Happy Birthday

How has ballet choreographer Christopher Caines found time for his many passions—acting, directing, composing, designing, drumming? Watching the Christopher Caines Dance Company (Cunningham Studio, June)—celebrating its fifth anniversary with Graham dancer Heidi Stoeckley, Cincinnati Ballet's Luciano Lazzarotto, and some choice musicians and singers—one asks instead how he manages to weave together so many theatrical elements with such exceptional quality. Italian Suite's Sabra Perry became a dreamy curlicue with a core of steel, qualities used to comedic effect as skittering swains dutifully rotated her or employed her extended leg as a bar for circus tricks. Her performances here and in the new Songs of the Sea were models of expressiveness. Heather McCoy brought a spooky yet engaging presence to the "En sourdine" section of Gardens of the Night, Caines's new moon-dappled trio set to Fauré. One quibble: Snow, an attractive ice-skaters' quartet set to Janácek, needs a far less intimate space where viewers won't hear creaking, squealing ballet slippers.

Swan, a new creation from the collaborative Yara Arts Group (La MaMa E.T.C., June), theatricalized a work by contemporary Ukrainian poet and dissident Oleh Lysheha. Andrew Colteaux's vibrant performance as the poem's voice integrated speaking and movement, charting a landscape of loneliness, yearning, and ultimate surrender between Lysheha's opening and closing lines, "God, I'm slipping" and "God, I'm falling." Although mixing text, music, song, dance, and video, this modest production, clocking in under one hour, did not compete with or overwhelm its source. Cooler in look and tone than some of Yara's previous works of cultural celebration and folklore—Circleand Howling, for instance—Swan does not aim to bowl you over. Small seductions—Soomi Kim and Colteaux's efficient yet expressive acting and imaginative movement, a simple set by Watoku Ueno, and spare, warm notes bowed and plucked from composer Paul Brantley's cello, the sole instrument played live—allowed true feeling to permeate the action.

 
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