiere of John Cranko’s Onegin was a sumptuous, breathtaking and emotionally wrenching epic journey that confirmed the company’s international stature through the quality of the dancing, the richly and convincingly embodied characters, and the sheer beauty of the production. Artistic Director Adam Sklute has shown, once again, his ability to marry his knowledge of ballet history and repertoire to the capabilities of his fine dancers.

Cranko’s masterful interpretation of Alexander Pushkin’s 19th-century verse novel is distilled into three acts and danced to an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s orchestral repertory, rather than his well-known opera. The story is revealed in numerous ways – through the indelible force of Cranko’s choreography for the Russian countryside gentry – in one unforgettable sequence, Tatiana’s birthday celebration erupts into a dazzling tsuami of couples flying from one side of the stage to the other, the women lifted in a rapid-fire sequence of split jumps, to more subtle and emotionally charged ways: disdain expressed in full force, with the mere tilt of a head and a brutal lack of eye contact.

The motif of the mirror as revelatory of love – that may or may not exist – takes a special poignancy in the moment when Onegin steps through the space of her reflection, seen only a moment before. A dream sequence followed, a passionate duet with Cranko’s signature eye-popping lifts that travel with urgency around the stage, spiraling to the ground and back, full of desire and promise.

Aarolyn Williams was an exquisite Tatiana, soft and starry-eyed when she first met Onegin, heart-breakingly vulnerable when rebuffed, then regal and self-assured during her encounter with Onegin years later. Rex Tilton was born to be Onegin – tall, handsome, with a square jaw and a steely aloofness that read easily with a slight turn of his head or a lift of his chin. Jenna Rae Herrera and Joshua Shutkind as Olga and Lensky – two dancers to watch – danced with an infectious joy, well-contrasted to the protagonists’ melancholy.

The corps de ballet was well-rehearsed and clearly enjoying the sweep of Cranko’s material for them. In the last scene, Williams punctured our hearts, as she tortured over what could have been, what could happen now, and the clear wisdom and finality of her choice to preserve her marriage and her dignity: the unspoken brutality of Pushkin’s words, embodied and realized to the rafters.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 12, 2019
When Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, Arthur Mitchell, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, turned on his heels and ran in a startling new direction. With George Balanchine’s blessings, Mitchell and Karel Shook founded a school and then a ballet company for African American dancers. Armed with free access to a number of Balanchine’s ballets, Mitchell’s dream came true.

This year, the Dance Theatre of Harlem is celebrating their 50th year anniversary at City Center and venues across the nation. Elegantly dressed in a long black gown, Virginia Johnson—Mitchell’s former star ballerina and current Artistic Director – welcomed the gala audience and paid tribute to Mitchell who passed September 2018. The great actress and friend of Mitchell, Cecily Tyson in a glorious silver gown, regaled the audience with a rich description of how committed Mitchell was to making change in the world of ballet and universe.

When the dancing began, the audience was treated to a collection of excerpts from popular works like Robert Garland’s “ballet meets funk” ballet Mother Popcorn; a phalanx of students dancers in Augustus van Heerden’s Passacaglia; the great Louis Johnson’s roots-based Forces of Rhythm; Balanchine’s masterful Agon pas de deux (created on Mitchell); Petipa’s high-flying showpiece Le Corsaire Pas De Deux; John Taras’ exhilarating Firebird; and Mitchell’s animated The Greatest.

The evening wrapped up with a full production of Geoffrey Holder’s sensationally theatrical Douglacolorfully presenting a Trinidadian wedding ritual to a drum-heavy score directed by Tania Leon. This final work electrified the audience who stood and cheered Dance Theater of Harlem forward to a 100th anniversary.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 8, 2019
I wish I had not known in advance that Ohad Naharin’s work titled “Venezuela,” a) had nothing to do with Venezuela, and b) would be the same choreography lasting forty minutes, danced twice to different music. Clearly the impact would have been different for someone watching that choreographic experiment unfold in real time. Either way, the experiment ended up being less radical and exciting that one hoped.

Naharin’s dancers are exquisite and capable of stunning contemporary dance virtuosity. In this piece, we saw some of that movement frequently interrupted with sequences of competition ballroom dancing, pedestrian movement, and outright posturing, to strange and somewhat comedic effect. A man breaks out into a skip around the room, soon the whole cast joined in, flying across the stage skipping forward, backwards and in circles, impressively avoiding each other.

They later form a small group and another man walks across the stage, stalking and talking into a mike, with the group moving in slow motion around him. He soon breaks out into shocking rap lyrics by Biggie Smalls, “I just wanna rape ya,” which in the era of #MeToo sounded even more offensive than perhaps intended. In another sequence, the women ride the men like lumbering elephants, they slowly crawl towards us, then turn around like a herd and go back upstage; the mind started to wander. Later, we see some blank canvases unfurled, which the second time around turn out to be recognizable flags of different countries – make what you will of that moment, the potential for politicization is implied but not followed through.

The first half is accompanied by Gregorian chants, to particularly unrelated and disjointed effect. The second half was to a soundtrack designed by Maxim Waratt. The idea that dance need not be accompanied by music is not new, and neither is ignoring the sounds and/or music that accompany a dance. So it was unclear what Naharin discovered by using the two radically different accompaniments that were not necessarily connected to each other or to what was happening onstage, other than to perplex his audience.

A choreographer’s experiment with attention, disjunction, and non-sequitors, Venezuela invited the audience to question, observe more carefully, and eventually disengage a little bit, when the ploy became clear. As always, Naharin’s work invited deep reflection, but this time even his fabulous dancers couldn’t push it over the finish line.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

April 5, 2019
Eagle high jumps and effortless technique joined to a trés jolie stage presence positioned the Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova front and center on the international stage. Before her first appearance in NYC with American Ballet Theater, balletomanes witnessed her prowess in live broadcasts from the Bolshoi—particularly her starring role in “Coppelia”. Now, Osipova, in the full bloom of her career, is guesting with many companies and touring in her own vehicles. Developed by Osipova, Pure Dancewas produced by Sadler’s Wells and arrived in NYC at the invitation of City Center. A mix of classic ballets and modern choreography dotted the evening’s varied program that showcased another international star David Hallberg along with Jonathan Goddard, and Jason Kittelberger.

In the opening piece, Antony Tudor’s wistful duet from The Leaves Are Fading joined Hallberg and Osipova in a tender realization of a time gone by. Seamlessly intertwining their bodies in circular embraces, the couple recalled moments of joy and levity followed by darker horizons. At ease in the perky hops and twists, Osipova’s youthful buoyancy latched onto Hallberg’s expansive attentiveness. This promise melted into a poignant reprieve that exposed Tudor’s delicate, yet detailed portraits of people’s innermost feelings. Tudor’s structures are intricate, musical constructions built on a movement’s intent, control and seamless release.

Two premieres followed Tudor’s masterwork: Flutter by Ivan Perez for Osipova and Goddard then the solo In Absentia by Kim Brandstrup for Hallberg.

A dramatic composition, In Absentia delved into an artist’s solitude. Seated in a chair, Hallberg’s head hung down, his super-sized shadow cast on the scrim across from him while listening to Bach’s Chaconne in D minor. Deep sighs expressed through long leg extensions snapped back into his body. These gestures drew an image of deep concentration and a searching desire for unanswerable questions.

For Flutter, Osipova and Goddard traveled on a perpendicular line moving downstage and upstage in a series of lifts and drops that bound arms and legs in flurry of activity. Dressed in sheer white pants and shirts, the foamy outlines accented the choreography’s’ angularity performed over a woman reciting numbers in Nico Muhly’s contemporary score.

Another relationship piece, Six Years Later choreographed in 2011 plunged Osipova and Kittelberger in an intense duet that seared the two bodies together in a multitude of intimate positions. At one point, Kittelberger’s arm passed through Osipova’s legs, his hand spread apart behind her rear as she sat on it, rocked and fell forward on top of him. Together, their bodies shivered and bumped chests in time to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata drawing close and pushing apart.

Finally, Alexi Ratmansky’s fluid and choreographically potent premiere Valse Triste to the music of Jean Sibelius returned the evening to the classical dance form. This ballet underlined Hallberg and Osipova’s trust in each other. From one end of the stage to the other, Osipiova flew into his embarce, dangled airborn off his arm and peeled off double tours in unison. Deeply satisfying, the ballet’s musicality and creativity deepened the audience’s undersanding and appreciation of Osipova and Hallberg’s artistry.

Running on two different, but equally exciting future tracks, the evening spotlighted the trajectory of Osipova and Hallberg’s spectaular ballet careers and glowing partnership.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

April 3, 2019
Ballet Hispanico’s Joyce season presents a response to the international moment that avoids the two most common traps of “timely performance” – self-obsoleting specificity and one-note rage. The program’s two premieres concern themselves with the diasporas of Latinx and Asian populations in a way that maintains a way in for spectators unfamiliar or unaware of issues that, in driving the process, ultimately craft pieces of contemporary ballet that harness virtuosity in the service of an identifiably human sort of expression.

Edward Liang, a Taiwanese choreographer who has passed through New York City Ballet and Netherlands Dans Theater, based El Viaje on Chinese emigration. Innocuously titled “the trip” in Spanish, the work uses the changeable simplicity of costuming to evoke the permanent difference one feels when they leave their homeland, or, perhaps even more so, the distance one feels from their roots when raised in a different culture.

A dancer in red faces off in a variety of perspectives with an ensemble in blueish grays. Never contentious, they approach each other as though through a screen, maintaining connection via gently weighted spinal undulations. The soloist aims to make herself anything but, allowing herself to be enveloped by the group, and even displacing ensemble members into soloists themselves as she partners various members of the group in an effort to integrate. Still, they move on without her, not out of rejection, but out of a lack of recognition. Undifferentiated in vocabulary, Liang suggests an inherent sameness, muddled by the two parties’ mutual exoticization of each other.

While quick to identify himself as Filipino-American, Bennyroyce Royon instead offers a broader look at Latinx and Asian values of communal unity; when he identifies this theme with the Filipino word of “bayanihan,” Homebound/Alaala is not so much pigeonholed as Philippine-centric as it asks us to consider our own internalized notions of such oneness.

Filipino for “memory,” “alaala” speaks to the structuring of this nonlinear assemblage of talismans. Boxes populate the stage, either as containers of sentiment or as building blocks of dividing walls. Sometimes these walls provide privacy for a bit of gay affection behind a more central (and hetero) dance break; elsewhere they are more detrimental in their separation. Royon’s throughline of this odd couple out reminds us both of marginalized ethnic groups’ unfortunate queerphobic tendencies, and the escape from which contributing to migratory intentions. Other motifs – rows of flip-flops lining the lip of the stage and large plastic eating utensils – are used less consistently and, at best, vaguely connote advanced economies’ outsourcing of mass production to developing ones.

Sandwiching an all-female recasting of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Sombrerísimo,/i>, Ballet Hispanico is not so much chastising our failures as much as it encourages our potentials to supersede limitations.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

March 31, 2019
Ariel Grossman and David Homan, Director/Choreographer and Executive Director/ Composer respectively, showcased their all-female contemporary dance company, Ariel Rivka Dance throughout their three-day 2019 season at Baruch Performing Arts Center. On March 30th, the company was accompanied by Amanda Kirsche presenting In Place of Forgetting and Valerie Green dancing Hinge. Ariel’s choreographic works included the World Premieres of Rhapsody in K, and Mossy (2019), and the returning performances of She (2018) and Ori (2005).

The black box stage was beautifully illuminated by the stage crew, casting just enough light for the violinist and percussionists to brilliantly accompany the dancers -- a favorite aspect of the program for many patrons.

As Ariel explained, Rhapsody in K was inspired by the movement of her 4 1/2-year-old daughter. Accordingly, the emerging artist company of seven female dancers, created a piece based on theme and variations. It included nursery rhymes and an aesthetic approach pertinent to a toddler’s social interaction within dance and play. The live violin conversation magnificently played by Rebecca Cherry highlighted the work with ongoing electronic arrangements that would replay as she progressed within layers of melodic motifs.

Choreographed by Amanda Kirsche, In Place of Forgetting presented three female dancers embracing each other. When the embraced would elusively depart, she would leave the empty shape of her previous pose carved in the negative space around the dancer who had initiated the approach. According to the program, She reflected on the challenge of unattainable goals in child rearing.

Again, the company -- dressed in opaque shades of plum -- developed motifs initiated by standing in a line shaking their clasped hands. This created a rippling effect in their movement vocabulary, repeatedly transitioning to scattered small groups and back into interactive linear formations.

After the brief intermission, Caitlyn Casson and Casie O’Kane interpreted Mossy, which continued reflecting a mother’s perspective of “constant interruption.” Dressed in asymmetrical black garments, the duet evolved through an indirect series of cause and effect, accompanied by Stefania de Kenessey's electronic score .

Valerie Green’s Hinge broke the evening's aesthetic tendency by presenting a group of two men and five women dressed in bronze tones. They drew a series of traveling patterns through clean gestures that assumed a cohesive performance quality. Green’s work was accompanied by Yui Kitamara, performed by Multicultural Sonic Evolution with the live participation of violinist Wanzhen Li, and percussion by Chihiro Shibayama and Samuel Budish.

Ori closed the evening exploring light, as Ariel’s company, dressed in white, restated gestures through interconnected line formations that intersected between the choreographic discourse extrapolated by David Homan’s unique four-cello composition.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

March 29, 2019
They exchanged wits, and shared taps in an opening number that trumpeted City Center’s 75th anniversary of innovation in dance, theater and music. The two MacArthur geniuses, Michelle Dorrance and Bill Irwin shared a playful command of the stage and audience. Sublimely charming, Bill Irwin is known for transforming the circus arts into an individualized physical theater realm tagged “New Vaudevillians.” Equally willing to poke fun at herself, Dorrance’s zany style is reminiscent of 1940’s musical films featuring top-notch dancers like Eleanor Powell.

Dressed in a bedraggled tux and top hat, Irwin resembled a persnickety professor intent on safeguarding soft-shoe etiquette. A satiric take on today’s loud tappers compared to the civilized, sophisticated soft shoe, Lessons In Tradition underscored the undeniable camaraderie between these two artists. By the end of the piece, they were both dressed in baggy tuxes, strutting along and breaking into a fusillade of taps.

Their genuine performance parlance was further cemented by the intoxicating voice and base playing of Kate Davis whose bright red lips contrasted against her black hair. Standing behind a bass, Davis’s assured, jazzy projection nearly stole the show and if these three artists weren’t so busy Lessons in Tradition (with music by Vincent Youmans) could tour non-stop.

Irwin also contributed a new work based on the precursor of the modern day clown tradition: “Commedia dell’arte.” Harlequin and Pantalone stock commedia characters are portrayed by Irwin and the lanky, loose-limbed Warren Craft. Originally based on skits animated by improvisation, the dell’arte theater form perfectly suited the superb improvisers. Pantalone’s (Warren) legs kicked upward every which way when his mischievous servant Harlequinade (Irwin) stole his cane. Intent on serving only one master “dance”, Irwin's actions infuriated Pantalone who abruptly laid a hex on him.

Alas, Harlequin could no longer dance—until the Narrator convinced him that dance lives on! This clever duet showcased their powerful tap improvisations and thespian chops . Irwin’s rubbery body and mobile face expressed emotions that flew across the sad to happy spectrum while Warren lurched and slid into his rage and the deep embrace of their mutually generated theater magic.

The second half of the program featured Dorrance and her gifted dancers in a revival of Jump Monk (1997) to a score by the jazz master Charles Mingus choreographed and staged by the award-winning Brenda Bufalino. Deeply musical, the jaunty sequences weave around the rhythmically dense music performed live by Donovan Dorrance (piano), Aaron Marcellus (vocals—scatting), Gregory Richardson (bass) and Nicholas Young (percussion).

Dorrance’s 2013 SOUNDspace re-convened the majority of the dance ensemble with the addition of Nicholas van Young, and tap dancer whose untucked shirt, loose jacket and somewhat rumpled hair resembled a man thinking "TGIF". However, this low-keyed tapper ripped off some of the most sophisticated riffs combining clear technique and choreographic richness.

In total, Dorrance creates a “soundsphere’ that’s so rhythmically complex, the taps began to sound like an antiphonal choir! The tap ensemble produced syncopated rhythms that passed over and under each other turning the whole evening into a sound extravaganza.

In Program B, Dorrance will premiere Jungle Blues and Bases Loaded.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

March 27, 2019
A crowd, disparate in age and clique, pipes down when a familiar figure steps across the 14th St. Y stage. Cornering herself, Deborah Jowitt dances a short circular study in which curves are traveled in space, drawn by fingertips via conically swinging arms, and sculpturally embodied. A fellow dancer, a director, a reviewer, a scholar, and a teacher in any of the above disciplines to her spectators along a 65-year timespan, Deborah’s dancing all the more lacks any subtextual sense of “this is how it’s done.”

Witnessing Thursday’s portion of recollections in the 21st From the Horse’s Mouth, I was simultaneously daunted by not only the task to synthesize an overwhelming richness of history and warm memories, but, more personally, to write about she who has been, even to me, a choreographer, a compositional mentor, and a voluntary reader of drafts. As the evening progressed, however, I became instead as though wool on a loom, weaving into a cyclical pattern of so many others who, at so many different times, encountered Deborah in similar ways.

Sequenced nonlinearly, every storyteller was a different stop on a time machine on the fritz. It wasn’t until the end of the first third that dance historian Patricia Beaman explained how Deborah’s near choice at 18 to study acting in London would have impacted the dance community. Ellen Graff provided a snapshot of the two flanking Pearl Lang for a Hanukkah festival at Madison Square Garden in 1958 twenty-some odd years before taking her class on Isadora Duncan at NYU. From the Horse’s Mouth Co-Director Tina Croll, Marcia Lerner Hofer, and Barbara Roan took the 60’s by the reins with tell of the constant experimentation in process and on display at Dance Theater Workshop, Deborah’s titles, ostensible chimeras of language such as “Palimpsest” and “Lapis Lazuli,” at the forefront of their memories.

This love of words unifies Deborah, from her early aptitude for theatre to the tender criticism for which she has become universally lauded. Many, whether speaking or spoken of, marveled her ability to “get” them through her concise, evocative language, even if sparking some initial frustration. Others noted Deborah’s omniscient awareness and permanent memory, such as when Darrah Carr attempted to power through her contemporary Irish dancing on a broken toe she already knew about, or how Emily Coates needed to consult her biography on Jerome Robbins to properly remember her own experience of being with him for the last time.

After speaking, each performer takes a card, prompting them to improvise around the next horse. All additionally convene for several wildly costumed parades, danced by figures who, while praising Deborah’s formidable knowledge, indelibly constitute it just the same.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

March 20, 2019
Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights remains an anomaly of visual art since its estimated turn of the sixteenth century creation. The triptych’s middle panel feels like a feature film; every square inch is densely packed with activity. Nude figures take innocent pleasure in a landscape of fantastical flora and fauna, modified in proportion into a surrealism to aspire to. Avoiding what would be a redundant attempt to bring the painting to life, Dušan Týnek achieves the same affective wavelength through his own formal rigor and keen sense of humanity, entitled Le Jardin Qui Rit.

On paper it is hard to imagine Týnek in conversation with Bosch. Bosch’s depictions of realistic figures in dreamlike scenarios seem aesthetically at odds with Týnek’s intense abstractions of the dancing body. The choreographer demonstrates an awareness of this from the start, however, decorating the Rose Nagelberg Theatre at Baruch Performing Arts Center in a very bland treatment of AstroTurf with a cheap effigy of an unremarkable stone fountain at the center, occasionally squirting water in lackluster bursts.

From this locus, the cast of six emerges in yet another stark contrast to Bosch’s figures – white jumpsuits – and while Bosch’s figures make full use of their chimerical landscape, riding creatures and canoodling in oversized fruits, Týnek’s barer, more secluded space (Baruch’s basement), requires this imaginativeness to be translated into dancing itself, maintaining only an acrobatic sense from Bosch that otherwise requires a discipline his figures would never bother to employ.

Still, Týnek’s comparatively mechanical interactions are playfully experienced, while only ever edging on the erotic. Employing indiscriminate pairings that constantly rearrange, the dancers push the limits of possibility as they promenade off kilter and toss each other from one set of arms to another. In one of the work’s many systemic partnering sequences, every other dancer gets a turn to carry Elizabeth Hepp in a hold that crudely grasps between her shoulders and her legs, yet it somehow never seems invasive.

What makes this so is just as anachronistic to formalistic dance as Bosch was to his time – facial expression. Exuding a pleasurable daze, the members of the group are all energetically in love with each other, rendering an otherwise cold movement vocabulary a deeply tender physical analog to Bosch’s figures. Týnek isn’t all just neo-Cunningham either – he peppers physical structures with gestures that detract from their functional integrity, such as when two dancers prod at each other’s faces in full wheel, or a precarious counterbalance is put at risk by forceful shimmies.

