Monday, October 24, 2005

ODC/San Francisco

I'll start by saying that these dancers are very athletic.

Featuring the entire company, three pieces were performed:
- RingRoundRozi
- 24 Exposures
- On a Train Heading South

I saw this dance company at the Joyce on October 16th. With RingRoundRozi, the dancers are already onstage and the music starts with the sounds of little children who sound like they are playing together. Those sounds gradually fade to music composed by Linda Bouchard.

The syncronization of the dancers was onpoint. The lifts (in some cases women were lifting men) were very strong and at times during fast dance sequences.

Their second movement used the sounds of a violin. The third used music which (in my opinion) was hard to keep count to but this performance was seamless. It was exhausting watching it actually because the dancing was so intense and the expression on the dancers' faces showed that they were taking it seriously and were focused. What I liked also about this piece was when at points when a couple was on stage (with or without additional dancers), they would do a sequence of moves across the stage which would bring in another couple. Not like that's something new in dance, it was noticible and well done here.

24 Exposures was a nice piece. The opening had people on the edge of the seat not wanting to breath too hard! The women were in sundresses which matched color with their male dance partner who were in khais and tanktops.A guy on all fours at centerstage with a wman standing on his back, he slowly begins to stand (a few "Shh's" come from the audience) and you can see some of the dancers standing to the sides of the stage with anxious looks. The woman starts to shake a bit as she trys to maintain her balance. They both make it!! She's standing on his back and he's standing (with his lowerbacked arched to support her). The audience applauds and the dancers begin their performance. The woman leaps backward off his back and lands on her back in the arms of 2 guys. Talk about trust! Through out the performance, there were several instances of falling back into a guy or gilr's arms (though not from the height at the beginning).

The second movement of this piece included incredible lifts and spins at fast and furious speeds (music used were of string instruments).

The third movement was very mellow. It started with a woman dancing alone on stage with a big grin on her face for about 2 minutes. five guys then come on stage at a diaginal until they get to centerstage. Once there they carefully do numerous ballet moves in place while other women gradually get on stage and are playfully trying to distract the guys. After a few minutes everyone is dancing with so much energy-spinning, running, lifting, and having a good time. The piece comes to an abrupt and interesting end with four women (with the help of three guys in a way being used as stands) show the still shots of a woman who would be leaping into the air.

The final piece of their performance is called On a Train heading South. Here the music uses a piano and large blocks of ice hang in a semi arch with a light on each of them. Of course the light causes the ice to being to melt and drip water on the stage during the performance. The music also includes snippets of pop music such as "Toxic" from Britney Spears and sound bytes from Bush and the sounds go back to instrumental.

The dancers don't dance under the melting ice until towards the end of the performance. The mood changes towards the end. A woman in front stage center continuously draws a semi circle with her hand making eye contact with the audience while two guys are dancing with each other across the stage and are all wet (pants soaled through from all the water on the stage). Three women in the back of stage right are doing various poses on the floor. The music becomes so soft that you can begin to hear the drops of water from the hanging ice hit the stage. Then the lights fade to black.

Well done folks!!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Jennifer Muller/The Works

This time around, I saw Jennifer Muller/The WORKS at the Joyce Theater. Well this was the first time I have a seen a screen curtain used to its fullest potential-of sorts. 'Flowers' (the first piece of this performance) were shown as stills and the image changed to other flowers of moved along a close up of a still while we can see the dancers performing-very interesting. There was only one flower shown at a time and made me wonder why only one was shown at a time instead of two or a bunch? I guess not to distract from the lackluster dance. Also what annoyed me with the music/choreography was that the dance used the same tempo of the music but not the same rhythm-why? That threw me off.

This piece was in 5 movements which mostly featured the company except for #2. Now I came in about 5 minutes late after the start of movement 1 and my attention was focused mostly on the use of the screen than on the dancers-shame on me. But I got my bearings once the 2nd movement started. Number 2 featured a couple...nothing took my breath away about this one. The sloppiness of some of the lifts and trying to figure out the connection between these flower images with the choreography and music was where my mind was at.

In the end, the dancers for those various movements changed their pants which as designed, extended their fluid footwork. The costumes chosen were a nice and simple compliment to the piece.

The 3rd movement had upbeat music-again nothing special happening here.

The 4th had a slower tempo, was more relaxed with subtle sounds of rustling trees...and their pants were green.

The 5th (with red pants) had tribal beats but the movements were too fluid therefore this section of "flowers" seemed disjointed. At this point the close up of the flowers on the screen were no longer adding to the work.

