Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fell for Dance, Again, 10/8/10

Fall for Dance at City Center

The 2010 Fall for Dance festival once again sold-out City Center, filling it with rabid dance fans. Since its inception, the festival has slimmed down from a free-for-all combination of “who’s who” plus “who’s that?” to a more curated slate of 20 companies in five programs, each performed twice. It’s still invigorating to see such variety in one show; boredom is never an option, even if the fever has cooled.
Fall for DanceSan Francisco Ballet's Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith. Photo: Erik Tomasson.
The festival features companies not often seen in New York, which is partly why I chose the two programs I caught. Emanuel Gat and Russell Maliphant both happened to present solos, both powerful in different ways. Roy Assaf of Gat performed My Favorite Things to the same-titled song, played in a loose, scatting version by Coltrane. Gat uses light masterfully, bisecting the stage’s width with light in the foreground and darkness upstage, compressing the time and space needed to give the impression of distance. Assaf is mainly downstage for most of the dance, snaking his arms around his torso and head like a python, his movement fluid, prowling, unceasing. Gat has developed a riveting style that feels both completely new and entirely accessible, and which I could watch endlessly. The Maliphant solo was performed by Daniel Proietto in an environment also shaped by light. He begins contained in a cone of light, rising and sinking through spirals, moving more broadly as the lighting expanded, then being reconfined in a cone once more.
A pair of duets showcased some stellar ballet talent: San Francisco Ballet’s Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith performed a work by Yuri Possokhov, which served primarily as a magnifiying lens for Tan’s incomparable line. Siblings Angel and Carmen Corella of Corella Ballet Castilla y Leon performed a modern/tango duet seen in that company’s City Center debut last season. Angel is an irresistible charmer, but his ebullient smiles felt at odds with the style’s standard, more serious tone. But it was gratifying to see them onstage together again.
Taiwan’s Shu-Yi Chou & Company performed Ravel and Bolero on a carpet of green paper slips. Tongue planted in cheek, they made faces and contorted their bodies evoking emotions that phased from horror to laughter. While their jubilance and physicality are welcome, the kitschy shock-value elements evoked something that might have come from Eastern Europe a decade ago. Larry Keigwin’s Megalopolis, performed by Keigwin + Co., lost a bit of impact upon its second viewing, but he moves large groups of people in patterns like no one’s business. His well-drilled dancers clearly were having a great time, too.
The two “closers” were Paul Taylor’s Company B, which, with each viewing, pushes darker and lighter than before, and reconfirmed the choreographer’s genius and deft simplicity. The same can’t be said of Jason Samuels Smith’s Peace of Mind, which pitted, survival smackdown style, a tap gang against a hip-hop gang (in which, unusually, two women performed, lending a welcome softness to this martial style). I can’t tell you who won, but sadly, it wasn’t the audience.

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