It is in this refusal to mimic Bosch that Týnek matches his character. Decentralized interactions of varying speeds allow six moving bodies to feel like hundreds of still ones.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

February 20, 2019
A poem. Stretched white screen. Pointed shadows cast by dancers’ pressed bodies.

Wrinkled time along the fabric of the backdrop. Rendered genderless bodies pushing, wrapping, engulfing. Dance belts and bare breasts In rim-lit silhouettes.

Taupe and cloudy duet. Flesh tones reflect Nude skin. Mahogany love.

Gray. Lighting is Gray and Orange and Gray. Nude color plus Gray. A whale’s mouth. That whole world in a whale’s mouth.

Part of the feeling of watching dance is the hope that it changes something about our lives. When I go to watch the art of dance, I hope it leaves me changed.

The intelligent legs and decided movements of the Gallim dancers created a motional quality so uniform that it moved as a language in which the dancers effectively and joyfully communicated.

What changed me? 7 Dancers , full ensemble. Overwhelmed by the glossed fabric of time and left in an ocean of ourselves. The sea becomes an entity who swallows, if obliged.

Over every part of us it washes Leaving us anew, alive.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Brandon Kazen-Maddox

February 18, 2019
Wandering about The Chocolate Factory amid a limited scope of objects – brushes, horse hoof shoes, a stalk of celery, and blocks of floral foam, Jen Rosenblit, stern and without pants, is cornered by aimlessness into pure intentionality. She never moves without relating to her items – adjusting, wearing, and riding them through space. She keeps an eye on us, yet is unperturbed until, when Gérald Kurdian’s industrial sound design reaches an un-ignorable intensity, Rosenblit struts on one hoof, pulling the curtain away to reveal our seats (and Kurdian). With but a sharp cock of her head, we obediently migrate towards the ensuing complex interplay of object, language, and physicality entitled “Im gonna need another one.”

We settle on Rosenblit sitting profile to us on a throne of blocks, amputating the bristles of a broom. Speaking in second person, her tone is soothingly chastising. Her eloquence strikingly contrasts her previous, beastly presence and tangles us in a web of contradictory sentiments that render the English language a level playing field of meaning. Centering on assessing parts of wholes as wholes unto themselves, she casts us as such archetypes of the theme as a compulsive furniture arranger, a sous chef, a pack of wolves, an octopus, and a re-centralized viewing of the Wizard of Oz with Dorothy out of the picture. Rosenblit counters her obtuse accusations with a neat alternation between textually and bodily dominated scenes that progressively elaborate on what came before. She thus dances the alphabet for us with either her whole body or particular parts. Pants on, she does it again in heels, utilizing the blocks in a way that inadvertently destroys them in a deadpan gusto comprised of authoritarian glamor, harmless vulgarity, and a childlike sense of accomplishment.

The floral foam itself is a similarly protean particle, standing in, like the beads of an abacus, as a micro vessel for larger concepts. Weather as sculptural components or a cutting board for the celery, all are inevitably crumbled into infinitely smaller parts no matter the specialization, save one that is penetrated by bristles into a wheat field that just so happened to have been given to me at the expense of my eligibility to speak later on.

Upon completing her discussion, Rosenblit takes a moment to sing a wonky ode to things she likes, Kurdian tenderly accompanying on bass guitar. Her list, nodding to custom furniture and living alone, confirms her having been the antecedent for “you” all along. For the first time she speaks to us, asking a focused list of questions – if we came alone, how we treat our windows, and what we will make her for dinner. She moves forward in her questioning with people who share her likes. Effortlessly able to listen and respond to multiple people in different stages of discourse, Ringmaster Rosenblit tenderly heckles us into a deeper specificity of thought, until Kurdian’s sound swells once more to signal a final dance that spreads the foamy remnants into dusty crop circles.

February 16, 2019
Camille A. Brown is stunning storyteller, and “ink,” her last installment of a trilogy on identity and the African diaspora, clearly resonated with the unequivocally diverse audience that embraced her work on opening night. The luxury of time, and the incalculable value of collaborating with other artists (both dancers and musicians) over a period of two years, showed how dance, shaped by excellent minds and bodies, can convey complex ideas while remaining legible and accessible to viewers with different levels of experience. Her dances, while deriving from very personal and unique narratives, somehow seem to speak to everyone.

Brown demystifies her work on two levels: the program provides much information on her process, and a Dialogue between the artists and audience after the dancing is part of the show. But what is most exciting is the legibility of the dancing itself, a dazzling fusion of everyday movement and vernacular interactions and gestures, with more “formal” dance moves taken from tap, jazz, hip hop, modern, African, and African American social dances. She seamlessly integrates every element, with the musician/collaborators sitting centerstage.

Two large billboard-like collages hung on either side of the stage, with several portraits emerging from a clutter of colorful asymmetrical shapes, in a lighting and scenic design by David L. Arsenault that complemented the fusion of dancing below.

Brown herself danced the first solo, Culture Codes, where she sat on a chair and danced for a while from the waist up: her stylized gestures evoked everything from wringing out laundry to painful bondage; she was also playful, sassy, and direct; at one point, she broke into a frantic football run, fists clenched. Every dancer was unique and compelling: Beatrice Capote, Timothy Edwards, Catherine Foster, Juel D. Lane, Yusha-Marie Sorzano, and Maleek Washington. Their bodies moved, shook, bounced, flew and were played as percussion, in a dizzying and satisfying series of human exchanges and situations. We saw beauty, friendship, sexiness, distress, tenderness, playful competition, and a myriad of other granular moments, each full of significance to the dancers, and to us.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

February 5, 2019
Grupo Corpo, the Brazilian dance troupe founded in 1975 and directed by Rodrigo Pederneiras, returned to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the fifth time in sixteen years with two large group works, “Bach” and “Gira.” Grupo Corpo’s blend of ballet, modern, and Brazilian movement, relentlessly energetic and daring, warmed the enthusiastic BAM audience on an especially frigid night in February.

In “Bach,” choreographed by Pederneiras in 1996, the company has its very own version of the slow-building, excitement-inducing, driving pulse of such masterworks as Twyla Tharp’s “In the Upper Room.” The excellent lighting complemented the strangely wonderful set design: a bunch of long, tube-like fixtures hanging from the rafters, like floating organ pipes or golden icicles. Both men and women take turns hanging from these, while very high-octane dancing with high, flexed kicks, jumps, and arm swings happen below. In several duets, the women are flung high in the air and swung around with abandon, daring us to look away.

Inventive phrases are repeated with meticulous execution in tandem with the music, with balletic pirouettes, big jumps, jazzy pas de bourees, and cheerleader sass. The mood changes when several women are gently dragged on the ground by their men, slowly turned, lifted, then lowered down again, with the women leading the way with their focus, even while they depend on the men to move.

Later, they change into gold tight-fitting outfits (a la Tharps Golden Section) and a woman hangs on to a golden tube with her legs wrapped tightly around it. She is lit in a diagonal stream of light from above, transforming her into an angelic, celestial creature. At times the music “inspired by J.S. Bach” – which clearly referenced or replicated some of his more famous works, including the cello suites, with an electronic synthesizer – sounded rather like “Hooked on Bach” – less poetic than the concept and dancing that builds to a wonderful climax.

“Gira” (2017), a more recent work also by artistic director Pedeneiras, is inspired by the rites of Umbanda, a syncretic blend of Candomblé, Catholicism and Kardecism, to a commissioned score by Metå Metå that also relied on electronic sounds, mixed with percussion, saxophone, and some less exotic, screeching sounds. The whole cast wore long white skirts, and both men and women danced with bare torsos, revealing their gorgeous bodies during a sustained, intense series of solos, duets, and group work.

Raw sexuality abounded especially in some partnered moments where the women squatted and resisted, while the men held their arms from behind, simultaneously restraining them and throwing them from side to side. One fierce woman – bald and brazen – danced with soulful, intense, deep backbends, arms often held behind her back, and wildly shaking shoulders, encapsulated the whole feeling of these rituals: the communal ecstasy, the abandon, the fire of someone possessed by the spirit of dance itself.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

February 2, 2019
For many, the anticipated night’s highlight was the premier of the popular choreographer, Justin Peck’s new work, however, two other ballets hustled the audience’s attention as well. Besides Peck’s Principia there was the revival of Billy Forsythe’s deconstructed ballet Herman Schmerman and Kyle Abraham’s funky The Runway.

If nothing else, it’s good to know that New York City Ballet has three pieces that nod to the younger generation who by the looks of it is flocking to the ballet.

Bright and breezy, Peck’s Principia had the sunshiny look of young people out for an afternoon romp. Dressed in grey leotards and pink tights, the lights by Jennifer Tipton shone on a large huddle of dancers moving as a single organism until one person, then another, popped out of various pockets. When they broke apart, the dancers bounded about with loose, upright bodies, and hands sometimes clasped behind the neck, or gaily swinging.

Everything spun out of a casual playfulness that at times turned towards a person for a brief tete a tete. Later, the dancers re-grouped into four human maypole clumps: bodies pressed together, backs to the audience, and arms straightened up like the top of a circus tent. At the heart of the ballet is a duet with Tyler Peck and Taylor Stanley. Both were in fine form, and moved candidly through the steps with ease, passing their energy along to other couples of mixed and same sex genders. In fact, a choreographic ease threaded together the casual couplings and uncoupling of dancers bound by an accepting community of movers. When Billy Forsythe first cam on the scene, he awed audiences with a disjointed, wild choreography that looked like Balanchine on steroids. The first piece for NYC Ballet was Behind the China Dogs.It generated an equal amount of awe and disdain within the critical community, but the audience loved it. In 1992, he returned to make Herman Schmerman.

And although the central duet has appeared on numerous programs, the whole ballet hasn’t been revived for at least 20 years. So it was met with a great deal of anticipation. Electronic music by Forsythe’s longtime collaborator Thom Willems, punched the air while dancers in black corsets tied in the back and revealing skin, whipped hyper-extended legs up and around, flipping balances forward and back on heels, and toes. Then came The Runway which premiered during the 2018 Fall Gala. Exotic headpieces and dresses whipped around the stage with a stash of sass and style. Dancers, snugly wrapped in Giles Deacon’s sleek outfits, brashly tackled Kyle Abraham’s witty mesh of ballet, modern dance, and club posturing. Perfectly game to get company members swiveling their hips, and throwing looks to the audience, Abraham released the company’s inner funk.

In particular, Abraham’s solo for Taylor Stanley stole the show. Stanley performed a lush and salty group of tightly shaped steps that relied equally on technical assertiveness and expressivity. Altogether, the costumes, choreography and rap perfumed sound score whipped the audience into another standing ovation.

NYC Ballet:Apollo, Orpheus, Agon
January 25, 2019
Opening night of the NYC Ballet, January 22, 2019, marked George Balanchine’s 90th anniversary. The audience and dancers saluted this master choreographer and architect of American ballet by passing his dances from body to the next, one generation to the next.

To celebrate the founding force of NYCB, the company presented three Balanchine classics from the “Greek Trilogy”: Apollo, Orpheus, and Agon.

Dipped in the ancient Greek mythology, Apollo, one of the oldest ballets in the NYCB repertory contemplates a youthful god surrounded by three muses. Like the ancient Greeks who prized symmetry, harmony and beauty, so too Balanchine forges a ballet of balance and precision.

In his debut as Apollo, Taylor Stanley projects a more serious, conscientious young man. He stands with his leg outstretched to the side, poised for destiny. This interpretation of the fair god of music and the arts, appears thoughtful and curious. Joined by the three muses, Apollo finds his way through a world of art. Structurally, many of the movements appear two-dimenstional, as if Balanchine animates ancient Greek images found on the red clay vases.

Precise in his footing, Stanley demonstrates restraint rather than a deep-breathing freedom-- perhaps in part because he is still absorbing the keenly precise shape and intent of each movement in his muscle memory. But Stanley does relish a couple of passages—for instance when his arm strums the lyre three times, when he scuffles on his heels in a, spirited staccato-style moonwalk, Stanley telegraphs ease and freedom.

Not to be neglected, the three muses Calliope, Polyhymnia and Terpsichore surround him in flirtatious demonstrations, Assured and musically dynamic, Tiler Peck’s Terpsichore teases and challenges Apollo. As Calliope, Indiana Woodward proved she could swim inside Igor Stravinsky’s music while fleshing out Balanchine’s toe pricks and prances. Brittany Pollack rounded out the trio.

Balanchine’s 1948 Orpheus, is steeped in mythological imagery constructed by Isamu Noguchi, a sculptor and set designer who had been collaborating with Martha Graham since 1935. Visually tantalizing, the set depicts a wilder land where rocks, and hanging moons refract the light. Gonzalo Garcia was Orpheus, the love stricken god whose music could melt hearts. Wildly in love with Eurydice (Sterling Hyltin), Orpheus descends into Hades to bring her back to the living. Mixed into the plot the whirling dervish Furies descend in animalistic headdress whipping up the action on top of Stravinsky’s cascading music.

Finally united, Hyltin and and a very assured Gonzalo gravitate towards each other in a duet that devolves into Hyltin buzzing around him like a bee overly desperate to see his face. In the end, Orpheus is unable to resist, looks on his Eurydice only to lose her to the underworld forever. On this occasion, when Eurydice loses all life breath and collapses in his arms, instead of mysteriously being pulled back into the underworld (under the curtain) she’s physical pushed back into the netherworld.

Although Orpheus was choreographed in the United States and Apollo debuted in Paris as part of the Ballets Russes season, “Orpheus” feels very theatrically European, whereas “Apollo” exudes a new world look.

Now Agon could only be an American ballet. This “black and white” ballet pits dancers against their bodies in physically demanding choreography that extends the limits of fierceness and flexibility. Outstanding in the central duet, Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle negotiated the complicated balances with grit. Kowroski’s coiled strength exhaled into a leap that snapped around a turn so fast the audience gasped. From then on, Angle’s unpretentious partnering and her long, flexible legs forged the signature Balanchine ethos.

January 24, 2019
An eerie light veils the still backs of L-E-V’s six dancers who face upstage left at the beginning of Sharon Eyal’s “Love Chapter II” presented at The Joyce Theatre. The hard pulse of techno beats counters the meditative quiet of the male and female dancers barely clad in gray one-strap leotards and dark knee socks. They slowly glide one toe on the floor with a bent knee. Arms stretch, hyper extending, behind their heads.

The choreography evolves into constant motion with the dancers never leaving the stage, nor their space within the group, nor the mood of stoic resignation. The dancers in second position plie look out to the audience as waves of unknown forces from stage right seem to ripple their torso and arms. Their feet never leave the floor for an extension or a jump. Occasionally, the dancers skitter sideways on their toes, their legs in parallel.

Each dancer (Gona Biran, Rebecca Hytting, Mariko Kakizaki, Darren Devaney, Keren Lurie Pardes, Clyde Emmanuel Archer), stuns us with the clarity of their attack. Kakizaki and Archer are particularly memorable, not only in their short solos, but the locking isolations executed intermittently. In the long phase continuing to the end, the dancers follow an invisible X on the stage like a flock of high stepping models, throwing blank faces to the audience.

In 2013, Eyal launched L-E-V with her long-time collaborator Gai Behar. Eyal danced with the Batsheva DanceCompany from 1990- 2008 and started choreographing within the framework of the company’s Batsheva Dancers Create project. Love Chapter II was performed with live music by DJ Ori Lichtik, and highly affective lighting by Alon Cohen. A welcome reprieve from the techno comes in the last third of this fifty-five minute work with the voice of Jose Larraide-Quimey Neuquen singing “Chancha via Circuito.” However, that sweet sound does not lift the spirits of the dancers who plod on like trapped. enlisted soldiers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

January 22, 2019
Netherlands Dans Theater 2 has evolved into a full-fledged company of young talent with its own repertory, and the level of the dancing is so high, they now perform on their own at New York’s City Center Theater. The work as a whole, by different choreographers, has a distinct feel: rapid-fire, detached, yet often in your face – with uneven results.

A hard-driving score by Milko Lazar (PErpeTuumOvia, with percussive pianos and cellos) set the pace for the evening’s most interesting work: Edward Clug’s “mutual comfort,” which created its own world through the dancers’ finely tuned bodies moving though changing textures, from sharp, quick movements to silky smooth undulations. In a playful contrast to the somewhat relentless music, two men and two women danced alone, in couples, and sometimes in threes, with clear energy transferring from one body to the other like an electric current. Small head circles, body ripples, and melting, brief pauses are woven between brisk angular gestures. There was a youthful feel to the exchanges, like young people curiously testing each other, befriending, prodding, playing, and instigating something in each other, only to change their minds and move on to the next thing.

Marco Goecke made a fantastic impression with his work “Woke Up Blind” a few years ago; this time, his signature movement, full of constant, rapid-fire speed, precision and intensity, was deployed to lesser effect than when it singularly paralleled the unpredictable voice of Jeff Buckley. Goecke has created a recognizably distinct dance language: his quirky, jerky, sometimes animalistic micromovements and shapes in the arms and torsos, with moments of frantic repetition, make it almost unbearably intense. This time, though, it seemed to matter little that either Schubert, Schnittke, or the music of the alternative rock banc Placebo was propelling the movement, diminishing its overall impact.

NDT 1 director Sol Léon’s mercurial pregnancy hormones provided the impetus for her and co-director Paul Lightfoot’s bizarre “Sad Case” (1998). A tall, lanky woman in a light grey leotard and white-powdered body streaked with what looked like black ash or war paint posed upstage like a broken doll. The classic shrill whistle provoked on the streets by a beautiful woman (in a bygone era, of course) pierced the air. Unmoved, she nonetheless swiveled and kicked her way downstage, with sharp arm gestures and deadpan delivery, seemingly indifferent to the feel-good mambo music by Pérez Prado.

Others soon join her, a small militia of the Walking Dead meets the Copa on steroids, in a series of solos and duos with lots of gyrating butts, crotch-grabbing, shouting, and exaggerated goofy facial contortions that go from funny to boring. Even as these gorgeous dancers made liquid silver of the movement, what purported to be a satirical take on any number of tropes associated with Latin big band music and other stereotypes lost its edge and went on for too long.

Lightfoot and Léon “Sh-Boom!” (2000), to popular music from the Mills Brothers and others, began with the fabulous Surimu Fukushi dressed in a tux, entering in slow-motion while the audience was still coming in. Walking backwards, fake smiling, grimacing while dancing, and exiting, he then repeated the whole sequence several times. A series of loosely connected, Pina Bausch-like theatricals scenes included four women in black dresses with high collars use flashlights to light a naked man, who flirts with revealing his private parts to them, and a duet where a man stripped to his underwear dancers pleadingly while she remains modestly covered and aloof.

The movement is mostly smooth and pleasant, punctured by their love of facial contortions and kooky behavior. A smoky stage, dropping confetti, dancing with tissues in their mouths, how all of this connects, and how it is inspired by Goya’s Black and White sketches – “The dream of reason produces monsters…” (misquoted in the program) – is more of a mystery. The choreographers could have taken the rest of the quote more literally: “united with reason imagination is the mother of all art and the source of all its beauty.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

January 21, 2019
Featured at Joyce Theatre, the Compan~i´a Irene Rodri´guez closed the Cuba Festival season with a grateful standing ovation cheering the Spanish theatrical art references gathered within the program titled Ma´s que flamenco/More than flamenco. The general audience’s reaction indicated their benevolent and enthusiastic welcome to flamenco and its related proposals, as well as to the supportive sum of collaborative efforts showcased by the emerging and seasoned artist’s performance.

Led by Irene Rodri´guez as director, principal dancer and choreographer, a core of five emerging Spanish dance talents were accompanied by singer/ cantaor Andre´s Correa, David Acosta (El Rojo) as bassist and music director, saxophonist Joel Ramirez, percussionist Josue´ Rondo´n, and the guitarist Christian Puig replacing Ariel Puig.

The program opened with El Mito, a strikingly unconventional footwork proposal. Slightly lifted, the curtain slyly revealed the dancers’ legs from below the knee to the floor. The choreography consisted of a zapateado percussive dialogue, confrontation, debate, and dissolution between a core of black shoe-dancers and a white-shoe soloist. Within an acoustic journey of jungle sounds, flamenco, and Cuban percussion, the dancer’s footwork went through directional changes, formations, entering and exiting the stage’s foreground. The piece climaxed as the core surrounded the white-shoe dancer and lifted her out of sight, concluding after the dancers exited one by one, and a pair of white shoes were dropped center stage.

A sensitive Homenaje followed supported by the gentle and melismatic voice of Andre´s Correa. Locura y Cordura portrayed a love triangle of a stylized Spanish dance shape-based composition. A New York premeire, La Pena Negra (inspired by Lorca’s Romance de la Pena Negra) presented a series of photographic motifs of different shapes created between the core dancers in black studio leotards and practice skirts or black shirt and trousers, and Irene, dressed in a long thin black gown similar to a flamenco train dress.

