The Power of Proximity: Avi Scher and Dancers and Black Watchhttp://www.thirteen.org/sundayarts/blog/ballet/the-power-of-proximity/1228/
Generally speaking, when we see ballet stars or Broadway-caliber shows in New York, we’re some distance away. But I recently saw two performances at arm’s length proximity to the performers, to predictably powerful effect—Avi Scher & Dancers, and Black Watch.
Last weekend, Scher presented a second annual program of big-name ballet dancers performing his choreography. Just 27, he clearly has ambition, connections, and good timing, scheduling several nights at Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater just a fortnight in advance ofNew York City Ballet’s spring season. And yet guests from that company included Tyler Angle and Ana Sophia Scheller (paired in a duet that displayed her diamond-hard precision and his plush muscularity) and the charismatic Savannah Lowery, who danced the finale ofDreamScapes with alum Sofiane Sylve (now atSan Francisco Ballet), still fierce and, at moments, transcendent. We usually see these amazing dancers at a cool remove in the capacious Koch Theater, where they seem almost alien in their perfection and effortlessness. But a couple of yards away, I an reminded of how strong their legs are, how hard they work, and how unforgivingly physical ballet is, even in the casual preshow barre warm-ups done onstage.
At St. Ann’s Warehouse, I sat in the second row for the National Theatre of Scotland‘s Black Watch (through the 8th of May). Written by Gregory Burke and directed by John Tiffany, it’s about the proud Scottish warrior clan, of the pseudonymous tartan, evolving over 300 years to be reduced to a sad phantom in the recent Iraq war. The bold action (movement by Steven Hoggett) takes place on a runway stage flanked on two sides by audience bleachers, and consists primarily of running or moving set furniture. A few scenes involve stylized mock fighting, marching (and falling) in formation, and, most memorably, changing one soldier’s uniforms to reflect the clan’s history by lifting Jack Lowden (affectingly responsible despite his youth) and seamlessly slipping kilts and fatigues on and off of him. At moments, the actors were close enough to the first row viewers to brush by them, a distant reminder of the perils and vagaries of combat (and of theater). Being so close definitely reinforces this compelling drama and the visceral movement powering it.
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