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Feld Ballet Tech - French Overtures, Pianola: Indigo, Tongue and Groove, Mr. XYZ, Lincoln Portrait

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 25, 2003
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

About the Author:

Feld Ballet Tech - French Overtures, Pianola: Indigo, Tongue and Groove, Mr. XYZ, Lincoln Portrait

(www.ballettech.org)

Eliot Feld, Artistic Director
Patrice Hemsworth, Ballet Mistress
Patrice Thomas, Production Stage Manager
Mikhail Baryshnikov, Patrick Lavoie, Guest Dancers

The Company: Lauren Alzamora, Wu-Kang Chen, Nickemil Concepcion, Andrea Emmons, Junichi Fukada, Ana Hernandez, Jacquelyn Scafidi, Sean Scantlebury, Lydia Tetzlaff, Jessica Tong, Patricia Tuthill, Jassen Virolas, Lindsay Yank, Ha-Chi Yu

Publicity: Audrey Ross, 212.586.3500
audreyrosspub@aol.com

Presented at the Joyce Theater
www.joyce.org

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 25, 2003

(See Abrams Ballet Tech Review)

Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech Company is actually composed of graduates of the Ballet Tech School, which is a NYC public school that prepares students for professional dance. The Feld technique includes ballet, modern dance, and urban motifs, which blend to create a very unusual group of dancers and Company presentations. The Ballet Tech School, during its 24-year existence, auditions 35,000 students/year in 450 NYC public elementary schools for its quest for students, who also wish to be pre-professional dancers. The youngest students, third and fourth grade, receive free transportation, leotards, and ballet shoes. From fourth to twelfth grades, the students attend The New York City Public School for Dance, begun in 1995, located at the Ballet Tech Studios, and they receive a combination of rigorous academics and intensive dance training. (Company Notes).

French Overtures (Premiere): Choreography by Eliot Feld, Music by Jean-Philppe Rameau, Costumes by Constance Hoffman and Cory David Ching, Lighting by Allen Lee Hughes, Performed by the Company. With severe hair and dancers as black silhouettes against a red backdrop, black unitards, and ballet slippers, this is another somewhat campy piece, but a humorous statement on classical ballet than the recently reviewed Paul Taylor work, Offenbach Overtures (See March 6, 2003 Taylor Review), which used an Offenbach score, more flamboyant than that of Rameau. This is a piece that is strong on attitude, cool, coy, or campy. In fact, Nickemil Concepcion's engaging presence, almost at the front edge of the orchestra, like a studied aside to the audience, was extremely effective in this lighthearted approach to the suggestion of classical French ballet.

The visual chiaroscuro effect creates just the right visual texture and contrast to showcase this highly talented Company. In groups of twos and threes, the choreography is brilliant, layered, and satisfying. The music and configurations build like another Taylor work, Promethean Fire (See March 6, 2003 Taylor Review). This is a provocative and creative piece, which even includes a kiss between two female dancers, front stage, beneath an inspired mound of focused dancers, who, unlike Promethean Fire, do not seem to be cataclysmically destroyed, but rather, connected with purpose. Yet, like Promethean Fire, the mound of dancers becomes undone, and, in this case, the studied chiaroscuro silhouettes again take form for the final imaginative lighting effect. Kudos to Eliot Feld!

Pianola: Indigo (Premiere): Choreography by Eliot Feld, Music by Conlon Nancarro, Music Realized by Trimpin, Performed by Jacquelyn Scafidi, Andrea Emmons, Patricia Tuthill, and Ha-Chi Yu. Nancarro chose a player piano to investigate possibilities in rhythm, texture, tempo, and form. Composer Trimpin is familiar with Nancarro's music and invented a device to enable the player piano to unroll transcriptions of the original score. (Company Notes). I must say that I did not enjoy this piece. I have heard the player piano, Scott Joplin version, many times, including in old country stores. I found this music grating and annoying. However, suffice it to say that I am not fond of all forms of avant-garde music, especially for onstage dance performances. Nancarro's/Trimpin's melody became frenetic and even more dissonant as the work continued.

Four female dancers were in performance here, rubbing their toe shoes in onstage sand. The informality of this choreography and costumes, as well as the counterpoint movement to the dissonant score, were not appealing to me. I would actually like to see this piece, if it were possible, danced to a real piano, played by a real musician, perhaps with a bluesy score. Of course I do not pretend to be a choreographer; this is just a suggestion.

Tongue and Groove (1995): Choreography by Eliot Feld, Music by Steve Reich, Lighting by Neil Peter Jampolis, Performed by Nickemil Concepcion, Musicians: Alan Pierson and Jason Treuting of Alarm will Sound. I found positives and negatives in this work, as Nickemil Concepcion is such a brilliant performer, with personality, energy, muscular stature, and skillful technique. Yet, the sound score was the clapping of two pairs of hands. Mr. Concepcion again was remarkable agile and amazingly virile in his interpretation of this most unusual dance. However, I was not terribly fond of this Reich concept. After a few moments, the novelty seemed to turn to nonsense.

Mr. XYZ (Premiere): Choreography by Eliot Feld, Music as Performed by Leon Redbone, Costume by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Allen Lee Hughes, Performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Songs such as, Please Don't Talk About Me, When I'm Gone, My Walking Stick, Lulu's Back in Town, and I Ain't Got Nobody are all recorded and characteristic of this unique mood and choreography, to showcase a world-renowned talent, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov. What a joy to see Mikhail Baryshnikov dance once more, and he is in terrific shape. I remember watching him onstage in so many ballet performances over the years, and he has not at all lost his buoyancy or bravado.

I only wish the choreography, personally created for Mr. Baryshnikov by Mr. Feld, had allowed more real dancing. Much of this piece, in a clever outfit, created by none other than the costume master, Santo Loquasto, with straw hat, striped pants, suspenders, and cane, was performed on a chair that spun across and around the stage, with Mr. Baryshnikov's feet and legs providing the physical momentum. When Mr. Baryshnikov was actually galloping and dancing around the stage, he was totally in form, in harmony, and in sync with the mood and rhythm of the various, familiar melodies. Watching Mr. Baryshnikov perform again only made me want to see him again soon, dancing even more, and next time, without the chair and props.


Mikhail Baryshnikov guests with Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech, March 11-April 13 at the Joyce, dancing the new Feld solo Mr. XYZ, music by Leon Redbone
Photo courtesy of Annie Liebovitz

Lincoln Portrait (2002): Choreography by Eliot Feld, Music by Aaron Copland, Costumes by Mirena Rada, Lighting by Allen Lee Hughes, The Speaker: Michel Gill, Performed by the Company and by Auditioned Members of the General Audience. This piece contains one of the most moving images I have ever seen onstage, in a brilliant tour de force, especially in times of national crisis. About 100 members of the audience, of mixed heritage and race, an elderly woman with a cane, young children, people in costumes of the turn of the century and of the present, people dressed as mailmen or construction workers, fancy dowagers and bankers, all walked in lines, back and forth, to the opening refrains of Copland's powerful score. The Company dancers, in unitards, against a blue backdrop, intersected and wove through the stage in what seemed to be a surrealistic set of breathtaking figures, against this microcosm of America. Kudos to Eliot Feld for his daring imagination and depth of social commentary.

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