Thursday, April 4, 2013

Juilliard Dances (Some Amazing) Repertory

Troy Herring and Daphne Fernberger in Four Brubeck Pieces. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
This week, there are a couple of performances that stand out not only for the superb technique of their dancers, but for the range and intriguing selections of repertoire: Juilliard Dances Repertory and ABT Studio Company. You'd think that repertory dance companies would be common in a dance-crazy city like New York, but apart from the large ballet troupes, and apart from Cedar Lake and Ailey, most focus on one choreographer. So the chance to see several icons of choreography on one program is a sweet thought.

Juilliard Rep and ABT Studio are able to cherry pick dances for their repertory, mixing and matching completely different visions. I saw Juilliard's performance last night (through April 7 at the Sharp Theater, Lincoln Center), which includes Murray Louis' Four Brubeck Pieces (Opus 104) from 1984, with the terrific bonus of a live jazz quartet plucked from its illustrious music division. The work was performed with some regularity by Murray Louis Company in the 80s; I had never seen it before. A delightful, technical romp with bold b/w costume designs by Frank Garcia, the four songs are set apart by distinctive dynamic shifts and accorded appropriate movement pacing by Louis. There are plenty of pyrotechnics to show off the ensemble's talent; in particular, Troy Herring and Kara Chan seemed to wring the most out of the juicy solos they were given.

Sunset. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor

It was a treat in and of itself to hear the Juilliard Orchestra playing Elgar's musical accompaniment to Sunset, one of my favorite Paul Taylor works. It stands to reason that whenever his work is set on other companies, it takes on a different feel. Here, the emphasis on technique came across as brittleness. The Taylor company gives it a plushness and gentility that is missing, and the key male duet (here danced by Raymond Pinto and Christopher Kaiser) lacked the familiar, if unrequited, intimacy that is so touching in the PTDC rendition. (While I'm on the topic, this is a rebuttal to Alastair Macaulay's point that Taylor does not make same-sex duets. Also note the major male duet in Piazzolla Caldera, please.) Still, the full production with live orchestra, and Alex Katz's designs, is a treat.

One Flat Thing, Reproduced. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
William Forsythe's One Flat Thing, Reproduced is another major production that is a rarity here; I believe it has only been performed in New York by his own company at BAM several years ago, surely in part because of the mandate of 20 work tables that form a hovering, puzzle-piece performance surface above the stage. Again, the Juilliard ensemble looks impressive, aggressively slapping the tables and vaulting them like pommel horses, but there is an integrity to the original performance that is missing, or maybe it's the feeling of trying a few shades too hard. Or perhaps it needs seasoning.

In any case, I won't quibble with the chance to see these monuments of choreography when given the chance. I'll see ABT Studio Company tomorrow as part of Pace Presents at the Schimmel Center, which features Ratmansky's Le Carnaval des Animaux, Taylor's Airs, Balanchine's Tarantella, and Jerusalem Divertissement by Raymond Lukens. Another chance to see excellent young dancers in riveting rep.

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