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Peter Boal and Company

by Robert Abrams
March 16, 2004
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

Peter Boal and Company

presented at
The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
www.joyce.org

Robert Abrams
March 16, 2004

Peter Boal began the evening with a solo turn in Pergolesi, choreographed by Twyla Tharp, music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, costume by Isaac Mizrahi, and lighting by David Moodey.

Chamber music started playing as the house lights went down. This was quite appropriate because I had made sure to see this show largely because I had seen Mr. Boal perform with the Chamber Dance Project, a group that does consistently quality work. Mr. Boal's new company consists of four dancers from the New York City Ballet.

Mr. Boal danced with a breezy style that simultaneously demonstrated very precise movements. He seems to hang in the air when he dances a leap circle. No matter what he was doing, he clearly looked like he was having fun.

Peter Boal and Company
Photo by David Michalek

The sections within the choreography were delineated by changes in the color of the lighting. The choreography was peppered with inside jokes, such as a rapid reenactment of what I think of as the "oath boy" sequence from Swan Lake. Overall, the choreography was about the dancer being in the moment. The choreography lacked a coherent macro-structure, plotless or otherwise. Mr. Boal made the choreography consistently compelling to watch. So while I generally look for a macro-structure in choreography, in this case I think the choreography served its purpose of showcasing the dancer in part through the very lack of a macro-structure.

The relaxed fit slacks and relaxed dance style made Mr. Boal resemble Gene Kelly to some extent. The comparison is less of a stretch than it may sound since Gene Kelly started out as a classically trained dancer.

This work was above all else a chance to see a very talented dancer up close. Mr. Boal is truly a joy to watch. He has a seemingly effortless command of both motion and stillness. He comes across as a person who is both talented and likable.

Sean Suozzi took up where Mr. Boal left off dancing Mopey, choreographed by Marco Goecke, music by CPE Bach and The Cramps, costume by Mark Zappone, and lighting by David Moodey. This was another amazing solo turn.

The work starts with stark lighting. Mr. Suozzi's hand flicks on and off stage. He appears sheathed in a black hooded sweatshirt. His arm movements are agitated. The stage is silent. This was quite a contrast with the pleasant chamber music in the first work of the evening.

In the second section, Mr. Suozzi reappears, this time with no sweatshirt, but similar movements set to loud chamber music. Mr. Suozzi is just as compelling to watch as Mr. Boal was, but in this work, Mr. Suozzi is compelling in a dark interior of the soul, there but for the grace of God kind of way. There was quite a lot of self-flagellation, but this doesn't even begin to describe the emotion that was expressed. The section ends in silence.

The next section is set to loud pop music. There are slower movements and faster movements. The work builds until Mr. Suozzi is standing in a spotlight from overhead, in silence. He blows out the light. This was one of those cases where dance can express what words find difficult.

Wendy Whelan and Peter Boal danced the Pas de Deux from Herman Schmerman, choreographed by William Forsythe, music by Thom Willems, production design by William Forsythe, costumes by Gianni Versace, and lighting by Mark Stanley. The work was intermediate in mood compared to the previous two works.

The Joyce is an intimate venue. Ms. Whelan is a powerful dancer. You could clearly see the individual muscles in Ms. Whelan's legs work. It was truly beautiful; dance as a raw extension of the human body's capabilities.

In the second section, both dancers wore skirts. I suspect that putting the male dancer in a skirt is supposed to shock the audience, or to make him look awkward. I thought it did neither. What did make Mr. Boal look awkward was the juxtaposition of short black socks with the short yellow skirt. It was no different than if he had been wearing a regular pair of shorts and short black socks: to make it look right the socks should either be white or longer, almost up to the knee. Of course, the awkwardness added to the drama of the dance, so this shouldn't be taken as a criticism.

Ms. Whelan placed herself into her partner's frame at the end and then performed a partnered spin. This was a conventional image arrived at through unconventional means. It fit with the rest of the work, which can be best described as odd but also oddly compelling.

Carla Körbes, Peter Boal and Sean Suozzi performed the world premiere of 2nd Prologue, choreographed by John Alleyne, music by Timothy Sullivan, costumes by Mark Zappone, and lighting by David Moodey.

This was a more traditional ballet compared to the previous works. It was reverentially graceful. The choreography made effective use of levels. Ms. Körbes used both men for partnering like they were part of the landscape: they were always there when she needed them in a natural and seamless way. Ms. Körbes was very expressive.

The initial section featured all three dancers. The second section featured just the two men. This section had a particularly innovative use of a leap circle. Usually a leap circle is just that: one dancer leaping in a big circle. Here two dancers performed leap circles simultaneously, but moving in opposite rotational directions, such that the dancers forced each other into an almost straight line. This was a very effective way to express their antagonism towards each other.

I thought the sheer one inch hem on Ms. Körbes' deep burgundy dress was a nice touch. The music was dense and high pitched, like being underwater and listening to whale song.

This work showed off the group's range as dancers. It also showed that Peter Boal and Company is truly the New York City Ballet writ small, in the sense that the dancers work together as a well knit ensemble. It also demonstrated that Mr. Boal is as good a curator as he is a dancer: the sequencing of the works throughout the evening was very well chosen.

Any one of the works would have been worth the price of admission. Taken together, this was a truly outstanding evening of dance.

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