Fall For Dance Starts Off Kicking

Fall for Dance – Program 2
Stephen Petronio Company; nathantrice/Rituals; Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie; Compagnie Franck II Louise; Paul Taylor Dance Company
City Center
New York, NY
October 1, 2006

by Susan Reiter
copyright ©2006 by Susan Reiter

For the first time, the Fall for Dance Festival includes matinees (each Sunday afternoon offering a repeat of the Saturday evening program), and City Center was filled with plenty of very young audience members as well as a representative sampling of every other age group. This second program was notably “in your face,” offering plenty of dance that was fast, fierce, wild — even extreme. Toe shoes have yet to put in an appearance on the first two programs, but with New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre coming up on the next two programs, that should be amended shortly.

All the works on this second program were created between 1987 and 2000, so while nothing was brand-new, one could look at it as a sampling of what choreographers were up to during the last years of the twentieth century. Bodies whipping at warp speed or twisting nimbly, in a variety of settings and tones, were notably emphasized, while dramatic implications were downplayed in favor of the sheer exhilaration of movement.

The lashing limbs and spiraling jumps of Stephen Petronio’s 1995 “Lareigne” looked especially fine in the spacious setting of City Center. Although Gino Grenek’s swift, gravity-defying solo set the tone, the company’s sleek, Amazonian quintet of women then dominated the proceedings, maintaining an air of cool hauteur as they darted and sliced through space, trailing the loose white chiffon edges of Manolo’s costumes behind them.

It was very much a man’s world when Compagnie Franck II Louise, a French ensemble making its U.S. debut, used virtuosic hip-hop moves to animate a dark, brooding sci-fi world in an excerpt form “Drop It!” The curtain rose on figures that looked like a blend of medieval knights, Darth Vader and astronauts. The men’s heavy costumes (actually cleverly designed to look heavier and more obstructive than they were) featured breastplates, curved conical helmets with visors, and their feet were covered in the kinds of boots a haz-mat team might sport. Yet they were able to move, in a robotic version of popping and locking, hinging at their joints and holding their arms stiffly angled, or moonwalking with slippery abandon as spotlights isolated them eerily and a loud, aggressive electronic score pounded out a beat.

One man was bare-headed and immobile; he activated himself only to cartwheel himself offstage. Meanwhile the remaining four escaped from portions of their restrictive gear, letting loosened portions dangle. Two helmet-free men then virtuosically (and seemingly bonelessly) maneuvered their way out of layers of costumes as they swiveled and spun through floor moves, and finally the quintet, now bare-chested and much more recognizable human than at the start, slip-slided through more funky moves that suggested social dance blended with martial arts, winding up with one at the center spinning away on his head as though he could go one forever, while the others turned in place around him.

Franck II Louise was both choreographer and composer for “Drop It!,” which premiered in 2000. What at first seemed heavy-handed took on its own dynamic logic and carried the audience, which gave it a roaring ovation, along with its blend of physical prowess and ominous implications.

James Kudelka’s “15 Heterosexual Duets” dates from 1991 and has been performed in its entirety when Toronto Dance Theater, for which it was created, came to the Joyce. On this program, Montreal’s Coleman Lemieux Compagnie offered the first five duets, which succeed each other in overlapping continuity to the impassioned first movement of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata. There are no happy couples here, just one pair after another seemingly in extremis, wrapping and grappling in strenuous, relentless angst. Kudelka seemed to have packed each moment as densely as possible, with only a few moments of respite. What is presumably intended as earnest and intense soon begins to look a bit ridiculous. The dancers did include some familiar veterans (Sylvain Lafortune, Anik Bissonette) as well as Victor Quijada, the increasingly busy choreographer.

An oasis of reflective calm was created on the program by Nathan Trice’s “Prophet and Betrayer,” created in 2000 but receiving its New York premiere. Trice, bare-chested and in white pants, loomed upstage and began fluidly gliding through a supple, mesmerizing blend of African and modern movement, advancing towards a small figure who sat folded over downstage, illuminated by golden light. When he lifted his head and began to move, first just his arms, gradually working his way to vertical, he was revealed as Michael J. Walters, an amazingly poised and focused 11-year-old dancer. He seemed to inspire both fear and reverence from Trice, who veered towards and away form Walters, only occasionally did they dance together. There were suggestions of a father and son or older-and-younger self in their approaches and retreats. Their eloquent performance was well attuned to the familiar atmospheric, shimmering Arvo Part score.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company closed the program in Taylor’s 1987 “Syzygy,” in all its shimmering, explosive glory. Seemingly electrified from their core to their nerve endings, the dancers seemed propelled through space as though effort did not exist, making “energetic” seem like a weak adjective. The teasing split-second timing of Michael Trusnovec and Annmaria Mazzini in their solo moments were special highlights, but everyone captured the explosive, electric fervor of this seemingly impossible choreography, which comes across as an apotheosis of Taylor’s “scribbles.”

Photos, from top:
Stephen Petronio Dance Company. Photo by Sarah Silver for Kate Ryan Inc.
Compagnie Franck II Louise.
Coleman Lemieux Compagnie.

Volume 4, No. 35
October 2, 2006

copyright ©2006 Susan Reiter



©2006 DanceView