Performing Arts: Dance
November 10, 2017
Garth Fagan, who brought his company to the Joyce Theatre to celebrate his 45th company season, has a knack for stillness, as much as for Afro-tinged jauntiness. He trains his dancers to hold seemingly impossible poses, jump and jive with the same ease. No one in his current company, however, could beat Natalie Rogers at this, although Adriene B. Hodge runs a close second. A company member since 1989, a teacher of the Fagan technique worldwide, and Fagan’s choreography assistant for the creation of the Broadway smash “The Lion King,” Rogers radiates an intensity and strength. In her opening solo in “Evidence of Failure” a piece performed to music by Monty Alexander, that premiered in November 2013, this tiny, taut dancer thrust a leg up to a 100 degree angle, held it there like a dog sighting a prey for an absent-minded hunter, while floating her arms asymmetrically with a nonchalance that could be saying (to that hunter) - “don’t rush - take your time…”

No piece on this anniversary program was as joyful and infectious as the closing excerpt from “Translation Transition,” a company piece set to music by Jazz Jamaica All Stars and intriguing costumes by Mary Nemecek Peterson that premiered in November 2002. The dancers were smiling, we were smiling. How could we not? Bessie Winners Steve Humphrey, particularly natural and free, and Norwood Pennewell flew into the space, making this party multi-generational.

Pennewell who provided two choreographies, both NYC premieres: “A Moderate Cease” and “Wecoo Duende” can not be accused of being too literal. The lush concerto of William Walton provides an auralscape in “A Moderate Cease” that counters the pace of the dancers who spark upward and turn like surreal grasshoppers on a lonely plain punctuated by a sole cellist. The music by Doudou N’Diaye Rose Orchestra and Seckou Keita again creates more of a mood, than a conductor in “Wecoo Duende.”

Two images from this program linger for this viewer: a couple moving in a downstage diagonal, while maintaining the stance of a woman’s head lying on the chest of the man whose arm arcs over her head. Another one, equally romantic, is the pause that Fagan takes to let us absorb the harmony of a couple standing in near proximity, sensing each other.

Lutin Tanner provided the lighting design, with original design by C.T. Oakes for “Translation Transition.” Along with Peterson and Fagan, Keiko Voltaire and Zinda Williams costumed the dancers. Vitolio Jeune, Guy Thorne, Wynton Rice, Andrew David O’Brian, Davente Gilreath, Sarah Herbert, Nina Price, Le’Tiger DeAnte’ Walker, and Rishell Maxwell complete the great cast.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers Deirdre Towers

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