By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Alexis Soloski
By Alexis Soloski
By Lilly Lampe
The primary influences on Duato's choreography seem to be early Jirí Kylián (Duato danced with, and eventually made works for, Kylián's Nederlands Dans Theater between 1981 and 1990), and his big, weighted, curving movements, like Kylián's during those years, often bring José Limón to mind Both Arenal (created for the Dutch company in 1988) and L'Amoroso (2004), the first piece Duato made for these young dancers, mingle balletic lines with rougher, slightly more boisterous moves. Men strut with flexed feet, women hoist their skirts and splay their legs; lifted, a female can look like a peasant doll. The first dance in particular, with its hand-in-hand chains and sturdy unison passages, suggests a folk community. The women's plain dresses with full skirts, the men's shirts and trousers (costumes by Duato and Babette Van Der Verg), and Walter Nobbe's set reinforce this look. The backdrop shows a horizon guarded by low hills and flanked by two totemic, vaguely Mayan structures.
In Arenal, one woman (Annabelle Peintre) dances somberly, while the nine other performers stand, backs to us, before one of the sculptures. The powerful a cappella voice of María del Mar Bonet (recorded) accompanies all of Peintre's solo appearances, but during a duet, a trio, and a quartet, Bonet is backed by a lively ensemble (guitars, cello, mandolin, percussion, etc.). The solo dancer is not exactly a wet blanket on the brighter, gayer dancing, but a reminder to the others that life has dark moments. Of the other sections, the most charming is the trio. Staying always close together, Begoñia Frutos, Javier Rodríguez, and Javier Monzón dance its fast, intricate steps and partner changes with buoyant spirits and expert feet.
L'Amoroso also features a design by Nobbea sky at dusk and darker hills; the costumes are gray and black, with hints of courtly attire. In this sextet, transitions are accompanied by the sound of a rain tube, while 17th- and 18th-century music from Venice and Naples enlivens most of the dancing, occasionally engendering little flourishes. This last dance on the program brings home the fact that gender differences are a major factor in Duato's choreography. It's not that the men's steps are significantly different from those of the women, but that they often dance as a group, and so do the women. Male-female pairings are ubiquitous (the trio in Arenal is the exception). In L'Amoroso, six people execute three duets. For the central one, Ana López removes her skirt and Rubén Ventoso his jacket, and it's wonderfully tender. Duato is skilled at making a man and woman look as if they're melting together into ardent complexities. I'd love to see a piece of his that didn't emphasize pairings (how about three women and one man? Two women and four men? Individuals within a group?), but maybe that's how he sees the world.
The choreography and ideas of Tony Fabre (former CND member and Duato's assistant) seem very like Duato's in some ways. His Holberg Suite offers oddities that are interesting in themselves but not fully justified. Using Edvard Grieg's marvelous music of the same name, he plays around with ideas of period decorum and contemporary energy. For instance, at one point the women, wearing black trunks with black bands slanting around their torsos, go offstage and return wearing bouffant skirts. For a few moments, they're playful and fussy; one mimes fainting; men's arms wave at them from the wings. They drop the skirts (is that so they can perch, belly down, on the men's upraised feet?), then step back into them for more politesse, then forget about them. But the essence of the dance is simply energetic, happy frolicking with lots of those wide-legged steps and lots of duetting and a silly ending.
The dancers are adorable, and all the pieces make them look lovely and full-spirited. They aren't yet as grounded as the members of their parent company, whose fluidity, as might be expected, comes from a deeper place, but, rightly, they rouse the audience to cheers.