The next piece was "Island". It started with a perhaps 3 minute film of horses playing on a beach then the screen disappears. The sounds of running horses and the water continue in and out throughout the performance. A dancer comes out doing several horse inspired movements like stomping their feet/hooves. More dancers come out and I notice that their pants are brown and "Aladdin" like with the extra fabric at their thighs and tighter by their legs. The music changes a few minutes into this and gone also are the horse movements-yippee. There was one part in this which used ocean sounds with upbeat beats-that woke me up a bit...

...Maybe it's my craving for a snack that's preventing me from fully enjoying this. At the beginning of the piece with the horse movements, the costume made sense. As the music changed and the dance changed, the dancers should have also changed clothes because the Aladdin pants took away from the choreography. Other than that (note the piece ended with the same dancer in the beginning doing the horse movements and then the lights were down) a thought came to mind. There are several elements to a dance performance (in no order of importance): the costume, the music, the setting (if applicable), and the choreography. So far, I see the elements not working together. They would work well is separated (ie the music played with no dance, the dancers performed with no music). That would go over better with me than how it was playing out. Again perhaps it's the craving talking. Oh, and to add to the horse garb, the horse dancers had wigs to slightly imitate a horses mane as they whipped their heads around as they stomped their feet-just thought I throw that in.

OK, now on to their last piece titled "Speeds". The dancers are dressed in all white. They wind across the stage, first walking vvvveeeerrrryyyyy slowly, then pick up the pace to a fast walk as they get to the back of the stage. The last two dancers in the line stay on the stage and begin to dance. The first piece of music sounds like a track that is playing while being fastforwarded. The second piece of music sounds like old school Nintendo video game music--oh geez....There was a piece in the middle of all this with a couple and so far (and ultimately) was the highlight of the entire show. The music was not trying to do too much and I could really get into the beauty of the piece (wow there was really potential here). I was happy for those few minutes and no longer tempted to walk out. Another couple performed to the sounds of that video game music-not much to say there.

Throughout this piece, dancers shouted the word "Change" which signaled a change in the choreography.

There was a place too where a woman wearing a sundress and sunhat walked across the stage from the back of stage right toward a spotlight at the front of stage left. She then kneeled in the direction she came from. There was no music-and she didn't move. I (and I'm sure others in the audience) thought there was something wrong with the track. There was silence and no movement for about a minute and then she casually walked off stage right...OK then.

Now granted the place wasn't sold out like other performances I've been to at during the last 3 days of its run at the Joyce (already a glimpse of the dullness to be displayed) but the applause wasn't that enthused. Perhaps some people enjoyed the performance while some others were happy it was over. I was the latter but wasn't compelled to clap at all.

Next performance to be reviewed on November 13th: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: Once

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Hubbard Street Dance Company

Welcome to my first blog!

With this being the first, allow me to set the scene for this review. I get tickets to Joyce Theater performances weeks if not months in advance and arbitrarily picking what performance I want to see based on their descriptions in the catalog. OK, I'm a native New Yorker and there is no better artistic city than here. So while I would like to keep an open mind regarding the performance of a dance company from outside of New York-that doesn't quite work-I expect on OK performance with higher expectations set for performances from New York based companies. Well let me say that the performance I saw last night made me want to jot down my thoughts in the Playbill during the pauses and intermission and want to run home to create this blog. The Hubbard Street Dance Company is a must see. They are performing at the Joyce through August 20th.

Yesterday's performance was Program A which featured:

SF/LB (New York Premiere),
Gimme (New York Premiere),
Love Stories (New York Premiere), and
GNAWA (New York Premiere)
As the performances went on, the more impressed I became with the company. So let's start with SF/LB by choreographer Daniel Ezralow.

The ensemble opened the show in silhouette, then as the lights came on, I see they are dressed in suits and ties facing the audience. Split into three rows they jumped in their place and over the next several minutes the lines merged together then split apart again (still jumping) as the ensemble start jumping to the side, around each other back and forth and every-which-way then more choreography is eased in with spins, more interaction between dancers, and dancers rolling around on the floor. The group starts to break up and come on in pairs, smaller groups and such. Then you notice when a dancer appears on the stage again, their tie is off, then after another few minutes, the jackets come off. Towards the end of the piece the cast comes back together on stage, jumping resumes with a smaller portion of choreography and then it ends with the dancers collapsing to the ground.

From the audience there was scattered giggling. It was amusing and intriguing...couldn't help but imagine the people I encounter wearing suits jumping in their place on that stage like little kids. Now that I think about, having that dynamic may have been meant to take those 'stuffy' business types and have them act like kids with all the energy in the world and just having fun-enough fun that they collapse in exhaustion...very interesting Daniel!

