I regret not ever having seen Mudgal, a noted exponent of India’s Odissi form, in a substantial solo. She is featured only briefly in Vistaar, melting back into her ensemble of four finely trained women. Accompanied by six musicians (flute, sitar, percussion, and vocals), the women move through the lissome, seductive poses of the style, sinking into the sensuous songs, or stamping and flashing their limbs and glances to the rhythmic chanted syllable.

The steps are traditional, but Mudgal’s simple group choreography is not. The women may move one at a time, then stop. One of them begins to travel in a curving path amid her motionless colleagues; each, as she passes, joins the line until all are snaking through the space. The effect is of lovely temple statues coming to temporary life.

Miami City Ballet, directed by ex New York City Ballet principal Edward Villella, is an adventurous company whose members are beautifully coached in the Balanchine works that form the bedrock of the repertory, yet game up for any challenge. “The Golden Section” asks a lot of them. Yes, they must be able to bring off multiple pirouettes and soaring leaps and fast, exacting footwork. But often these erupt out of nowhere or twist in unfamiliar ways. Women approach being lifted by their partners like pole vaulters racing toward the barrier. When David Byrne’s epochal score begins, and the curtain opens on Santo Loquasto’s gold silk rainstorm of a backdrop, shimmering in Jennifer Tipton’s radiant lighting (re-created by John Hall), you wonder, can these dancers conquer this dance?

The Miami City Ballet in Twyla Tharp’s “The Golden Section”
Alexandre Dufour
The Miami City Ballet in Twyla Tharp’s “The Golden Section”

Details

Fall for Dance Festival
City Center
September 28 through October 9

It’s not a certainty. Patricia Delgado, the first on stage, is, like most of the women in the company, a skinny little thing. Giving her best to the rough-edged athleticism with which Tharp both masks and magnifies finesse, Delgado looks at the outset like a rambunctious 11-year-old, spiky and quick-witted, trying to stay on top of bronco choreography.

There are two things to be overcome by anyone who saw this dazzling piece of work danced by Tharp’s own company as a finale to her 1992 The Catherine Wheel. “The Golden Section” can never have quite the impact it had when the squabbling, imperfect characters who peopled The Catherine Wheel reappeared, garbed in gold and transmuted by the power of their dancing into heroes, into angels. I wept back then with the exhilaration of it. And so did many others. The other stumbling block is that no dancers can better—and few can achieve—the juicy power and dynamic complexity that Tharp’s company of those years projected. Still, the dazzling choreography takes no prisoners among the valiant. Nor does the music. The build is inexorable. The stage heats up. Sweat gleams. “Oh, what a day that was!” sings Byrne. And Miami’s golden dancers ride to victory.

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