Sylvie Guillem presents something of a conundrum for dance criticism. Typically, it’s possible to separate the dancer from the dance — to distinguish the merits of the choreography itself, from how the dancer executes it and brings it to life.
The 47-year-old Guillem has performed so many roles and styles over her long career that this would seem to be an easy task. And yet, watching her inhabit tailor-made works in “6000 Miles Away,” it was hard to imagine anyone else performing them — for she is one of those rare artists whose instrument alone expands the boundaries of what dance can express.
In the program recently staged by The Joyce at Lincoln Center, Sylvie’s instrument was in the hands of William Forsythe and Mats Ek, from whom the ballerina commissioned two original works to flank an excerpt from Jiří Kylián’s explosive “27’52”.”
For both Forsythe and Ek, classical ballet provides as much a foundation as a subject for artistic commentary. That is about where the similarities between the two choreographers end, however. Whereas Forsythe’s steely “Rearray” puts Guillem’s exceptional technique under a microscope, Ek gives it a back seat in “Bye” — a work that, best it can, portrays Sylvie as a normal human being.
A projected wall of leaves ripples in the wind on stage and I can already sense the visual mastery at work in zoe | juniper’s New York Premiere of A Crack in Everything at New York Live Arts. The house lights dim and we are welcomed to a peculiar new realm, where dancers in patches of gold perform behind a giant glass wall on the front of the stage. Zoe Scofield’s powerful movement vocabulary owns the stage behind the protective layer in front of us. It’s an interesting new angle to see the fourth wall constructed physically. As the show continues, it becomes increasingly clear that the audience’s perspective will remain in constant flux and rarely visit the comfort zone.
Many loyal dance-goers often focus their attention on performances within Manhattan and Brooklyn. But Montclair State University’s unique series Peak Performances gives us more than one reason to consider a short bus or train ride to Jersey.
This past weekend, I traveled to the Alexander Kasser Theater to see the US Premiere of Gardenia, a collaboration between Alain Platel, the artistic director of Les Ballets C de la B, theater director Frank van Laecke–both influenced by renowned Belgian playwright Vanessa Van Durme. Gardenia is more abstract theater piece than dance. But a close look reveals that movement is certainly at the core of this tale of transgender performers and their closing cabaret club. Platel’s trained eye for space, gesture and physicality brings a richness to a story that would be quite difficult to convey only in dialogue.
It is tempting to be led headfirst into the implied meanings of a work entitled Hora.
But from the instant lights rise on an arresting neon green backdrop, I am thrown from any image of ancient circle dances I had conjured from the title. The voluminous space of the Howard Gilman Opera House at BAM is cut low by the dense color and a wooden bench spanning the back wall. The Batsheva Dance Company seems transported to a space altogther other-worldly. With deadpan but deadly focused faces, the dancers slowly walk forward in a straight line. When the army of eleven retreats again to the bench, short spurts of solos begin. We indulge in very “gaga” postures, walks, quirks and balances that are signature of the company. But before long they are all dancing in a flurry of unrelated chaos.
We cannot possibly watch them all. Just when the action seems overwhelming, choreographer Ohad Naharin gathers it in stillness.
Thursday night at Baryshnikov Arts Center, Summation Dance premiered Sumi Clement’s Deep End, a morbid portrayal of New York life as a clutter of futility. The work looks at the dehumanizing effects of living as one among many, and the struggle and frequent despair inherent in the voracious quest to achieve.
Sidra Bell Dance New York is thick in preparation for the opening of their New York Season next week at Baruch Performing Arts Center. The season’s works together are entitled, Duel, consisting of two evening length works to be presented for two consecutive weeks between March 22 and April 1.
When I visited the company’s New York Live Arts rehearsal, there was a clear collaborative atmosphere as the dancers fiddled with costumes and discussed them with Bell and costume designer Erin Schultz. Collaboration plays a role in Bell’s work from start to finish with both dancers and designers. “I enjoy creating worlds onstage. The lighting, the costuming, all play in from the beginning of the process,” Bell explained.
Swedish choreographer and dancer Pontus Lindberg’s Labyrinth Within is a series of pas de deux on film that explores the lines between reality and perception. The majority of the 28 minute film, with a score created by David Lang (and recorded in 2009 by The Symphony Orchestra of Sweden’s Norrlands Operan) takes place in Giovanni Bucchieri and Wendy Whelan’s apartment. The two main characters are in the later years of a now stale marriage.
When you spend the evening with Camille A. Brown, you leave feeling that you are one of her closest friends.
The effect boggles me. Brown’s compositions seduce you into their center, as if you stumbled into the middle of a complex family history or an intimate conversation you were not fully prepared for. Brown is an honest mover, who carries in her dancing body her own journey, which means she bears all. She hides no idiosyncrasies, but rather delves into her uniqueness to find its source. She cultivates in her dancers truer versions of themselves so that even as they do her movement, they are set apart. Placed in an environment of socially conscious choreography that often allows performers freedom of theatricality, Brown’s combination of concept and execution is striking.
When “Prophets of Funk” opens at the Joyce Theater, Dorfman himself is the torch-bearer: the first mover we see. At first we are distracted by glitzy bell bottoms, afro-wigs and fringed vests, swept up in familiar sequences of ponies, grapevines, and snappy step-touch footwork. As if at a party suspended in time, we tap our foot to the familiar tunes and smile at the performers dancing together. It’s not all laymen’s steps– moments of line dancing are fluidly integrated with smooth turns, drops, and balances à la modern dance. Dorfman’s choreography calls for technique, theatricality, rhythm and charm. Video footage of the band is projected on the back screen and Sly himself is present (played by Raja Kelly). He has everyone in the palm of his hand.
Peridance Capezio Center in NYC has some exciting news for young dancers looking for a change of pace in the world of Summer Dance Intensives.
BLUEPRINT, a brand-new, two-week contemporary ballet intensive program in New York City, is set to take place August 20-September 1 2012. Auditions for this exciting opportunity have already begun and will continue internationally throughout the winter and spring. In collaboration with dance icon and founder of DancePulp Drew Jacoby, Peridance has brought together an irresistible faculty for professional dance hopefuls ages 16-22.