Now Gimme with choreography by Lucas Crandall:

For the first two minutes or so, there's no music and the two dancers are on center stage in silhouette both holding on to the ends of a string. He pulls, she stumbles back then goes back to her starting position. He pulls again and she reacts the same way. He pulls again, she stiffens up. He pulls again and she doesn't react and the dance begins. Since the first few minutes there's no music, their squeaky boots are the course of sound as they stomp and maneuver their way around the stage. The lights slowly come on and the music starts which is a string instrumental. At several points in the performance either one of the dancers lets go of the string then recaptures it. The piece ends as the dancer sit front stage center facing each other, both with the ends of the string in their months (the guy was doing most of the chewing) as the string becomes more taunt. Closer and closer they become and he pulls her in for a kiss-then the lights go out. It was a sweet rendition of the memorable spigitte scene from "Lady and the Tramp."

Here's Love Stories with choreographer Lar Lubovitch:

To the sounds of jazz music, this is the story of love told in 5 movements from the realization of how important and special it is to how it can hurt when it doesn't work out. The first movement starts with the cast of three couples dancing together in a circle-nothing special happening-and then a male dancer dressed in white enters and does his thing to the interpretation of the lyrics of "Nature Boy" by Tobin Del Cuore and Ensemble. This when the couples realize how important love is and exit which begins the 3 movements that feature each of the 3 couples all of which starts and ends with the couple center stage with a spotlight on them. I liked out the movements were only a few minutes long otherwise that would have been a lot to sit through. It was enough to pay attention and appreciate the lyrics of the song and the dancers and still look forward to the next movement.

The 2nd movement with the music of "The More I Have You" by Charlaine Katsuyoshi and Jay Franke (a still is in the picture above) is very energetic and lovely. About half way through their performance, the woman is center stages striking flirty poses as the guy dances around her. This performance had a very innocent and sweet feel.

The 3rd movement was to the music of "Prelude to a Kiss" by Cheryl Mann and Patrick Simoniello. The choreography for this piece was very intimate/sensual as well as clean and simple. Like the first two movements, the dance interpreted the lyrics very well. The guy was a bit sloppy at one point when he was preparing to lift her (and note I was in the last row of the theater) I heard his hand slap her leg-geez I felt that. And there was a point then they were to interlock their arms with their backs to each other and that took an additional attempt. Besides that, it was well done.

The 4th movement was to the music of "Everytime We Say Goodbye" by Taryn Kaschock and Issac Spencer. It starts with the impression that the couple has just (or about to ) break up. Slowly they walk to each other and begin to dance. The choreography is very subtle and poignant since I just broke up with a guy. It ends with the two dancers center stage with the spotlight on them. The guy holds out his hand, the woman hesitates but then extends her hand to meet his but snaps his hand back and walks away, she's then alone on stage and starts to crouch to the follow shaking-a very interesting sequence.

The music used for the last movement was "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" by Tobin Del Cuore and Ensemble. "Nature Boy" begins this last movement and one by one, the couple join him on stage. Everyone seems happy and in a way, grateful to the guy in white. Though towards the end the couples are in three corners of the stage with "Nature Boy" in the center. The couples are in an embrace...then the guys walk away while the women remain in their positions. One by one, the woman unfreeze and dance with guy in white then exit the stage. When the last woman exits, the guy ends up in center stage, on his knees with the spotlight on him. Very interesting piece in a way saying, all good things must come to an end.

Lastly, there's GNAWA with choreography by Nacho Duato:

In a word, this was incredible. I loved the music used for this "Ma 'bud Allah" written by Hassan Hakmoun and Adam Rudolph. GNAWA is in three movements.

In the first, the cast in on stage with two in the middle (woman and man) in different costume 'gliding' through the cast straight to the back of the stage and behind the curtain to the sound of a stream. Then the beautiful beats begin and the cast starts the choreography very well coordinated to the beats.

The second movement features those two dancers that glided off stage at the beginning of the piece to the sounds of a stream. That same sound is used as their intro and exit for this movement. The music used is a bit more mellow as they dance together.

In the last piece, the cast one by one brings out a candle in a beautiful holder and slowly places their candles along the edge of the stage. The energetic music used in the first piece plays again and the two dancers from the previous movement again appear and disappear behind the back stage curtain. As the piece was concluding, the thought that came to mind was that the precision of the dancers and the beats of the music was reminiscent of Alvin Ailey and I consider that a great compliment. This piece was truly breathtaking and draws you in where it feels like a minute has gone by and you haven't blinked. The audience roared in applause at the conclusion of this piece and gave the dancers a standing ovation--well deserved!

Here's the tour schedule for the rest of 2005 and 2006

Next dance performance to be reviewed: Jennifer Muller/THE WORKS October 1st