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Lori Ortiz
Performance Reviews
Ethnic Dance
Various Performance Dances
New York City Center
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New York, NY

Fall for Dance 2008 - Les Chambres des Jacques, Rush, Odissi: Pravaha, Harmonica Breakdown, Uprising

by Lori Ortiz
September 21, 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
Les Ballets Jazz De Montreal opened the Sunday afternoon September 21, Fall for Dance '08 program with "Les Chambres des Jacques" by Aszure Barton. This was an opportunity to see more of this choreographer's work. Her dances are a pastiche of styles. I saw some "Oklahoma" in this one. A female dancer falls down, like Joan McCracken did for Agnes DeMille, (in Lisa Jo Sagolla's McCracken biography.) A Curly male laughs at the embarrassed, fallen dancer. Barton follows this with a country and western line. Other passages in this excerpt borrow from jigs, hip-hop, ballet, and butoh, to Vivaldi violin, klezmer fiddle and French (?). It's all fluid and seamless stream-of-consciousness. I can't make out anything more of her intention than, "Hey, wouldn't this look cool." Her stated exploration of "the human being in the dancer" doesn't explain much. What's evident is how well Barton exploits the BJM dancer's incredible artistry. I like the way the cast of ten relates with conversational movement. The outrageous bits are engaging too.

Sadly, Oregon Ballet Theatre hasn't been seen in New York. Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov gave an impressive performance in the central pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon's 2003 duet "Rush." Roper is an exquisite dancer and silent on her toes. No wonder she was asked by "Ballet-dance" magazine about her shoes. She says in that 2007 interview that she hopes there will be more interest in ballet. What an example she is for ballet's future! My only disappointment was with some awkward looking (contemporary?) steps where her arms change direction suddenly or her attitude switches sides. Is this the choreography or did she have trouble with it? The understated costumes by Jon Morrell are magical. It's to music by Bohuslav Martinu.

Next, "Odissi: Pravaha," an invocation to Shiva, lord of dance, by Madhavi Mudgal, to the singing, or chanting, and traditional instrumentals of five onstage musicians. Madhavi Mudgal dances with bells on her ankles like the kathak dancers farther north. Her niece, Arushi Mudgal, joins her later and the two create an ornate geometry, standing side-by-side and facing opposite directions. Their legs and arms form diamond shapes, in colorful silk. Their posteriors jut out and their red fingertips strum the air, catching the light. In their perfect symmetry, head, hands and feet alternate naturalistically from a vertical stem that rises from shoulder to hip. The form is reverent; it's beauty awesome and soothing.

A must see: Sheron Wray danced Jane Dudley's 1938 "Harmonica Breakdown." Wray's head and torso stretches forward, almost parallel to the floor, evoking themes of labor and loss. She ends standing on one hand with her spread legs extended to the right, in a solid affirmation. Hers is the African-American face of joy in total investment. The fine music is by Sonny Terry and Oh Red. Fall for Dance found in the early days of modern, an unjustly forgotten classic.

The afternoon does not go quietly into Evening. Not in Hofesh Shechter's "Uprising." The Jerusalem-born, UK-based choreographer performs it with six other men. It's full of testosterone fueled aggression, to banging, pounding, thunderous sound, in a set of brash lights and fog. At one point the cast marches into upstage fog and disappears. The dancers loose-limbed movement is signature, and they group in unison rapid crawls, jumps, or trippy walks. At times they stand around for too long, as if sharing their fatigue or indecision with us. The end satirizes war's impossible ideal: conquest. But in "Uprising," they conquer our hearts at last.
Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal in 'Les Chambres des Jacques'

Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal in "Les Chambres des Jacques"

Photo © & courtesy of Jean Tremblay

Oregon Ballet Theatre 'Rush' Dancers: Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov

Oregon Ballet Theatre
Dancers: Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov

Photo © & courtesy of Angela Sterling

Mudhavi Mudgal and Arushi Mudgal

Mudhavi Mudgal and Arushi Mudgal

Photo © & courtesy of Kamal Sahai

Sheron Wray 'Harmonica Breakdown'

Sheron Wray
"Harmonica Breakdown"

Photo © & courtesy of Irven Lewis

Hofesh Shechter Company 'Uprising'

Hofesh Shechter Company

Photo © & courtesy of Andrew Lang

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