Performing Arts: Dance
August 9, 2016
The week of August 1 st marked American Dance Festival’s New York City presenting debut at The Joyce Theater, opening its run with the captivating Russian performance group, Provincial Dances Theatre. Under the innovative artistic direction of choreographer Tatiana Baganova, Provincial Dances Theatre began in 1990 as one of the first avant-garde performing groups in post-reform Russia. Now, over 25 year later, the company has built a repertoire of 25 productions, an array of “independent dance/movement miniatures,” and an internationally renowned reputation.

The program featured two contemporary works, each earning the audience’s awe and attention in their own right. Baganova’s choreographic voice is clear in both, hinging on fluid phrases, punctuated by bouts of full-bodied movement, and ultimately grounded in intense theatricality. No narrative is present; Baganova appears to favor the abstract and intentionally push the bizarre and disconnected.

“Maple Garden” is haunting from the start. Flashes of light highlight a dancer perched atop a tree branch upstage, as the whistles and hushed animal sounds (Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung and the Moscow Art Trio) consume. The dancers don white clown-like face paint and warm-toned costumes (by Olga Pautova and Viktoriya Mozgovaya). They quickly prove their competence as dance technicians, but also theatrical performers. Recurring gestural phrases, soft bobbing, and rapid unraveling movement ensue. In particular, Aleksandra Stoliarova stands out in her delivery.

And yet, it’s the sporadic, theatric encounters that rise to the forefront—perhaps due to their unabashed peculiarity that is nothing short of memorable. A lone performer scurries across the stage, trapped in a butterfly net. A male dancer bites and pulls a string from his partner’s mouth, skirt, and top. Each time, another cuts the string with a pair of scissors, triggering an eruption of laughter. Later the women find themselves tied to the tree by their hair, succumbing to a rag-doll type fate. By the end, it’s as though we’ve witnessed some sort of mysterious and scrambled up folk tale.

The 2010 work, “Sepia” closes the double bill. Inspired by the atmosphere described in Kobo Abe’s book, “Woman in the Dunes,” a monochromatic tone defines all production elements, from Nin Idrikson’s soft lighting to Anastasia Sokolova’s sand-colored costumes and large hourglasses suspended above the dancer’s heads.

The movement carries this quality as well. It’s largely sensual, complementing the slow, lingering sounds of Avet Terteryan’s “Symphony No. 8.” However, the hallmark of this work, becomes the use of the hourglasses. Each is opened one by one, releasing a waterfall of sand that the dancers slide through, whip from their hair, and even bathe in. The work is an image of time elapsing and it’s truly alluring in visual effect.

Of note, though not surprise, is that Baganova holds the Golden Mask award – the most highly regarded national theater award in Russia – for both of these works.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

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