Performing Arts: Dance
October 10, 2016
The fourth installment of Fall for Dance was the least eclectic program of the series, with two contemporary ballets and one work by the revered British ballet choreographer Frederick Ashton. Ailey’s Cry was the decidedly different note, making it a somewhat conservative evening.

Jessica Lang’s Tesseracts of Time (2015), the evening’s most imaginative work, is a New York City Center commission in collaboration with the architect Steven Holl. A quirky meditation on spatial perception and temporality, Lang merges the three-dimensional with video projections onstage, and keeps us constantly guessing about what we see. A bit literal in its melding of dance and architecture, real or projected dancers interact with the “scenery” by sitting, lying on or dancing in or under monumental geometric shapes. At first, the screen is lowered only halfway, with black and white projections of enlarged, concrete structures – cubes, spirals – that are difficult to discern. Underneath, on the darkly lit stage, a group of dancers costumed in black move in unison and vigorously crawl, roll or cartwheel on the floor as others run, leap, and soar superman-style over them, landing like feathers, and running off, to a strong percussive beat.

When dancers begin to appear in the projections, sometimes mirroring a dancer who is actually onstage in “real” space and time, our perspective shifts. At one point, the entire image seems to move closer toward us, again throwing our perceptions off balance. Eventually projections give way to actual scenery – three-dimensional renditions of “tesseracts” (four-dimensional analogs of a cube), hanging from the rafters. The music and dancing become more uplifting and “heavenly” – blue-lit dancers reach skyward with their arms, moving lyrically and doing big sweeping lifts, buoyed by sweet choral voices – perhaps we have witnessed a minimalist dance version of an ascent from down under, but without too much soul-searching.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui choreographed Fall (2015) for the Royal Ballet of Flanders, which he has directed since 2015. In typical contemporary ballet style, everyone wears minimal clothing in neutral beige, with the women in flesh-colored pointe shoes and bare legs. In the first duet, the gorgeously statuesque Drew Jacoby danced the crawly, leggy tangle of choreography, resisting with her commanding presence the banality of the lyrics and back-walk-overs she had to execute. More intriguing to watch were the trios where two men smoothly partnered each other as much as the woman; a rare gender balance in partnering that evolved fluidly from the choreographic structure. More traditional partnering to screeching violins then gave way to a duet that found a stride, a deeper resonance that quietly overpowered the relentless athleticism.

Alvin Ailey’s Cry is such an iconic and epic work, and our memory of Judith Jameson (the original dancer) so strong, that it must be a coveted but daunting challenge for any Ailey woman to dance. Demetia Hopkins-Greene gave it her all, with an intensely articulated spine and searing eyes that blazed into the house. Yet she seemed to lose intensity towards the end; the stamina required eluded her.

A strong dose of 19th-century melodrama can be a good way to end an evening, and Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand, a succinct retelling of Dumas’ La Dame aux Camelias, captures all of the twists and turns of the doomed heroine in short order. Alina Cojocaru (Marguerite), a principal with the English National Ballet beloved by NY audiences, had a wonderful sense of drama and a delicacy that was complemented by the handsomely virile yet naïve-looking Friedemann Vogel (Armand), a principal with Stuttgart Ballet. Both dancers passionately delivered the distilled, emotional choreography, elegantly surrounded by members of the Sarasota Ballet. But it was Johan Kobborg as the calculating, satisfied father of Armand, whose cold, stiff spined exit, for a fleeting instant softened by the slightest hesitation, made my hair stand on end.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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