ELISE MONTE DANCE COMPANY
April 17, 2012
The well-regarded Elisa Monte Dance Company opened its 2012 season with
performances at the Ailey Citigroup Theater featuring three world premieres and
two revivals that demonstrate the group’s versatility and energy.
the evening began with the opening duet from “Amor Fati” (1999), a brief exercise
in largely gymnastic partnering that serves as the prelude to the whole work. In
this performance, it introduced one of Monte’s signature pieces, “Pigs and Fishes,” a
1982 work originally commissioned by Alvin Ailey for his company. The movement
shows hints of African influence, especially in the way the arms are often joined
together to form a circle that loops towards and away from the center of the body.
If the arms are not locked together, then typically only one arm moves at a time,
slicing forward and back while the hips respond by swaying side to side. The
propulsive music by Glenn Branca buoys the dancers, carrying them through to the
end of this physically demanding work.
“Outside In,” the first of the evening’s premieres, is the work of company member
Joe Celej and features new music by composer Ben Doyle. Three dancers sit
entwined together on the floor; as the piece progresses, they never lose contact with
each other, rushing to fill holes recently vacated by another dancer. At one point,
company strongman Prentice Whitlow hinges backwards while simultaneously
supporting a dancer seated on each of his thighs, providing resistance for his
outstretched arms. All the while, their movements are hazily projected onto the
back scrim, creating a ghostly counterpoint to the action happening before the
Associate Artistic Director Tiffany Rea-Fisher’s “In Absentia” also features new
music by composer Kevin Keller; the work itself, however, covers familiar territory,
exploring the ideas of timing in romantic relationships. As the central couple,
Clymene Baugher and Joe Celej demonstrate obvious metaphors of conflicting
emotions by alternately pushing away from each other, then coming together.
Baugher, although clearly skilled and certainly the most heavily used dancer
throughout the performance, appears to overcompensate for her lack of lower
body flexibility by relying on exaggerated facial expressions that detract from the
Monte’s premiere of “Unstable Ground” proved to be the disappointment of the
evening. With jarring music by Lois Vierk, the dancers largely writhe around on
the ground from side to side as new dancers slither their way into the group. The
men and women are dressed in shiny leotards of various shades of earth tones;
however, the mesh panel on the back of the men’s costumes is placed in the front of
the women’s costumes, revealing their bare breasts underneath. It remains unclear
what this gratuitous exposure adds to a work meant to explore unexpected shifts in
our environment and economy.
Fortunately, the evening closes with another recent Monte piece, “Vanishing
Languages,” (2011)—an energetic, vibrant work that investigates the extinction of
indigenous languages around the world. Some movement phrases are performed by
opposing groups of four, each shifting their hips or sweeping their arms in a pattern
that is uniquely theirs; with alternating sequences of turns, high leg kicks and slides
to the floor, each dancer creates his or her own distinct language that may or may
not be understood and repeated by the others.
Despite some of the choreographic shortcomings, the audience responded warmly to the program, cheering loudly when Monte appeared for a final bow.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jessica Moore