Full and Empty
"Dances at Wave Hill" opened in early July with a true extravaganza, as Sara Pearson/Patrik Widrig and Company took over the rambling waterside estate for A Curious Invasion. A series of variations on the deployment of bodies, water, and light, it consisted of 13 "installations" nestled into naturally theatrical crannies on the Bronx site, bookended by ensemble sections.
Water poured from sprinklers, was dumped from buckets, and flowed in an arresting historical film clip of ice cutters working a raging river. A cascade refracted sunlight into a stunning rainbow. A man in a huge plastic skirt cuddled with a refrigerator-size block of ice. A trio of dancers semaphored to one another from boats marooned on the grass. Dressed mostly in red for high visibility on the greenswards, the 18 performers repeated their variations over and over for close to an hour, so strolling viewers could attend at leisure. Pearson in elegant velvet, tumbling with Widrig on a broad lawn, evoked nothing so much as a 1947 version of Kitty Carlisle Hart, a vision abetted by the terrific swing music echoing from speakers all around, with different ensembles dancing to the same tunes. In over a decade of watching Wave Hill events, I've never had such a good time. Elizabeth Zimmer
South Africa's neotraditional music sensation Amampondo made its long-awaited New York debut (La Guardia Concert Hall, July) on a bill with Senegal pop superstar Cheikh Lo and his N'Diguel Band. Lo indulges folks climbing onstage to boogie to his compelling pan-diasporic blends. Amampondo comes well equipped with its own dancers, thank you. Vocalists Lungiswa Plaatjies and Thembi Kubheka moved ample hips and torsos in opposing orbits and snaked or pumped their arms to heady, pelting rhythms, sometimes joined by the more delicately waist-twisting background singer Nomfundo Mayekiso. Often one would dash from her mic and break loose, slits up her long blue skirt affording freedom of movement. Musicians in majestic feathers and face paint also danced and did back flips or other acrobatics. Midnight approached, the show running way late, but who cared? Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Stanton Welch is a hot property in contemporary ballet, and regional companies like the newly reconstituted Fort Worth Dallas Ballet (Joyce Theater, June) pay big bucks to acquire his works. But why? A more spiritless piece than his Fingerprints, whose African score was the excuse for lots of bombastic, anti-musical rolling around, is hard to imagine. Kevin O'Day's neoclassical-chic Principia, set to Steve Martland's blurting saxophones, did show the energetic dancers to excellent effect. They pushed each other over, careening in parallel lines, then discovered fifth position; a duet for two men had a film noir glamour (the women wore brown hot pants). With a charming performance of Peter Anastos's Jerome Robbins send-up Yes, Virginia, Another Piano Ballet, the company ended a program which, in its wish to celebrate a contemporary ballet that does nothing new, left fine dancers like Mariano Albano reaching for a richness that just wasn't there. Alicia Mosier
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