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Taylor Gordon
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Hooking Audiences With Fall For Dance: Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Madhavi Mudgal & more

by Taylor Gordon
September 20, 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
New York City Center's annual 10-day, $10 catch-all dance fest kicked off last week in top form. Fall for Dance is a major marketing event for the dance community at large, boasting 28 different dance companies on 6 programs during the nearly sold out festival.

Each program is a showcase of sorts, serving short samples of different styles in effort to hook audiences into dance fever and entice them to attend more performances throughout the year. City Center keeps the audience engaged with Lounge FFD, held in the public space next door to the theater. Visitors can drink, dance, and be merry while their friends wait in the seemingly endless line to pick up tickets (no comparison to the day when tickets went on sale, where the line was rumored to circle the block!). By building the social factor and demolishing high ticket prices, Fall for Dance appears to be a draw for new audiences.

Unfortunately, with Saturday evening's program, we got what we paid for.

[bjm_danse] Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal opened the night with an excerpt Aszure Barton's "Les Chambres des Jacques." Perhaps the full work would have put this "exploration of the inner life and drama of individual dancers" in context. The curtain rose on a single male dancer in a square pool of light, with the 9 other dancers barely lit in a line upstage. Soon the stage was a checkerboard of light, with dancers spreading to squares around. Little is memorable of the choreography, though the dancers appeared strong. Daniel Ranger's lighting stood out in an otherwise dim work.

Christopher Wheeldon's "RUSH" followed, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre. However, it was only a pas de deux and the full beauty of this choreographer's intent was not realized. Dancers Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov were exceptionally fluid in their partnering and turns, a mere tease at what New York audiences might be missing with OBT being on the opposite coast. Perhaps presenting a piece with more dancers would have made a bigger impact.

The program continued with an entirely different form. Madhavi Mudgal danced "Odissi: Pravaha" with Arushi Mudgal. The Indian dance form is lovely and wonderfully accompanied live by five musicians. But the form inherently takes up little space and does not seem fit for City Center's vast stage. Madhavi Mudgal dances a long solo before Arushi Mudgal joins in, and more than once the audience seemed to think the dance was over. A sampling is great, but this work may have overstayed its welcome.

Later on the program was Sheron Wray in Jane Dudley's 1938 solo "Harmonica Breakdown" and Hofesh Shechter Company in an excerpt of "Uprising." Though the program successfully offered variety, I'm not sure if the goal of attracting new audiences to dance was met. Dance fever fell ill, and I would not have been hooked.
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