The second act opened with Zapateao, a series of percussive footwork performed by Irene and the core dancers, all dressed in white pants and suits and contrasting red blouses or shirts.

Duende showcased the unique talents and versatility of the musicians who smoothly transitioned between flamenco and jazz through percussion, song, and melody.

Exuding an air of Andalusia, in Entre Espinas Rosas the core’s bailaoras performed a stylized flamenco alegri´as, adorned with the coquettish flair of their large white perico´n fans. Group formations melted into flourishing sculptures created with their ruffled long coli´n polka dot dresses. Vi´ctor Basilio’s choreography, Encontra2, confronted the two male core dancers’ alternating solos.

Irene Rodri´guez's Amaranto, closed the program. It was a lengthy solo featuring melodramatic gestures linking a series of rapid footwork phrases with configurations of her red embroidered black manto´n. In concordance with flamenco’s tradition, the company closed with a fin de fiesta encore where the outstanding singing of the guitarist and the flamenco dance of the cajo´n percussionist were showered with Oles!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

January 17, 2019
A Cuba-NYC bond was created a few years ago courtesy of The Joyce Theater. As a result, modern dance companies from Cuba are invited to showcase their dancers and repertory over the space of three-weeks at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan. The mini-festival opened with one of Cuba’s best-known modern dance troupes Malpaso.

A newer company that incorporated vernacular and street dance, Los Hijos Del Director directed by George Cespedes was the second company to jump into action. Dressed in black overalls cuffed at the knee (by Paula Fernandez), the very committed and attractive company exhibited their full-throttle energy.

Initially seated in three chairs on either side of the stage panes of white light (Guido Galie) invited the dancers to center stage. A combination of signature street dance moves, including the “heart beat,” one handed upside down -holds topped by legs scissoring in the air were joined to Capoeira style spinning leg flips and martial arts arm pumps.

Solos butted against synchronized movement sections to a taped, upbeat and at times cinematic music score. However, Cespedes’ choreography rarely altered the performance dynamics. Intense, angst ridden faces and repetivite choreography showed off the committed company but not their range.

It’s a pleasure to see companies from other countries and cultures, but it was as if a 20-minute dance was stretched into a thin 90-minute work. There’s promise, but perhaps some stringent mentorship would be useful.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

January 9, 2019
Jack Ferver is an artist who generates a good deal of buzz because he floats conceptually intriguing performance prospects. In the case of a revival “Everything is Imaginable” he invited four men to depict their boyhood idols through dance at NYLA. Naturally, the soloists are all impressive dancers fully capable of holding the stage, but the ensuing results were mixed.

Swirling round and round in a gold tinsel dress cut above the knees, ABT dancer James Whiteside flaunted his technical chops while lip synching to Judy Garland’s “I Happen To Like NY.” Long, elegantly turned-out legs stretch into perfect arabesques, extensions, turns and even cartwheels. Expounding on her remarkable career, Martha Graham’s essence is revived by Lloyd Knight dropping into upside-down fan –kicks and controlled by gutsy torso contractions.

Garen Scribner’s witty impression of ice skating champion Brian Boitano injects a bit of wry humor into a solo that includes skaterly turns, slides and glides in socks to the sound of ice skater’s blades. Similarly, Reid Bartelme (who along with Harreit Jung designs the outlandish adventure) prances around pawing the floor then jutting forward and back.

Later, Bartelme and Ferver engage in a poignant duet that lovingly accentuated their height differences. Ferver closed out the evening in a solo that recalled the time he split his calf muscle. The shocking event caused him great anguish forcing the nstanteous redesign of a dance that suddently had Ferver hoisted on men’s shoulders—a la Cleopatra. It’s clear Ferver is comfortable and immenintly capable of writing text, but the overall choreography and concept feel airy.

January 9, 2019
Jack Ferver is an artist who generates a good deal of buzz because he floats conceptually intriguing performance prospects. In the case of a revival “Everything is Imaginable” he invited four men to depict their boyhood idols through dance. Naturally, the soloists are all impressive dancers fully capable of holding the stage, but the ensuing results were mixed.

Swirling round and round in a gold tinsel dress cut above the knees, ABT dancer James Whiteside flaunted his technical chops while lip synching to Judy Garland’s “I Happen To Like NY.” Long, elegantly turned-out legs stretch into perfect arabesques, extensions, turns and even cartwheels. Expounding on her remarkable career, Martha Graham’s essence is revived by Lloyd Knight dropping into upside-down fan –kicks and controlled by gutsy torso contractions.

Garen Scribner’s witty impression of ice skating champion Brian Boitano injects a bit of wry humor into a solo that includes skaterly turns, slides and glides in socks to the sound of ice skater’s blades. Similarly, Reid Bartelme (who along with Harreit Jung designs the outlandish adventure) prances around pawing the floor then jutting forward and back.

Later, Bartelme and Ferver engage in a poignant duet that lovingly accentuated their height differences. Ferver closed out the evening in a solo that recalled the time he split his calf muscle. The shocking event caused him great anguish forcing the nstanteous redesign of a dance that suddently had Ferver hoisted on men’s shoulders—a la Cleopatra. It’s clear Ferver is comfortable and immenintly capable of writing text, but the overall choreography and concept feel airy.

January 6, 2019
When APAP comes to town, NYC, already the center of cultural activity turn into a tsunami of artistic events. That’s because the conference draws performers, presenters, producers and professionals from all corners of the performing arts community to NYC for about one week of non-stop cultural activity. Disciplines across the performing arts spectrum organize platforms to introduce the all-powerful presenters to the available productions.

In this vein, the Joyce Theater presents the American Dance Platform series curated a by a different presenter every year. Generally, the companies present a tasting of their repertoire to tantalize the presenters and producers into wanting to learn more and help press the touring button on.

Opening night of the Platform was stellar. Stephen Petronio and the Martha Graham Dance Company shared a bill. And like Janet Eilber suggested in an introductory talk, the Graham Company was eager to share the spotlight with such a cool, and nervy dance company. In truth, both proved their offerings were perfectly capable of standing the test of dance time.

Petronio presented the full length “Hardness 10” with music by Nico Muhly choreographed in 2018. Clear and precise, the movement architecture was pristine. Dancers moved in strong formations, generally 4 bodies in counterpoint to 3. Straight arms shoot out from the shoulder, legs snap into long lines, and torsos frequently face in relief. There’s geometric satisfaction in this work in the Baroque sense, which means it’s mathematically satisfying and emotionally gratifying: a wonderful mix of soul and structure.

To start the performance, the audience was treated to what might be one of this decade’s finest reconstructions of a male solo,” Goldberg “Variations.” Originally created performed by Steve Paxton in 1981, the godfather of contact improvisation, the solo is a wonder of muscle control and an internal rhythmic high.

When Petronio Company member Nick Sciscione performed an “iteration” of the piece in 2017, I asked Yvonne Rainer --Paxton’s colleague and founding member of the Judson Dance Theater--what she thought about the solo: “Celia, I wept when I saw it.” And that was because Sciscione channels Paxton’s idiosyncratic, intuitive movement sensibility encased in liquid matter and cosmic imagination.

On the heels of this postmodern setting, the Martha Graham Dance Company arrives. First there was “Woodland” by Pontus Lidberg to music by Irving Fine for the Graham Company in 2016. Very Flemish or possibly Tudoresque (Antony) in the vein of Graham -- a community of dancers outfitted in simple dresses or pants and shirts -- circle one woman in black and white. Soon, the outer dance circle dons wolf masks underscoring the single female’s “outsider” status until she becomes one of them.

The company executed the steps with finesse, easily moving between the softer lines of contemporary modern dance and Grahams sharper edged dips and contractions. But again, the real heart of the Graham program arrived with the performance of two excerpts from Martha Graham’s “Chronicle

created in 1936 in response to the disturbing actions of Hitler in Germany and actually chronicles the 1914 -1936 era. Two sections from this larger production were performed including “Steps in The Street” and “Prelude to Action.” A perfect antidote to today’s political folly, the women dressed in black marched out in determination. With fists clenched, knees rose up and slammed into the floor as ramrod straight torsos thrust fiercely into the future. Simple steps arranged in dynamic patterns unfurled defiant images of females in deep diagonals and in the end circles of determination.

In truth, Stephen Petronio and Janet Eilber (Direct of the Graham Company) should not be surprised if presenters ask to tour this exact program.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Celia Ipiotis

December 15, 2018
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a rare sort of performing entity that is able to poke fun at the very thing in which it possesses great knowledge and skill. As Victor Borge did with classical music, the Trocks celebrate the tropes and clichés of classical ballet in a way that reminds you just how hard it is to do in the first place. On opening night at The Joyce Theater, this tender sort of satire progressed in such a way that the troupe’s primary gimmick of male-identifying dancers performing en travesti took a back seat to the execution of spectacle.

The program opened with the Trockadero staple Act II of Swan Lake, imbued at every moment with campy magnification. The tactics run the gamut: Long Zou pecks his neck as Odette, and, despite his poised readiness, Duane Gosa never gets his music as Prince Siegfried. Incompetence continues to be the main source of humor, primarily in the corps de ballet, whose incorrect head bobs in Les Petites Cygnes otherwise add satisfying visual counterpoint to the famously unison piece.

Where the work succeeds most, however, is in moments where it is unclear if a blunder comes from the character or its respective performer (who, in the world of the Trocks, is also a named character the actual dancer additionally embodies). Is it Yuri Smirnov or Von Rothbart himself who, overcome with Tchaikovsky’s swelling orchestration, maniacally runs too many laps to the point of exhaustion? Is it Siegfried’s pal Benno who keeps dropping Odette, or that clumsy Innokenti Smoktumuchsky?

Subsequent pieces relied on having the taller, more beefy dancers in female roles, leaving the male parts to the smallest of the company. While the Paquita Pas De Trois is but a well-performed novelty, within La Trovatiara’s spoofing of ballet’s historically more culturally exoticizing tendencies (more of that, please, by the way!) is the physical humor of Joshua Thake’s grandes jetés, reduced to hearty glissades when assisted by Boysie DiKobe and Kevin Garcia.

From then on, the evening became but a showcase of dolled up men skillfully dancing en pointe. Robert Carter may be sending up the maudlin aspects of Dying Swan, but his tutu’s constant shedding of feathers is beautiful in its own right. By the time we get to the underwater scene from The Little Humpbacked Horse, all we witness is an obscure work, ridiculously costumed to the point of normalizing all that came before it.

Reduced buffoonery leaves the true nature of the company at an unclear intersection between drag performance and ballet satire. Is a man wearing a tutu for the sheer sake of laughter necessary or even helpful in lovingly and earnestly poking fun at an art form that has managed to survive a history rife with sexism? Must a man’s performance en pointe also be one of female impersonation? We laugh at hairy chested ballerinas executing double tours knowing women are fully capable of these actions, but beneath that laughter are opportunities for a fuller commentary.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

November 27, 2018
Twyla Tharp has been celebrating fifty-plus years of dancemaking for a few years now, and this fall she is focusing on her early work. In Minimalism and Me, Tharp herself appears onstage to narrate the story of her experiments from the 1965-71. Delivered with wry humor and filmed excerpts, she describes her own “shameless ambition” and the context of the ‘60s downtown experimental arts scene: loft-living in pre-chic Soho among future titans of contemporary art… Barnett Newman… Ellesworth Kelly… as the dancers perform excerpts convincingly and with a wink.

In Tank Dive, Tharp’s first work, a young female dancer stood frozen in a releve in second position (on her toes, legs apart) with her arms in a V, for several minutes. Part of the Tharp’s early research on “what makes a dance dance,” it encapsulated how serious investigation in dance meant reducing and interrogating the limits of both performers and audiences.

But Tharp’s path soon took an early, decisive turn away from these kinds of experiments (“the work was getting tedious”) and in 1971 she created Eight Jelly Rolls for her all female group, to the music of Jelly Roll Morton and Charles Luke. A work that broke ground in its melding of vernacular movement with technical precision, it was unabashedly sexy and slinky, yet full of female empowerment. Performed during the second half of the show, it was strange and disappointing to watch it danced by three men and three women. Although technically brilliant, with so much testosterone onstage it was drained of its original thrill.

The show’s timeline ends right before the well-known moment in 1972-73 when Robert Joffrey gambled on Tharp, giving her an opportunity to work with ballet dancers and create a box office hit, a path she has remained on ever since. The 1960s artistic ferment in New York City continues to provide the basis for so much looking back: MoMA’s current “Judson: The Work is Never Done,” is another example. It makes one wonder, where is that fruitful ferment, free of box office constraints, happening now? Or is it even possible?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 13, 2018
Our media-saturated, attention-deficit, youth-driven culture makes something very touching, even sweetly tender, out of watching mature women with deep knowledge and experience share their meditations onstage. Both Emily Coates and Emmanuele Phuon (sharing a program at Danspace) were conceptually rigorous, engaging, and supported by collaborators with their own impressive backgrounds. But it was the act of physicalizing thoughts and theory, the uncanny combination seeing past, present and future embodied, the visualization of abstractions as well as realities of life, without pretension, that made the evening a memorable one.

Coates and Yale physicist Sarah Demers have been collaborating for some time and have co-authored a book on physics and dance (forthcoming from Yale University Press). A History of Light brings together their knowledge across disciplines to highlight connections, such as the simple idea that the ballerina Vera Karalli is still with us (via films) through the magical use of light. There is plenty of humor – Ms. Demers remarks that although she is a particle physicist, she’s not sure what a particle is… and Josiah McElheny (a sculptor, performance artist and collaborator interested in expanding notions of modernism) makes us laugh out loud when he describes the edge of the cosmos by bunny-jumping backwards into the recesses of the stage space.

More seriously, Ms. Coates evokes light though the use of her hands and gestures, eyeline, and the steady stream of movement in her solos. She juxtaposed past and present by folding into bodily shapes and contortions on a foam mattress, right underneath a film of Karalli dancing the Dying Swan. Somehow, these series of images came across as related.

In another post-postmodern segment titled Bits and Pieces (Choreographic Donations), Emmanuele Phuon’s autobiographical dance took us from her days as a child refugee, to her arrival in NYC, to dancing for Elisa Monte, to her fears of looking fat, to sobering references to ethnic cleansing, to lying prostrate on her back while chirping like a bird, among other adventures. Supported by her fellow performer and sound designer Zai Tang, through movement and spoken word Ms. Phuon weaves a compelling narrative that is both intensely personal and vast in its references to the outside world. Her use of voice at one point reminded me of Meredith Monk’s strange and expressive ululations. Yet what could have been a tedious relaying of memories turned into an absorbing journey we gladly end up taking with her.

Dance’s inherent interdisciplinarity continually attracts thinkers and makers in other disciplines. Coates, Phuon, and their collaborators showed, once again, how dance is more, always more, than just its purported sensuous physicality.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

November 12, 2018
Ballet is a spectacle to behold live. Even in this digital, virtual age, there still remains a magical sense of defying gravity, of achieving the impossible and performing feats that are practiced to the point of near perfection, all while understanding that things can still go wrong onstage. Do we as the audience secretly hope something does go awry? Yes; if only so that we might catch, for an instant, the astute reactions of professionals at work. The lights dim. The show begins.

Set against a cobalt blue backlight that remains constant throughout the entirety of the show, the performance opens with The Four Temperaments, danced by The Joffrey Ballet. As the work flows across the stage, so do many themes from Balanchine’s unique style; his enjoyment of angles, his fierce sense of directionality and his marriage to virtuosic repetition were all brightly-lit by and deeply-saturated in this man’s choreographic voice.

At times, the costuming of the men, composed of white tops and black tights, felt as though Balanchine had multiplied himself, stretching his technique through the limbs of dancers who continue to prove the prowess of his movement. The roles within The Four Temperaments were that of traditional male and female, bringing with them sexual undertones that were both artistic in nature and vague in narrative. The choreography was also very depictive of the classical, symphonic score, written by Paul Hindemith and conducted by Andrews Sill.

The next piece to grace the stage was Divertissement Pas de Deuxfrom A Midsummer Night’s Dream, danced by Sae-Eun Park and Hugo Marchand of Paris Opera Ballet. Immediately, the audience is captivated by the strong physical relationship that both dancers have to the ground and to one another. Throughout most of the dance, Marchand stands solidly atop a modest and functional first position, sending his energy not only toward his turnout, but through his own, rooted base and into the lithe, twisting balances of Park. It is clear that this man has ‘got his lady’. As Park’s effortless shapes sail through the air, Marchand maintains perpetual contact with the floor, his feet and toes reaching through the ground as an extension of his partner’s security. Time did suspend. It was as though it was a dream the audience was witness to; a private frolic in the forest where every dancer could be, for a moment, nestled in the limbs of Hugo Marchand’s branches.

The Mariinsky Ballet was by far the most virtuosic and adventurous performance of Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux. From Viktoria Tereshkina’s repetitions of five consecutive pirouettes to the silently stable grand jetés executed by Kimin Kim, the dancers’ stage presence, energies and strong technique were phenomenal. They made full use of the weight of their head, arms, upper torso and overall port de bras, which gave their movements both a finished look and clean, consistent execution.

Tereshkina and Kim were able to enthrall the audience with some very risky and exciting moves Tereshkina and Kim were able to enthrall the audience with some very risky and exciting moves as well, in particular, a partner lift in which Tereshkina performes a glissade, soubresaut then fish-dives, torso-first, into the woven net of the arms of her partner. This feat was danced twice, and both times, took the audience’s breath away.

To witness ballet at the level that Tereshkina and Kim were able to present, is to be able to both vicariously and viscerally understand what it could feel like to perform the dance oneself. Each movement was intentional, each position had a purpose, and the feeling of boundless flight and rebounding muscle resounded throughout the theater with each and every leap and turn.

The costumes in this piece, by Karinska, flowed beautifully and expertly-described the choreographic space through which the dancers moved. Kim’s white vest and billowed sleeves complemented Tereshkina’s blood-orange, coral dress, both garments carving into the air rippling wakes of vibrant motion and color.

The final piece was Symphonie Concertante, danced by American Ballet Theatre. As this was the largest corps of the evening, the energy of the overall body of the dance was slightly more tense than that of the former pieces. The first tendu created onstage was a collective one made by the entire corps, but felt as though it was being produced by one, integrated body. Each dégagé thereafter had the same quality: made by many but felt as one. With this unity in technique, it was interesting to also feel the internal air of individualism between the members of the company. Contrary to the three earlier pieces, Symphonie Concertante was most certainly a dance created to spark the tone of competition within the company and to give honor to those who have the ability to rise to the top. The allowance of subtle showboating by individual dancers was slightly distracting from time to time, but by the final pas de trois between Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher and Thomas Forster, the strong group support of all members proved that even though stress can be high in rehearsal, each member must work together to carry the body of the corps all the way through to the end of the show.

It is a privilege to be able to work among such stellar contemporaries in our artistic careers. The choreography of George Balanchine will continue to live on in the hearts, bodies and minds of dancers who continue to allow his work to permeate their souls. And we, as audience members, will continue to be possessed by the magic that he created, the humors he arose, and the time that will forever stand still while his work is in motion.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Brandon Kazen-Maddox

November 1, 2018
The American Dance Guild held its annual festival at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, also known as The Joan Weill Center for Dance. With the objective to convene established and emerging choreographers from around the globe, the festival included works by forty choreographers. This year’s celebration was dedicated to honor master choreographers, Jane Comfort and Eleo Pomare. As the titles suggest, the evening included nine contrasting works: Cantata by Cathryn Alter, Cante Flamenco by Jane Dudley, Like Remembering: Heavy Water by Gloria McLean, For the Price of Five Cows by Sabrina Wong, Perilune by Sue Bernhard, Veiled by Cherylyn Lavagnino, Good Game, Yo! by Stafford C. Berry Jr., Howl! by Cori Kresge, and On the Night Plain by Meghan E. Phillips.

Cantata presented a reflective quintet of female dancers dressed in hooded autumn-tone garments, developing a series of arm gestures and thematic sequences forming a dialogue journey of support. Reminiscent of Martha Graham’s aesthetic, Christina Sanchez performed Cante Flamenco, accompanied by the recording of Media Granaína by flamenco singer, Chato de Valencia. Dressed in a mustard “A” cut, long dress adorn by a toreador’s sleeveless jacket, Sanchez presented an impeccable variation interlacing Spanish prototype gestures, with Graham’s spirals, epaulements, contractions, parallel attitudes, arm lines, hinges descending to the floor. While striking her closing pose, she received an “Ole!” from the audience.

Like Remembering: Heavy Water, choreographed by Gloria McLean, the dance honored its theme conveying a bound weight bearing deconstruction and constraint. The duet formed by Mariko Endo and Gloria McLeaf was dedicated to Mrinalini Sarabhai and Lucky Dragon-Five.

