No Fire or Spark in Dances to Springsteen and Sting From the City of Steel

In Erica Essner's program of five premiere and repertory works, the new Fractured Tango best utilized her company's strengths. Set to a frisky tango-cum-castanets score by Erik Ian Walker, Essner's trio envisioned divas without partners. Dressed for an intense night out, LoMa Familar, Akiko Furukawa, and Erin Hunter walked and wobbled along invisible tightropes. This opening grew into an extreme art of tension and flourishes that murdered any lingering hope of romance. One indelible movement image involved each woman brushing her limbs precisely the way a fly cleans its legs. Dancers Jenni Hong and Mark Drahozal offered their new visually harsh and inexplicable duet Rewind. Even more jarring—unintentionally—was the premiere of Essner's closer, Malestrom, a clumsy vest pocket Chorus Line for men. Leonides Arpon's unbelievably adroit, mercurial dancing deserves every superlative in the dictionary. Why surround him with three sluggish guys who, by comparison, seem to be marking their moves?


A mixed bill offers mixed results in form and technique

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Joyce Theater
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Erica Essner Performance Co-Op
Joyce Soho
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For its first New York spin, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dusted off three lengthy ensemble pieces from its repertory—Kevin O'Day's Sting/ING Situations, Derek Deane's Hungry Heart . . . 'we all have one'!!, set in a neon-trimmed diner, and Dwight Rhoden's 7th Heaven, this one set to Top 40 Beethoven and Bach. The latter two bad boys can fend for themselves, but when you mess with Sting and Bruce Springsteen, you're gettin' on the fightin' side of me. Deane strains to give the Boss the Movin' Out treatment and abuses him as much as Reagan's people did when they tried swiping "Born in the U.S.A." Did Deane actually listen to the lyrics of "The River" before turning out a duet for his perpetually smiling, clean-cut couple? And poor Sting! Every little thing O'Day does is mechanical, overwrought, pointless. Rarely have dancers worked so hard yet looked so disengaged. When you're forced to sit through ballets like these, close your eyes. Pretend your iPod's playing.

 
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