REVIEW: Fall For Dance 2013 at New York City Center | Program 4
The idea of dancer as specialist seems obvious: dance is a singular art form, practiced by skilled professionals with very specific training. But what happens when that is taken to the next level: when dancers are trained in one distinct method, one genre – steeped in the language of a particular choreographer or movement? The fourth program in the Fall For Dance festival reveals something of the possibilities in this approach.
The tap artist Michelle Dorrance, herself a winningly eager performer, has gathered a veritable army of fellow tappers who excel not only as charismatic soloists but also as members of a finely honed ensemble. It is astounding to watch twelve people tap in perfect unison, especially when among their ranks are artists as exciting as Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Nicholas Van Young, and Caleb Teicher, who possesses a lightness in the upper body that is truly a marvel. Dorrance choreographs neat, orderly entrances and exits, back-and-forth maneuvers from one side of the stage to the other, sections that flow into one another revealing a solo here, a trio there, everywhere the virtuosity attainable within this highly specific movement form.
Doug Elkins’ Mo(or)town/Redux is a contemporary gloss on Shakespeare’s Othello and José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane. As brutal in its depictions of domestic violence as the works it references, Mo(or)town adds an appealing layer of complexity. The women, both of whom (in Elkins’ retelling) are the victims of manipulative and/or abusive relationships, dance some of the most demanding choreography in the work. Yes, they are vulnerable, and ultimately defeated, but they are also powerful, making their undoing far more complex and interesting than the demise of a swooning lily. Donnell Oakley, in the Desdemona role, is earnest yet unafraid—her daredevil partnering with Kyle Marshall is heartstopping—and Cori Marquis as Emilia is both saucy and tender. Elkins’ choreography, blending hip-hop, contemporary forms, and classical lines, is seamless, fluid, without a misplaced limb or step to mar the effect. Sometimes the musical transitions could learn from this, though each song selection is spot on.
No other performer this night represented the duality of strength and agony so well as Blakeley White-McGuire in her role as The Chosen One in Martha Graham’s Rite of Spring. It’s been a long year for this work—any version—but Graham’s stands the test of time and White-McGuire has clearly bloomed into the role. I saw this production over the summer at Jacob’s Pillow with Xiaochuan Xie as The Chosen One (she dances it the evening of 10/3) and admired her lightness and innocence; danced by White-McGuire, the role is completely different, devastating, with real, mature anguish. Graham’s choreography is so specific—again, here we see the effects of training in a singular technique—that even minor foibles are visible, but hardly worth noting. There’s humanity beneath the stylization, and it’s beautiful to see such a legacy honored.
Liam Scarlett’s world premiere for The Royal Ballet fell short of the level of the rest of the program, though not for lack of lovely dancing. Zenaida Yanowsky and Rubert Pennefather made the most of the lukewarm contemporary ballet choreography, luxuriating especially in sections of slow, sculptural partnering. Their efforts were encumbered by odd apparel (not quite rehearsal garb, not quite finished costumes), blue lighting that evoked a mood not otherwise evident in the work, and a less-than-stellar live performance of Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, which should really be stricken from the dance lexicon.