REVIEW: Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center, Program 5
The last curtain of the 2011 Fall For Dance Festival opened on four live musicians and a three platform stage suggesting only one thing: tap. Leading Zoe Ellliot and Kyle Wilder in an upbeat, non-stop sound fest, Maurice Chestnut showcases his exuberance for the form. Immediately it is evident that Chestnut’s tapping is not meant to be secondary, but rather fully integrated into the band as another musician. It is so successful in this instance that I wonder why every band is not considering hiring a tapper to stand beside the drummer. The mood of “Floating” is very much like a casual jam session amongst good friends. With ease and spontaneity, the musicians communicate with Chestnut and his team. After one section, Chestnut is left by his compatriots to solo. His feet are independent from the rest of him as he taps with dizzying speed. Live singing creates a fitting jazz atmosphere, and it is clear that Chestnut tries to surprise even himself with his choices. For the finale, both Elliot and Wilder get their own moment to shine and each solo is exciting. “Floating” starts this night off on the right foot.
Find our other Fall for Dance Festival 2011 reviews here.
Next, New York City Ballet stormed the stage with gusto in royal purple leotards. “Polyphonia” by Christopher Wheeldon is an in-depth study of 10 piano selections of Gyorgy Ligeti, which are performed live by pianists Cameron Grant and Alan Moverman. The bright opening section casts giant fleeting shadows on the back scrim, showcasing the dance in a whole new perspective. Ligeti’s music easily lends itself to the personality and quirks of Wheeldon’s choreography. One section is a waltz, the next staccato, the next a floating adagio. NYCB’s star dancers step up to each variation, distinguishing between shifting tempos with grace. Because the sections are short and to the point, no one feeling lingers. But the movement is memorable: Wendy Whelan pushes off Tyler Angle’s thigh in a walking lift in which she kicks both legs in attitude creating an almost animal effect; Sara Mearns and Chase Finlay waltz lightly, skimming the floor and each other; an effortless Tiler Peck solo in the third movement stands out (I love hearing the sounds of her shoes on the floor). The best thing about the ballet is that it keeps moving, and it knows when to end. Wheeldon proves with this piece that editing works; each duet, each group section is just enough to keep us wanting more.
As opposed to the simplicity of bodies in space, Liz Gerring’s modern work “Lichtung/Clearing” integrates movement scenic design, and video projection. Numerous strips of white fabric act as screens, hung floor to ceiling. These pieces, though they might seem to encumber the space, actually achieve the opposite. The projection changes every few minutes with a new pattern and color scheme that flips the environment. It is electronic: black and white lines jumping sporadically. Then it is suddenly neon chaos: yellow and white 80′s aesthetic. Soon it becomes lush with red and green. All the while in this programmed world, the dancers are navigating this “clearing” with Gerring’s movement that flings them to the ground, sends them jumping, sprinting and sliding in and out of the maze of fabric. The music, or rather, “sound composition” is the most challenging of the three elements. It is screechy and rough. The visual innovation of the piece deserves an equally outside-the-box sound choice. I find myself wondering what the effect of a melodic score would be. Too many jarring elements can be unpleasant. The mystique of images and strong movement composition are intriguing enough without this complex layer of noise.
With the anticipation of many Fall For Dance regulars, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater finally arrives to close this 2011 festival. They make bold, classic choices: Who can resist a stage chock-full of beautiful people in bright floor length skirts of pink, purple, orange, blue and green? “Festa Barroca” choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti is a witty celebration of Georg Friedrich Handel’s music. Led by shining Hope Boykin in a beginning chorus of movement, the Ailey dancers sway and shift in lines, swirling the radiant colors. Bigonzetti throws in some not-so-serious dance moments: a series of snapping to a symphony, a flippant gesture here and there. These, coupled with full-bodied spirals, balances and extensions make for a fanciful Handel interpretation. Most striking is the opening lift of a duet between Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims where Linda dangles from his arms, only to be immediately tossed and caught above his head, chest arched open to the sky. This one elicits an audible response, only foreshadowing the roar of applause that greets this beloved company at the finale.
Fall For Dance 2011 sends the audiences out of City Center doors to go seek out the shows they love most. Until next year.