GARTH FAGAN DANCE
October 9, 2011
A motley-crew in colorful dress shuffles in a group, their focus dead ahead in the direction they
are moving, their momentum picking up with little leaps. “Until, By, & If” (1990) returns,
opening Program B of Garth Fagan Dance Company’s 2011-2012 New York City Season at the
Joyce Theater. Soon the group dissolves into pairs, a palpable force between their bodies as they
lift each other in frozen positions flipped sideways or backwards, sparking humor.
Along with the notable celebration of the company’s 40th anniversary, this performance
welcomes two world premieres: Garth Fagan’s “Madiba” as well as principal dancer and muse
Norwood Pennewell’s “Liminal Flux.”
Following another revival – the somber and patient “In Memoriam: The Innocent, The Brave,
The Hands, The Minds…All Mankind” (2001) honoring the victims and survivors of 9/11 – the
greatly anticipated “Madiba” takes to the stage.
In celebration of the South African leader, Nelson Mandela, the piece begins with a bouncy,
lighthearted duet that sets the tone. The duo smiles at each other, the female dancer jumping
into a straddle, caught midair by her male counterpart. Other dancers enter the space and step
backwards in a circular path, pausing to undulate their hips, complementing the music’s rhythm
(musical arrangement by Abdullah Ibrahim).
Video (Carvin Eisoln) is projected on the backdrop and takes multimedia to a new, intriguing
level, as we notice Pennewell has a video camera secured to his head while dancing, and the
tilted angles and raw images of colored lights beaming through the dancer’s bodies is live
footage. Pennewell goes on to perform solo in silence, the movement colored by a mesmerizing
momentum, broken up by flashes of jerky accents.
Next up is Pennewell’s “Liminal Flux” which paints constantly shifting images, patterns and
paths of the dancers moving in the space. The movement is full-bodied and from time to time
the dancers melt to the ground or break out in sweeping rounds of barrel turns.
The transitions throughout the evening fade in and out, the essence of the dance prior lingering
a moment after the lights dim. This is especially true of “Translation Transition” (2002) with
echoed movement between single dancers and the group, Afro-Caribbean inspired body rolling,
and highlighted technique ending the evening.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jennifer Thompson