Dance

Dance

Lydia Johnson Dance at the Ailey Citigroup Theater

It was with relief that I greeted the final number on the program. Undercurrent, set to music by Henryk Gόrecki, woke up, enlivening me, the audience at large and also seemingly the dancers who had previously drifted through a series of works that I found bland and somnolent. Undercurrent raised levels of power and energy with repeated prancing steps, first danced by groups of women and later by the company’s men.

Dance

Dance x 3: Ballet Hispanico and Magritte on Hats, Isadora Duncan and the Greeks, Tap as High Art

Two big hits out of three made for a great evening. Sombrerisimo, a total delight, is choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, inspired by the surrealist world of René Magritte who famously painted bowler hats. The work was made originally for an all-male cast; this version turns it upside down with Shelby Colona, Jenna Marie, Eila Valls, Gabrielle Sprauve, Dandara Veiga and Melissa Verdecia pulling off a bravura number.

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Dramatic and innovative, even to the point of changing her name from Angela to something more exotic, Isadora Duncan helped free ballet from restrictions and in doing so became one of the earliest proponents of modern dance. At twenty-one with very little money she sailed on a cattle boat to England and there, at the British Museum, fell  for ancient Greek sculpture in a big way. The result was barefoot young women in skimpy clothing dancing with abandon—which drew huge crowds and lots of attention. 

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Tap dancing was once dismissed as lightweight entertainment, for example Fred Astaire, who delighted zillions of people, great art or not. Then came artists including the astonishing Savion Glover; now there is Dorrance Dance, the company that has won numerous awards for pushing tap rhythmically, technically and conceptually. Founded in 2011 by artistic director Michelle Dorrance who became a MacArthur Fellow in 2015, Dorrance Dance blows the lid off the form. 

Dance

Bach 25 and Star Dust by Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce Theater. Closes March 3.

When the curtain went up on Bach 25, some of the audience gasped as it seemed as though the dancers were nude. Not so—their sculpted, athletic bodies are clad in Christine Darch’s minimal costumes and set off in bronzy lighting by Michael Korsch making them look like living sculpture. The thirty-minute piece passed in an instant as the dancers stretched in thrilling poses, sometimes alone and other moments in twos and threes. This is a very contemporary work with clean line and deep pliés as well as twisting, flickering, arms and hands that lend humor.
Dance

Paradise Not Found: “Utopia” by Valerie Green/Dance Entropy at Danspace Project, St. Mark’s Church

The work asks “what does Utopia mean to you?” The standard definition of Utopia is an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. What I saw was seven dancers, (five women, two men), in vaguely Greek white costumes dancing with long, cylindrical poles.  The dancers gave the premise a good try but the end result was bland. The poles, made by visual artist Keren Anavy, as well as the “rocks” that later became lighted headdresses, took over. The dancing seemed in service to the props so the concept of exploring a “perfect place” got lost in the shuffle. In fairness, there wasn’t much shuffling but rather too many repetitive, unimaginative steps with a few lovely interludes, notably when a man and woman briefly danced a tender pas de deux and later when the troupe ran in place with the poles serving as trees flanking each dancer.
Dance

“Home,” by the Gibney Dance Company at The Theater, November 16, 2018

Both “Imprint Ghosts” and “Menagerie” were world premieres. “Menagerie,” the second piece, is described as a “strange or diverse collection of people or things in a household unit.” It was also said to be made for 6 dancers; 5 roses, 4 FREEDAS, 3 hundred unicorns, 2 co-creators and 1 home. I have no idea what a FREEDA is nor, beyond the dancers, did I see any of the other items. What I observed was a self-indulgent work with a group of dancers in black lace tops moved around with devices that vaguely resembled ironing boards and metal poles. I feared for their safety—might the man who thrust his head through the “machine” get stuck?
Dance

Works & Process Rotunda Project at the Guggenheim: Michelle Dorrance with Nicholas Van Young

A visit to the Guggenheim Museum usually involves walking up or down (I vote for top down) the winding ramp viewing art.  Last night spectators lined the ramps to watch Michelle Dorrance and a group of black-clad performers push wooden platforms across the floor and make sounds by hitting the top of the ramp with sticks—sticks that made sounds but nonetheless sticks.
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