Within a discursive myriad of multi-language texts, Sabrina Wong made a poignant statement denouncing crimes against women. For the Price of Five Cows opened with a striking triangular wall formation constructed by eight women dressed in various red clothing facing the cyclorama. The vigorous debate consisted of bounded stillness and escaping rushes, groups creating support structures, or individuals being trapped by hidden bodies. These contemporary dance phrases incorporated Bartenieff technique, and acrobatics. It built up to a conclusion where the triangular wall formation to the proscenium was brought to the front, this time with the dancers facing towards the audience.

Courtney Lopes and Elisa Schreiber performed Sue Bernhard’s Perilune. This two-part duet consisted of an introspective austere contemporary movement conversation of fluid over-curving thematic sequences reflected in the partnering and contact gestures in part “A,” which transitioned to sudden, celebratory movement.

Veiled presented a narrative of somber female dancers dressed in post-war gray skits and brown blouses. Sequentially laying down in stately parallel column formations, group proceeded through linear floor pattern configurations accentuated by connecting gestures. Stafford C. Berry Jr. opened Good Game, Yo! designing a lighter proposal with a dab of comic satire. The opening section introduced three female cheerleaders in theatrical improvisation combining spoken language facial gestures, street dancing, twerking, and extensively sustained poses. The scene transitioned as five male basketball players occupied the stage exchanging athletic training and modern dance themes with profanity over a summertime soundtrack by Annie Lennox.

Howl! consisted of a soloist dressed in black leggings and a shimmering reflecting tank top, headed in a sustained slow trajectory diagonally across the stage accompanied by an excruciating recording of howling sounds. On the Night Plain closed the evening with a quintet of neoclassical ballet dancers dressed in black unitards and a black wraparound skirts, displaying a plethora of lines, batterie and across-the-floor sequences.

Although the performance suffered several technical issues with the lighting, entrances, and exits, the community benevolently showed their sincere appreciation to the joint effort of the organization, and the diverse participants, in supporting the preservation of dance legends and the development of emerging artists.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

October 26, 2018
Sean Curran made waves as a member of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in the late 1980's and since that time he’s been fairly consistently choreographing for his company and various other entities.

This fall, during the 2018 Next Wave Festival, BAM invited Curran back for a mini retrospective and look forward. Originally executed in an outdoor space, Sean Curran and Company performed a renovated piece from 2000 Abstract Concrete. Dressed in bright, primary colored short-cut unitard, dancers jauntily loped around in breezy patterns.

Anchoring the evening was the New York premiere of Everywhere All the Time (2018) which featured costumes by Liliana Casabal, set design by landscape architect Diana Balmoria, and music by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy performed by Third Coast Percussion.

The inventive visual and aural elements took precedence over the choreography. Three translucent, stretched screens made of branch-shaped profiles are stacked one behind the other forming a Renaissance style “vanishing perspective.” The optical illusion interplayed with dancers as they moved in and out of the open spaces. When bodies appeared and disappeared through the thicket of screens, it resembled a film because dancers- propelled by the dynamic percussive music- appeared to dissolve or cross-fade from one screen to another. Positioned in an antiphonal formation—2 sets of percussionists sat in boxes house –front and 2 sets on either side of the stage -- Third Coast Percussion generated a 360 degree soundscape. In the end, the musical composition in play with the sets and light by Robert Wierzel and Mark Randall produced the most evocative performance.

Sandwiched between these two pieces was a perennial favorite from 2001 Quadrabox Redcux which re-united Curran with Tigger Benford and Martha Partridge along with Benjamin Freedman. Seated on big wood boxes, the dancers basically re-created an intricate series of rhythmic, percussive hits on the box, body, and floor. In essence, it’s an updated, elongated “pattin’ juba” body extravaganza that thrills audiences.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 25, 2018
For Thursday night’s post-show discussion of Sankofa Danzafro’s City of Others, Artistic Director Rafael Palacios illuminated to many who may not have known (this writer included), that Colombia is the second largest country in Latin America with African descent in its population. As he and his dancers went on, through a translator, those who stayed were further educated on the various regions of Colombia – not only how culturally distinct they are, but also how the dancers came from many of them before finding Sankofa, based in Medellín, the country’s second largest city.

City of Others functions as its title suggests – the result of a collaborative process of movement contributions from these regions. On average, the language strikes Western eyes as a Latin-infused hip-hop, but this reading does no justice to all the forms of traditional dance and martial arts that wind into the work’s DNA, rendering the piece as a physical facsimile of the aggregate diversity of Medellín.

Sections take the form of soloists moving against a textured chorus. While mostly vigorously danced, there are brief, refreshing breaks of pedestrian chatter, singing, and live drumming in a work that begins with a lively air, only to morph over the hour into a call for resistance.

A field of raised fists gives a first impression of uprising. As others navigate through ensemble lurches, our perceptive mirage vanishes to reveal a group of tired commuters, the soloists at once perhaps the passengers’ inner, higher selves or literal public transit performers. Towards the end, the break dancer of the group abandons the pattern of dancing against a backdrop of secondary focus to employ the ensemble as a straight jacket – amid rapid shaking, he knows he will catapult into the audience if not properly restrained.

Where there are language barriers, we feel evolving episodes of aggression, innocuously initiated with the rowdy shoves of a playful schoolyard spar. Palacios eschews fight choreography for a more nuanced illustration of a community stifling itself in an oppressive system. The costumes, reminiscent of private school uniforms, curtail visual cultural expression. Three large wooden boards form a Sisyphean ramp of social mobility no dancer can traverse; a vertical coffin encases solos concluded by joining the collective holding of the boards – unconscious complacency in a system that traps its consumers in disenfranchisement. The boards, conversely, allow dancers to literally rise above the crowd to deliver gestural warnings of slavery’s reincarnation.

We think of New York City as the place to which we can escape from our small towns to find freedom in expression. In Melledín, the dancers of Sankofa only feel visible if they are executing their town of origin’s associated movement forms. In urban environments more interested in conformity than diversity, performance is truth, and Sankofa Danzafro’s rich representation of choreographic multiplicity achieves a work that allows any audience to find their own sense of otherness reflected and celebrated.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 15, 2018
Every year the New York Dance and Performance Awards (“Bessies”) salute the NYC dance and performance community – our very own Oscars. But how does one decide to award one dance or performance over another? Because there are no categories or distinctions between kinds of dance, it often feels like comparing apples and oranges. Nonetheless, the evening, led by hosts Ayodele Casel and Shernita Anderson, had a casual, fun atmosphere and showed once again that New York is a vibrant, fertile, and inclusive ground for dance.

The highlight of the evening was Jennifer Monson’s introduction of Simone Forti, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Dance, and Forti’s thoughtful video acceptance speech, where she graciously accepted the honor while reminding us the work is “not about awards but about how we nurture…”

The Juried Bessie award went to Kyle Marshall, “for embodying rather than illustrating complicated issues” around race and sexuality, and Outstanding Revived work went to Jane Comfort and Company.

Marjorie Forte-Saunders, Geoff Sobelle, David Thomson and Nami Yamamoto won Outstanding Production, and Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance went to Marya Warshaw of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange. Outstanding Musical Composition/Sound went to Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste and Visual Design went to the team that created Memoir of a… Unicorn.

The winner of the Outstanding Breakout Choreographer Award, Mariana Valencia, performed an excerpt where she walked around a lot talking with a mike about her childhood.

The Bessies are skewed toward “downtown” dance and performance – a fact that is probably not worth dwelling on. The four Outstanding Performer awards went to Germaine Acogny, Courtney Cook, Elizabeth DeMent, and Sara Mearns, all well-deserved. The only one I had seen live was Mearns, a consummate ballerina and artist, whose balletic interpretation of Isadora Duncan remains, for me, laced with a touch of irony, given Duncan’s anti-ballet rhetoric. It was a bit awkward to hear her fawn over her downtown collaborators, given her achievements across the board, but her work crossing that annoying uptown/downtown divide has a unique value that hopefully portends more interesting things to come.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

October 11, 2018
Pitkin Grove sounds like the title to a television series, identifying a particular space without defining what happens in it, leaving only specific associations to be made. Beth Gill’s work, shown at the The Joyce Theater’s NY Quadrille and titled in such a way, unfolds like an hour-long title sequence to an episode that plays only in our heads.

As we take our seats, Kevin Boateng, in a candy red vestment, cautiously treads the stage, draped in squares of astroturf. He draws an invisible curtain, giving himself permission to wander more deeply from the stage’s four edges. Across additional actions of whipping arms overhead, jabbing shoulders repeatedly towards the ground, and testing surfaces before resting on them, Boateng could be anyone from caretaker to owner of the space, but never achieves a comfort that would express mere consumption.

Underneath the squares of turf lies Danielle Goldman, wearing a variety of pink fabrics. Excavated in the knick of time, she takes a preparatory breath into a plastic bag before aggressively clearing the stage of everything that had been nestling with her beneath the previous scene’s grassy topography. Primarily hoses, they are lucky to be so much as unraveled before Goldman flings them offstage, politely collected by stagehands. Perched atop a trashcan, she reveals her face to no one from under her stocking facemask to preciously mold thin black sheets, ultimately dropped, to her head, revising any object’s utility as sheer disposability.

Joyce Edwards is uniquely indifferent to objects in space. A towering, muscular figure, the sunshine of her yellow costume is countered with a guarded vocabulary, like a boxer on a tape, neurotically paused and resumed into light, rhythmic footwork and luxurious stretching. Should one of Goldman’s remnants lie along her path, Edwards, like a street cleaner, shuffles them offstage with the rest of the debris.

Left with a bare stage, Jennifer Lafferty collaborates with objects we cannot see, running with her trailing arms gripping an invisible sled behind her. She crabwalks backwards, trying not to crumble under the weight above her. At the end of an otherwise expository piece, Lafferty is the only one to echo motifs articulated by Boateng and Goldman, with no answer as to how these individuals connect.

Gill’s independent meddling, however, inevitably connects each body. Her removal of the astrotuf squares keeps Boateng at bay, and activates Goldman to pick up where Gill’s tossing left off. She derails Edwards, sitting her down as she removes the top of her gray suit and dunks herself in a trashcan of gray paint, the fan behind her drying her like hardening cement. When Edwards resumes, Gill crumbles slowly to the ground, lying at the edge of the space, providing a charged though inactive locus from which Lafferty’s solo spins.

Who is she? Neither her trail of gray paint nor her body is collected by stagehands. She doesn’t list herself as a performer, but does take credit alongside costume designer Beille Younkman for scenery. As Gill performs the role of choreographer, the set pieces take on choreographic motivation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

October 8, 2018
In keeping with the festival's format, ballet mixed with modern dance and everything else in-between at City Center's Fall For Dance fourth program. At the end of the evening, audiences howled following the vigorous, “Midnight Raga” choreographed by Marco Goecke to Ravi Shankar and the inimitable Etta James’ hit “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Bare chested, and in close proximity to one another, the daring dancers—Surimi Fukushi and Adam Russell-Jones-- rippled their arms, chest and back muscles in an intricate tapestry of micro isolated movements funkily urging the R&B from their bodies.

The National Ballet of China arrived with an excerpt from “The Crane Calling.” Choreographed by Ma Cong and Zhang Zhenxim, the lithe dancers clad in white unitards preened and pricked the floor. Clearly happy to appear in NYC, the large, and well rehearsed company hardly had room to spread their wings on City Center’s stage.

Hands-down, the best music arrived with Heather Christian’s haunting voice during the “Reclamation Map” by Sonya Tayeh. Seated with her back to the audience at an old fashioned upright piano, Christian was flanked by two, strong female back-up singers. A celestial light broke through the darkness revealing dancers in muted clothes resembling outfits for religious sects like the Amish or Shakers. Levitated by the music, dancers popped in and out of the scene, hooking limbs to create a human chain that ultimately built to the final ecstatic moment.

Determined to uplift the crowd, Dance Theater of Harlem whipped through “Balamouk” by the popular choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Good looking dancers started in a tribal clump, arms and legs variously shooting out and taking individuals away from the community and back again. Fanciful moves derived from modern, ballet and Latin social dances underscored the company’s youth and range.

Fall For Dance continues with two more programs.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

NYC Ballet Gala and Fall Season
October 1, 2018
It’s been a difficult fall season for NYC Ballet but the dancers are performing with an assured commitment and graceful determination. Sadly, this season is the last for Joquim DeLuz. Technically brilliant and genially theatrical, DeLuz’s abundance of spirit will be missed.

Over the space of four weeks, the programs were studded with classic Balanchine works, repertory honoring Jerome Robbins’ 100th anniversary and new works by younger choreographers.

Balanchine’s “Jewels” allowed company members to display their romantic, athletic and classical roots. Performed with clarity, a couple of standouts in “Emeralds” included Unity Phelan and Taylor Stanley who partnered the always-striking Tyler Peck. “Rubies” originally choreographed for the indefatigable Edward Villella and Patricia McBride saw a little more muted performance by Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette. In the grand finale, the romantic Sarah Mearns unloosed her seductive port de bras in a performance heighted by the rousing performance by the up-and-coming Joseph Gordon.

New choreography appeared during the Fall Gala entitled “Choreography & Couture.” Drawing a well-groomed crowd, the intermissionless evening was outfitted with three ballets strutting costumes by fashion designers.

When the curtain rose, members of NYC Ballet stretched across the stage while Teresa Reichlin read a deeply felt tribute to the love dancers feel for dance, for NYC Ballet, and for each other. A perfect nod to the storm waves washing up on NYC Ballet’s stage, the dancers projected an assured hope.

Similarly, the program underscored ballet’s developing future. A well versed choreographer who founded Ballet X and serves as Pennsylvania Ballet’s “choreographer-in-residence,” Matthew Neenan debuted “The Exchange” to music by Antonin Dvorak. Blood red and black costumes popped when Tyler Peck and Joseph Gordon engaged in a twisty, fast paced duet that filtered through the onrush of criss-crossing movement patterns.

Someone who’s being closely watched, Gianna Reisen partnered with Alberta Ferretti for her new work “Judah” to a score by the contemporary composer John Adams. An intuitive choreographer, Reisen takes good advantage of her six lead dancers in flowy, draped pastel tunics for women and leotards and tights for men. With a nod to Balanchine’s Apollo, the women assumed sculptural poses between two short, white staircases suggesting ancient Greek muses beguiling men. Lauren Lovette and Preston Chamblee embraced the floor and air when they danced a duet with purity and verve framed by two short, white staircases on either side of the stage.

The noted modern dance choreographer Kyle Abraham knocked out his premiere “The Runway” to a music collage edited by Abraham mixing Nico mulhy, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and James Blake and audience cheers. Designer Giles Deacon pricked the drama quotient with his outlandish costumes—perfect for a drag ball runway --with one huge difference: the dancing was uniformly divine. In particular, Taylor Stanley glided backwards, torqued and snapped his body into familiar street dance forms enhanced through ballet technique and charisma. An apparent hit, there’s no doubt the ballet will return attracting a young, animated audience members.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

October 1, 2018
OCT. 17 Program at 6:30pm
SCREENING: “The Challenges Facing Female Choreographers”
EYE ON DANCE video episode shot in 1988, moderated by Celia Ipiotis
EOD GUESTS: Miriam Mahdaviani(Former NYC Ballet dancer and first female to choreograph at NYCB)Sarah Skaggs (choreographer), Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Director/Urban Bush Women).
TALK: Moderator Celia Ipiotis engages the guests in a frank discussion tapping into the professional hurdles navigated by female choreographers.
DANCE EXCERPTS: Zollar’s “Anarchy, Wild Women and Dinah,” Mahdaviani’s “Adagio for Two,” and Skaggs’ “Noh Body.” *LIVE PANEL: Curator Ipiotis along with Camille A. Brown (modern dance and musical theater choreographer) Sarah Skaggs, and Miriam Mahdaviani scrutinize the same landscape thirty years later.
Followed by Q & A.
++These programs are made possible through the EYE ON DANCE Legacy Archive Restoration Project. To help save the EOD video archive, please make a tax-deductible contribution.

August 21, 2018
In the 1970’s, the Joffrey Ballet under the direction of Bob Joffrey built up an “Ashton wing” of ballets. This American company made it possible for Americans to view Ashton’s elegantly constructed and witty ballets.

Now, the Sarasota Ballet under the direction of Iain Webb has acquired a collection of Ashton ballets, and those in NYC had the good fortune of seeing them during their Joyce season.

When Monotones I and II as well as Les Patineurs first appeared in NYC, it caused superlatives to spill off many a critic’s page. Witnessing Monotones I and II is a like a study in choreographic clarity. Crystalline movements are offset by spare lighting highlighting skintight unitards and snug skullcaps of the same shiny, stretchy material. Monotones II was created first with two men (Jamie Carter and Daniel Pratt) and one woman (Amy Wood) and Monotones I mirrors the choreography with two women (Kate Honea and Katelyn May) and one man (Nicolas Moreno).

In both ballets, the men and women repeat lean, angular gestures—stretching legs and arms that form geometric shapes. Overall, the sensation is of planets rotating in separate orbits and coordinated by one single cosmos. Adding to the celestial metaphor is Eric Satie’s ethereal music.

In contrast to this modernist ballet is an excerpt from the charming Les Patineurs featuring the “the jumping boy” with two lovely ballerinas in full white skirts, black fit jackets, furry hats and black toe shoes that look like little booties. He (Ivan Durate) jumps and twirls while the two women (Asia Bui and Samantha Benoit) slide side by side—in fact, one wonders why an ice dance company never staged this for real ice dancers.

There’s the humorous La Chattethat’s an extended play on a cat’s (Kate Honea) seductive unfolding and mercurial emotions. Meditation From Thais with Ryoko Asadoshima and Ricardo Graziano displays Mideastern exoticism as designed at the turn of the 19th century to the utterly lush Meditation by Jules Massenet.

But one of the program’s most anticipated moments arrived when the great classical dancer of marked theatricality and astounding partnering, Marcello Gomes, returned to the NYC stage in The Two Pigeons with Victoria Hulland. His pleasing classicism, and gallant engagement was fully evident. Although the ballet is not technically demanding, it does require an eloquence born of grace—as do many of Ashton’s ballets.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

August 19, 2018
What a way to celebrate the unique, enriching diversity of our New York City dance community! The Battery Dance Festival has highlighted our international dance community at its best. From the avant-garde to the deep-rooted traditional folklore, dialogues between artist’s followers, colleagues, tourists and passing by audiences, gathered at the Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park for this summer spectacular celebration. The dramatic natural sunset backdrop embellished the scene with its chromatic transitions as the coastline lit up, featuring the glamorous Statute of Liberty irradiating her torch, welcoming natives and foreigners. Rain or shine, the exquisitely curated dance companies were showered in applause not only for their commendable artistry but also by their contagious joy.

A highlight of Friday, August 17th’s program was the Mexican dance company Ballet Nepantla, led by Andrea Guajardo as artistic director, where she participates as dancer and cochoreographer along with Martín Rodríguez, Anthony Bocconi, and Argelia Arreola. Their performance opened with Llorona, a pas de deux integrating Mexican folk and contemporary dance idioms, climaxing with Coco, a signature piece in the repertoire from the region of Veracruz. In this huapango genre, Guajardo extrapolated its blend of Spanish and Mexican dance styles with an effervescence of its Afro-Caribbean roots where swirling vaporous white ample skirts played with the air, teasing Coco's jarocho infectious rhythm.

Returning to the festival with the U.S. premiere of Borwa: People of the South, Mophato Dance Theater took the viewers on a journey through stories of encounter and departure. Honoring Botswana traditions, cadences of group male configurations depicted the images of many voyages. Women ensembles portrayed life in the homeland with lyrical blankets and sweeping dry grass, and a contemporary duet enacted the yearning of distant lovers.

The the whole cast reunited, culminating with a feast of vibrating shuffling steps, undulating torsos, suspended leaps, and dynamic rolls, extrapolated by a percussive plethora of stamps, body slaps, claps, ankle rattles, Djembes, and African Xylophones. Final bows turned into a community dance as the company welcomed patrons to join them with the exulting multi-cultural audience response flooding the outdoor stage.

Wednesday's program, August the 15th, commemorated Indian Independence Day, showcasing an array of respected Hindi dance groups in an interactive Kathak program narrated by Rajika Puri, an internationally known exponent of this art form. Parul Shah and Mohip Joarder, portrayed Yugal, an impeccable stylized duet narrative embellished by the harmonic synchronicity of soft spiraling arms contrasting with sharp accents. Within their delicate dance phrases, sequences evolved en manège and Kathak signature rapid series of pirouettes were spiced with the musicality of the silver-bells tied around their ankles.

In Nirityalkatha, Sandip Mallick, integrated musicians and the audience in a conversation within his rhythmic poetry and footwork percussion. His cool command of timing and rhythms in counter-time with the musicians was admirable and enjoyable. Mallick offered an explanation of what each of his pieces was about, which included a tribute to India’s national bird, the counterpoint game between the correspondence of music chords with dance terminology, and an amusing percussive choreographic game based on numbers.

