Men’s Stories opens a two-week run Tuesday at Orensanz Cultural Center, the picturesque, decaying former synagogue on the Lower East Side. “I wanted to get out of proscenium theater,” says prolific creator Lar Lubovitch, who’s won acclaim choreographing The Red Shoes on Broadway and a spectacular three-act Othello for American Ballet Theatre. No stranger to alternative spaces, he showed early work in downtown lofts that later became Dance Theater Workshop and LaMaMa Annex.
Lubovitch intends, in this evening-length ballet, to reveal the inner personalities of its nine male performers. “I chose dancers who had a story to tell, not literally, but kinetically.” He believes people’s entire life experience is embodied in their dancing. “Whenever I watch dancers, there’s a subtext that reveals who they really are; they carry the past with them.” He’s tapped the companies of Stephen Petronio, Alvin Ailey, David Parsons, Twyla Tharp, and ABT as well as his own troupe for his distinguished cast. “I was looking for seasoned dancers who could maintain their individuality, even while dancing in a group.” For music, he explains, “We’ve ‘ruined’ Beethoven—in a beauteous way—ripped it open.” Music by composer Scott Marshall, inserted into a matrix of Beethoven’s third and fifth piano sonatas, helps illuminate the solos and duets.
Lubovitch typically creates lush lyrical movement that evokes audiences’ emotions but doesn’t expose his own. At 57, he’s “proud of every gray hair,” and finally willing to risk baring his soul. “I like to push myself artistically,” he says. “This is probably the most personal work I’ve done.” Critics have both adored and execrated his past work, but “I’ve survived,” he muses philosophically. “What have I got to lose?”