By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
The second-program audience whooped and hollered for another duet, Softly as I Leave You, choreographed by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Léon (resident choreographers of Nederlands Dans Theater) and re-worked for Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk of Morphoses. What's not to love about these gorgeous dancers? They're as strong as lions and as flexible as eels, game for anythingeven a showy muddle of a piece like this. Tall Jacoby stands in a box, hitting against its walls, huddling in its corners, stretching her phenomenal legs piteously to a Bach "Kyrie." And Pronk? He's on the floor, in the dark, waiting his turn to ripple. By the time Jacoby (who left the box without difficulty, presumably to put on shoes) comes back onstage, he's become a madman. Now the music is by Arvo Pärt. Alone or together, these two are troubled in a desperately athletic waynumb or shuddering, their limbs at odds with the rest of them, every high kick a reproach to fate. They end up in the box together, a bit crowded but, hey. . . He kisses her cheek. For a few seconds, you sense that this could have been moving.
For deep-down, nourishing crowd pleasing, FFD offers Tangueros del Sur on the second program and Savion Glover on the first. An excerpt from choreographer-dancer Natalia Hills's Romper el Piso acts as a free-flowing, informal guide to tango history accompanied by terrific live music. Men dance with women in long skirts or with each other; an elegantly intense ballroom couple circa 1920 takes the floor (Paula Gurini and Mariano Bielak); a spunky, youthful pair (Hills and Gabriel Misse) bounces on; and the expected smoldering adventure for three develops. There's a too prolonged bow-cum-encore that says, "Love me? Then love me some more" and a go-for-the-flash moment in the trio when Hills's partner grasps her black dress and it comes off her with a single rip (not at all non-plussed by being seen in her red silk slip, she turns to Misse instead and dances on). But what's important in this recently formed company is that the choreography avoids the overdone sexiness of many tango groups (the heavy-with-innuendo leg thrust between a partner's calves, for instance) and emphasizes the rapid footwork and sharp twists and turns of the form. Hills and Misse are brilliant together; they dance as if the floor were a shifting terrain on which only the boldest, the most intrepid, and the most sensitive to a partner could hope to survive.
Glover's The StaRz and StRiPes 4EvEr for NoW, which premiered in Amsterdam in 2005, is much less smart-ass than its title. In fact, it may be the sparest and most elegantly structured show I've seen him put on. Inspired by John Coltrane channeling John Philip Sousa, Glover (who's credited with the score as well as the choreography) emphasizes tapping as another musical element, as well as a visual pleasure. He's already dancing when he enters the stage, ready to add his rhythms to the ones that bass player Andy McCloud is plucking from his instrument. Glover drags a heel along the edge of the mic'd platform, testing it; before long, he's purling tiny, intricate stitches against the floor, riding the heavier sounds as if he's astride a cantering horse. But always he's listening to the way the rhythmic texture changes as one musician after another enters: clarinetist Patience Higgins, drummer Victor Jones, and, finally, pianist Tommy Higgins. They groove together, take solos, work up to a hullabaloo, simmer down. Sometimes Glover takes cues from them; sometime he eggs them on. And he stands by, grinning in pure pleasure when the terrific dancers Marshall Davis Jr. and Cartier Williams show their stuff. Most of these colleagues are, like Glover, veterans of Bring in' Da Noise Bring in' Da Funk. Their rapport shines out as brilliantly as their virtuosity.
Martha Graham's Diversion of Angels opened the second program. This 1948 work to a commissioned score by Norman Dello Joio re-defined lyricism as something stripped of sentiment, fiercely beautiful. Elated, bounding through space, the dancers also acknowledge those moments of hush, when everything in the universe seems to pause. The members of the company Graham founded dance it wonderfully (although it seemed slightly pressured the night I saw it). When Jennifer DePalo, streaking rapturously through in her yellow dress, flies into the air and alights (there's no other word for it) on Lloyd Knight's shoulder, the audience gasps. It's not just for the skill involved, or the surprise. By "angels," Graham meant dancersacquainted with grief, transfigured by joy.
The week that Fall For Dance began sucking audiences into City Center, the German writer, choreographer, and performer Raimund Hoghe presented his Boléro Variations (2007) at Dance Theater Workshop (co-sponsored by the French Institute Alliance Française as part of FIAF's Crossing the Line Festival). Emmanuel Eggermont also gave a single Saturday performance of Hoghe's solo version of Debussy's L'Après-midi at Danspace Project.
Various versions of Ravel's Boléro crop up in the recorded medley for Boléro Variations, but the piece includes other music by Ravel, selections by Verdi and Tchaikovsky, traditional boleros, popular songs, fados, and more. Doris Day's voice is heard, so is Maria Callas's; so are an announcer's intermittent words about the great figure skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who danced to Ravel's Boléro on ice.