Directed by Anuj Mishra, the company that carries his name, follows the traditions of renowned Kathak guru, Pt. Arjun Mishra, himself fruit of the saga of legends. In Yatra: The Journey of Kathak, Anuj Mishra, Neha Singh, and Kantika Mishra contrasted India’s traditional court dances with a lyrical composition embodying a popular Hindi love song.

Preeti Sharma and Piyush Chauhan closed the evening with Jhankaar which exuded rampage enthusiasm embellished by the heavy costume embroidery. However, their choreographic proposal and technique did not enjoy the finesse of the earlier works. The lengthy program was well received by the benevolent Hindi audience, appreciating this unique opportunity to nurture the new generations with a wide array of references of their dance heritage.
. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

August 12, 2018
Expanding the boundaries of space and race, Mexican contemporary dancer and choreographer, Felipe Escalante premiered Ex Umbra In Solem at Gibney´s intimate performance space, The Theater. Making a statement against violence experienced by refugees in their journeys, Escalante portrayed the darkness of human insensitivity that persists as a byproduct of devouring instincts moved by need or greed.

As patrons were welcomed to the black box theatre flanked by columns and delineated by a luminous trail of irradiant red, orange, and yellow synthetic leaves, the only peculiar distraction was a lady in a black business suit, sitting at the stage right wing area immersed in her cell phone. A preview of Escalante’s Animula, Vagula, Blandula, a duet beautifully performed by him and Sevin Ceiker, opened the evening.

After an imperceptible transition, the young director of Tabula Rasa Dance Theater introduced his premiere through a seamless storyline of exiles' scenarios. The body of work presented its discourse through a wave of dynamic segments embellished by rapid trajectories conjugating sharp darting jetés with sliding retroceding penchés, into swirling renversés embroidered into larghetto moments awakened by minute rhythmic hand and facial gestures.

Escalante’s extraordinary musicality was highlighted by how he incorporated the sound of breath into gesture patterns, the respiratory sound of the aluminum leaves in the costume of the central female’s solo, plus enhanced musical climaxes such as a moment when the seven-dancer ensemble landed from a whirl of aerial sequences. Deliberately incorporating sound as a discursive statement, the program did include a warning about disturbing content and noises, particularly those evoking war.

As the numerous dance scenes went by, the wing area was also used as a dressing room for multiple costume changes, where the lady in the business suit sitting near the entrance remained while integrating her cell phone activity into comic-release performance. After a few numbers, other dancers joined her sitting comfortably in a row of chairs by the wings reading their phones while the rest of the cast continued on stage--an ambiguity that served as a point of inquiry and distraction.

However, as the works progressed, the cell phones became more integral in the choreographic proposal, notably in Felipe’s suffocating masked solo. The dramatic end of the premiere, where the lead dancer collapses after dragging herself, one hand reaching out with her phone, flipped silence into laughter. Surprisingly, the business suit lady left her chair to rescue the dancer’s phone and started taking selfies. Breaking protocol, the company came back on stage for the bow while immersed in their phones, barely noticing each other, and mindlessly taking a sort of bow, to return backstage to tend their phones while patrons hailed the innovative proposal and the accomplished dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

July 30, 2018
Fully thriving, with an exploration of the non-human through the human body, Momix Director, Moses Pendleton, had the Joyce Theater’s audience in the palm of his hand during the July 25th performance as well as through the packed Q&A the end of the show. The program included an effective balance of new and iconic repertoire gathered through four decades, all appealing through an extrapolation of imaginative costume and lighting within a playful sense of humor. Cultivating creative inquiry, the series of short works challenged laws of physics, defying gravity, preconceived cognition, illusion, and fantasy.

Pleiades opened with a trio in glittering dresses shape-changing in their pulsing gleaming plastic tubes set against a starry cyclorama. Tuu presented a malleable duet creating flowing configurations which departed from a dancer wrapped around her standing partner’s waist.

Marigolds was a color feast of a transformative costume designs that progressed from gigantic marigolds decorating the floor, to torso-length ruffle dresses, stretching into hilarious tutus, and lengthening into Latin rumba costumes, which turned into long slick gowns with dragging constraining pompons.

Pole Dance, took the audience into an aborigenous themed game of buoyancy with three men thrusting themselves through space using long wooden poles that served as delineating designs, propelling devices, or supporting structures.

Baths of Caracalla developed from a quintet of women wearing pearl white gowns unceasingly shaking their ample floor-length skirts, from which they emerged to indulge in caressing the space with the skirts’ fabric, swirling through the air like revolving wings.

The 35th anniversary of Daddy Long Legs broke the abstract thread with a trip to the wild west, where three cowboys with an extra-long leg limped, turned, and rolled in diverting in shear showtime. Light Reigns balanced crutching figures with deconstructing light-beam tripods. In its 35th anniversary, too, Paper Trails, one of the evening’s favorite, opened as three rolls of paper unraveled with multiple projections of text, which became more evident as the paper trails were lifted, rotating and traveling through space. In the second section of this piece, sets of partners came into the scene as they wrapped themselves in the paper from its edges, twirling until meeting each other in the middle. A series of moving paper sculptures consolidated as one crumpled cloud, from which a madame pompadour figure emerged.

Echoes of Narcissus opened after intermission with a mesmerizing journey of interweaving mirror-like reflections of a ballerina laying on a ranked platform. Snow Geese featured visual effects of white arm lines floating through the darkness. Dream Catcher had everyone at the edge of their seat. An acrobatic duet counterbalanced through the constant revolution ultimately formed an amorphous tubular sculpture.

By picking the minds of those new to Moses’ games, Brainwave erupted in a blackout exhibiting a flat neon-blue rope line across the proscenium, which became a runway of growing and speeding ripples that slid from stage right to left, closing with a returning ripple battle. The audience gasped as glowing white balloon-like balls vacuumed upwards closing a balancing dance by three topless ballerinas enwrapped by dim light.

Man Fan played with royal jellyfish-like configurations created by the enormous dimension of a silk belt fan that reached through the stage’s delimitations. Table Talk offered another comic break, where an intrepid male soloist interacted with a wooden table as a gymnastic vault. Aqua Flora focused attention on a revolving dancer whose costume transitioned from a beaded headpiece to a birdcage, and into spinning Saturn-like rings.

After these series of poetic glimpses, the program closed with If You Need Some Body, an uproarious ventriloquistic ball where the whole cast flung rag manikins mocking impersonating stereotypes.

Overall, Momix’s New York season excelled in a unique combination of exquisite aesthetic and entertainment with exuberant, dynamic imagery, celebrating endless possibilities of minimalistic, humorous, inquisitive, and audacious theatrical dance elements, showcasing them as expressive protagonist and choreographic allies. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

July 24, 2018
The French Mime Marcel Marceau (1923-2007) stole my heart as a child and I cried through one of his last performances at Hunter College. Seeing Dominique Delouche’s The Mime Marcel Marceau, newly released footage shot in 1964 of Marceau, in Dance on Camera Festival (DOCF) 2018 at the Walter Reade Theatre was a bittersweet experience. Could his humble character, Bip the Clown, fill stadiums today as he did in his long career? A Jewish survivor of World War II who helped smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied France, Marceau was quoted in a Smithsonian article as saying “the people who came back from the [concentration] camps were never able to talk about it… My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.”

Delouche, a French documentarian whose films have been shown many times in DOCF, honors that code of silence, never slipping into the usual documentary format of jumping from interview to archive footage. The closest Delouche comes to providing background information is a segment called “Lineage” with stills of mimes through history, including drawings of Commedia Del’Arte characters, and a marvelous stage moment in which Michael Jackson and Marceau exchange bows towards each other.

Delouche’s film follows Marceau in his white face, white sailor pants, striped shirt, and top hat sprouting one stemmed red flower, ambling through the traffic of Paris, as well as capturing several of his solos in a black box, and some moments on stage without his white face as a striking actor. On the street, Marceau appears like a mirage, invisible, perhaps, to only a few. His intent never seems to entertain, so much as to direct our attention, like a camera zooming in for a close-up, or a scientist examining minutiae of movement. Absorbed in thought, coping with dilemmas, big and small - passing time dangling an arm while leaning on an invisible support to breaking out of a cage, Marceau makes us appreciate the mysteries of the human machine, of living.

His lightness of being, his precise emotional changes, and, of course, his moon walk are all bench marks of physical theatre. Delouche offers a Valentine to a dignified artist. Always exacting, Marceau has a unique place in theatre history, his focus, timing, and his empathy are to be cherished.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

July 15, 2018
An overall sense of satisfaction penetrates the audience watching Lucinda Child’s Available Light (1983) at this year’s Mostly Mozart Festival.

A structuralist, Childs deploys minimalist, geometric forms that echo the Renaissance era’s fascination with the golden mean most famously expressed by the mathematical ratio applied to the Parthenon. Her collaboration with composer John Adams and Frank Gehry, the show’s set designer and now famed architect, resonates with the idea of the golden ratio as reflected in the visual and movement elements.

A deep organ chord announces the dancers’ entrance. The space is divided into two spheres, the lower and the upper—the sacred and profane. White light (by Beverly Emmons and Jon Torres) paints the the stage floor and the top platform which is balanced over lattice iron fixtures.

Spare movement that borrows from ballet and the Judson Dance Theater experimentations generates a rigor that permeates every single step and gesture.

Exquisitely mapped out, Childs organizes the dancers in counterpoint to one another. Quartets splinter into duets, build into trios, then flip into longer of shorter lines of kinetic building blocs. Frequently, movement canons connect the dancers below with the dancers above. When a sequence begins on stage, one or another dancer on the 2nd floor picks up the sequence. Frequently, the steps are reversed unfolding backward and forward. It’s a matter of accumulation and attrition.

About half way through, dancers exit in twilight, but rather than ending, the dancers return in silhouette and repeat many of the passages formulated with different group combinations and drenched in red light. White, black and red are the dominant colors reflected as well in square legged leotards or bikinis designed by Kasia Walicka Maimone.

In the space of one hour, the well-rehearsed dancers delivered mediation on complex simplicity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 12, 2018
We live in a political moment where language seems meaningless and truth is almost impossible to discern. Ohad Naharin's "Naharin's Virus" throws this alarming fact in our faces with over an hour of both explosive and subtle dancing and provocation, accompanied by intermittently spoken text (written by Peter Handke), and music from Arab folk music to Samuel Barber. One of the dancers, dressed like a politician and standing at a microphone high up on a wall, speaks phrases that make it abundantly clear words mean nothing, or anything you want them to mean, while the dancers below dance with rage, sensuality, extreme individuality but also unity, virtuosity, precision, and fearlessness.

To think about our current crisis of language - a preoccupation of Western artists and intellectuals throughout the modern era - in a theatrical dance work has a fascinating and revelatory effect. Through repeated spoken references to us - the audience - we are forced to contend with our reality and our perceptions; our bodily functions ("you become aware of your sweaty hands" and "the air you inhale and exhale"), and our expectations ("before you came to the theater, you prepared for something..."), while entering the contained, complete, word-less world before us.

One dancer faces the wall, clad in a white long-sleeved white leotards and black tights that make her legs sort of disappear, and slowly traces a line of chalk around her body. As others enter, in the same uniform, their interactions make them seem human but also strangely other. As we watch a series of solos and various groupings that move with languidness or extreme violence, the dancers form community but also build to a chilling visualization of conflicts wrought through insults and misunderstandings -- the way language effects groupthink, the extreme dangers of empty rhetoric and conformity.

The Batsheva Young Ensemble dancers are wickedly intelligent, blatant at times, subtle at others, delivering fierce sequences of liquid movement or shrill flailing with delicious control and deadpan humor. They are a unique species, and to experience their world rewards us with an experience of dance that is a clear and powerful alternative to words, simultaneously stunning art and call to action.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

July 11, 2018
Contemporary ballet dancers often have a confident, assured quality that stares out at you, daring you to look away. The dancers of Barak Ballet are powerful, technically savvy dancers that know they are being watched, and they play to it.

The program opened with artistic director Melissa Barak's new work Cypher, with sometimes ominous electronic music by Molly Joyce and costumes by Holly Hines, turquoise blue leotards with bare legs and pointe shoes for the ladies - a contemporary ballet staple. A quirky, technically crystalline work with stark lighting by Nathan Scheuer, it showcased the dancers, especially in the duet by Brian Simcoe and Xuan Cheng (currently principals with Oregon Ballet Theatre). But it also had several ambiguous moments, that perhaps played to a secret code we were never fully aware of.

Nicholas Blanc's Desert Transport began with a warm, burnt orange lighting and music by Mason Bates with some "indigenous"-sounding vocals and movie soundtrack swells that seemed at odds with the American Southwest images that came to mind. The gorgeous costumes by Ruth Fentroy, simple leotards in metallic golds and oranges, moved with and flattered the dancers. The vocabulary was again "balletic contemporary," but with more modern floor work, and the challenge here was to discern a point of view: a solo woman is joined by her community, they gesture, cover their mouths, embrace, hold hands, dance in unison, but it's not clear why or where it is all going.

E/Space, was the most inventive of the evening, beginning with larger than life media designs by Refik Anadol: geometric and celestial projections on a front scrim that spiral with intensity and then reveal the dancers behind its spinning vortex. The dancers' attack the fiendishly fast neoclassical choreography with ease, and the implication of finely tuned ballet dancers at the heart of our rational universe is well-taken. Jorge Villarini expertly partnered Julia Erickson in sequences where they seem attracted each other and then repel like magnets with a playful urgency. The electronic score with piano by David Lawrence sounds appropriate, although the ubiquity of that kind of soundtrack makes all the works less memorable. In the end, the swirling projection comes back and reverses itself, and we wonder when we can enter that universe again.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

July 10, 2018
In 1983, I invited theater, film and ballet star Liliane Montevecchi plus ballerina Galena Panova to appear on EYE ON DANCE. Ms. Montevecchi studied with the great Mathilda Kschessinska at the Paris Opera Ballet and danced in ballets by Leonid Massine and David Lichine before becoming one of Roland Petit's favored ballerinas. On the EOD program she underscored the importance of her training as a dancer and Petit's emphasis on feeling the emotion of each individual movement.

A most generous and highly theatrical human being--she never went out without a brightly colored scarf encircling her fully made-up face. She believed ti was imperative she extend the magic beyond the stage to every second of life.

Whenever we held a special event to raise funds for EYE ON DANCE, she would attend eager to help in any way possible.

Her great spirit, vivacity and genuine love of theater will be missed.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

July 5, 2018
The staging of The Masque of the Red Death, a 19th-century story by Edgar Allan Poe, in a contemporary dance mode seems like a fascinating project - especially with the addition of text by such artistic luminaries as Joan Miro and Wassily Kandinsky, both 20th-century titans of art known for their spiritual leanings and belief in the power of color, and the lesser known Cennino Cennini, the 15th-century Italian painter and theorist. How will it all be brought together?

In a tantalizing opening, several dancers and an imposing figure with blood-red palms and a Vader-like mask move through an agonized preface, with the men collapsing to the floor and carried off (presumably by Death) while the women move mournfully, throwing their hair back while covering one eye as the gloved figure stalks them. But soon the ballet gets stuck in a sequentially dark, repetitive mode, punctuated by violent lighting changes (by Jimmy Lawlor) that never fully coheres into a clear overarching strategy. Over an hour of oblique references to a quote from the Poe story (in the program) that ended in the expected "death" of everyone involved was just perplexing.

Accompanied by a repetitive electronic score by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, separate scenes enact a variant of dancers stalking each other, where one performer dances in the middle as others watch from the sidelines or walk slowly around him or her. Several solos and duets sometimes evoke Poe's Prince Prospero and his "knights and dames," (also costumed by Beamish) but when they reappear in futuristic get-ups that include white hooded suits with Jawa-like electronic eyes, or red neon necklaces, it only adds to the head-scratching effect.

Each lighting scheme is meant to evoke one of "seven rooms" in the castle where Prospero and his courtiers are hiding from certain death, and each scene has a similar distressing, ominous feel to it, drained of any climax. We never see Prospero's "hale and light-hearted friends" - they all seem to know the end is coming from the start. Only his solo at the very end builds to something more, but by then it seems too late. Afterwards, in a final, unintended irony, we heard the appeal for Dancers Responding to AIDS. After all that, I hope everyone gave generously.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Nicole Duffy Robertson

July 4, 2018
The staging of The Masque of the Red Death, a 19th-century story by Edgar Allan Poe, in a contemporary dance mode seems like a fascinating project - especially with the addition of text by such artistic luminaries as Joan Miro and Wassily Kandinsky, both 20th-century titans of art known for their spiritual leanings and belief in the power of color, and the lesser known Cennino Cennini, the 15th-century Italian painter and theorist. How will it all be brought together?

In a tantalizing opening, several dancers and an imposing figure with blood-red palms and a Vader-like mask move through an agonized preface, with the men collapsing to the floor and carried off (presumably by Death) while the women move mournfully, throwing their hair back while covering one eye as the gloved figure stalks them. But soon the ballet gets stuck in a sequentially dark, repetitive mode, punctuated by violent lighting changes (by Jimmy Lawlor) that never fully coheres into a clear overarching strategy. Over an hour of oblique references to a quote from the Poe story (in the program) that ended in the expected "death" of everyone involved was just perplexing.

Accompanied by a repetitive electronic score by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, separate scenes enact a variant of dancers stalking each other, where one performer dances in the middle as others watch from the sidelines or walk slowly around him or her. Several solos and duets sometimes evoke Poe's Prince Prospero and his "knights and dames," (also costumed by Beamish) but when they reappear in futuristic get-ups that include white hooded suits with Jawa-like electronic eyes, or red neon necklaces, it only adds to the head-scratching effect.

Each lighting scheme is meant to evoke one of "seven rooms" in the castle where Prospero and his courtiers are hiding from certain death, and each scene has a similar distressing, ominous feel to it, drained of any climax. We never see Prospero's "hale and light-hearted friends" - they all seem to know the end is coming from the start. Only his solo at the very end builds to something more, but by then it seems too late. Afterwards, in a final, unintended irony, we heard the appeal for Dancers Responding to AIDS. After all that, I hope everyone gave generously. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -Nicole Duffy Robertson

June 25, 2018
Philadanco is celebrating forty-eight years of existence - a stunning achievement in the unpredictable world of concert dance. Founding executive artistic director Joan Meyers Brown has programmed a fresh program of all new works that engages directly and powerfully with the politics of race in this fraught moment in our country's history. When a dancer shouts from the stage, "What are YOU gonna do?" it pierces the separation of performer and audience in a way that could not demand action more directly.

Grappling with the difficult reality that gave rise to Black Lives Matter, in the first piece there is no ambiguity about the connections drawn by Christopher Huggins in New Fruit (2017). With excellent lighting by Clifton Taylor (with abstracted trees later morphing into a cityscape) he first section pays homage to Pearl Primus' "Strange Fruit," a solo from 1943 where a woman reacts with abject despair to a lynching, to the words of Abel Meeropol's poem.

In this version, we see the young man hanging from the rope, breaking free and dancing with an intensity and control, with breath and release, mixed in with wrenching moments such as a pause to physically enact vomiting - perhaps from pain or his own inexplicable horror at this fate. The next sections of the ballet enact the present, with dancers in moving in contemporary hip hop modes, and even a capoeira-like duet, and impressive, extremely athletic solos and trios, when one young man in the group is suddenly shot in the back. It shocks, and the link between past and present could not be clearer.

In a more abstracted dance language that is equally powerful, Dawn Marie Bazemore's A Movement for Five keeps on the theme of injustices suffered by young black men, inspired by the Central Park five who were falsely accused and convicted in 1989. With a blend of modern and contemporary movement, accented and strengthened by sharp gestures that captures a sense of loss, anger, and helplessness, the dance's subtle references convey emotion without excess. A moment when all five face the upstage in a diagonal light, then collapse on the floor, rolling sideways and struggling with their hands clasped behind their backs, expresses the feelings of being harmed and helpless better than any words could. Three strong women dance between and around them, offering physical and metaphorical support to choral music that infuses it with an air of released, lifting despair. But this program is about the men. Watch around 2:54 -

The program began with Folded Prisms, a lovely work by Thang Dao, again in a modern/contemporary mode, made to look a bit dated by its costumes by Natasha Guruleva: white leotards and pants, a little baggy at the ankles, white socks and white shoes for both men and women. But the movement itself showed some influence from his Juilliard days, in its Kylianesque partnering sequences. A piece that showcased the Philadanco dancer's technical abilities in more conventional concert dance, it was a nice opener that signaled none of what was in store.

