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Lil Buck, "The Swan" Lil Buck, "The Swan" / Choreographer: Lil Buck / Photo © Erinn Baiano

REVIEW: Fall For Dance Festival at New York City Center: Program 1

The Joffrey Ballet, "Woven Dreams" / Choreographer: Edwaard Liang / Photo: Christine Rocas & Temur Suluashvili © Herbert Migdoll

The Joffrey Ballet, "Woven Dreams," Choreographer Edwaard Liang, Photo: Christine Rocas & Temur Suluashvili © Herbert Migdoll

Program 1

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    [dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is easy to get cynical about your art when you are in contact with it each day. But tonight at New York City Center‘s Fall For Dance Festival, I fell back in love with dance. But it was not just the obvious mushy feelings toward the art coming from the overtly enthusiastic FFD crowd; these were four solid voices, four entertaining works.

    There is a reason you hear teachers say to do exercises “a la Mark Morris”: this style is codified. Their precision is electric, and immediately recognizable as MMDG (Mark Morris Dance Group). All Fours (2003) opens with ten dancers in black suits and dresses who move in a tight unit. As if one body with the music, which is performed by a live quartet stage right,  the dancers punctuate with jumps and gestures. Several motifs repeat and echo: a cupped hand by an ear, arms in a tight “V” above the head, quick attitude-leaps in pairs. Against a bold red background they slice the space in all planes. Their focus directs the path of motion. Soon dancers in white replace them. These dancers bring back previous vocabulary but add to it, as if their language is evolving. I realize that Morris reaches me through memorable glimpses: two dancers moving in slow motion, while the other two run in figure eights around them;  a spin on all fours with one protruding flexed foot, quick ronde de jambe turns landing in wide fourth postition, a slight touch of the mouth or a turn with one concise passe.  It is carefully edited. The piece comes full circle, bringing back the dancers in black, unchanged in their demeanor. It is like the perfect short story.

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      Find our other Fall for Dance Festival 2011 reviews here.

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        And then, Lil Buck had me at hello. Accompanied by Joshua Roman (cello) and Riza Hequibal Printup  (harp)  in the iconic The Swan by Camille Saint-Saens, he begins rising with a classic hip-hop head isolation. There is no mistaking him: a real street dancer, famous for “jookin'” in Memphis (his YouTube collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma went viral online) gives this famous Fokine ballet solo an urban makeover. Taking on the challenge is an incredibly bold move–it would be wise to blow it out of the water.  Dressed in a t-shirt, pants, and sneaks, Lil Buck twirls on the tips of his kicks mimicking pointe shoes. He integrates breathtaking stops, locks, spins and breaks as if this piece of music had been written only for him. His arms, like those of Anna Pavlova or Nina Ananiashvili, move as water.  The look on his face is heart stopping. He is so intent on his movement, the emotion is magnetic. When he resolves, the lights can not go out before the audience is on their feet. I love his respect for the piece.  I love what his version says about the future of dance.

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            Trisha Brown’s boys were up next in Rogues, a duet. Having just seen a video of  Brown dancing herself at the Bessies Monday night, it was amazing for me to see her dancers so fully embody her style. These are dancers who are living in Trisha’s bones. The two men in grey endlessly fold and twist their limbs in a meditative exploration. I was once in a dance class where the teacher said, “unison is not two people doing the same thing but people riding the same wave.” This duo seems in sync not only in body but in mind and heart. They are one mood. The movement is patient. Alvin’s Curran’s music creates a feeling of wide-openness. They are free: in and out of the ground as if weightless. I cannot get over how I can see her in them.

            Edwaard Liang’s Woven Dreams, performed by the Joffrey Ballet  is a very successful collaboration of choreographic and visual design. When the piece opens, a gigantic woven fabric piece rises from the floor, revealing dancers through holes in the braiding. This set, designed by Jeff Bauer, is certainly the jumping-off point for phrases and partnering in the ballet. Liang filled the stage with many simultaneous duos whose criss-cross trajectories were almost indistinguishable. Liang explores weaving both in corps work and in duets, and the partnering is a knot of twisting and suspension.  I was particularly wooed by the pas de deux in the fifth movement danced by Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels. Jaiani takes risks with her timing in lifts and falls, keeping the audience breathing in time with her action. Each resolution to a partnering step is accompanied with audible sighs from the seats. Her partner Calmels was so in tune that it allowed them a spontaneity not often found in classical duets. The piece concludes with the entire cast in a beautiful echo of the shimmering cloth hovering above them.

            I am so excited about this show that it makes me want to get up and dance.  Tomorrow I am going to take class. You?

            Fall For Dance Festival takes place at New York City Center Oct 27 – Nov 6. Watch for continuing DancePulp coverage on DancePulp’s Blog

            Post by Emeri Fetzer

            Emeri is Managing Editor of DancePulp.com and a full–time freelance performer. Emeri most recently danced in Punchdrunk's 'Sleep No More' NYC and in original choreography for PITH Dance. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, with BA’s in Dance Choreography and English from Goucher College, Emeri loves to marry writing with a strong passion for movement. She is also a regular contributor for Theater Development Fund's online magazine TDF Stages.

            Comments (2)

            1. Mike October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm

              I can’t dance but I sure enjoyed the show last night. Though you forgot to mention how nice the renovated theater looks.

            2. Amy Jacobus October 31, 2011 at 2:21 pm

              Emeri, my thoughts exactly. It was such a beautiful night (and right in the midst of a very heavy dance-viewing week, I so appreciated that!)

              I am in dance-love with Lil Buck, officially, and Trisha Brown’s work made me crave the dance classroom bigtime.

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