Jazz at Lincoln Center Welcomes ballet, modern, tap, and cinder blocks

Both visually and acoustically sophisticated, the new Rose Theater could be a superlative new venue for dance. Too bad its first dance program was a slapdash affair. A debut solo and a 1993 duet by Peter Martins, both to Wynton Marsalis compositions, ranged from dull and derivative to trite. Having a dancer mime incomprehension of the music isn't just cutesy; it's telling. An excerpt from Garth Fagan's 1991 Griot New York managed to draw upon Marsalis's sense of romance while evading cliché, balancing familiar gestures (a leg on a shoulder) with odd ones (a couple rubbing chins). Yet in dodging stereotypes, Fagan resists rhythm—a big sacrifice. In Gauntlet, Elizabeth Streb's gymnasts dodged not stereotypes but swinging cinder blocks, translating rhythm into risky timing. Which, after an inexcusable 40-minute delay, left Savion Glover to clean up. Though his choreography remains spatially meager, Glover's musicality clarified what the evening lacked. And the radiant joy flowing between him and the house band heralded a natural match. Might there be a permanent place in jazz's new temple for tap, its less fortunate sibling?

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