Performing Arts: Dance
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

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