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Lori Ortiz
Performance Reviews
Various Performance Dances
New York City Center
American Ballet Theatre
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Fall for Dance Festival 2008 - Sounddance, Awassa Astrege/Ostrich, The Leaves are Falling, Lone Epic, Tap Into Peace

by Lori Ortiz
September 19, 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

Featured Dance Company:

American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre (office)
890 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Few have seen everything. Arlene Schuler comes close. But Schuler's yearly Fall for Dance Festival is for the rest of us. And the $10 ticket is eagerly anticipated. So eagerly that, in early September, hundreds spend three or more hours waiting on the line that winds around the block to the City Center box office.

The Friday night, September 19th program was a great way to fall into the new season, in the invigorating air of early autumn. Gentility and pleasure reigned in the house.

Merce Cunningham's 1975 "Sounddance" was first up. The music drove these dancers, even if Cunningham doesn't choreograph to music. He borrowed the title from James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake," "In the beginning was the sounddance."

After "Sounddance" fell out of the repertory from '80 to '94, Meg Harper revived it and David Tudor reworked his electronic score. John King played it at FFD'08, setting up his laptop in the pit, facing the dancers as if conducting them. In a sense he was doing just that. Harper staged the dance we saw. It looked fresh and new.

The cast of ten enters upstage through a gold curtain. In pale blue tights and sand colored Lycra tops, they often evoked sea birds. This is despite the grand theatre-curtain set. Flocks are in imperfect, naturalistic unison. A dancer is left out of the group and out of its logic. Fast movement, gorgeous lifts and turns, suggested ocean breezes. A midsection features stork-like balances. Several pepper the stage in plucky travelling jumps, with distended torsos, gaining surprising height with the feet parallel and comfortably apart. Fish imagery completes this aquatic discussion with the blurps and gurgles in the music. Even robotic rounds fit into the phylogeny.

Finally they make their fast spinning exits through the curtain's centered, hidden slit and all eyes follow. What a spectacle. A spectacle of nature's randomness. Merce is considered a modern, though he drew from his postmodern milieu. In front of "Sounddance's" theatrical set, it's as if the dancers come alive in a darkened house, as in a children's fable. No one is addressing the audience. Hence, the near Nirvana of watching Cunningham. Merce led the cast at the '75 premier. Julie Cunningham, replacing Andrea Weber Friday, stood out for her look of ease and the inevitability of her moves.

On the subject of birds, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company presented "Awassa Astrege/Ostrich." G.D. Harris's performance of Asadata Dafora's solo is low-to-the-ground and sinuous. His upper torso and shoulders ripple to the beat of Christopher Ward and Jennifer Brining's drumming. Harris wears only a pant of feathers and silky swathes (by Catti) for his ritualistic dance "Ostrich," translate: "Maleness." His ending bow is actually a generous coda; standing before us, he raises his arms 45 degrees from his sides and pushes down with flat palms. This dance is the most spontaneous-looking of the evening, offering a nice release.

American Ballet Theatre's Xiomara Reyes and Gennadi Saveliev perform a pas de deux from Antony Tudor's "The Leaves are Falling." Though they are dancing a memory of fading young love, the characters' ambiguity rests in details that can't easily be discerned in the FFD context. On a positive note, Reyes's fluidity, in lovely lifts and partner-supported turns, eventually sweeps us into the heavenly dream. The company that probably does Tudor best didn't shout-out. He is their Choreographer Emeritus. See a performance in the upcoming ABT City Center season before you thumb.

After an intermission, Louise Lecavalier performed "Lone Epic" by Crystal Pite. She uses Bernard Herrmann's dramatic music from "Citizen Kane." Pite shows us her L-O-L comic side. Lecavalier's moves are large and include clownish mime in this dance-theater work. She conducts an orchestral set-up of music stands and sheet music with words that do magical things, by her heavy-hand or by Lucie Bazzo's lighting. It's wild, fun, and Lecavalier couldn't have been better. The dark ending creeps up on you.

Finally, a most uplifting and inspiring closing work by Sarah Savelli and Ayodele Casel and Dancers. The new company has something here: a choreographed tap work that is not a showcase for individual virtuosity, as much as a contemporary, slice of life, work of art. "Tap Into Peace," to familiar Stevie Wonder songs, is structured like a classical ballet with three movements. The tap ballet, (is it the first of note?) disregards boundaries and rises above tap's daunting history. Her concert dance speaks of youth culture with the flippant tone that tap is so well equipped to play. It could be anywhere. Men and women, large and small, share the stage. Travis Knights, who danced with Gregory Hines at twelve-years-old, is one shameless showman. A uniformed quintet (four in hoodies and one in olive officers attire) wonderfully tap in synced regiment, with arms akimbo. They confront a melodious octet in color-complementing T shirts of their own choosing. They emasculate the stiff regiments, who wither into the wings.
Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 'Sounddance'

Merce Cunningham Dance Company in "Sounddance"

Photo © & courtesy of Tony Dougherty

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company 'Awassa Astrige/Ostrich' Dancer: G.D. Harris

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company
"Awassa Astrige/Ostrich"
Dancer: G.D. Harris

Photo © & courtesy of Andy Snow

American Ballet Theatre From 'The Leaves are Fading' Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes

American Ballet Theatre
From "The Leaves are Fading"
Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes

Photo © & courtesy of Lois Greenfield

Louise Lecavalier 'Lone Epic'

Louise Lecavalier
"Lone Epic"

Photo © & courtesy of Carl Lessard

Ayodele Casel, Sarah Savelli & Dancers

Ayodele Casel, Sarah Savelli & Dancers

Photo © & courtesy of Unknown

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