Run With It

Choreographers Fling Gauntlets to New York City Ballet and Philadanco!

In both Miller's work and Brown's, you get a sense of the dancers as individuals (the costumes help: Natasha Guruleva for Miller, Wumni for Brown). In a version of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's 1998 Hand Singing Song, you're more aware of a clan: spunky-tough women and men lining up to give us a barrage of gestures—rhythmed with claps and spoken words—or meeting and greeting with raucous joy. This smart, sassy exploration of African American hand moves gives pride of place to the "dap"—that most elaborate of handshake variants—which jazz musicians have turned into a slippery little artwork.

Piano man: Benjamin Millepied in Bigonzetti's Vespro, at New York City Ballet
photo: Paul Kolnik
Piano man: Benjamin Millepied in Bigonzetti's Vespro, at New York City Ballet

Both Brown and Zollar root their styles in African dance and African American vernacular. They and Miller make dancers look loose, grounded, impulsive. Conversely, in the rousing and well-crafted Enemy Behind the Gates, Christopher Huggins, a former member of Alvin Ailey's company, builds a precise, aggressive style reminiscent of Ulysses Dove's work. No individuals on parade here. Huggins dresses all the dancers in skirted black military jackets, with trousers added for the men. The driving music is Steve Reich's. A program note says the piece is about enemies in our midst, but Huggins focuses on suspicious virtuosity and rhythmic violence, with occasional brief lyrical duets for respite. Uniqueness boils down to the height of a leap.

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