The last work on the program, With(In)Verse by Tommie-Waheed Evans, defied the expectation of ending on a happy note - a serious work, with fabulously inventive contemporary movement vocabulary, it was a bold move by Meyers Brown to not end the evening with something superficially uplifting; she refused to paper over the reality of Philadanco's message in this program, instead deploying dance in its powerful potential to mesmerize, expose, expand understanding, and call for change.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

June 11, 2018
There is a funny universal reaction from kids sitting in a theater when the lights go down: they immediately scream in delight and anticipation. This week at the New Victory, Rennie Harris' Funkedified delivered a wonderful show that dances "the day before hip hop" by tracing the evolution of break dancing in relationship to music - be it soul, funk, R&B, or rock - and the dancers and musicians brought the house down.

Lorenzo "Rennie" Harris has been making dances for decades and is dedicated to preserving street dance culture through workshops, classes, and public performances. Using spoken word, we hear of his early days growing up in Philly ("I didn't get the girl" and "what could be better than breakin'"), while a b-boy in dark glasses wearing a classic red gym suit and very big gold bling walks through a slow-motion street crowd. Expert lockin,’ in duos and trios show us the old school break dance moves while the fantastic band plays onstage, led by Doron Lev and Matt Dickey play Darrin Ross' composition that seems to riff of everything from James Brown, to Santana, to Prince.

In one memorable moment, three women pop as they toss a beam of light to each other, igniting their friends' electric dancing. Another highlight had four guest dancers ("The Hood Lockers") each in a pool of light, each doing a solo with lots of jumping and those impossible splits to the floor, where then jump back up in a split second.

In an impressive virtuoso moment, one dancer with liquid arms dueled with the lead guitar player, as they walked around each other on the stage seemingly in conversation, in a spectacular display of "seeing the music:" the dancer's body seemed to sing out and sharpen our ability to hear the sounds from the electric guitar. It was long, intense, and riveting, even for the elementary squirmy crowd. Although Harris is nostalgic about the displacement of breakin' by hip-hop, he pays homage to both.

The one hour and ten minute show captivated its young audience, ending with the classic semi-circle with upbeat music where each dancer gets to shine. A Q&A revealed that it took two years from conception to execution to create show - well worth it, as everyone walked out of the theater Funkedified with delight.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY-- Nicole Duffy Robertson

June 7, 2018
Rioult Dance NY returned to The Joyce with an ambitious program matching Russian composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky, and Polina Nazaykinskaya with Artistic Director Pascal Rioult’s choreography. The week-long engagement closed with Nostalghia, a world premiere with composer Nazaykinskaya conducting her strong ensemble composed of Konstantin Soukhovetski (piano), Julian Milkis (clarinet), Regi Papa (violin), Nikita Morozov (violin), Will Curry (viola), Ani Kalayjian (cello), and Alexander Bickard (double bass). Rioult showed his strengths most clearly in Nostalghia, with his moon walks and flat footed stomps accenting the rhythms of the piece.

Dream Suite, Rioult’s twenty minute piece that premiered in 2014 set to Tchaikovsky’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in C Major starts with five barefoot dancers facing the audience mirroring the music; another five on stage left echo the choreography with a slight variation to the repeat of the musical phrase. The choreographic approach has a throw-back aesthetic of modern dance prevalent in the 60-70s with flex feet, torsos erect and stoic. The piece becomes enlivened with the appearance of three dancers in animal masks created by Anne Posluszny, and a few bodies carried aloft in a plank pose. While Tchaikovsky provided marvelous works that inspired countless ballet choreographies, this particular composition does not give rise to a terpsichorean flow.

Rioult’s variation on Les Noces, composed by Igor Stravinsky originally made for a ballet choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska is 1923, is jarring to anyone who has seen Nijinska’s version. While Stravinsky’s voices, percussion, and pianos call for a moment of communal importance, a solemn ritual to commemorate the “tying of a knot, ” a marriage metaphor that Nijinska suggests by draping a rope over the women’s arms, Rioult skips the ceremony in preference for a group anticipation of carnal pleasures. His dancers stripped to their underwear strike cabaret poses around chairs with red bottoms that flash when swung overhead. This erotic suggestion sweeps away the premise of Les Noces.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

June 6, 2018
Anabella Lenzu is an incredibly gracious performer. Like a priest after mass she greets audience members with individual thanks. We aren’t yet privy to the intensity of No More Beautiful Dances that is about to ensue, but her welcome – out of character for the piece, but completely in character for the artist – braces us to see Lenzu’s return to the stage, a transformation before not only our eyes, but additionally before and with the help of two onstage cameras.

Beyond the chair at which Lenzu warms up is quite the playing space: colored chalk collected on white square of paper, flanked by two laptops. Each computer connects to a camera, and each camera corresponds to a screen along the back of La MaMa’s Downstairs theatre.

The projection setup, designed by Todd Carroll, is satisfyingly shabby, with video quality akin to a Skype chat – fuzzy and slightly delayed. Lenzu energetically tethers herself between the cameras, building movement around its ability to be picked up by the suspended camera above or the more mobile one on the floor, granting us three perspectives of Lenzu at any time.

Initially childlike play with the cameras succumbs to voyeuristic dissolve – stepping over the grounded lens reveals bright pink underwear underneath Lenzu’s otherwise somber black dress. It is increasingly difficult to pay attention to her intricate navigation of opposing focal points when such privacy is blown up like a photobomber behind her.

What seems accidental reveals itself to be wholly intentional as Lenzu pulls a camera up against her breast wringing, belly kneading, and thigh lashing. Framing obscures the distinctness of her body parts into a tempest of flesh, all the while emphasizing the red marks her hands inflict.

The English portion of her bilingual text organizes the intensity into a verbal Venn diagram between dance and motherhood. She relives giving birth with unsettling abandon while humorously recounting bloody pointe shoes and flamenco’s potential for patella displacement, revering the bodily-harm that goes into creation, whether of art or of a human being.

Throughout this time Lenzu has been using the chalk extensively – her lotus position setting the framework for intense tracing sessions on the paper and her body alike. At one point she proclaims, “my body, my country.” When she takes black chalk to fence off the red white and blue Rorschach blot, she redefines nationalistic isolationism as bodily agency.

It is through such surrender and ownership that the projections are a self-imposed surveillance, and it is ultimately in the choice to have the technology exposed that Lenzu fully exercises her autonomy. From a wild floorbound sequence she manages to periodically slip out to pause the computers’ projection processing with surprising precision, so captivating it takes a while to register its consequence – increasing the projection delay into a three-part canon, freeing her to step out of her tight quarters and literally leave herself behind. By additionally subjecting herself to Daniel Pettrow’s direction, the notion of selflessness as presence is as evident in her process as it is to her roles as dancer and mother alike.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

June 6, 2018
In preparation for Karen Bernard’s Showgirls, Brooklyn Studios for Dance’s cavernous hall welcomes us with a DIY set up of light sources – a white string along the floor upstage, some lamps stage right, and a projection of Bernard’s Runway playing on loop in the space’s small proscenium stage left, guarded by a wall of cardboard boxes, from behind which the titular girls emerge.

The cast of seasoned women takes great pleasure in their present forms, feeling and exposing aspects of their formally clothed bodies. They seem as spirits, each with a distinct life force, generated via distilled, slow-moving activity. Rachel Thorne Germond maintains a sly grin with glossed over eyes, peering out saucily from her strutting.

Jil Guyon, under a retro styling of buoyant jet-black hair, keeps pursed lips and pointed eyes, her surroundings a continual nonthreatening surprise. Lisa Parra, saved until the very end, glides like a satellite in roller-skates and a baby doll dress with the most well-mannered blankness emanating from her wide eyes. Bernard, like a study hall monitor, presides – lethargically antsy, seeking solace from some preoccupation that keeps her indirectly on guard and liable to briefly join her cohabiters while largely leaving them unsupervised.

Activity, like an old lawnmower, takes time to rev up to a plateau of sustained intensity before dissipating into idleness. Bernard, like a canine matador, has a series of pivot turns as well as a percussive session of dress swooshing. Guyon and Germond, occasionally paired, verbally cue each other for aerobic shimmying sessions.

Wearing down begets specialization. Bernard naps on a chaise through much of Guyon and Germond’s performing, maintaining them in sleepy gravitation until they are reduced to floor bound thrashes, decrepit crawls, and incomplete poses. Bernard stirs, tossing and turning through sleeping positions until, unsatisfied, she builds a stack of pillows on which she descends to inchworms through the space. Parra, however, remains consistently serene in her spatial loops and stoic stare, from which all else are free to flounder.

Such immunity reveals the work’s lack of performer hierarchy, leaving the space itself as the anchor. Surfaces are intermittently adorned with projections of Venetian architectural details and vintage glamor shots, recalling perhaps a vacation or a past life. Bernard, periodically roused by a red light, often situates her activity in the projector’s beam, inspecting her shadow as one might their reflection to manifest herself in the image. When she slumbers, a slideshow of macarons and Aperol spritzes demonstrate the colorful pleasures of a somber lady in black who spends a solo uttering variations of the phrase, “ I don’t worry.”

When projected upon, the wall of boxes embodies the buildings depicted. Cleanup becomes tender demolition, poignantly emblematic of glamor in decline. Their embrace of decline redefines it as a redirection of transformation. If architecture gets better with age, why can’t women? As such, Showgirls, offers a blueprint for a constructive sort of objectification of women – as structures of resistance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 25, 2018
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, a leading American flamenco dance company, celebrated its 35th anniversary with the première of Mujeres Valientes during the 2018 BAM Spring season. This choreographic proposal depicting Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Manuela Sáenz resonates with the current discourse about women who take the stand and lead as advocates in education, artistic expression, and social justice. According to its choreographer, Belén Maya, their lives are an example nowadays of how women with strong ideas go through countless obstacles in their life, empowering themselves by showing they are capable of building the lives they want to live.

Belén emphasizes how Carlota Santana, founding director of Flamenco Vivo, is using flamenco, a traditional and a contemporary evolving art form, to tell modern stories. The artistic collaboration process for this piece included talented artists, musicians, and dancers from both, the US and Spain, with the original concept by Ana Inés King, the score by flamenco guitarist Gaspar Rodríguez, and the dramaturgy direction by Rafael Abolafia. The lyrics in the cante por Romance included verses from Sor Juana’s poem “Hombres Necios que acusáis” (You Foolish Men), and a Taranto with content from the letters Simón Bolivar wrote to his loyal revolutionary colonel and lover, Manuela Sáenz.

Mujeres Valientes opened through an intermittent exchange of illumination and blackout introducing glimpses of two nuns and a woman dressed in an elegant scarlet dress in a bare stage with only two stacks of books in opposite corners. A coquettish Guajira enlivened the scene where Juana employed her books as the traditional fan in this flamenco palo of Caribbean origin.

Moments of photographic plasticity captivated the audience when Estefanía Ramírez, in the role of Sor Juana, encircled two men in velvet black cassocks, Emilio Ochando and Isaac Tovar. While the men exchanged angular and round phrases responding to the accents and cadences of Sor Juana´s poems por Romance, Estefanía complemented her percussive footwork throwing at them pages she tore from her books.

An austere Martinete marked the transition from Sor Juana to the story of Simón Bolivar’s “liberator.” Gaspar Rodríguez, directed the music ensemble situated in a lateral balcony conformed by himself at the guitar, accompanied by his homologous, guitarist Pedro Medina, singer and percussionist Francisco “Yiyi” Orozco, singer Jesús de Utrera, and the wind instrument artist Diego Villegas.

In a pre-show interview, company lead dancer, Elisabet Torras, explained how Belén guided her through the choreographic process of researching and embodying the role of Manuela, role which empowered her beyond the stage as a woman and a flamenco dance artist. The performance proved Elisabet´s growth in strength, stage command, and artistic maturity. Her subtle gestures conveyed the narrative as powerfully as her percussive footwork dialogue por Taranto with the accomplished flamenco dancer, Isaac Tovar, as Simón Bolívar, both dressed in military uniform.

The evening closed with a traditional flamenco cuadro section with an elegant traditional Caña and Farruca magnificently performed by guest artists Guadalupe Torres and José Maldonado respectively. The last number was a Fin de Fiesta by the Flamenco Vivo company, where Carlota joined her Associate Artistic Director, Antonio Hidalgo, in the festive sequences of solos and duets, with a pataíta por Bulería leading to a joyful finale with the whole ensemble exiting embraced while singing Todo es de Color.

May 23, 2018
Walking into Danspace Project before Full Circle Souljahs’ Boxed In can lead one to think they are in the middle of an immersive preshow. Music is playing, and audience members are dancing around, enjoying themselves and each other. Everyone pipes down for the curtain speech, but many continue to cheer on as the show unfolds. An incredibly lively Q & A reveals that most of the audience knows the creators and cast, their relationships, as well as the culture of hip-hop dance, granting permission for such joviality.

Later, pianist Michael Bond explains how in classical music it is proper etiquette to not applaud between movements of a long work. The usual contemporary dance programming at Danspace largely follows the same convention, but it simply doesn’t feel right to sit quietly during this show; however, unless you have personal or cultural permission, you have no other choice.

This sort of cultural tension is rife within Boxed In – a work full of unquestionably impressive performances that comes in just short of stringing its melting pot of styles into a cohesive narrative – artists intersecting at a space where some are classical and some are hip-hop, and a few grapple with inhabiting both worlds, trying to make it big – termed by artistic directors Gabriel Kwikstep Dionisio and Ana Rokafella Garcia as hip-hop theatre.

An initial sense of hip-hop being bad and classical being good, due to a chorus of intimidatingly masked hip-hoppers meander around two ballet dancers, is thankfully quick to be clarified as internal conflict within the dancing protagonists, who are trying (but failing) to quell their culturally inherited hip-hop nature for their learned classical leanings.

Muddying the journey is a lack of clarity when performance is used literally, to symbolize something larger, or to simply be an entertaining diversion. Bond plays a dazzling jazz rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” and then in the next scene reverts to his reductive caricature of a classical musician who laments about his inability to play anything but classical, retroactively redefining his solo as fantasy. Dionisio and Garcia, representing camps of specialization in hip-hop dance, take scenes to playfully teach each other their styles but fail to further the story, pinning us down in the realm of exposition.

The most successful scenes are solos by the ballet dancers – Shaneekqua Woodham and Odylle “Mantis” Beder. They each have a variation, accompanied in part by Bond’s piano, recorded hip-hop and African music, and Gene Shinozaki’s live beatboxing. Music genres switch abruptly and mix together, dancing acrobatically shifting perfectly along with it. These soliloquys come closest to getting at a true sense of character, conflict, and the distance between how they present themselves and who they really are.

While socioeconomic problems are certainly present in aesthetic problems, creative freedom is hardly on par with socioeconomic freedom, leaving Boxed In as a Disney-esque skimming over what are clearly real issues for this rousing collective of performers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

May 18, 2018
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana celebrates its 35th year with a spectacular show at the BAM Fisher Theater. Ms. Santana herself came out to welcome the audience introduce the first half of the program as it deviated with traditional Flamenco. Mujeres Valientes is a Flamenco dance drama telling the story of two trailblazing women- Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, one of Mexico’s first feminists and Manuela Saenz, one of South America’s first female activists. We first got to know Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz portrayed by Estefania Ramirez, who made a difficult choice to join a convent because it was her only path to knowledge.

Using a small book in the place of a fan, the inner struggle could be felt through the dramatic moment highlighted by fluttering flamenco hands and feet.Her counterpart Manuela Saenz portrayed by Elisabet Torras is all fire and no hesitation. Manuela loved and fought side by side with revolutionary Simon Bolivar, saving his life and helping to establish independence.

In ways Mujeres differed from traditional Flamenco- the musicians sat on the balcony above the stage and the costuming was more character driven- however the dancing effectively underscored these women’s stories. Each movement allowed the audience to become more invested in these women and the different ways they had to fight to live their lives. This was a beautiful tribute as presented through an evocative medium by an impassioned company.

For those who were hoping to see more traditional flamenco, the second half of the evening did not disappoint, rather only making them hungry for more. The company musicians moved onto the stage to feature solos by the visiting artists Guadalupe Torres and Jose Maldonado with a group piece from Flamenco Vivo in between. Torres first lit up the stage in her bright green and pink dress. With wide eyes that looked at the audience like she had some great stories to tell, she began working with her shawl and long skirt.

From the minute she began to dance the audience was putty in her hands. Torres played of the musicians and the audience equally, letting the whole room exist around her. Maldonado's piece was tense and powerful. Each movement vibrated through the air endlessly until he moved again. Taut as a box, he pulled back, ready to strike.So when the moments of release final came throughout the piece, it felt totally satisfying. Maldonado’s movements might be the sharpest I’ve seen and paired with his boyish charm and entertaining faces, it felt truly special to watch him dance.

Pa’ Triana Voy danced by the Vivo Flamenco company was just as bright. Playing with rhythm and shape, it was an outstanding showcase to everyone's skills. Bulerias offered one last opportunity to see each individual dancer and in turn, made us sad to see them go. As someone less familiar with Flamenco, this company brought to the surface a new passion that will draw me back to see them again and again.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

May 14, 2018
“Conjurations” is the name of the compelling choreography for the Limon Dance Company by Adam Barruch, and also the implied theme for Program B presented at the Joyce Theatre. The dancers invoke a sacred realm, with a solemnity rarely experienced. Under the new directorship of Colin Connor, the Limon Company never breaks the spell, excepting the high volume of Roarke Menzies’ music - “The Escape, used by Barruch.

Mark Willis as Geronimo in Jose Limon’s work that premiered in 1970 The Unsung and in Missa Brevis, is formidable; his presence has the depth and sincerity of the master dancer and choreographer Limon.

The approaches of Limon and Barruch balance each other. Limon stretches arms to the heavens, jumps in an arch or falls to his knees beseeching out and beyond while Barruch releases tension in a middle range, capping a tighter circle of energy. Colin Connor’s The Body is a House without Walls, a work for six women, set to an extraordinarily modern work by Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonata #32, performed by Glenn Gould, recalls the spiritual search of Limon’s.

In The Unsung,seven men, stripped to the waist, face each other in a circle with their splayed hands sandwiching their heads. They move in unison or threes, leaving the stage for each man's solo. In this homage to the dignity and strength of Native Americans, the dancers make the score by stamping the soles of their feet in unison, or slapping the top of their foot against the floor.

Limon’s Missa Brevis, originally performed April 11, 1958 to music by Zoltan Kodaly, Missa Brevis in Tempore Belli, has twelve sections set to a score for chorus and organ. When the women in earth tone dresses and the men in shirts and long pants first appear in a cluster, bending from the waist to the right, one can see Limon’s gifts as a painter. As the dancers skitter from one side of the stage to another, stopping with the legs in second and their arms reaching out in diagonals, one can imagine them navigating an unnameable force.

Kirsten Foote who danced with the company at the Joyce just wrote in Dance Magazine, Missa Brevis is marking its 60th anniversary this year, and the work, depicting both power, vulnerability and sense of community, still speaks to our time, and to our humanity. It is especially relevant today, with society as divided and disconnected as it currently appears. This work is about rebuilding while overcoming adversity, and is a testament to the power of hope and perseverance to mend a community.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

April 26, 2018
Whether consciously or unconsciously, Carlos Acosta banished all standard associations with Cuban dance for his 2018 Acosta Danza season at New York City Center. We see only fleeting evidence of the Russian ballet training developed in his country under Alicia Alonso (immaculate split jumps), and no remnants of the libertine abandon, accented by maracas and hip-swirling, prior to Castro’s regime, that drew so many playboys with deep pockets to the island.

When Acosta appears in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s duet Mermaid, he seems more of a healer than a prince, more empathetic than regal. He carries his partner Marta Ortega, cradles her, and flips her gently over his back until her bare toes begin to twitch with delight. Dressed as an Everyman, with ordinary pants and shirt untucked, he dances with a soulful simplicity that makes one wonder whether this duet encapsulates what he hopes to accomplish for Cuba.

The program opens and closes with group pieces for his fine dancers, sandwiching three duets that all have enervation/union as central threads. Goyo Montero’s Alrededor no hay nada uses no music, only the narration of poems by Joaquin Sabina and Vinicius de Moraes, for his dramatic opening number. Montero’s intermittent lighting and costuming – women with bare legs and feet, men in black coats, both occasionally adding black bowler hats – adds a sinister quality of manipulation. Whatever tension pulls the group to face the audience and then each other in a tight circle dissolves with the jubilant announcement of Sabado – Saturday.

Marianela Boan’s duet El Cruce sobre el Niagara for Carlos Luis Blanco and Alejandro Silva, set to ethereal music of Olivier Messiaen begins with a slow diagonal crossing by a black man towards a white man curled in a ball in the downstage left corner. Yet, it seems to truly begin with its last image when the two men, essentially naked, seem to merge as one as they fade into the light upstage center.

