Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fall For Dance Among the Trees and Stars

STREB al fresco. Photo: Tammy Shell
Batteries recharged, dance returned to life last Monday with the advent of the 10th Fall For Dance. To celebrate, in addition to the standard five programs at City Center, the Public Theater hosted a veritable all-star FFD program at the Delacorte in Central Park. The weather turned out to be fall-perfect, with a bright harvest moon slicing through wispy clouds, and bats flitting mischievously above the trees, silhouetted in front of the Disney-lit Belvedere castle.

Unlike City Center's fare, which usually features well-known companies mixed with lesser-known ones, and some indigenous styles juxtaposed with ballet or modern, the Delacorte program—free!—consisted of bold-faced, primetime names. 

STREB led off with Human Fountain (inspired by the Bellagio fountain in Vegas) in which the dancers dove off of scaffolding onto a crash mat in various patterns and twisting moves. Their adrenaline was certainly inspiring, but after about 10 minutes, despite knowing they take certain precautions to prevent injury, I couldn't help but think about their brains bouncing around in their skulls, and their spines taking punishment as well. They looked awfully happy in bows, anyway, before continuing their duties as stagehands and striking the mats as the real stagehands dismantled the scaffolding enough to roll it in two parts to the side.

Evidence, right-side up in Upside Down. Photo: Tammy Shell
Ronald K. Brown/Evidence brought Upside Down, alluding to the loss of a soul and its impact on a community, accompanied by Oumou Sangare's music followed by live vocals and drums performing a number by Fela Kuti. (STREB and Evidence benefitted the most from the al fresco setting, as both can feel a bit caged inside.)  The two songs both ended with Cabaug being lifted and carried off solemnly, as if lying in state, but in between, the dancers showed off Brown's irrepressible African-based style in group sections and solos. Annique Roberts (nominated for a Bessie this year) radiated with calm luminosity, as usual.

Maria Kowroski and Adrian Danchig-Waring in Red Angels
New York City Ballet's dancers looked their best in their dark warmup clothes rather than the red spandex costumes for Red Angels, choreographed by Ulysses Dove, with live electric violin accompaniment. The striking cast of Maria Kowroski, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Jennie Somogyi, and Chase Finlay never looked at ease, perhaps to be expected on a chilly evening. Ballet seems like it wants warmth to encourage as much friction with the floor as possible, and elasticity in their hard-working muscles. Nonetheless, they danced and vogued their way through the showy moves well enough.

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Esplanade, but another cast.
Paul Taylor's Esplanade closed the program, deservedly—a self-contained, perfectly structured dance that garners applause simply when it begins. Despite its outward reputation as a sunny romp, there are some heartachingly solemn and intimate moments that touch on mortality and the fragility of human connections. Laura Halzack has taken the deceptively challenging role left by the retired Amy Young; it requires a series of rapid hinge-falls, and later, backwards plops into the hands of Michael Trusnovec. Michelle Fleet occupies the central role, running and flitting among the group, warmly bidding us hello and goodbye. It was a fitting cap to a showcase of the city's dance riches, if nothing we weren't already familiar with.

No comments: