Performing Arts: Dance
April 1, 2016
This spring the Juilliard dancers performed three works from the historical repertory which showcased the breadth of their training and versatility: Paul Taylor’s Rose,/i>, Jerome Robbins’ Moves, and Jiri Kylian’s Symphony of Psalms. These dancers have access to some of the best choreography in the field, and are among the lucky few to enjoy performing on a Lincoln Center stage, dancing to live music accompanied by their fellow students from the Juilliard Orchestra, and for the last ballet, the Venture(NY) Chorus. [Full disclosure: my husband Davis Robertson teaches at Juilliard].

It was lovely to see the Juilliard dancers Paul Taylor’s Roses (1985, to Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Heinrich Baermann’s Adagio for Clarinet and Strings, staged by Linda Kent). A gentle meditation on loving relationships, Roses begins with five couples dancing together as a community, with duets that go from folk-inflected to playfully cartwheeling over each other. Eventually all five couples end up sitting in a line upstage, with the woman between the man’s knees, leaning back on her partner’s chest, like in a comfortable rocking chair. When a couple in white enters, they innocently swirl, reach, lift, swing, and join hands by pressing their palms together, showing their love in a sweet, uncomplicated way – as one might wish for in real life.

It was exciting to see Jerome Robbins’ masterpiece Moves,, a ballet danced in complete silence (1959, staged by Kathleen Tracey). An absorbing work that heightens awareness – for the performers and audience – it reminds one of Balanchine’s stark modernist style and the Cage/Cunningham experiments of that decade. Dancers in practice clothes enter in a straight line, then one by one they double over grabbing their gut, then run, pose, gesture and freeze scattered about the stage, while creating a “score” with the sounds of their feet or their hands as they slap the floor. Alternating between pedestrian movement, balletic vocabulary and tricky partnering on pointe throughout the piece, we could sense both the tension and connection between the dancers. They took to it with confidence and skill.

The evening closed with Jiri Kylian’s Symphony of Psalms (1978, staged by Patrick Delcroix) to Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and A la gloire de Dieu (1930). The dancers seemed liberated by Kylian’s sweeping contemporary ballet style, the men jumping with strength and abandon while the women danced with delicacy and longing. The Latin psalm chorus, the celebratory trumpets, a backdrop of prayer rugs (which today could add a more complicated political reading), and moments where the men stand with arms out as if on a cross, have clear religious overtones; and although the program notes say Psalms wasn’t meant to be danced, it was the power of the dancing to Stravinsky’s deeply moving music, a “celebration of the human spirit,” that made the evening transcendent.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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