Jorge Crecis’s Twelve closed the program with an apolitical romp, with the company throwing and catching plastic water bottles, as a game anyone can play. Charles Moulton’s Precision Ball Passing, originally made in 1979 for three dancers and revived recently for as many as seventy-two performers, certainly comes to mind.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

April 25, 2018
Lar Lubovitch is primarily discussed in terms of his keen musical sensibility as well as the smoothed out classical movement he effortlessly spins to his selections. Program B of Lar Lubovitch Dance Company’s 50 th Anniversary season at the Joyce demonstrated these conventions speaking to a larger concern – the redemption of masculinity.

The two couplings of the four pieces each began showing, contrary to our current moment, how a man could both be and be seen, subsequently paired with a work with a more troubled air. Little Rhapsodies features Jonathan Alsberry, Reed Luplau, and Benjamin Wardell in a piece simply about taking turns. Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes even gets to take space, preceding the curtain’s opening on the three, standing in silhouette.

They see each other and then dance together, weaving through and holding each other in a purely platonic manner – a challenge for many men, sexuality notwithstanding. This segues into a rotation of solos, the spatial cooperation of which feels subversive in its politeness. As their percussive footwork unearths folksy roots in Schumann’s signature off-kilter style, their playfulness exposes the childlike in grown-up bodies.

The subsequent collection of scenes from Act III of Lubovitch’s Othello is a jarring aesthetic jump, replacing Rhapsodies’ airy ballet-ish movement to recognizable classical music with pointe shoes, a commissioned score, and period costumes. It is in these scenes we see Othello’s jealousy taking over him, as manipulated by Iago (Temur Suluashvili), who goes about his false accusations of Desdemona’s adultery via a rather erotic duet with Fabrice Calmels. Cassio (Rory Hohenstein) is already falsely in chains, and we end with Othello’s ill-advised murder of Desdemona. The programmatic placement emboldens what Rhapsodies works to amend – entitlement-induced possessiveness and territoriality.

Lubovitch’s newest work, Something About Night returns us to a utopian environment, scored by Schubert’s heartachingly tender Songs for Male Chorus. The cast, however, includes Nicole Corea and Belinda McGuire, amid three additional men, equally engaged in suspended flow. If Rhapsodies shows a man’s arm around a man’s shoulder as nonsexual, Something About Night renders sexuality irrelevant to sensuality in its crafting of tableaus, whirling, intimate, and architecturally sound.

Again, we shift from pleasantry to turmoil with Men’s Stories. While the title sets up a first-time viewer to expect danced mansplaining, the subtitle “A Concerto in Ruin,” hints at the dissolution to come. Harmless displays of fraternity begin via virtuosic sequences and cheeky pantomimed machismo activities in sleek black suits by Ann Hould-Ward, placing the cast of nine anywhere from CEOs to showmen to military officials. Once we hear a voiceover of a vintage “birds and the bees” talk from father to son, we begin to see their command confined, emblematic of the harm patriarchy does towards its beneficiaries when it prescribes unregulated success seeking as manhood.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

April 17, 2018
Through a tridimensional time voyage, The National Arts Club presented EYE ON DANCE's remembrance of the Joffrey’s revival of Nijinsky´s version of The Rite of SpringLe sacre du printemps). Mr. Robert Joffrey’s investment in dance history and fascination by the enriching artistic collaborations in the Ballets Russes led him to several revivals: Le Tricorne (1969); Petrushka, Parade, Le Spectre de la Rose, and L’Après-midi d’un Faune (1979); and Le Sacre du Printemps (1987).

Unearthing of The Rite of Spring opened with an introduction by Celia Ipiotis describing EYE ON DANCE, a dance education series aired weekly on PBS television. Creator, producer, host Ipiotis plus co-founder Jeff Bush were recognized for the legacy of 23 years the EOD program aired (1981 to 2004) with a designation of "an Irreplaceable National Dance Treasure." They accumulated a robust archive of 24,000 analog videotapes, miles of print material, publications, recordings, and publications essential to the EOD series' preparation and research. A major fundraising initiative is underway to save the EOD archive.

The evening's agenda included a series of interviews, live and on film, bridging over a century of references highlighting the historical, social, cultural and political framework of Le sacre du printemps. Ipiotis showed the video of the 1987 EYE ON DANCE program (produced by the nonprofit organization ARC) where she interviewed Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer, dance and art historians respectively, about their epic revival of Le sacre for Mr. Robert Joffrey's company.

Hodson described the feat involved in this quest guided in large part by the rhythmic complexities of the score and the inimical nature of the movement vocabulary. Both historians alluded to the eight years of archeological restoration it took to recreate Nijinsky’s choreography. This quest gains further value when taking into account the mere eight performances of the ballet. After its Parisian première, on May 29th, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Le sacre was taken out of the Ballets Russes' repertoire and, subsequently, forgotten.

Because Nijinsky’s Stepanov notation was lost, the reconstruction process included an analysis of Igor Stravinsky’s score and Nicholas Roerich’s designs, complemented by interviews of Dame Marie Rambert. Appointed by Diaghilev to assist Nijinsky in the staging process utilizing Dalcroze’s Eurhythmics method, Rambert was instrumental to the process. The last part of the televised program featured a segment of Rambert’s interview, performance and concluded with a glimpse of the Joffrey’s 1987 dress rehearsal at the New York City Center shot by the EOD crew.

Following the EOD Le sacre episode, there was a lively exchange between panel moderator Ipiotis and two former Joffrey dancers, Nicole Duffy Robertson and Denis Jackson Sutherland, discussing their experiences with the Joffrey Company and memories of Le sacre du printemps. EYE ON DANCE, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

April 17, 2018
We typically revere the modern dance greats of the early and mid twentieth century for each iconoclast’s macro level revamps of what dance could look like. While the Judson Church choreographers of the 60’s did the same as a whole, each had a relatively micro approach to their groundbreaking contributions, such that each is associated with a certain to a handful of aspects of dance. The beauty of good programming is the power a selection of work has to contextualize each other. As such, Martha Graham Dance Company’s 2018 season, while entitled “Sacred/Profane,” truly concerns space, featuring Lucinda Childs on a program consisting of (in Graham terms) less narrative work.

Opening with Virginie Mécène’s 2017 reimagining of Graham’s Ekstasis (1933), we begin with the notion of space within the body itself. Graham herself notes, “The body is a sacred garment.” Anne Souder duly wears herself, stretching the limits of her flesh to accommodate her bones. In twisted backward arches, her belly still manages to contract sharply against her spine’s opposing curvature, all the while clad in a skintight dress. Its constriction guides the dancer wearing it to redirect their joints to send movement to unexpected bodily regions. Outside, Souder makes a simple journey, from a center spotlight from which she spills out, to not even tracing the stage’s full perimeter before returning for a final scan of her elastic, reconsidered form.

It is in its spatial concerns that 1935’s Panorama communicates its activist intention, beyond casting a large group of locally sourced teenaged dancers. We never get a definitive sense of just how many there are as Graham’s structure continuously weaves thirty-three dancers, all wearing the same flowing red garment, through kaleidoscopic traffic patterns and dissolvable groupings. Its politics is Graham’s play with perspective and compositional balance to achieve an illusion of hierarchy that is consistently dismantled – entities are placed in a way that one may seem more or less important, until the spatial puzzle invariably progresses to maintain an even playing field.

Panorama is so uncharacteristically abstract for Graham that we barely notice Lucinda Childs’ choreographic voice in Histoire, newly expanded from its original duet made for the company in 1999. In making work directly on Graham dancers, there is a disappointing sense of Childs watering down the mathematical spatial rigor she has championed for a generic style that muddies her stripped down balletic vocabulary with softer limbs and an attempt at seductiveness that cannot break through the vestiges of her unmannered aesthetic struggling to remain present.

Graham’s Rite of Spring is incredibly organized. In this simple but horrific story, the ultimate discomfort is to witness just how immediately the Chosen One (PeiJu Chien-Pott) is dehumanized by her community. Enhancing this is a stoicness to Graham’s ensemble. Whereas other choreographers might run with Stravinsky to craft proportional chaos, Graham’s chorus is kept very symmetrical with calm countenances, perhaps not so accidentally connoting Greek vases that so serenely depict violence. It fully registers as soon as we note how the robed Shaman (Ben Shultz) spends most of the work with his back to the action, unassumingly and then chillingly illustrating a supposed leader knowingly allowing his community to destroy itself from within.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

April 15, 2018
Few objects, religious iconography aside, carry as many cultural associations as pointe shoes. Their prettiness is undeniable. To receive them is to have earned them. To have them is to have hierarchical status, all the while working diligently behind the scenes to maintain the technique, avoiding the landslide of potential injuries that comes with them. To some they are the West’s take on foot binding – an exotic trinket for the male gaze, choreographic or otherwise. At once so elevating and yet so constricting, it is fitting that there be a festival exclusively for rethinking dance’s most taken for granted talisman. Counterpointe, now in its third iteration, has brought together a broad spectrum of viewpoints on the matter.

An investigation quick to surface was simply that of movement executed both on and off pointe. Julia K. Gleich initiated the conversation with Intermezzo. Izabela Szylinska, an already towering figure, perches even higher above Ahmaud Culver and Lukasz Zieba, who glide in socks. Contrasting mechanics are gracefully exposed in canons. Unconventional partnering focuses less on Szylinska and more on her feet. Two men grabbing her shoes and placing them at far-reaching ends fails to read as misogynistic struggle thanks to Gleich’s abstract introduction. Closing the evening was Katie Rose McLaughlin’s Nouveau - Alex Schell mirroring Mary Kate Sickel’s movements in sneakers. From prances to skips, the movement does not presuppose footwear; it is free to mold to its executor, branching into multiple identities.

Debra Bona plays both roles in Mishi Castroverde’s introspective, “losing farther, losing faster.” The ease of the “art of losing” in Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle juxtaposes ironically with the technical intricacies of Castroverde’s footwork, spinning continuous phrases of weight shifts on purposefully placed feet. After a non-ceremonious removal of her shoes, Bona repeats key motifs barefoot, ever so much closer to the floor. She leaves them behind, having filled them with poetic substance rather than virtuosic metatarsals.

Melissa Padham-Maass’s Scripp 442 comes closest to discovering the pointe shoe’s 21st century identity. The trio, built on gestural upper bodies pinned to balletic legs, dismantles any sense of pedestal with Fugazi’s husky groove. Inherently decorative, demonstrative arms relieve the shoes from their duty as primary focus to become tools for connecting with the floor when an arm sends a body somewhere new. When the torso demands it, the dancers ride a set of bourrées; when a formation changes, walking suffices.

Friday’s talkback demonstrated the show’s necessity. A brave soul, new to ballet, asked moderator Gabrielle Lamb if the function of pointe shoes could ever be divorced from needing to, in effect, “look good.” Attempted answers explained the anatomical command required to balance or roll through the feet, missing the point entirely. Never truly answered, he brought up a frame through which the choreographers, impaired by their training, never peered – an object’s nature as itself and nothing more. Perhaps that’s one best saved for Counterpointe4.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

April 14, 2018
This year the Martha Graham Dance Company invited Lar Lubovitch to create a piece on the company and awarded him the 2018 Martha Graham Award for Lasting Impact to the Field of Dance. Celebrating his company’s 50 anniversary, Lubovitch graciously accepted the award from Graham Artistic Director Janet Eilber, noting that one of his first teachers was Martha Graham.

Contrary to Graham’s more angular, percussive vocabulary, Lubovitch’s The Legend of Ten to a melodious score by Johannes Brahms drew on the dancers lyricism. More than anybody, Lubovitch is a child of Doris Humphrey. Her influential book on “The Art of Making Dances” (1958) instructed generations of dancers on the building blocks of choreographing dance. Lubovitch has assimilated Humphrey's theories, particularly the concept of movement progressions. Perfectly comfortable in Lubovitch’s abstract, but emotionally potent phrases, the eight dancers executed steps that built on one another like waves. Brahms lyrical phrases are visualized through the liquid, free-flowing gestures.

Originally built around a couple in 1999, Lucinda Childs' Histoire was a duet created to a score by Krzysztof Knittel. The current version added music by Astor Piazzolla and grew to eight dancers. In this revised version “Histoire” looked like an “unplugged" Childs—employing a much looser choreographic approach than her historically mathematical dances that followed grids and movement maps.

Martha Graham’s 1958 Embattled Gardendescends into the Garden of Eden. Surrounded by Isamu Noguchi’s mystical structures and live music (score by Carolos Surinach), the ensemble composed of Anne O’Donnell, Lloyd Knight, Leslie Andrea Williams and Lorenzo Pagano, appeared well rehearsed. However, the actual psychic drama inherent in the friction between Adam and Eve, the serpent-like Stranger and Lilith has waned over the years. Within the dramatic structure expressing rage, jealously, and desire one is also reminded of Graham’s choreographic spareness—very postmodern.

It bears noting that the Martha Graham Dance Company’s opening night program only included one Graham work. More Graham works will appear throughout the brief season including “Panorama” and Graham’s take on “The Rite of Spring.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

April 9, 2018
Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) offered a vibrant celebration of three main references from European, American, and Caribbean Hindustani heritage interwoven into a unique program. Like in a rare quilt eloquently modeled by the company’s lineage, the pieces comprised Valse Fantaisie, Le Corsaire, Harlem on My Mind, and Dougla.

Leading the program, DTH traced European ballet repertoire, consonant with the works Arthur Mitchel developed through his early career as a principal dancer at NYCB. Valse Fantaisie, a neoclassical representation of Mikhail Glinka’s score created by Balanchine in 1953, had its DTH première last February, staged by Deborah Wingert. A graceful ballerina quartet attired in emerald green romantic tutu gowns decorated the scene for a pleasing pas de deux by Crystal Serrano and Jorge Andrés Villarini. Under the guidance of Caridad Martínez, Ingrid Silva and Da´Von Doane, DTH’s version of Le Corsaire’s pas de deux was staged by Karel Shook in the 70s.

Harlem on My Mind showcased the expressive pizzaz and individuality of the company members in consonance with the multinational rhythms surrounding the company’s home. Inspired by the liveliness of Jazz, Darrell Grand Moultrie depicted the eclectic moves characteristic of the tunes he grew up with meshing hip figure-eights, shoulder shrugs, or wrist flicks, classical jazz discourse, and ballet pettit allegro, within contemporary dance.

The opening segment, “Out and About” introduced the dynamic five-duet ensemble dressed in simple but radiant short unitards and leotards with flowing silk skirts in fuchsia, accented by patterns combining tones of gray and purple. Anthony Santos’ oozing movement quality and charisma captured the young audience triggering contagious giggles that turned into complacent laughter during the second section, “Harlem´s Finest.” Amanda Smith and Jorge Andrés Villarini embellished the scene with elongated gesture brush strokes, spiced by flair in “Duo de Jazzin.” Commanding the stage, Stephanie Rae Williams brought in the audience into a reflective “Soul of the ‘Hood’” before the ensemble returned displaying a plethora of air-bound portés in the joyous finale “We Rise,” which resumed in canon as the curtain closed for intermission.

The majestic revival of Dougla closed the evening. With original choreography, costume designs, and music by Geoffrey Holder extracted from his Trinidadian heritage, the 1974 work was reconstructed under the supervision of Leo Holder. Embodying its title, Dougla represented an amalgam of Indian, South Asian and African cultures in the Caribbean.The company left patrons in awe as the curtain rose revealing a community planted in a dignified stance dressed in lavish white costumes with red accents and headpieces. The music ensemble’s resonating drums enlarged the sound of the wooden staffs carried by the males leading the community´s journey, augmented by the ankle rattles as “Douglas People” went through their stately procession. A watercolor-like painted cycle narrating cycles of moon and sun hovered the stories of the “Woman in Green,” “Women in Black,” a couple, a Stickman, and acrobats, closing with the entire company in a grand finale ceremony.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

EYE ON DANCE Unearths The Rite of Spring
April 1, 2018
April 12 at 6:30pm
National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park, NY NY 10003
RSVP: (212-475-3424)
Video screening and discussion. FREE.

The Joffrey Ballet performed “Rite” in 1987 reconstructed by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer. Celia Ipiotis, creator of the television series, Eye on Dance, interviewed Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer in 1987. Ipiotis will show the program ? and interview two former Joffrey dancers:
Nicole Duffy Robertson andDenise Jackson Sutherland.

Public Screening: EYE ON DANCE ? "Le sacre du printemps"? ?(? 1987 ?)?
EOD Guests: Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer
Host: Celia Ipiotis
Talk: The intense process involved in reconstructing the 1913 “Rite of Spring” for the Joffrey Ballet in 1987
Dance Excerpts: Joffrey Ballet performing “The Rite of Spring”

?Panelists? : Nicole Duffy Robertson and Denise Jackson Sutherland, ? ? Former Joffrey Ballet dancers
Moderator: Celia Ipiotis
Talk: ?The experience of reconstructing groundbreaking dances.?
Q & A

Created by Celia Ipiotis and Jeff Bush, EYE ON DANCE is a production of the nonprofit organization Arts Resources in Collaboration, Inc. EYE ON DANCE was recently designated “an irreplaceable national dance treasure.”
For more information:

March 29, 2018
Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance’s programmatic ride on March 23rd felt initially disjointed and cliquey, opening with a commission by Doug Varone before ending with two Taylor pieces, originally premiered twenty years apart. Further consideration, however, reveals the program as more essayist in nature – a theme and elaborations.

Varone’s Half Life is a physical marathon, supported by the relentless dissonant pulsations from Julia Wolfe. Above the dancers hangs a rig of fluorescent bulbs, designed by James Ingalls, manipulated to vary in color and brightness, shining wherever dancers congregate, before lowering on them, Indiana Jones style.

In true Varone form, bodies fluently ride motion, though in choreographing for Taylor’s dancers specifically, more formed movement makes its way into the mix, an evenhanded sculpting of space and body that makes for an unpredictable texture with no consistent performed adherence to the laws of physics.

Spacing organizes streams of actions into identifiable activity. To begin, two bodies continually cycle in, colliding on center after bee lining from opposite ends, somewhere between a mudwrestling match and puppy play, invariably contributing to the increasing scattering of human debris. Elsewhere, the ensemble swarms as tightly as possible around the center without touching. Over time, centers multiply and relocate, as though the floor were laced with quicksand pits.

The mixing of emoting and doing, as well as surprise moments of formation and unison demonstrate a concentrated artificiality in manipulating ostensibly organic base material. Similar is its musical relationship, matching only in atmosphere, though every so often syncing up briefly for a satisfyingly subtle instrumental flourish here and there. Amid such shifting rules, we are never sure what sort of world these people inhabit, and, within that, how much their choices are allowed to seem as though they are truly theirs.

Taylor’s Eventide shifted gears from fast-paced high stakes to a gentle meditation over a collection of very beige heterosexual couples. From casting comes a sort of transparency that allows a surprisingly wide array of relationship dynamics and gender commentary to project onto the pairings.

Women are, to varied degrees, reluctant, curious, and wandering from their men, apparent as they impact Taylor’s symmetrical arrangements of folksy movements. One man forcibly hoists his woman offstage, while one woman comforts her distressed man by taking on traditionally male roles in partnering him. While in Varone’s work, couples create composite shapes, instantly redefined by replacement, Taylor takes his time, assigning one theme per unit.

Spatially, Eventide shares Half Life’s sense of hotspots on stage for intensified gravitation. While Varone typically uses these spots to bring clusters into order, Taylor has them disrupt his crystalline formations.

On its own, Cloven Kingdom’s wildly costumed juggling of finessed and primal movement largely reads as a satire on hierarchies of dance forms, but, when on the same program as the Varone, that juggling bears more weight. In Varone’s similar tactic of alternating sections of extreme contact with extreme avoidance, we wonder how long we can see unaffected dichotomies of contact before we begin to decide it is romance, violence, and so on. We can then see the mixture of Taylor’s juxtapositions of elegance and earthiness as a question of human nature – are we more human when we reject our animalism or when we submit to it?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

March 26, 2018
The work exhibited by Michele Wiles’ company BalletNEXT in their series of world premiers was replete with talented young dancers with beautiful extension, graceful energy and articulate footwork. However, the element that shined brightest in this production was in fact the show’s lighting design, composed by Brandon Stirling Baker.

In the opening piece, titled The Pianist, a spotlight glows gently on a sleek, black piano set upstage center. Placed against a white Marley sprung floor, the nude pale-rose hue emanating from the scene’s backdrop illuminates the pianist and the company of young ladies clad in black turtlenecks and pink skirts, impeccably matching the tone of the light’s design. Kudos goes to Michele Wiles, Victoria Bek and Amanda Bouza for their stellar work in costume design and coordination.

The inviting pale-rose shifts to a gentle blue for the next work, titled ‘Experience’. Choreographically this duet between dancers Violetta Komyshan and Natalie Stys made excellent use of the stage and smartly showcased the versatility of the performers. A nod, again, to the costume coordination of this piece, the slate blue leotards working in tandem with the gentle pastel shade of the lighting design.

