Pas de danse, created by Ek for the group in 2004, is performed against the unadorned barn wall at the back of the Ted Shawn Theatre, and the sounds of harmonica, accordion, and fiddle in Benny Andersson’s “Födelsedagsvals Till Mona” hint at a folk festival. This duet, too, has flashes of eccentric wit, and, as in Apartment, the women are not on pointe. Anna Valev and Jan-Erik Wikström are not happy with each other. In the course of their dancing—now resilient, now stiff—he keeps wanting to blow his nose. She won’t let him. He tears open his jacket and yanks himself around by its edges. She knocks him down. But all of a sudden, the back door slides open to the Berkshire night, and—surprise!—in slips a far more roguish couple (Kristina Oom and Oscar Salomonsson) not listed in the program. They draw the first two into some lively, festive dancing, and suddenly the four change partners. But any change for the better that you might expect when a man and woman are color-coordinated (one pair in blue, the other in beige) soon becomes unlikely; Wikström finally blows his nose, and Oom hurries offstage.

Caprioli’s Cicada, which opened the program, is a handsome, elegantly wrought piece of work. Caprioli comes out of contemporary dance, and in this work she tweaks ballet, but not with the obvious distortions and displacements with which some choreographers today rock the classical boat. A couple of lifts even allude to Russian virtuosity (although these struck me as out of place).

The choreography collaborates intriguingly with the costumes. Part of the time, the women wear short yellow-green, silk dresses that they hike up or twist when they need to free their legs for certain moves. Twistiness is a factor in the movement, especially in the stunning opening and closing solos performed by Nadja Sellrup. The women are on pointe, and Sellrup’s legs look a mile long as she slices one high into the air, then sucks them together to form a tiny pedestal or kinks one foot behind the other. The music—Kevin Volans’s Cicada—like the dance has an edgy quality. Against its shifting, ongoing pulses, Caprioli maintains a clear, deliberate, pause-filled rhythm. Her skillful, uninsistent use of repetition and canon holds the structure together, and Tobias Hallgren’s lighting emphasizes the cool legibility of the choreography.

Nadja Sellrup of Stockholm 59° North in Cristina Caprioli's Cicada
Christopher Duggan
Nadja Sellrup of Stockholm 59° North in Cristina Caprioli's Cicada


Jacobís Pillow Dance Festival
Becket, Massachusetts

Conny Janssen Danst
July 24 through 27

Stockholm 59ļ North
August 6 through 10

Shantala Shivalingappa
August 7 through 10

This is finely made dancing for its own sake. Sellrup, Valev, Marie Lindqvist, Fotiadis, and Wikström walk on, dip into movement for a while, then drop it and walk away. Sharing the stage, they’re not always together. They contemplate one another and the audience with detached ease. For a long time, there are no big jumps, and partnering has the look of experimentation: “If I do this, will she turn that way?”

I overheard spectators exiting at the end of the evening who were volubly thrilled by Duato’s piece, but also many who singled out Cicada for the beauty and purity of dancing that tells no story but its own.

In India, even the traditional so-called “pure dance” forms have a kind of agenda. The performer’s feet stamp out rhythmic messages to the earth, her hands blossom in the air and decorate the sky, and her gaze follows her gestures with unabashed delight. But dance and narrative often intersect too. Shantala Shivalingappa, who has played Ophelia for Peter Brook and performed with Pina Bausch’s company, is also an adept and exponent of the Kuchipudi style, and it was more or less a traditional solo recital that she and her superb musicians brought to Jacob’s Pillow.

Kuchipudi was originally a sacred dance performed by men, and the combination of boldness and sensuousness that resides in the movement vocabulary is beguiling. It resembles Bharata Natyam in the carved-out clarity of its designs, but like Odissi, allows the dancer’s hips and upper bodies to sway and swing a little. There’s something almost boisterous about it at times. Shivalingappa is small, delicately built, and seductively female, but she settles into the style’s broad, bent-kneed stances and swings a leg in front of her with powerful authority. Her boundings into the air have a cat-like velvetiness. Yet at the same time, she’s as contained as a little temple statue; her demi-plié is a thing of beauty, and her gestures are as precise as they are expansive.

Shivalingappa calls her program Gamaka. The word describes the vibrations of sound between two musical notes, and she has taken the larger, more cosmic sense of this oscillation—the essential vibration, OM, that lies at the heart of creation, as her theme. It underlies the brilliant witty dialogue between drummer N. Ramakrishnan, and his mridangam and then between drummer B.P. Haribau and his pakawaj. And it suffuses Shivalingappa when she enters to perform a poem in praise of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. Slowly advancing along a diagonal, she bends deeply forward and then arches back with each step, as if tuning herself into some celestial arc of motion.

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