Groaning Board/Lean Cuisine

New York City Ballet Shows Its All

You absorb and remember the piece as a series of separate moments—strange actions performed as if they were quiet housework, or something the women know how to do and have done before. For instance, when Still Lives begins, Wolfe is lying facedown across one of the tables. Shick, her back to us, walks slowly sideways behind the table, sits in a chair at one end, thinks a minute, then pulls Wolfe's legs to bring her closer and thinks some more. The action has no consequence yet seems monumentally important. Later Melnick pokes Mapp with a finger, poses her with a lifted leg, and lies down, while in the background, Guergué walks a narrow line.

A chiseled softness has always been part of Shick's own luscious dancing. In Still Lives, even moments of sham social behavior (mildly extravagant meeting-and-greeting attitudes) seem restrained. Jodi Melnick's extraordinary and nuanced flailing solo has a refined air—high emotion meticulously rendered, as if Melnick were observing it even while in its throes, like a woman written by Virginia Woolf. This lovely, suggestive artwork is succinct in its parts, a little too drawn out as a whole. To absorb it, you have to be prepared to slow down your breathing.

Shick's performance was preceded by the first of the Kitchen's ongoing "TV Dance" events. Wendy Perron, once a Trisha Brown dancer, asked wise questions of other smart former Trisha Brown dancers (David Thomson and Irene Hultman, who were present, and Shick, Stephen Petronio, and Lance Gries, who were not). We watched videos of them from the archives and ate a good dinner as we pondered how each came to terms with a heritage of richly complicated physicality and playful but rigorous structure. I liked Stephen Petronio's acknowledgment, "I am the yellow journalism of release technique."

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