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Jennifer Wesnousky
Performance Reviews
The Joyce Theater
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Armitage Gone! Dance

by Jennifer Wesnousky
February 11, 2007
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
In an interesting artistic decision, ARMITAGE GONE! DANCE's performance at the Joyce Theater on February 11, 2007 opened with the appearance of an enormous, pink blow-up swine in the aptly titled "PIG." Emerging from underneath its plumpness, legs in ballet slippers soon inspired the animal to roll, shake and even partake in a bit of the moonwalk. When a doll-like ballerina emerged, boureéing gracefully around the blow-up, her empire-waist costume concealed her own round stomach until she smoothed her skirt to reveal it. However, the search for some metaphoric connection between the rotund pig and the dancer's belly in attempts to make some sense of the performance's odd opener proved futile when the girl's participation in latter pieces confirmed the legitimacy of her expectant condition, which hindered neither her movement nor her presence. And yet, while the mildly amusing "PIG" did not imbue much expectation regarding the remainder of the company's performance, "LIGETI ESSAYS" and "TIME IS THE ECHO OF AN AXE WITHIN A WOOD" quickly redeemed it.

"LIGETI ESSAYS" unveiled a striking set including a sleek silver tree against a black backdrop. Constituted by the contrast of softer segments with more aggressive energy, Artistic Director/Choreographer, Karole Armitage's intriguing choreography was characterized by sweeping port de bras within turns and endless extensions with controlled retires, through which the dancers sought to vent and connect with nature as well as one another. While entering and exiting with expressions of suspicion or frustration, their beautiful, ethereal movement projected reticent contemplation and a desire for mutual consolation. At the end of several duets, the partners walked aloofly away from one another as if retreating into their own personal spaces. However, connection between the performers escalated as the piece went on with increased eye contact and even a near kiss as the musical compositions, all by György Ligeti, evolved from an eerie soundtrack of chiming clocks, screams and high-pitched female vocals to a tranquil, churchy canticle.

While at the end of "LIGETI ESSAYS," the dancers paraded about with silver lit lanterns against a mesmerizing blue, white and yellow spackled background, "TIME IS THE ECHO OF AN AXE WITHIN A WOOD" employed a simple yet dazzling silver curtain comprised of tinsel-like strands. The brush of a dancer's hand across the backdrop while racing across the stage created a rippling effect reflected by the piece's overall choreography as the dancers, clad in clingy metallic costumes in shades of silver, bronze and gold, executed roll offs and undulations. "TIME…" retained all of the first act's aestheticism and control while adding much more flame to the choreographic fire. Performed to triumphant, instrumental music reminiscent of a movie score, Armitage's visual emphasis on musical accents and pauses gave the dancers a vehicle to express their musicality and sensuality as well as their animalistic streaks in a piece which was simultaneously balletic and frenetic.

Although all of the members of the ARMITAGE GONE! DANCE company started off on equally superb technical footing, their physical and stylistic heterogeneity kept things all the more captivating. Theresa Ruth Howard's untamed mane, powerful, sinewy musculature and explosive energy constantly caught the eye of the audience, as did the ever-extending lines and calculated restraint of the impossibly tall and slender, Antigua born William Isaac. And, the Israeli-born Filipino performer, Leonides D. Arpon's short stature belied his explosive strength, making him delightful in the midst of explosive leaps or hoisted high above the heads of his comrades.

Armitage's musical choices often seemed impossible to choreograph, including prolonged silences and long instrumental stretches that lacked discernible accents. And yet, as soon as there was one, Armitage and her ARMITAGE GONE! DANCE company managed to make the audience aware of it through some perfectly timed nuance of movement. And so, despite the performance's shaky start, when "TIME IS THE ECHO…" ended suddenly with a sharp strain of music, the dancers striding nonchalantly offstage, the audience felt sorry to say goodbye to this potpourri of talent.


COMPANY MEMBERS: Leonides D. Arpon, Matthew Branham, Frances Chiaverini, Megumi Eda, Theresa Ruth Howard, William Isaac, Mei-Hua Wang

GUEST DANCERS: Ryan Kelly, Scott Rink, Masayo Yamaguchi

Choreography: Karole Armitage

Costume Design: David Salle, Peter Speliopoulous

Set Design: David Salle, Clifton Taylor

Lighting Design: Clifton Taylor

Costume Supervisor: Deanna Berg

Technical Director: John Burkland

Stage Manager: Joe Doran
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