Restriction Plagues a One-Choreographer, One-Composer Format

Christopher Wheeldon, widely considered classical ballet's most gifted choreographer, has consistently extended himself beyond his home base, the New York City Ballet, where the title of resident choreographer was created for him. Having made dances for several other important companies, he ventured to propose the viability of an all-Wheeldon program with "Watching Ligeti Move." Composed of three of his responses to that composer, it was offered as part of the Guggenheim Museum's Works and Process series. His compelling signature works Polyphonia and Morphoses were danced here with characteristic force and clarity by members of the NYCB, while Continuum was performed by softer-edged artists from the San Francisco Ballet. Any one of these dances would confirm Wheeldon's astute craft and hint at an originality still struggling to emerge from a self-imposed tutelage under great masters. All three pieces proved that more can be less.


Horse power lends a kick to mundane dance theatrics

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Watching Ligeti Move: Three Ballets by Christopher Wheeldon
Miller Theatre at Columbia University
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Rules of Engagement
Claremont Riding Academy
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JoAnna Mendl Shaw's Equus Projects, which pairs dancers with horses and their riders, lured enthusiasts of both disciplines to a stable for Rules of Engagement. The hour-long show, completed by Janet Biggs's videos of rugged landscapes and animals in the wild, claimed to explore a struggle for power in interspecies relationships. This highfalutin theme was confined to the program note. What we actually saw was an Appaloosa gelding, masterfully guided by Blair Griesmeyer, sharing the turf with three dancers who compensated in courage—and, indeed, engagement—for what they lacked in choreography. Routine gestures and configurations were enlivened by Gina Paolillo's speaking passionately to the horse as they "danced" a tango and Blake Pearson and MaryAlice White's writhing or crouching on the ground within inches of its hooves. The thrill of the performance lay in the danger one sensed—and the erotic undercurrent present—in the close encounters of beast and human.

 
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