Theater archives

New York City’s Dance Menu Serves Up Vivid Global Variety


Lucky us, living in a town featuring cuisines from around the world, to say nothing of delectable gastronomic fusions. The New York dance scene is much like this. Noche Flamenca, performing at the Lucille Lortel, prides itself on the purity of its flamenco music and dance. Refusing gloss and gimmicks, the group deftly delivers the genre’s specialty—intimate encounters with love and death. This little troupe, directed by Martin Santangelo, is very good. Its star, Soledad Barrio, is something else entirely. You can anatomize her extraordinary technique: her rhythmic acuity, her sense of sculptural contrapposto, and her ferocious energy; the snake-like coiling of her arms and hands and the fusillade effect of her feet. But the element that makes her great is psychic. She can access the deepest, most primal feelings and project them directly to her audience. Impelled by will and imagination, she turns herself into an engine of arousal and destruction. She makes you think of the great tragediennes, of legendary heroic women immolating themselves for their convictions. Her vehicle may be dancing, but her function is to make you see what life is really like.

Black Burlesque (revisited), recently at Dance Theater Workshop, is a fusion item celebrating the rich transformations African music and dance have experienced in their cross-cultural encounters. The Reggie Wilson Fist & Heel Performance Group (based in New York), the Noble Douglas Dance Company (from Trinidad), and Black Umfolosi (from Zimbabwe) collaborated on the creation of this infectiously joyous show, which proves that distinctive ingredients need not be diminished or obscured when they meet and mix. Here, too, the sacred and the secular inform each other mutually, and dance and music seem to become a single art built on pulse and breath.