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Miro Magloire’s New Chamber Ballet Program at City Center Proves Small is Beautiful

by Bonnie Rosenstock
September 24, 2017
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
Just around the corner from the spectacularly ornate City Center is its unassuming cousin, City Center Studio 5. This fifth-floor venue is spare (mirror spanning one wall, dozens of hanging lights, springy dance floor). But the intimate space is exceedingly attractive to small-sized companies, where their audiences have unobstructed up-close views of the performances from any of the four corner seated areas.

A fine example is Miro Magloire’s New Chamber Ballet, consisting of five talented female dancers and two exceptional musicians. The German-born Magloire started out as a composer before moving to New York in 1993 to pursue a dance career. He founded New Chamber Ballet more than a dozen years ago to showcase his choreography as well as to provide a venue for new composers.

The two-night program, September 22 and 23 (as part of their 2017-2018 season), featured music ranging from the classics to the contemporary, including one of Magloire’s own compositions, and five dances of varying short lengths. “Lace” (2007) was performed by Sarah Atkins, Elizabeth Brown and Traci Finch, with Doori Na playing Luciano Berio’s dramatic “Sequenza VIII” (1976) for solo violin. When one dancer was performing, the other two remained seated on the floor in mostly static poses reminiscent of friezes. Flowy soft grey and black fabric attached to the top (mid-back) of the black leotards looked like feathers or wings, evoking “Swan Lake,” especially when the seated dancers swung their arms and dipped their bodies from side to side. Some solos featured running with arms fluttering, mirroring the frenetic music build-up. Think “Flight of the Bumblebee” on steroids.

“Voicelessness” (2015) by Swiss-born contemporary composer Beat Furrer, subtitled “The snow has no voice,” was performed on piano by Melody Fader. The remarkable Kristine Butler and Amber Neff moved as one, maintaining physical or eye contact, as they wrapped their arms and legs and snaked their bodies around each other, creating glorious shapes. Whereas in “Lace” there was little or no eye contact among the dancers, here it was all communication and precision with intricate folding, unfoldings and lifts. The performance was complemented by the eye-popping contour-fitting unitard in shades of grey, which made the svelte dancers appear even taller and more elegant. It was created by Sarah Thea, the company’s resident costume designer. Thea, sitting behind me and wearing a smart black dress with lace openings, explained to me that the costumes were painted Lycra with quilted lace placed onto a stretch mesh, “so the dancers’ fingers wouldn’t get stuck.”

Magloire’s original score, “104 Farenheit” (2010), was performed by Fader on piano and danced by Finch, Butler and Brown. Each of the dancers had solos that expressed the effects of summer heat, from languorous to fits of fervor, with ever-intensifying driving rhythms.

The world premiere of “Bach” (summer 2017) featured J.S. Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue No. 14 in F Sharp Minor” from “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” Book 1. It was stunningly performed by Butler and Neff, with Fader on piano. This is also a very physically demanding piece, as the dancers relied on each other for strength, balance and focus. In one section the duet grasped hands and stretched out to arm’s length, with arched backs, then lowered and raised themselves. They also held each other’s shoulders while moving into various positions, followed by a slide down to the floor. At the finale, they were wrapped around each other in a shape-driven cocoon.

“Amity” (spring 2017) is a tour de force for Atkins, Butler, Finch and Neff, with Na on violin and Fader on piano playing Mozart’s gorgeous “Violin Sonata in C Major, K. 296.” It was commissioned by Ed Petrou in memory of his late wife, Rachel Petrou, both great supporters of ballet. Besides the deft solos with memorable leaps and turns across the floor, the quartet danced in unison in varying patterns and formations, which made it the most classically choreographed of the five works. Again, the music drove the dancers from tortoise slow to rabbit fast.

As a composer, Magloire explores the role of tempo in creating and shaping dance—he likes the mix of slow, very slow, fast and faster. As a choreographer, he designs how the body forms those shapes into the music. A compelling combination.

Upcoming performances include the New York City premiere of “Stray Bird: A Danced Tribute to Ursula Mamlok,” the late German-Jewish-American composer (1923-2016), October 5-6 at the German Academy New York, 1014 Fifth Avenue (free, but reservations required), choreography by Magloire, Rebecca Walden and Mara Driscoll to Mamlok’s music; and “An Evening with New Chamber Ballet,” November 3-4, City Center Studio 5, works by Magloire. The Company will also reprise “Stray Bird” at the Jewish Cultural Festival in Magdeburg, Germany, October 14. For more information, visit www.newchamberballet.com.
(Front) Dancer Amber Neff in 'Amity.'

(Front) Dancer Amber Neff in "Amity."

Photo © & courtesy of Nir Arieli

(L-R) Dancers Kristine Butler and Amber Neff in 'Voicelessness.'

(L-R) Dancers Kristine Butler and Amber Neff in "Voicelessness."

Photo © & courtesy of Nir Arieli

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