REVIEW: Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center: Program 3
When the Australian Ballet first took the stage in banana yellow unitards, I was thrown off by the choice. However, when Gemini is put in the context of 1973, the year Glen Tetley first created it for the company, it starts to make a whole lot more sense. The piece is a mix of classical and contemporary ballet movement, set to the highly dramatic Symphony No.3 from Hans Werner Henze. There is no question of the athleticism of the two men and two women on stage. They move with force and confidence, flaunting stamina and flexibility. The choreography hovers between intimately human at times and distant and inanimate in the next second. There are many disconnected thoughts; I feel as if in a conversation full of non sequiters. A slow solo focused on floor work, exploring bridges and planks with long extensions of a leg suddenly flips focus as the dancer bolts around the stage with quick leaps and turns. The moods shift without warning, chasing the musical score. When the ballet concludes, I am impressed by the dancers but unmoved by the structure of the work. And I’m still wondering how they feel about the unitards.
Find our other Fall for Dance Festival 2011 reviews here.
Steven McRae is most often found at the Royal Opera House, dancing as a principal for the Royal Ballet. In this case, he has ditched the tights for Something Different: tap shoes. Undeniably good-looking, McRae takes the stage with such nonchalance that he could be swooning at an upscale bar instead. He begins in a spotlight, flirting with the audience with short tap sequences, looking for our approval after each. In this section he unintentionally educates us about the beats, breaking them down and then bringing them to full speed. We understand how the sounds are made, and we are impressed. Just when you think he might be finished, the lights come up for some full stage action to the famous Sing, Sing, Sing (with a swing) by Benny Goodman. Here we see ballet Steven. Making each tap step a full- bodied moment he triumphs through illustration and sound, spinning and sliding across the space. The message is this: Versatility wins.
Almost every dance student is familiar with Nijinsky‘s Faune to Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. A controversial piece when first created, many companies have remembered the Faune for its audacity and sensuality and revisited it in modern times. This interpretation by Pontus Lidberg uses perhaps none of the original choreography, but examines issues of identity presented by the piece as well as a painting done of Nijinsky as the Faune. Somehow even in slacks and long sleeve shirts Lidberg’s all-star cast maintains a sense of history in their movement without being archaic. Out of the five there is always one stripped down to nude leotards, while the others are in grey circling them (they manage this through constant dressing and undressing on stage). It creates a feeling of exposed isolation, this coming back to nakedness. As we move through them, one of the dancers is revealed with Nijinsky’s faune spots. He is shy at first, almost ashamed to show himself around the group. He must gradually come to put on his crown in acceptance of his difference. I am moved by this progression and hypnotized by the rolling constancy of their circles and lines. In the end, the faune is now dressed while the community around him are all in nude. It is an examination of our own socialization and how it affects our true selves.
To finish the evening, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago brought a brand new Ohad Naharin piece entitled THREE TO THE MAX, just premiered in April of this year. In the very beginning the company fills the whole stage. Dressed in jeans and t-shirts in every muted color, they look like a GAP commercial, just standing there. After a long pause, they walk off the stage to leave one soloist. Here we are introduced to this particular vocabulary which “dancifies” many everyday gestures with a witty effect. The movement is altogether wholly physical and minsicule. It is disjointed and sudden. As Naharin works through a handful of soloists, he also brings performers in as background, just standing in positions in the back half of stage. Soon we get a delightful all male section that fills every corner of the space with bolting, crossed pathways. Next we see all the females in a much quieter section where they move in one clump with only the subtlest variations in unison. Because of their contained energy, the intensity of their focus is magnified.
Naharin uses several choreographic strategies in the second half of the piece that he exposes to the audience. The music begins to count to ten, and with each number, dancers correlate a single movement. The sequences are accumulated then discarded once reaching ten. As a viewer I train not only my eye but memory, and I feel after “ten” I could get up and do the phrase. In another moment, Naharin brings the performers one-by-one to the front of three lines. They take turns with sometimes simple, sometimes funny, sometimes technical moments. We get to know them. THREE TO THE MAX is complicated, but joyfully so. There are so many moments to try to grasp that many of them fall through my hands, but the ones I keep are vivid.