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Royal Ballet Flanders, "The Return of Ulysses" / Choreographer: Christian Spuck / Photo: © Johan Persson Royal Ballet Flanders, "The Return of Ulysses" / Choreographer: Christian Spuck / Photo: © Johan Persson

REVIEW: Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center, Program 4

CCN de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne / Compagnie Käfig, "Agwa" / Choreographer: Mourad Merzouki / Photo: © Michel Cavalca

CCN de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne / Compagnie Käfig, "Agwa" / Choreographer: Mourad Merzouki / Photo: © Michel Cavalca

Program 4

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    [dropcap]I[/dropcap]nternational perspective keeps us healthy. Last night, in Program 4 of Fall For Dance at New York City Center, all four companies travelled from abroad to perform. The color, energy, and philosophies they brought along with them imbued the Festival with a new flair. If you wanted something different, this was the night to come.

    A name like “CCN de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne / Compagnie Käfig” carries plenty of force on its own. All the way from the southeastern suburbs of Paris, this wild, all-male bunch lit the stage aflame with their tireless energy and contagious joy. The piece, Agwa, is a study of our intimate relationship with water. Surrounded by hundreds of clear plastic cups, the boys (mostly Brazilian) dance in a fusion of fluidity and street. Hip-hop and theatricality blend to tell a story of our need for water. The plotline shifts between abundance and draught. However, the mood is far from somber. As they tumble, freeze and lock they build an electric party atmosphere. They represent a culture that not only practices dance but lives it vivaciously.

    The cups in Agwa are at once a set and a prop, they are continuously shifted, stacked and shuffled; water is recycled and poured down the line. Diego Alves Dos Santos (or “Dieguinho”), who had caught my eye from the beginning, seems to usher in the rain. Dressed in a clear ponchos, the company resembles whimsical moving sculptures, their multi colored converse and rain boots peaking out below. The piece has a sense of humor. After another bright section of dizzying tricks and full stage action, they come to a single beam of light in the front of the stage, where the dance turns focus on hands only, greedily creeping toward glasses full of water. Finally, each performer is rightfully rewarded with a drink.

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      Find our other Fall for Dance Festival 2011 reviews here.

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        Tao Dance Theater’s Weight x 3 is as starkly opposed as I can imagine. In a single spotlight, a woman dressed in a sleek black halter and a full gathered skirt spins a long spear over and over again in succession. The Reich music mimics this repetitive action with seemingly unchanging vibratory sounds. She just spins and spins and spins. It is a maze with no beginning nor ending. Everything about the sequence is circular. I do not know how she can find herself in the phrase or in the music. It continues. Then, after what could have been an hour for all we know, the lights blackout.

        The second movement of Weight x 3 features a duet, draped in luxurious white fabric, holding hands. In much the same spirit as the solo, the two make calculated steps and pivots around the stage, always re-grasping hands to the front. They never lose track of each other for an instant. This too is lengthy repetitive action. This too cannot be traced. Tao Dance Theater explains in the program that these specific physical practices aim to set the spirit free. However, I feel work like this can only be deeply appreciated with a knowledge of the spiritual philosophies that accompany it. Like with many zen practices, it requires training the mind to patience and serenity. For me, it is anxiety-producing. My heart rate increases watching the repetition. Rather than suspended from time, it is my focus.

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            The Royal Ballet of Flanders presented “The Return of Ulysses” which showcased the truly phenomenal Eva Dewaele as beloved Penelope, from Greek mythology. While having 7 suitors may seem like every woman’s dream, this piece demonstrates the downsides of adoration. Penelope cannot focus on any man in the room, waiting anxiously for her absent Ulysses. In the meantime, she is tossed, groped and admired from every angle to the point of exasperation. Her plight becomes viscerally desperate.

            This is accomplished because Eva Dewaele is striking for more than her glowing red hair or perfect feet (I hear a handful of people comment on them). Dewaele exhibits control and absolute abandon. When she must be flung, she surrenders wholeheartedly. With a piercing eye and an open-heart, she leaves us with no doubt of her dilemmas. Well-timed explosions of energy are immediately contained in quiet moments of cool composure. The Flanders men are nothing to shirk at either. Their control allows Dewaele her wings. In any other situation, they would all be eligible. Even when Ulysses, played by the dashing Ernesto Boada, Penelope shows no sign of recognition. They have ruined her.

            The night comes full circle with a final piece by Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba. The all-female flamenco team is accompanied by a live band across the back of the stage, which makes the performance. Dressed in pants and blouses, then white and black dresses later on, the dancers are so precise with their footwork, head position, and formations that they could be the Cuban version of the Rockettes. They come with enthusiasm and giant smiles. In between group sections is a lovely, yet literal, duet to “Besame Mucho.” The romance factor is there, but I would much prefer it in the streets of Cuba or on an empty open square. Although what these dancers do is not by any means for the laymen, it beckons the audience to join in. Cultural-based dance forms always have this effect on me. Rather than brought to me, I’d rather go to them in their native environment.

            But perhaps this international program has just incited a travel bug.

            Fall For Dance Festival takes place at New York City Center Oct 27 – Nov 6. Watch for continuing DancePulp coverage on our Blog and follow the festival with our live Twitter coverage.

            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.

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