Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall for Dance, September 25th and 27th

I thought that Thursday was a really entertaining night at Fall for Dance, but not for the reason I expected. I was really excited about seeing the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Pithoprakta, but I was disappointed in their performance. Tonya Plank thought the dancers looked nervous and I don't disagree, particularly with regard to Elisabeth Holowchuk who also seemed, perhaps, overly cautious. I think if she had seemed more in command it could have gone a long way. I wouldn't say, necessarily, that I disliked the piece because of the dancers though because with a few momentary exceptions, I didn't take much pleasure in the choreography. In her New York Times review Claudia La Rocco describes it as, "good weird," and writes,
Balanchine’s choreographic response to this dizzying aural architecture is wild-eyed and surprisingly but suitably gravity-conscious. Dancers drop and roll, stagger back, shudder and seem always about to collapse. The lead dancers (on Thursday, Elisabeth Holowchuk and Matthew Prescott) are constantly being separated: by pools of light; by the sinister and sexy black-clad dancers, resembling a chorus line seen through a glass, darkly; and by their own perverse actions in pushing each other away.
I'd like to watch it again, looking for those things.

The rest of the night I found enjoyable although I didn't love anything without reservations. I thought Talia Paz was marvelous but her music was incredibly repetitive and nothing more than bland to begin with. The Lombard Twins had good music but seemed like something I could see on So You Think You Can Dance? which is fine as far as it goes. And I liked the Kate Weare Company but had trouble seeing parts of it because it was blocked by the head of one of the people sitting in front of me (you have to love City Center). Garth Fagan Dance brought From Before, which the program described as, "a look at movement before Western Civilization," which is a rather bold claim. It's from the 70s and looks it, and those shiny, colorful unitards certainly don't leave much to the imagination, but I thought it was a lot of fun.

I saw the final program of Fall for Dance on Saturday. It felt like a bit of a loaded final program what with the Twyla Tharp choreography, the San Francisco Ballet dancing Robbins, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company dancing Esplanade.

The Twyla Tharp, Sweet Fields, was performed by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and seemed a bit different from the other Tharp dances I've seen so far in that it seemed less busy and more...reverential, I suppose. Which is appropriate considering the dance is performed to Shaker hymns--which would be so much nicer performed live. What I liked best about the performance, though, might have been Jennifer Tipton's lighting. It looked light light streaming in the windows of an old church and while I may not be wild about religion in general I've always loved old churches.

They were followed by the San Francisco Ballet, performing In the Night by Jerome Robbins. They provided the best showing for ballet in Fall for Dance. For starters, the men weren't stuck in costumes that were either pink and blousey or attacked with a bedazzler. More importantly though, the dancers weren't dull (ABT), seemingly uncertain (Suzanne Farrell Ballet), or apparent victims of facial paralysis (Houston Ballet). And while the Christopher Wheeldon pas de deux that Oregon Ballet Theater performed was perfectly pleasant--and their dancers were lovely--In the Night was rather more interesting, what with the distict characters Robbins created through movement. Wheeldon's dancers seemed much more generic, through no fault of their own.

My least favorite part of the night was the Compania Nacional de Danza performing Nacho Duato's Cor Perdut. I didn't dislike it, I just felt kind of indifferent to it and a couple days later don't remember much of anything about it.

Meanwhile, my main thought while watching Paul Taylor's Esplanade was how exhausting it looked. All that running! I'd just gone to a yoga class for the first time in a couple years and trying to do that stuff really brought home how out of shape I am, so I was in an especially appreciative mood Saturday night. Esplanade is such a good-natured, friendly feeling dance, though not universally light in mood, that it seemed to me to be a perfect way to end the festival.

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