REVIEW: Fall for Dance Festival 2012 at New York City Center: Program 2
It was a night for classics at New York City Center’s Program 2 of Fall For Dance Festival. The spectrum of work illuminated the deep historical tradition of codified technique and striking discipline. Juilliard’s senior dance class shared the work of Pam Tanowitz, a blend of classical and modern technique. Set beside Martha Graham’s “Chronicle” from 1936, Twyla Tharp’s 1983 “Sinatra Suite” performed by American Ballet Theater and a 2010 Peter Quanz ballet by The Hong Kong Ballet, the program seemed to illustrate the journey of dance and the subtle specificity of its many vocabularies.
Tanowitz’s “Fortune” is a mind puzzle–a maze of moving pieces. The 21 Juilliard dancers are set like a jagged landscape, silhouetted against a half background of neon green. Amidst a sea of stillness, one soloist begins to move in stacatto classical shapes that form short, snappy movement sentences. She sets off a domino effect of action with slick, gliding chasses through the group.
Tanowitz teases the live music of Charles Wuorinen with action and freezing. As duos and trios make moves as if on a chess grid we absorb Tanowitz’s angular spatial pattern and within it, rhythmic classical footwork. Despite a large cast, she resists the urge to crowd-please with unison movement. She smartly intersperses moments of unity and focuses solos on dancers who grasp them with confidence. “Fortune” is technical and for the most part non-emotive. But it’s execution is expressive.
Tharp finds ease in the electric combination of the crooner and the ballet. Without belaboring it, she rides that wave.
Twyla Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite” features Luciana Paris and Herman Cornejo of the American Ballet Theater in the tale of two lovers, illustrated by five Frank Sinatra classics. Charm and nostalgia characterize this work. Although the composition seems simple and the story straightforward (boy meets girl, relationship comes to a close) it works to indulge in narrative. Tharp finds ease in the electric combination of the crooner and the ballet. Without belaboring it, she rides that wave.
It is hard to resist Paris’s starry gaze and sparkly black dress. Their timing is solidly connected, the partnering trusting and carefree. But for me, the highlight is Cornejo’s solo to “One For My Baby (and One More For the Road).” In breaths between steps, Cornejo emotes a universal wistfulness. He dances unguarded, matching the open quality of the voice.
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The Hong Kong Ballet brought us Peter Quanz’s “Luminous” which examines changing relationships and the nuances of personality. It is difficult to call a ballet “beautiful,” without it seeming a dismissal. In a high The level of technical skill of The Hong Kong Ballet dancers achieved a freedom that is rare. Without hesitation, dancers commanded the music. They took to the ground and air effortlessly. In short duets of ever-changing combination, the women illustrated personality quirks through motif and shifts in energy. Male partners changed their approach accordingly making each interaction distinct. This work was actively beautiful.
When Martha Graham Dance Company first performed “Chronicle” in 1936 a critic for the Christian Science Monitor (January 5, 1937) noted, “I found it deeply moving…and only seldom disappointing.” He continued, “The technical performance of this work, by both Miss Graham and the group, leaves you gasping.” Then, the work spoke loudly about the unstable political climate it was born into. The weighted quality of hinges, leaps and stoic walks surprised viewers. This way of moving the body rejected grace for visceral drama and yet still achieved grace in power.
But “Chronicle” on this City Center stage it is far from a historical artifact. Women who embody Graham’s philosophy down to their pinky toes, breathe into it a fiery current energy.
“Chronicle” is an important work to preserve and show. Graham’s signature flair is now part of dance education, and so it is more easily recognizable. And many of the grounded styles of today elude to these roots. But “Chronicle” on this City Center stage it is far from a historical artifact. Women who embody Graham’s philosophy down to their pinky toes, breathe into it a fiery current energy. When Blakely White McGuire throws her voluminous skirt with expertise and sharp intention, her internal flame reiterates the Graham technique as a means to access deep emotion, rather then movement that is just meant for classrooms.
If only Martha Graham could make a new work addressing this November.
The evening solidified the value of the dance practice. Leaving the theater, a predominant thought lingered: This art is a difficult feat. But its mastery is exciting enough to warrant the journey.