Performing Arts: Dance
October 11, 2016
The Fall For Dance is a New York phenomenon: a dance festival that sells out, year after year, with a popularity that shows no signs of abating. It is the brainchild of Arlene Schuler (CEO of City Center, and a former Joffrey dancer herself) who combined two simple yet brilliant concepts: diversity of programming, and low ticket prices. For two whirlwind weeks each fall, audiences can choose from several excellently curated programs that showcase concert dance from around the world, all for the affordable price of $15 per ticket.

The second program this year included hip-hop, tap, ballet and contemporary aboriginal dance. The France-based company CCN de la Rochelle/CIE Accrorap presented an exciting and propulsive work choreographed by artistic director Kader Attou, “inspired by street dance and acrobatics.” A large group of dancers take turns break dancing, doing variations on flares, the six-step, and the windmill, with their moves woven into a simple choreographic structure, all to an extremely loud electronic score that later dissolves into pulsating digital strings. Dressed in neutral colored pants and shirts, sometimes they move in gentle unison or amble around the stage slowly between sections, looking like the Walking Dead. But when they break out into jaw-dropping hip-hop moves, they impressively bridge street and theater.

One way the line between “art and life” was erased by artists beginning in the 1980s was through unabashed references to their autobiography. Ayodel Casel’s solo, preceded by a video of Gregory Hines talking effusively about her talent, was also overlayed with her speaking about her personal journey. Heard over the sound system as she tapped away, we learn, for example, that she is Puerto Rican and black, and “fully connected to both cultures.” She is an extraordinary dancer, and it seemed unnecessary for her to insist on this fact, in ways other than her dancing – and a quick Google can tell you everything personal you might or might not need to know (including her predilection for key lime pie). The many spoken declarations ended up detracting from, rather than enhancing, her impressive skill and artistry.

The Hong Kong Ballet, a group of lovely balletic, well-trained dancers, looked uncomfortable but tried their best to execute Jorma Elo’s awkward choreography and seemingly pointless tricks. Immediately following that tiresome display, we see dance nicely deployed for something beyond flash by the Australian Bangarra Dance Theatre, in a neat mix of aboriginal and modern dance. In one particularly haunting image, an “aboriginal” woman holding two burning pots of incense encounters a lone “modern” man during her wanderings. Their interaction ends in an embrace that is neither saccharine nor clichéd; instead, it is an eloquent image that, in its own small way, seems to make amends for the devastating history between them.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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