Performing Arts: Dance
October 16, 2017
The line up for the last Fall for Dance program 2017 delivered an interesting mix of balletic and contemporary offerings. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Solo Echo (2012) by Chrystal Pite started out with the usual dark stage, a man in black standing in a spotlight, and snow-like confetti drifting down from the rafters above him. As soon as the dancers began to move, one forgave these clichés, awed by their athletic, cat-like fierceness and grace.

Pite’s signature movement of mass groups that flow from one end to another and then freeze into simultaneously amorphous and architectural configurations were punctuated by solos and duets of astonishing contemporary virtuosity. But what separated this from other similar contemporary works was the powerfully human feeling that released through the dancing. This is not your distant, aloof strain of contemporary dancing; rather, it embodied the mournful Brahms music, infusing the movement with an unexpected humanity and drama.

Helgi Tomasson’s Concerto Grosso (2003) initially appeared antiquated by comparison, with four sincere and well-groomed men, wearing solid bright-colored unitards, dancing classical ballet steps in simple configurations to baroque music. Yet as each dancer appeared in a solo tailored to his abilities, we get to know each one, won over by their skill and charm. Concert Grosso ends up being an enjoyable and tasteful showcase of the talented men of San Francisco Ballet.

We have missed David Hallberg in New York – he just recently returned home after a debilitating injury and several years recovering abroad. Mark Morris’ well-worn humor in Twelve of ‘em (a 2017 FFD commission) made a little meditation of Hallberg’s classicism. He starts out in a perfect fifth position, wearing a short Grecian tunic – one has to think of Balanchine’s Apollo – but then he shot out a tendu (extended leg with the toe on the floor), with stiff arms, looking straight down: quite the opposite of the heavenly deportment we’re used to seeing from him. He continued to dance short intricate sequences and then walks around, wiping the sweat off his face. Although initially clever (Colin Flower, on the piano, wears a hoodie, and has a coffee cup on the piano), the silliness wears thin pretty quickly.

In Matria Etnocentra (2015), Danza Contemporanea de Cuba blew a hole through our stereotypical expectations of Cuban dancing as joyful, free, and erotic, by presenting a work where a large group of dancers moved as one, in militaristic fashion, with deadpan looks that bordered on seething. The khakis and combat boots, later with primary colored dresses and shirts pulled over them, did little to assuage the feeling of anxiety. The aggressive dancing to ominous electronic house music (by Nacional Electronica) was a mix of hip hop and other popular movement, as well as marching, running, and martial art-type moves, that called forth ideas about freedom vs. repression, individuality vs. community, government action and power to the people. An unexpected Cuban contemporary dance with a political edge, was a surprise and a call to think about our shifting relations.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY-- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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