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Fall For Dance's Audience-Wowing Finale

by Tonya Plank
September 27, 2008
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
212.247.0430
City Center's 2008 Fall For Dance season, the annual 10-day-long festival in which audiences can, for $10, see four to five diverse dance companies in one night, closed on September 27. As with each of the six different programs in the festival, the final one had good variety.

First on the program was the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet's production of Twyla Tharp's "Sweet Fields," from 1996, a modern ballet danced without pointe shoes and set to 19th Century Shaker hymnals. It was joyous, spiritual, and very lyrical, with dancers dressed in white flowing clothing that moved through the air right along with them, designed by Norma Kamali. While consisting of ten sections, some with a lighter flow, some a little weightier and more austere, and varying in number of dancers onstage, the section that most wowed the audience was in the middle, filled with breathtaking group lifts. At one very Tharpian moment, a group of men held one man up high above their heads, then suddenly released him. He rolled down over their sides, falling almost bungie-jump-like nearly to the floor, until they reached down and caught him in their palms at the very last second. The audience collectively gasped then applauded wildly. Aside from this spiced-up section, the whole piece had an earthy, simple and crisp, God-rejoicing feel to it.

Second to perform was San Francisco Ballet dancing Jerome Robbins' lovely, ballroom-styled "In the Night" set to melodious Chopin played by onstage pianist Roy Bogas. The dance consisted of three duets performed by three different couples — one the delightful and highly-revered Yuan Yuan Tan (who definitely lives up to her reputation) with Ruben Martin; the second by Sofiane Sylve (formerly of the New York City Ballet) and Tiit Helimets; and the third by the celebrated Cuban dancer Lorena Feijoo with Pierre-Francois Vilanoba. Tan and Martin represented a more mature, in love couple, their dancing very flowing and elegant, and Feijoo (a very playful firecracker) and Vilanoba (who kind of played her straight man, appearing humorously unable to figure her out, to foresee her antics, her wild jumps into his arms) the fun, young couple whose relationship centered around rather cutely played out sexual angst. The audience had a lot of fun, giggling throughout, particularly at Feijoo and Vilanoba. The middle couple, Sylve and Helimets, did not move me much, and it wasn't clearly apparent what stage their relationship was in or how exactly the characters felt toward one another. The two dancers seemed to focus more on the movement than on creating detailed character.

Third was popular Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato's Compania Nacional De Danza performing his "Cor Perdut," a Gypsy-like male / female duet by a pair seemingly of lovers, each often running after the other playfully, then turning more serious, more loving, the man eventually picking up the woman, sweeping her off the ground, twirling her about. It was light, gentle, and sweet. The music alone, by a variety of musicians, Turkish and sung in Catalan, was a feast for the senses.

And closing out the night and the festival was Paul Taylor Dance Company's popular "Esplanade," set to Bach and choreographed by Taylor in 1975. The audience had great fun with this piece, oohing and aahing as the dancers ran across the stage, around in circles, whizzing about and around each other, narrowly missing a collision, played hopscotch with each others' bodies laid out on the floor log-like, and finally flew across stage leaping into each others' arms. At the end, the crowd applauded wildly, giving a standing ovation.

The festival's supposed purpose is to interest audiences in dance by introducing them to a good variety of dance forms and dance companies, not all of which may be to their liking, but hopefully some of which will captivate them. On this program, there was enough variety, some dances more dramatic and requiring some character development, others lighter and more music-oriented, others including breathtaking lifts and other athletic marvels that wowed the audience, that most found something to latch onto and enjoy. In general, by showcasing a broad range of dance forms presented by companies from around the globe (China, Thailand, Hawaii, etc.), the festival curators should have succeeded in their mission, assuming, that is, that ticket prices for other shows don't climb too far above the festival price in this troubled economy.
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