The Julliard School
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
Saturday, March 26, 2016
I’ve seen many professional dance companies that aren’t in a league with what went on at the Saturday evening performance of Julliard Dances Repertory 2016. Many of these young people appear ready to climb down from their student stage and go join the “real” world of dance as I’m sure many will.
My favorite was the second offering, Moves, originally choreographed by Jerome Robbins and premiered in 1959. It’s as contemporary as it could be starting with no music. You hear the dancers’ feet hitting the floor and squeaks of rosin from their shoes — that’s it. You see a series of pieces: an opening and closing pas de deux; a dance for men; a dance for women and a final for the entire cast, all full of athleticism, mischief and musicality. Early on, Hope Dougherty displays upper back strength that’s remarkable, stomach and legs on the stage, upper body lifted into an L that lasts and lasts. The men’s dance includes lots of what would be stretches but these are designed in patterns that grab. The whole was stylish and engaging.
Roses, the first piece, is a Paul Taylor dance with choreography reconstructed by Linda Kent. Two signature moves are palms pressed together moving upwards and somersaults with two dancers nestled together. We also get one handed cartwheels spun through other dancers’ open legs. It’s not gymnastic but spirited and lovely. The women wear long black gowns, the men are in gray until, towards the end, a white-clad couple emerges from the wings. No fireworks, simply a slightly more mature attitude until the dance is over.
The final dance was Symphony of Psalms by Jiři Kylián set to music by Stravinsky. The dancers fall to the ground and rise again, expressing the human will to prevail. At times, their angularity mirrors the hanging red-toned carpets at the rear that sometimes glow with light and are sometimes dimmed. The orchestra, composed of Julliard students conducted by George Manahan, is enhanced by a chorus from Venture(NY) directed by Kent Tritle (but why isn’t the chorus also from Julliard?). According to program notes, the original production featured carpets from flea markets in Holland where the piece premiered in 1978. Everything old looks new again.
The evening was spectacular thanks in part to the youth of all the performers — dancers, singers and orchestra. The dancers are agile and graceful even as they sit and watch one another as called for in some instances. Clearly they are not only innately talented, they are well-trained and rehearsed. Bets on seeing more of these students in future performances on the world’s major stages.