World Beats

Rituals—Manhattan, Rochester, Taiwan

When Garth Fagan's new Trips and Trysts (at the Joyce last week) begins, Natalie Rogers is alone onstage, looking sharp in a gold top and black pants by Mary Nemecek Peterson. The music rushing around her comes from Wynton Marsalis's record Big Train and has that going sound, but Rogers doesn't jive with it; she dips into it, teases it with the uncanny tilted balances that are a Fagan hallmark. In the on-again, off-again duet between her and Norwood Pennewell, he's also cool against the sound—laying out an interplay of looseness and tension that erupts into huge, out-of-the-blue jumps.

Fagan builds the dance like a train ride. People come and go, engage in courteous dispute, pair up, and separate agreeably. Trips and Trysts isn't about perfumed romance and regrets; it's about this here-and-now community, these wonderful dancers. We can admire Sharon Skepple, Chris Morrison, and Micha Willis in one brief trio, or Steve Humphrey and Erin Barnett in a duet, or Nicolette Depass, Joel Valentin, Bill Ferguson, Aisha Benjamin, and Steve St. Juste in bright moments.

Fagan is, in his own warm and distinctive way, a formalist. "All aboard" becomes a concept about joining. Rogers turns Pennewell on, not by any come-hither gesture, but by the way she does a little side step; it's right up his alley. Nor does Fagan buy into the pas de deux mystique—the credo that you put a woman down only to pick her up again; he uses lifts sparingly and interestingly. His vocabulary is earthy, vital, with a capacity for wildness, yet, anchored in the technical finesse and intensity he inculcates in his dancers, it's elegant.

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