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New Work From David Gordon, Tamar Rogoff, and New York City Ballet

If you think a piece built on so many words might be literal or message laden, you don't know Rogoff. With Ralph Denzer (composer), David Ferri (lighting), Elizabeth Bourgeois (costumes), Sam Tresler (set), Maxine Kern (dramaturge), and powerful performers, she constructs a montage that gradually, obliquely closes in on your heart.

Jennifer Chang, Billy Clark, Rob Laqui, Paulo Pimentel, and Abigail Rasminsky dance solos when each one's soldier-buddy speaks. Occasionally word and gesture coincide (like "airplane" and outspread arms), but more often the finely chosen movements serve as restrained underlining to what we hear. At the end, the veterans' barely moving faces appear, one by one, on a screen at the back, seeming to listen to what "their" dancers tell them. "I hope" says Clark to Brown, "my dance was good enough."

María de Lourdes Dávila and Scott Cunningham in Private Lives of Dancers
photo: Pete Kuhns
María de Lourdes Dávila and Scott Cunningham in Private Lives of Dancers

It takes a long time for one crucial fact to sink in: Bernard Rogoff, who wrote such beautiful, hopeful, passionate, and erotic letters to his wife, was also forever altered by his wartime experience. And Rogoff/Johnson, with her inexplicable insomnia, asks, "Whose system did I inherit—yours or the war's?" Finally, a picture of young Major Rogoff grows until he fills the screen—distant and unbearably close, understood 16 years after his death.

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