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New York Theatre Ballet Dances Uptown with Tudor and Clarke

by Bonnie Rosenstock
March 2, 2017
92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10128
(212) 415-5552
For their Uptown/Downtown/Dance series, New York Theatre Ballet, housed at St. Mark’s Church in the East Village, took the #6 line uptown to participate in the five-week Harkness Dance Festival at the 92nd Street Y, February 24-March 25. (New York Live Arts on West 19th Street was their downtown performance venue.) The chamber ballet ensemble, now in its 38th season under the capable helm of founder and artistic director Diana Byer on February 24 performed three ballets by the legendary Antony Tudor, paired with two early works by his former student, Martha Clarke, an icon in her own right.

The three ballets are Tudor’s lesser-known works from the early-mid 20th century. The six-part “Soireé Musical” (1938) was created not so much as a ballet in and of itself, but as a teaching vehicle for the annual meeting of the London-based Cecchetti Society (Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing). Set to Benjamin Britton’s suite based on Rossini pieces, it’s a divertissement (a light piece), an exemplary work performed en pointe with deft dips, turns and leaps. Michael Scales masterfully accompanied on piano. The “Opening March” introduced nine company members featured in the proceeding four sections, who all come together again in the “Finale”: the slow “Canzonetta” (Mayu Oguri and Joshua Andino-Nieto); the faster “Tirolese” (Elena Zahlmann and Erez Milatin); a medium-paced Spanish “Bolero” (Amanda Treiber, Alexis Branagan and Carmella Lauer, wearing lace mantillas held up by peinetas) and the quick-stepped “Tarantella” (Dawn Gierling and Steven Melendez.

The “Pas de Deux” from “Romeo and Juliet” (1943), music by Frederick Delius, is a quiet piece, less fire and heat and more wonder and awe, danced with exquisite precision by Zahlmann and Melendez. She wears a simple white dress, and he is clothed in a white puffy shirt and light-grey tights. The music is slow, the lifts are light and effortless. She uses the hem of her dress to shyly touch her eyes. At the end there is one chaste kiss and then Romeo leaves. But still, one can’t help wonder what they were doing on that onstage bed before the piece commenced.

“Les Mains Gauches” (1951), reveals Tudor’s modernist evolution. It is accompanied by more experimental music, reflected in the dissonant chords and ever-changing rhythms of Jacques Ibert’s compelling “Capriccio pour dix instruments” (lots of strings and wind) and the quirky, sharp dance movements of the three amazing dancers. The woman (Oguri) receives a rose that represents love, and the man (Andino-Nieto) receives a noose that symbolizes death. But in an ironic twist, fate (Treiber) has its own way of screwing with them.

MacArthur Genius Award winner Martha Clarke, known for her multi-disciplinary approach to dance, theater and opera, gives us the gift of “Nocturne” (1978), a tour de force solo performed by the brilliant youthful Guyonn Auriau as an aging ballerina, with Scales playing mournful Mendelssohn. Auriau wears a multi-layered tutu and a white cloth that engulfs her head and face, suggestive of Magritte’s “The Lovers.” She dances awkwardly barefoot, using either her right forearm or her tutu to cover her bare breasts. At one point, she awkwardly lowers herself down and moves her body and arms evocative of the Dying Swan from “Swan Lake.” At the end, she undoes her puckered mask with the slender red sash that binds it and uses it as a walking stick in the most poignant, heart-rending way.

The Château de Villandry in the Loire Valley, France, is renowned for its beautiful gardens, which is the title of Clarke’s piece, “The Garden of Villandry” (1979). At first, two men (Andino-Nieto and Melendez) are courting Zahlmann, who chooses one, then the other. We don’t know what the men’s relationships are to her, but they are certainly rivals for her affection. At first, they try to win her sole affection; however, when one seems to have the edge and the other appears to lose interest, she draws him back in with a look, an outstretched hand, a pull, a lean, whatever it takes. The dynamic is absorbing with duets and ménage partnering. Zahlmann has the most expressive seductive eyes, and with just a look, she can melt away any resistance. Until she can’t. The Schubert composition is performed live with its own ménage of piano, violin and cello. But they are all in harmony.

New York Theatre Ballet, in St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003. For more information about dance events and classes, call (212) 679-0401 or go to www.nytb.org.

2017 Harkness Dance Festival at 92Y, “Then, Now + Next: A Five Week Journey Into Dance,” February 24-March 25, at the 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10128. For more information about the other four participating dance companies, call (212) 415-5500 or go to 92y.org.
Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet<br>Martha Clarke’s The Garden of Villandry (1979).

Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet
Martha Clarke’s The Garden of Villandry (1979).

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet<br>Antony Tudor's Les Mains Gauches (1951).

Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet
Antony Tudor's Les Mains Gauches (1951).

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet<br>Martha Clarke’s Nocturne (1994).

Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet
Martha Clarke’s Nocturne (1994).

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet<br>Antony Tudor's pas de deux from Romeo & Juliet (1943).

Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet
Antony Tudor's pas de deux from Romeo & Juliet (1943).

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet<br>Antony Tudor's Soiree Musicale (1963).

Photo: Harkness Dance Festival: New York Theatre Ballet
Antony Tudor's Soiree Musicale (1963).

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine

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