Dance

Alejandra Martorell's m.o. (modus operandi) (P.S.122, May), performed with Savitri Durkee and Sigal Bergman, began before the audience took seats, as if the three women had always lived there. Dancers quietly rounded columns and drifted along invisible, snaky pathways or peered from a darkened doorway. One or another would momentarily slip out of this passive procession to mark her own volume of air. Martorell's simmering expressiveness and Bergman's physical control at every step compelled attention. Christopher Brown's artful lighting further sculpted the work's fascinating beauty, heightening details of shape and texture; gesture and expression; and the way bodies breathe, shudder, advance, withdraw, find and test balance, and relate (or fail to relate) to one another. Music played live by composer Christopher Curtis provided just the right touch of understated mystery. —Eva Yaa Asantewaa


"New Steps," a dance series for emerging choreographers (Mulberry Street Theater, April), celebrated its 15th year with six works as eclectic and vibrant as its Chinatown neighborhood. The diverse performances ranged from Melinda Ring's solo We, beginning in a large city park in mid afternoon, in which she ran in tangled circles across the floor, as if spun by the clumsy fingers of an unseen puppeteer, to Marie Alonzo's somber duet Unveiling the Bamboo, dedicated to the many women who suffered under Taliban rule. In Nora Stephens's First and You, Liza Domnitz and Kate Martel, in white satin cocktail dresses, stared at the audience with vacant eyes as they progressed through awkward crablike movement, subtle rocking, and arabesques. Driven by the beat of Kid Quiz, Maggie Lee crisscrossed the stage in sustained movement accented by quick gestures of her head and arms in her solo Beneath. —Sarah Donnelly


"New Stuff" (P.S.122, May) offered an intriguing mix of younger choreographers—this batch coincidentally all female. In memory collections, Tania Isaac skillfully harnessed the maximum power of each of the dance's elements: the controlled slo-mo strength of her African-based style, well-edited video and slide segments, and the embodiment of female strength and dignity. In Paradise?, as a moderately convincing Charlie's Angel, Kari Hoaas (the program's curator) invoked snippets of saucy gestures—pouty lips, tousled hair, an Elvis pelvis—in an incisively subversive flirtation. A tango medley performed live on strings and piano by Las Señoritas spiced up Kate Gyllenhaal/MoCo's frustratingly flaccid dancing and choppy phrasing in MeMyself&You. Karinne Keithley's Tenderenda resembled, in form, Big Dance Theater's peculiar goulash of text, movement, and music. The excerpt didn't explain the presence of a bear and three anthropomorphic devils with tails, but their Swiss-movement-timed Three Stooges campfire routine hit a funny bone. —Susan Yung


For its concert in a performance series called "Home" (Whitney at Altria, May), Ben Munisteri Dance Projects offered Earthly Perch, created for the occasion, and excerpts from earlier repertory. The site to which the new piece was specific consisted of a tiny stone-floored platform with steps in front of it, ramps winging sideways behind it, and three trees growing upstage. Munisteri managed to integrate his odd, striking brand of movement into this environment so that the six dancers looked like natives of the place, not tourists or intruders. He presented the human form as civic sculpture of bygone idealistic days. Facing the viewer straight-on with a clear-eyed gaze, handsome athletic bodies made large, clear, energetic moves that looked like metaphors for optimism. This stuff works best when Munisteri enriches it with excursions into the oblique that provide the subtlety and mystery on which dancing thrives.

Back home in Havana, Compañia de la Danza Narciso Medina must represent the happy meeting of myriad genres—from the native Afro-Cuban tradition to a full complement of modern and postmodern modes. Making its New York debut in the Guggenheim Museum's "Works & Process" series (May), the group seemed to be serving up something for everyone, all of it choreographed by Medina, none of it remarkable. Estaciones (Seasons), to an intriguing percussion-accented score commissioned from Joel Diamond, is mid-20th-century modern, Limón division, mingling lyricism with expressionism in service of a vaguely humanistic subtext. Metamorfósis derives from Nikolais via Pilobolus. The evening's most unselfconscious and engaging number, Música del Cuerpo (Music of the Body), represented the "Roots" category, with the dancers providing the audible as well as the visible rhythms. The performers were lovely in all of the styles—strong and fluent, without an iota of attitude. —Tobi Tobias

 
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