A hat goes off to the third world premier of the evening, ‘Follin’, choreographed by Wiles and guest choreographer Bailey Anne Vincent. As lovely as the movement was, the facial grammar of American Sign Language was lacking in both the choreography done by the hearing dancers and the ASL interpreter.

Vincent, as a Deaf woman, naturally retained and exhibited the integral facial expressions of her language, however, when blended with ballet, the incorporated ASL seemed to take a backseat to the dance. Contrapuntally, Vincent worked wonderfully with the BalletNEXT crew and left the audience wanting more of her true representation of the dance of American Sign Language.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Brandon Kazen-Maddox

March 19, 2018
There is nothing like the live experience of a dance that is beautiful, odd, funny, strange, elegant, animalistic, ritualistic, uncanny, and constantly thought-provoking – especially to the wonderfully three-dimensional sound of a live orchestra. Paul Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom, first performed in 1976, is that kind of masterpiece – the kind of dance that you want to see again – the kind that changes you a little, every time you see it.

Danced to baroque music and a percussive score that intrudes and sometimes overlaps (Arcangelo Corelli, Henry Cowell and Malloy Miller, combined by John Herbert McDowell), the men and women both inhabit two different worlds, alternating between genteel court-like dancing and base, animal instinct-like movement. Taylor creates a strange community, where both genders embody the civilized and the raw (a quartet of men in tuxes cavort and compete with each other) creating unlikely juxtapositions that simultaneously cause consternation, surprise, and laughter. When the women reappear wearing geometric mirrors (one woman jetés across the stage with a mirrored sphere attached to her head) the strangeness intensifies: Taylor constantly sets up artifice, lifts the veil of appearances, then drops it back down with a thud.

Part of the Taylor company’s remade image includes presenting new and old American modern dance, a formula that works well. Paul Taylor veteran Lila York, who has choreographed for dozens of ballet companies since, created a dream-like world in Continuum. This one, less strange than melancholy, featured “young” girl with a pink ribbon in her hair (danced by the tiny, lovely Madelyn Ho) with an ensemble that variously holds her aloft, stops her, envelops her and eventually lets her go. Waterfall lifts in canon and dreamy, slow sequences allude to loss, and resignation.

Opening the program with Taylor’s Changes (2008), to the Mamas and the Papas, sets up through a benign nostalgia the more interesting dancing to come. But even this piece has its own strange interlude with a grown man in footie pajamas “dreaming” in a cartoon-like setting – perhaps the effects of what they smoked in a previous scene. In the context of a short repertory evening, it’s hard to seriously conjure up the angst and rebellion of that era, but it’s still fun to see the Taylor dancers, with lots of hair, bell bottoms, and attitude, changing things less than just having a good time.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

March 17, 2018
As the audience members filled the seats in the David H. Koch Theater, the energy in the house vibrated with excitement for the evening’s first work, SET AND RESET, choreographed by Trisha Brown. SET AND RESET, originally performed in1983 by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, is a whirlwind of holistic undulations that span the fullest range of muscular motion that the human body can reach. There is something fascinating about witnessing movement being knocked over and watching it tumble across the stage that is omnipresent throughout Brown’s choreography. Brown’s work also has an earthy and satisfying groundedness that emanates from the widely-spread toes and supported, open positions inherent in modern dance.

Regarding the set, the wings projecting from the sides of the stage were made with sheer fabric whose translucent touch gave the audience a sneak peek into the professionalism that continues to go on ‘behind the curtain’ in the midst of a performance. The technological additions to Brown’s work were nostalgic, bringing to screen good-old-boy images and a cacophony of sounds from the world of black and white television and World War II.

In the second movement, EVENTIDE, the work of Mr. Paul Taylor elegantly glided its way across the stage and into the hearts of the audience. The dancers began their work with a promenade in the round; five couples steadily keeping time to the live strings of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Suite for Viola and Orchestra. With each step, the five couples moved along the floor in sync, taking care to lift each of their legs only so much as to allow the weight of the foot to slide along the floor beneath them in what felt like a luscious appreciation for the hypnotic beauty that walking can impress. The caress of the floor with each of the dancers’ footsteps was mirrored by the touches shared between the couples, their purposeful lunges shifting their bodies’ weigh in a balanced and easy fashion.

The first duet, Carol, danced by Michael Trusnovec and Parisa Khobdeh was remarkably refreshing. The dancers’ boundless energy riffed off of one another in a complex volley of playful petit allegro that moved across the floor with coiled springs and bright, clear technique. Through their piercing mutual eye contact and gregarious, flirty smiles, it was clear that Trusnovec and Khobdeh enjoyed moving Taylor’s technically-challenging choreography through their bodies. The articulation of the feet of both dancers was impeccable and utilized in such a sprightly manner that both dancers should be proud to have done grand justice to the living history of dance.

The rose-colored backdrop and soft-petaled light played against the aptly-tailored cream-colored costumes, and provided a gorgeous landscape through which the five couples were free to express their love for one another, while reminding the audience that beauty is found in all forms of motion, static and active.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Brandon Kazen-Maddox

EYE ON DANCE Unearths The Rite of Spring
March 16, 2018
National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park on April 12 at 6:30pm
RSVP: (212-475-3424)
Video screening and discussion. FREE.

The Joffrey Ballet performed “Rite” in 1987 reconstructed by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer. Celia Ipiotis, creator of the television series, Eye on Dance, interviewed Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer in 1987. Ipiotis will show the program and interview two former Joffrey dancers:
Nicole Duffy Robertson andDenise Jackson Sutherland.

Public Screening: EYE ON DANCE "Le sacre du printemps" (1987) EOD Guests on Video: Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer
Host: Celia Ipiotis
Talk: The intense process involved in reconstructing the 1913 “Rite of Spring” for the Joffrey Ballet in 1987
Dance Excerpts: Joffrey Ballet performing “The Rite of Spring”

Panelists : Nicole Duffy Robertson and Denise Jackson Sutherland, Former Joffrey Ballet dancers
Moderator: Celia Ipiotis
Talk: The experience of reconstructing groundbreaking dances.
Q & A

Created by Celia Ipiotis and Jeff Bush, EYE ON DANCE is a production of the nonprofit organization Arts Resources in Collaboration, Inc. EYE ON DANCE was recently designated “an irreplaceable national dance treasure.”
For more information:

March 12, 2018
After a lifetime of perfecting 180 degree extensions, effortless jumps, turns of every imaginable kind, a ballerina might yearn to get close to the ground, exploring whatever she hadn’t done before. Sylvie Guillem felt the urge; so does Wendy Whelan. In a league of her own, Gabrielle Lamb is on a roll, having set up puzzles for the body to answer for a decade now.

Lamb, a dancer for years with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal and Morphoses, and a guest artist of such choreographers as Pontus Lidberg, has created a signature style honed through a string of commissions from no less than eleven ballet companies. Just as Yvonne Rainer and the Judson Church created a manifesto of what not to do, Lamb seems to thrive on the discipline of finding freedom within strict limitations.

In her hour long program as part of 2018 Harkness Dance Festival at 92Y, Lamb presented a solo, Torricelli’s Theorem, commissioned by Chelsea Bonosky; a duet for Jane Cracovaner and Patrick O’Brien, Pathological Curves (World Premiere) and, most winningly, a dance for seven, Bewilderness, inspired by the historian and activist Rebecca Solnit. Bewilderness is set to the music of Joan Cambon, Henry Purcell, and Jozef Van Wissen, whose sounds differ so much as to divide the work into episodes that hedge between competition and cooperation. Ending with a drily witty cartoon, the dancers help each other one by one out of physical knots.

Each work on the program required precision and calm, torso dexterity, and often an air of wonder; some of Lamb's dancers seemed particularly suited to this work, Robin Cantrell being one. The costumes by Christine Darch were memorable for their design (Torricelli’s Theorem) and their colors (Pathological Curves). The set by Topher Mikels, of laboratory vials and a hanging globe with liquid dripping from its center, stole the focus in Torricelli’s Theorum.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --- Deirdre Towers

March 12, 2018
Marking the 4th annual Tisch Dance Works concert, students from Tisch presented work featuring Dance & Technology. The night consisted of 11 works that were meant to explore technology while creating dance. Bringing some humor and self-reflection up top, the first piece experienced some technical difficulties. They were remedied shortly and the program began.

From Beacon, the first dance by Isaac Spector jumped right into the theme of the evening headfirst by using video screens and live feeds in innovative ways. Though it was many ideas packed into too short a time, the creative explorations of the tech were appreciated especially as the night progressed. The most striking image was perhaps in Spector’s use of cameras as his two dances faced away from each other on opposite sides of the stage. They began interacting with each other. Their images were being cast onto two screens mid-stage where close-ups of the dancers heads were looking right at each other. It highlighted the way technology can both bring us closer together while letting us forget that we are separated by distance in a way that is both encouraging and a bit dark.

Technology was then explored in a variety of ways, like in development of the piece, such as in Tacky, Wet, dainty, Flossy or with heat motion detectors tracking movement in V/R. What was unsurprising yet disappointing was the trend in the pieces to simply use video projected onto the cycholarama. Six of the eleven pieces took this approach, and while most of those dances were beautifully made it felt more like a choice of staging and lighting rather than an incorporation of technology into the choreography.

Two of the pieces of the evening were real crowd pleasers. The first being Reminiscence by Chaery Moon. A sultry and virtuosic pas-de-deux, Reminiscence was exactly what it was trying to be- a beautiful dance. With no pretense, these dancers accompanied by two dancing spotlights video projected onto the back sike, gave a nice release to the audience who could simply watch and enjoy. The second piece that was loved by the audience was Brandon Kazen-Maddox's COME WITH ME: A Multimedia American Sign Language Dance Theater Production. Incorporating ASL into the movement and a momentum driving live band, this piece did a great job of explaining to the hearing-abled audience through video what each sign was, then putting the dancers on the stage to use those signs to build and create dance around them. It was dance that was literally translatable, which was fascinating to see.

With a strong ending to the evening, Lost in Translation explored the ideas of communication as the title suggests. The movement focused around a pair of two-sided pyramids made of white stretchy fabric. Thy acted as enclosures, and could be moved and pushed into and against, in ways that built the relationship between the male and female dancer on stage. The technological aspects came later in the piece in a wholly satisfying way. With the use of a mini projector, word were projected by the dancers onto these white objects as well as acting as a backlight to the object creating an effect that this technology was essential to capture.

Though lacking in interesting technology, for me the standout piece of the evening was nonsequitur choreographed by Jenna Charko. Charko’s movement language drew me in immediately, using sharp angular movements that explored the negative space of the stage and the bodies of the two dancers on stage. Every movement felt surprising and there was a humor in the clear relationship between the dancers on stage. These dancers also had a clear relationship to the video that was projecting images of a snowy winter walk. Each dancer wore muted colors and a surgical mask covering the face, allowing their eyes and bodies to convey each emotion and thought.

Overall, the evening was enjoyable, filled with beautiful dance but I was left wanting more explorations of technology in the choreography itself. I look forward to seeing how the Dance & Technology program develops as it continue to grow and give students the outlet to try new tools to create their work.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller

March 7, 2018
After twenty years of absence, Ballet Nacional de España (BNE) returned to New York City Center filling the Neo-Moorish Mecca Temple celebrating its 40th anniversary with splendor. Antonio Najarro had initially choreographed this program for his own company a few months before accepting the directorship of the BNE in 2011. With the mission to place the company as an avant-garde icon, Najarro, incorporated haute couture, leading technology, and a diverse dance vocabulary into the Spanish repertoire's artistic signature. The eclectic program intermixed flamenco, Danza Estilizada, Escuela Bolera and Spanish Folklore with contemporary dance, impeccable ballet technique, and a plethora of castanet virtuosity, imprinted by Antonio’s extraordinary mastery of this concert element.

In Suite Sevilla, the audience promenaded through the picturesque neighborhood of Triana, ebullient Seville’s April fair. Sunny Guadalquivir port, morphed into an Easter procession intacing, stabscured with incense and witnessed the Fiesta Brava confrontations at the Maestranza. Under the musical direction of Omar Acosta, audiences were raptured by flamenco guitarist Rafael Riqueni, enjoined by the ontributions of Enrique Bermúdez, Jesús Torres, and Paco de Lucía.

The evening’s soothing orchestrated preamble was abruptly interrupted as the curtain was raised a few inches to reveal a marching line of sharp castanet percussion. The partially veiled company alternated playing the palillos through conventional hand technique or striking the floor as taconeo, breaking rounded Spanish classical lines by angular far-reaching striking posticeos, exciting the audience’s applause as both company and curtain rose.

Like a cardistry magician, Antonio displayed swirling and shuffling formations of dancers adorned in albero golden fitting ruffle flamenco dresses and Trajes de Corto suits while intermixing stylized Sevillanas with abstract themes alluding to Joaquín Turina. In Calle del Infierno, the amusement park of the April fair, soloist Débora Martínez celebrated the Escuela Bolera legacy of the Pericet family, abundant in entrechats embroidered in 17th-century motifs. La Alfalfa followed easter’s penitent somber mourning processions. Within a prayer of contemporary broken abstract lines and hunching deep contractions accented by rhythmic lace fan gestures. A compact group of dragging Nazarenos were joined by lamenting majas adorned with mantillas. With relieving freshness, principal dancer, Inmaculada Salomón, displayed her classical lines as she was carried in a seamless sequence of portées attired in an immaculate pearl dress representing Esperanza.

El Encierro, choreographed by Manuel Liñán, broke the mystical ambiance with a duet of Andalusian cattle ranchers in Traje Campero. Eduardo Martínez and José Manuel Benítez augmented Paco de Lucía’s Zapateado with panache, incorporating the use of the jacket, Coredobés hat, wooden cane, and an array of nine pastel wooden chairs into the dance vocabulary. Within chiaroscuro dialogues, Saray Muñóz and Gabriel de la Tomasa tenderly chanted La Pesca del Atún, followed by the majestic Soleá del Mantón, where Esther Jurado paid tribute to the legacy of Blanca del Rey’s signature revering the Manila shawl as a protagonist.

Antonio’s sensual pas de deux transposed contemporary portés into the bata de cola territory in Paseo de Ensueño, where the bailaor would interplay with both, his partner and her train dress in a romantic storyline. However, the audience’s favorite was Maestranza, an impossible love narrative between a bullfighter and the dual figure of woman and bull.

Empowered by consummate artists, Sergio Bernal and Aloña Alonso, Najarro displayed brilliant bullfighting capote figures, dancer’s plastici Bouder amatic complexity amalgamating tradition and vanguard. Puerta de Triana enraptured patrons as six sensuous bailaoras dressed in ivory bata de colas and pericón fans casting the shadows of their elongated figures against the circular cyclorama that decorated the evening with digital projections.

Another crowd-pleasing number was Bailaor where the male cast clothed in traditional emerald green traje corto and calañés hats showed off brilliant percussive footwork and classical technique within an abundant array of pirouettes and tours en l’air sequences in perfect synchronicity.

Congruent with its name, Júbilo closed the evening with a joyous amalgam of the Spanish dance umbrella references, where glimpses of the company’s ample repertoire reflected the multifaceted four-decade trajectory of Ballet Nacional de España’s heritage and artistry.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

March 1, 2018
The Joyce Theatre was bursting with dance VIPS on the opening night of Company Wayne McGregor in anticipation of an inspiring evening. Having been thrilled with Alvin Ailey’s performance of McGregor’s Chroma, I too was pumped for the show. Early touted as a cerebral virtuoso, McGregor is the resident choreographer of The Royal Ballet, and a globe trotting artist, setting ballets on prestigious companies, such as New York City Ballet, and working in films and theatre.

An example of his writing about Chroma gives you a sense of his communicative gifts - “Often in my own choreographies I have actively conspired to disrupt the spaces in which the body performs. Each intervention, usually some kind of addition, is an attempt to see the context of the body in a new or alien way.” Notice the words particularly germane to understanding McGregor - disrupt, Intervention, alien.

His 80 minute offering, Autobiography which premiered at Sadler’s Wells in London on October 4, 2017 began with a compelling male solo. His ten dancers are a lithe, androgynous group, all capable of 180 degree battements and rag doll collapses. By the end of the performance though, my eyes hurt from the light, designed by Lucy Carter, that often shone directly into the audience forcing you to squint or simply close your eyes. Whether solo, duet, or group, everyone seemed repetitive, a leg thrust to the ceiling and then a shift of a body part - whether a head, or muscle in the upper back. Given that McGregor set out to write his life story in Autobiography, perhaps he is (inadvertently?) making a public confession that he is blocked.

Towards the close of the performance, the music assembled by Jlin (which included music by Hitdur Gudnadottir, Zelienople, Arcangelo Corelli, Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Maxattering, offered a grinding sound during which a man said “You don’t want to hurt me” and then after 30 seconds of more grinding, a woman saying defiantly, “Oh yes, I do!” This almost childish exchange makes McGregor seem a bit wistful. However, the set of downward pointing triangles by Ben Cullen Williams that was lowered from the ceiling for one section was anything but. Perhaps we are to empathize with McGregor as a fellow victim of oppressive times.

His excellent dancers are: Rebecca Bassett-Graham, Jordan James Bridge, Travis Clausen-Knight, Louis McMiller, Daniela Neugebauer, Jacob O’Connell, James Pett, Fukiko Takase, Po-lin Tung, and Jessica Wright. Costumes are by Aitor Throup.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

February 25, 2018
Love and Desolation interweaved in Intimo, flamenco and Spanish theatre dance fusion at The Joyce Theater. Noche Flamenca, directed by New Yorker, Marín Santangelo and his wife, acclaimed flamenco dancer, Soledad Barrio, gathered an eclectic company of Ida y Vuelta emerging local and savored Spanish artists for their 2018 winter season. The evening´s menu comprised two main courses: La Ronde, a theatre-dance narrative, and a flamenco medley of Alegrías, Farruca, Zambra Caracolera, and Soleá.

Choreographed by Martín Santangelo, La Ronde explored the love and despair cycles depicted by Arthur Schnitzler in his 1897 theatrical play adapted into the film by Max Opu¨ls in 1950. The company was introduced through a dark canvas crossed by a diagonal beam of light inhabited by a file of dancers seated in tangent to a line of musicians.

Gago, Carmina Cortés, and Emilio Florido' voices echoed in cannon to the lyrics of La Historia de Un Amor (The story of one love): “Ya no estás más a mi lado, corazón…”. Soledad Barrio broke the dancer´s series of sitting gestures, taking a stand in anguish. As the company disseminated, Soledad´s interaction with her accompanist put in orbit a series of traditional duets between baile, cante, and toque artists, breaking the norm with an intricate percussion dispute between Emilio Florido with a pair of canes and David “Chupete” Rodríguez playing cajón.

Dissonance stirred within the flamenco fandangos, Soleá por Bulerías and other palos when an inner city young man started krumping with a femme fatal. In the absence of program notes for this 40-minute piece, the audience was susceptible to bewilderment encountering the foreign art form, aggravated by the Spanish and calé lyrics within the Andalusian accent and flamenco cante aesthetics. However, the plasticity explored by Soledad in her contemporary duet with Carlos Menchaca recaptured the disengaging larghetto pace prevailing in the piece’s compás and transitions.

Without intermission, the evening’s second course offered a refreshing gust of salty breeze from Cadiz in Alegrías. Marina Elana and Carlos Menchaca depicted the celebration of new love, in a coquettish dialogue between their escobillas and the sensual caress in their silencio.

In isolated reflection, Juan Ogalla distilled his farruca imprinting his solera, distantly accompanied by the harmonic chords insinuated by Eugenio Iglesias’s guitar.

Commanding the stage, Soledad Barrio closed the program exposing profound sorrow through her Soleá, pacing herself with unblemished zapateado discourse and empowered crescendos, drawing the audience further in the appreciation of her legacy.

After the final bow, the night was animated by the traditional closing pataítas por bulería where each dancer took turns to show-off charisma and pellizco, leading the ensemble’s exit as they all sang the coletilla. EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

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 her backe 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 Ordericipated) , 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 oftemaneuvers g 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 ones, homet 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, arked Amerination 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 desig hair, andity 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.

variationIsrael, 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 Gilreathk DenDantorbert, 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, conventbold shapendered 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
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 2009, theible 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 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.

Bj dance to ’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 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 danciin the bac, 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, tributesn 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 trd Hudson 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 anballet beneverly 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 Danceh’s eer 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. Tmes, and l’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 feeliarchand of 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 diallet travfrey 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
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 schoole lent itst 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 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 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 wt. As she ion.

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. Whetheises comins 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

Jilva, this17
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 dancer fa” 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 The evenffort 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 tand voice.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 “bend to mads,” 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 tethereed into Ma. 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 ile Roberte 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 qu qualitieshoreographer 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
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

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 LWIN NIKOLe 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

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 com

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 isxGryb7So9Aas 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 ember 7, 2in, 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 aview serie 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.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada EYE ON THara Rudner

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 aesthet