The ballet is full of patterns: the criss-crossing of lines, the swirling into and out of them, the clusters and chains made by Hannah Wright and four other women. The solo performed by Vengoechea in the cast I saw is gently mournful; lying on the floor, propped up on her elbows, she rocks her head from hand to hand. Another solo recalls happy times. The music is fast, and the dancing is a little marvel of springy, intricate footwork (Birmingham is terrific in it).

In the context of this program, Morris’s wonderful Grand Duo to music by Lou Harrison (played lustily by Sean Chen on piano and Francisco Garcia-Fullana on violin) acquires a more ritualistic cast. The opening sequence for men and women, wearing Susan Ruddie’s bright- colored skirts (the men) or tunics and dresses, has the air of a preparation. Here someone shoots an arm up, there another person arches back, and someone else reaches forward. The group seems to be sprouting in different directions, the texture accumulating speed and density along with the music.

The people in this society have a sturdy, almost blocky look as they form their patterns, break into counterpoint, or split off into little solos. They tend to stand with their feet apart, their knees bent. They jump as if the important part of jumping was coming down and giving the earth a jolt (the second section of the music is called “Stampede”). There are quiet moments, but the celebrants are brought into a circle by the final rousing “Polka.” The floor practically shakes.

Juilliard Dance in the final tableau of Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces
Rosalie O'Connor
Juilliard Dance in the final tableau of Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces
John Scott’s Fall and Recover
Chris Nash
John Scott’s Fall and Recover


Juilliard Dances Repertory
Peter J. Sharp Theater
March 23 through 27
Irish Modern Dance Theatre: Fall and Recover Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa
March 25 through April 9

It’s exciting to see these talented young dancers take the everyday ritual of classes into a higher domain.


A woman sitting on a white chair in La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre is telling a story, without hesitation or pauses, in an African language I don’t understand. From time to time, she chants in a high voice. Beside her sits a woman from a European country. Neither looks at the other, but from time to time, the second woman nods her head, as if she understands. After a while, she begins to echo the seemingly unconscious gestures the first woman uses as she speaks. In the program for John Scott’s Fall and Recover, neither of these women, Kiribu and Nina, reveals her last name or the name of the country where she has family. What they have in common, aside from performing in this work, are histories of pain.

In 2003, Scott, the director and principal choreographer of Dublin’s Irish Modern Dance Theatre, was invited to teach a workshop at the Centre for the Care of Survivors of Torture (CCST) for people who have experienced “the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering for a specific purpose” (the UN definition of torture). Ten of the 12 performers who came to New York to perform Fall and Recover are among the many clients of CCST with whom Scott has since worked (the other two dancers, assistant choreographers Aisling Doyle and Philip Connaughton, are members of IMDT). They sought asylum in Ireland and are now Irish citizens.

No one could call Fall and Recover “victim art”; no terrible stories are told or re-enacted. It’s a plotless dance whose images convey surviving and starting over with the support of others. And finding joy and release in movements, many of which derive from what emerged in workshop and rehearsal improvisations.

The simple acts of standing with one’s back to the wall or falling onto a heap of bodies explode with a variety of meanings. So does a moment in which Sebastiao Mpembele Kamalandua, a large, impressive man, stands and breathes powerfully, as if he had concentrate everything he had on the action. So too does a passage early on in which performers—all wearing white clothing—draw houses and huts on the white paper covering the floor and connect the dwellings with snaking trails; then they rip up the paper and toss it wildly around. For a few moments, Kiribu in her chair is stranded on a tiny white island on the now dark floor, while others gather up the scraps and carry them offstage. All that time, slender, graying Haile Tkabo stands making grave, slow gestures to the sky that are full of feeling.

One of the most moving things about Fall and Recover is the way Scott’s choreography emphasizes the potency of community as a healing act through devices like having people gradually join to build unison actions, form patterns together, carry one another, hold hands. In these activities, they are supported by shifting lighting and the sensitive music supplied by performer-composer Rossa O’Snodaigh, who sits to one side with his guitar, a tiny bugle, various percussion instruments, and a little music box.

For one beautiful passage, Elizabeth Suh stands against a wall at the back, sliding down it into a sitting position, pushing herself back up, sliding down again, while O’Snodaigh surrounds her with ringing tones and deep, bass notes. When she’s finally stable, the five other women approach, one by one, and paste themselves to her in a clump that they then draw out into a line; together they raise their arms high.

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