Out with a bang!

Fall for Dance - Program 6
Streb Extreme Action; ASzURe & Artists; Ballet Boyz/George Piper Dances; Odile Duboc—Contre Jour/CCN de Franche-Comté à Belfort; Jason Samuels Smith’s A.C.G.I.
City Center
New York, NY
October 7, 2006

By Susan Reiter
Copyright 2006 by Susan Reiter

The third Fall for Dance Festival closed with its most taut, consistently interesting program, one that admirably served the intention of providing a diverse sampling of the wide range of dance options available. Classical ballet was not represented, and there was no established modern dance of Graham/Taylor/Limon stature, but there was much that provided both kinetic excitement as well as food for thought.

There was even a selection that, by general consensus, felt too short — Aszure Barton’s two sections from her 2002 “Mais We” really left ‘em wanting more. The sheer luxuriant juiciness of the movement, the deft timing, the mesmerizing way she tapped into the rhythms of the music — all this sped by too fast, and left one hoping she might bring back the full work (see Mindy Aloff’s Letter from New York, DVT 12/23/03). Of course, Barton has been quite busy in the intervening six years, producing choreography for her own troupe, commissions for Baryshnikov, and even making dances for Broadway’s “Three Penny Opera” revival.

In this all-too-brief sampling, three shirtless men in black pants sank into deep wide plies and moved with slippery deftness to the rich, open harmonies of the Italian female vocal group Faraualla. Then 11 dancers in black jackets and pants (the women wore bras) slinked and bounced in a cluster to the insinuating pulse of a Paul Simon song. They broke apart into nimble, ever-surprising individual activity that gradually, almost imperceptibly, brought them back into their close formation, this time facing upstage. Even though what we saw clearly incorporated great precision and thoughtful spatial design, it all resonated with terrific spontaneity.

Also representing the city’s local dance scene was Streb Extreme Action, which offered three sections from the rousing, if sometimes smug, “Streb vs. Gravity” program that had its premiere at July’s Lincoln Center Festival. There, the audience sat in steeply raked rows and looked down on an enclosed space that was smartly arranged to include separate areas for the various equipment pieces used in each section. Here, the performers had the wide-open stage and seemed to loom above us.

In “Tip,” as the first of six dancers began mounting the huge half-disc that rocked smoothly from side to side, they seemed poised at the edge of peril. But as they found various ways to launch themselves onto and off of the flat pathway at its top — in twos, threes, as tag teams and eventually all six at a time, the focus became less the thrill of danger, and more the calm, almost hypnotic way the timed their moved to the back-and-forth swaying, sustaining their equilibrium proudly even when the set piece tilted almost upright. At times, when all six stood in profile, they could have been sailors scanning the horizon

In Terry Dean Bartlett’s brief but impressive solo “Spin,” he hung from a baling hook, incorporating a gymnasts skills to create beautiful, serene shapes in the air, including completely inverted positions. The final section was “Moon,” one of the most ravishing and mind-bending from the full show. As dancers in white slithered across, up, down and in every possible direction along a square waxed surface, their frictionless moves were also projected on a screen as though viewed from overhead, so that they appeared to be fish skimming through water and float free of all gravitational logic. Streb really maximizes the possibilities here, creating such delightful images as a staircase of bodies with each dancer seeming to stand balanced on the hand of the one “below.”

In small doses Streb’s work really packs a punch, even if it is still accompanied by the pretentiously arty/intellectual projections that appeared between and during each piece. This brief compendium of her extreme investigations, each enhanced by well-chosen atmospheric scores, certainly got the evening off to a bracing start.

Three sections excerpted from Russell Maliphant’s extended duet “Torsion” brought the Ballet Boyz (more officially known as George Piper Dancers) back to New York for the first time since their 2003 debut. Performed by company founders Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, it certainly drew on the control and precision of their Royal Ballet backgrounds, but it was more of a moody movement study of isolation giving way to interdependence. Dressed in simple dark tank tops and pants, they began in separately delineated areas of bleak light, performing hypnotic, almost ritualistic repetitive moves. Each appeared to be in an utterly private world, unaware of the other. Gradually they drew closer, exploring the possibilities of connection, engaging in smooth, cantilevered lifts. Between the dancers powerful concentration, the bleak lighting and Michael English’s hypnotic music, it all took on a somewhat eerie tone, insinuating at hidden dangers.

Odile Duboc’s “boléro, one” was mystifyingly obtuse. Eleven dancers in white were arrayed around the stage in seemingly everyday positions — one talking animatedly on a cell phone, some seated. Here and there a couple would exchange in a brief, almost unintentional lift, but overall there was an air of anticipation and suspended animation. This went on for quite a while, accompanied by recorded murmurings and snatches of conversation, as though someone had taped the sounds of intermission chatter. Once the very faint strains of Ravel’s “Bolero” began to be heard, they formed towlines and faced off, shifting into more animated but oddly bland, sullen activity. The dancers’ introspective presentation added to the aimlessness of the proceedings, which drew to a highly inconclusive end. The varied all-white costumes at least inspired some attention: one person had the look of a dental hygienist, while two of the women looked ready to step out on a tennis court. Duboc’s troupe had just presented a full evening here at the Alliance Francaise, which included another of the three sections of the complete work, “trios boleros.” Perhaps seeing all three performed in context would shed more light on the intent of this one.

The evening came to a sensational close with another it-should-have-gone-on-longer segment: the six talented and wonderfully engaging tap dancers of Jason Samuels Smith’s A.C.G.I. The initials stand for “anybody can get it,” and this audience certainly did. These tappers are both light on their feet and capable of breaking into dense polyrhythms. There was no attitude or deliberate funkiness, just a delightfully natural presentation of bold, inventive tapping. JoJo Smith provided the expert percussion sounds that launched their flurries of brilliance. Samuels has already been attracting a lot of attention and judging from his performing here – he has some of the debonair elegance of Gregory Hines, and the adventurous dexterity of Savion Glover, with whom he has studied and performed — he deserves it.

Photos, from top:
Aszure Barton. Photo: Liz Magic Laser
Elizabeth Streb Extreme Action.
The Ballet Boyz (Michael Nunn and William Trevitt) in Russell Maliphant's "Torsion." Photo: Stephanie Berger.
Odile Duboc's "boléro, one." Photo: Florian Tiedge.
Jason Samuels Smith's A.C.G.I. performs "Peace of Mind." Photo: Stephanie Berger

Volume 4, No. 36
October 9, 2006

copyright ©2006 Susan Reiter



©2006 DanceView