A performer onstage automatically becomes the object of our gaze. In Benjamin de Bouillis, d'Imobilité offers something subtly different: a performer who obsessively imagines seeing himself as others do—a visual, corporeal presence whose feelings we can only guess at.

Leichter, in addition to soloing, dances in both the group pieces on his program (the first in DTW's 2008 Guest Artist Series). One, yet another version of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, was commissioned in 2007 by the Brooklyn Philharmonic and performed with the orchestra; at DTW, Seiji Ozawa and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (recorded in 1968) pound it stunningly out.

Wearing gray coveralls by Mindy Nelson, the seven dancers bring to mind a small tribe of people who've come together for a purpose. Leichter is adept at patterning, and some of the finest moments are those that echo the beginning, when the performers press together like train cars or open out into hands-held chains and curious assists (one performer sits on a supine comrade's upraised hands and feet as if enthroned). Leichter acknowledges the scenario that propels Stravinsky's score, but obliquely. Dawn Robinson performs a long powerful solo, while the others bring in stools and watch her, but this doesn't occur on the music written for the ending in which the sacrificial virgin dances herself to death.

Foofwa d’Imobilité in his solo Benjamin de Boullis.
Julie Lemberger
Foofwa d’Imobilité in his solo Benjamin de Boullis.

Details

Foofwa d'Imobilitť
Baryshnikov Arts Center
June 26 through 28

nicholas leichter dance
Dance Theater Workshop
June 25 through 29

Leichter's choreography—with its blend of self-involved gestures, bold steps, and muscular undulations of hips, shoulders, and heads—hints at the games and struggles embedded in the original scenario. People yank on one another's outstretched legs. Aaron Draper and Wendell Cooper grab each other's heads in a prolonged combat. But the dramatic changes in the texture of this musical masterpiece don't really allow for build unless a choreographer relates (in however innovative a way) to the story that Stravinsky and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky told back in 1913. So Leichter and his wonderfully interesting dancers come and go in Don Coleman's changeable lighting, move fiercely or meditatively or yearningly, even join in a symbolic circle for a minute. But there's no cumulative achievement to this "rite" that they've been knocking themselves out over.

These same vivid performers—Cooper, Draper, Leichter, Robinson, Lauren Basco, Mathew Heggem, and Naima Bigby Sullivan—people Leichter's new Spanish Wells (lighting by Erik C. Bruce). And several group formations from Rite carry over into this piece. The title refers to a settlement on a little island in the Bahamas, where Spanish galleons once moored to take on water for the trip home to Europe. Leichter has chosen to interrupt the seething surf and calm seas of Claude Debussy's La Mer with tidal outbursts by Winehouse, and to contrast terror, lust, and other powerful states with the atmosphere of a fiesta. The piece begins with Heggem kneeling, his hands wobbling and shaking—a recurring motif. The dancers—all of them in bright clothes with a flower tucked behind an ear or a lock of hair—whirl and fall as if a storm were propelling them. They crawl on hands and feet with a rhythmic hesitation, formalizing what might otherwise seem desperate. Heggem drags himself along with Bigby Sullivan on top of him. But they also break out in lush solos, snap their fingers, swing their hips, and saunter across the stage, wearing small feathered headdresses that could refer both to ancient pre-Hispanic cultures and carnival celebrants.

What Leichter has in mind remains a mystery, but what's happening onstage is a pleasure to watch.

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