REVIEW: Lar Lubovitch Dance Company at Joyce Theater
Midway through The Black Rose, the second work on Lar Lubovitch Dance Company’s program at the Joyce, the thought surfaced: I really miss Trey McIntyre. When McIntyre shuttered his company this past June, optimists chirped about what bright new adventures the dancers would go on to, each one more talented than the last. It was exciting. We were hopeful.
Where were those cheerful chirpers when Chanel DaSilva, formerly the star of Trey McIntyre Project, showed up as a member of a pack of black-mesh-and-leather-clad would-be rave kids, gyrating tonelessly in the background of a garish nightmare story ballet? This program was neither bright, new, nor an adventure, just a thoroughly disappointing look at what Lubovitch’s 46-year-old company has been reduced to—and what its terrific dancers are contending with.
Artemis in Athens begins with an endearing address from “Scoutmaster” Jonathan E. Alsberry, welcoming us to a pageant and introducing its stars, notably guest artist Alessandra Ferri. The campy costumes and set design (wooden cutouts of pine trees) elicited giggles. It’s all initially charming. Ferri’s first moments are her most powerful, as she executes a focused, cool walk straight downstage. Even in a Girl Scout uniform, she is unmistakably the goddess of the hunt.
Things unravel from here—the choreography’s militant adherence to the music and absurd pantomime seem like a mockery. Tobin Del Cuore gives a valiant performance in the role of Aktaion the hunter, up until his ridiculous “transformation” into a glittery-spotted deer, gamboling about and pawing at his own face. Ferri’s performance, while technically astute, is flat, marred by her consistent downward gaze. The most interesting sections are those for the ten Juilliard students who’ve joined the cast, and who do a fine job with Lubovitch’s meshlike spatial patterns.
The Black Rose draws on ancient folklore, marrying familiar plotlines with canned Tchaikovsky and inexplicable trap music. Again, the performances are great; Reid Bartelme as the princely hero is phenomenally elegant and believably wounded, Mucuy Bolles as the damsel in distress is technically razor-sharp, villain Artemis in Athens’s buoyance heightens his unambiguously evil air, and the strength of the ensemble shines even through the commercial backup routines to which they’re mostly relegated. There’s nothing surprising about the narrative, and no spontaneity in its telling. It’s over-the-top, melodramatic, and too gaudy for sincerity.
There is something to be said for art of any genre that entertains innocuously. However, in the field of dance, where funding is so scarce and visibility so often out of reach, it’s disheartening to see work that does so little to expand and enrich an audience’s view given such a high-profile engagement. These dancers, and all dance-goers, deserve better.