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Lori Ortiz
Performance Reviews
Special Focus
New York City Center
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Fall for Dance Wednesdays

by Lori Ortiz
September 30, 2009
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
Ballet West, Batsheva, Boston Ballet, Dendy Dancetheater, Savion Glover, Mark Morris. New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor
As in every Fall for Dance season, eclecticism is the catchword. An audience poll would find limitless combinations of personal favorites. Evidently, I was lucky with the programs I saw on consecutive Wednesdays. I'll venture to say that of the four dances on each mid-week night, everyone took home a pleasurable memory, and more.

Wednesday September 23rd opened with Boston Ballet's "Afternoon of a Faun." The choice, staged by Ghislaine Thesmar, and original designs by Leon Bakst for décor, is part of the Festival's celebration of the Ballet Russes anniversary, this year's theme.

Lorna Feijóo danced the lead Nymph, but the Faun, Altankhuyag Dugaraa melted the heart with his sensuous, yet angular dance. We only know Nijinsky's choreography and performance from faded clips and still photos. The program note states that "The curtain descends so that the poem can begin in everyone's memory." This current reconstruction fleshes out "Faun," a milestone of modern ballet history.

The evening's highlight was Ohad Naharin's 2008 "B/olero," performed by Batsheva dancers Iyar Elezra and Bobbi Smith. Naharin has a golden touch. The music, an electronica recording of the Maurice Ravel by Isao Tomita, and the dancing, together brought a deeper appreciation of the familiar classic. The dancers' stretched formations, jutting buttocks, and arched entanglements are a chain of surprises. The duet's extreme physicality gave visceral release that could be felt long after.

Paul Taylor cheek is evidenced in his 1995 regimental frippary, "Offenbach Overtures." The cast of fourteen's gorgeous dancing, Santo Loquasto's bright feathery costumes, and Jennifer Tipton's brilliant lighting are undeniable, but this Taylor confection leaves little in the way of implication, inevitability, or importance.

Savion Glover closed the curtain with the short, sharp "The StaRz and SrRIPes 4EvEr for NoW." The cryptic title recalls the improvisational spirit and John Coltrane. The OTHeRz (four onstage musicians) included a wonderful saxophone. Glover, Marshall Davis Jr., and Carter Williams danced on a platform in uncanny unison. Despite problems with the amplification, and large speakers that hid the dancers' feet from view, we clapped 'till our hands were raw when they disappeared in sudden blackout.

Wednesday, October 30th the wonderful Dendy Dancetheater did "Afternoon of the Faunes," made for the American Dance Festival in 1996. He went for contemporary instead of authentic, to the Claude Debussy music. Two fauns, Lonnie Poupard, Jr. and Alex Dean Speedie, mirror each other. The emphasis is on animal maleness. It is surely one of the great modern male duets. Nijinsky's descent into insanity inspired Dendy. This "Faun" evinced the archetypal notion of dancing oneself to death. In a false end, the men embrace, and then come forward. There, their arms windmill in seeming perpetuity.

This second Wednesday evening of the ten-day festival opened with Bronislava Nijinska's 1924 "Les Biches," Reconstructed and performed by Ballet West, with staging and coaching by Howard Sayette and Georgina Parkinson. Amid the time-anchored society antics, the delightful Page Boy (Romi Beppu) stole the show. Parkinson coached this character. Elsewhere, Nijinska's revolutionary vocabulary just looked odd. The difficult dancing included cumbersome acting and heavy jumps that belied the light humor. Still, the history is essential.

Mark Morris's 1993 "Grand Duo" closed the 30th program with modern dance primitivism. Morris insists on live music, in this case, Jesse Mills and Colin Fowler's "Grand Duo for Violin and Piano." They had the misfortune of following New York City Ballet's effervescent "Four Bagatelles," danced by Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia. After this shatteringly exquisite performance of Jerome Robbins's treasure, to a moving, live performance of Beethoven, the dark, ritualistic Grand Duo felt like a throwback.

Nonetheless, City Center president Arlene Shuler's festival is as welcome as fall itself. It's not just the simple genius of cheap tickets. Seats are now precious commodities. Reportedly, scalpers now get high prices. In its six years, FFD can be credited with enlivening and broadening the New York dance world. And Shuler was rightly recognized with this year's Capezio award.
Romi Beppu in Les Biches.

Romi Beppu in Les Biches.

Batsheva dancers in 'B/olero'

Batsheva dancers in "B/olero"

Photo © & courtesy of Gadi Dagon

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