Thursday, October 3, 2013

September Performance Notebook

High culture season's underway. Notes from recent outings:
Edward Watson and slime, in Metamorphosis
Royal Ballet, Metamorphosis, The Joyce
  • Edward Watson as Gregor is the draw in this clever adaptation of Kafka's classic in which dance replaces music as the muse which draws out the human side of insectoid Gregor.
  • After his evolution from salaryman to creature, he winds and crosses his limbs, propped on a knee and some fingers, to evoke bugness.    
  • Brown sticky stuff—molasses?—that conveyed a complete cleave with humanity really was slippery; the other cast members slipped gingerly over the pools and slicks 
  • Director/choreographer Arthur Pita uses the entire theater, including the narrow cross-theater aisle between the stage and audience, where a coffee/cocktail cart's repeated wheelings help establish the sense of banal routine. Simon Daw is credited for designs.
  • Corey Annand as Grete was convincing as a young girl growing into an accomplished ballet dancer, who acquired by osmosis some of the insectoid behavior of her brother.
  • Without Matthew Bourne, I don't think this type of movement-theater production would exist. Several cast members are vets of his productions as well.
  • The music was composed and performed by Frank Moon, who created all the eerie sounds in addition to playing instruments.
Sara Mearns
New York City Ballet, Swan Lake
  • The two-act Swan Lake, by Peter Martins (retaining of the original Petipa/Ivanov pas de deux, thankfully), is a good excuse to see ballerinas at their zenith. 
  • Mearns so fantastically embodies this dual role, combining the right pathos, beguilement, and technique. 
  • She needs her partner too, unlike many a competent NYCB female principal. In this case, it was Jared Angle, as solid and modest as partners come. G
  • Gripes: the largely hideous decor by Per Kirkeby, especially the hall that looks like a courtroom, the long spans of lazy filler steps, the irritating jester, and the endless foreign dances when I think loningly of ABT's playful Neapolitan duet and Von Rothbart's fancy purple suede boots. 
  • In NYCB's Swan, you are really coerced into focusing on Odette/Odile because the rest of the production is so uninspired. Which is not such a terrible thing when it's Mearns.
  • I caught Sara Mearns twice in one week, first in Swan Lake, then at Fall For Dance in a new duet by Justin Peck. What luck.

Justin Peck's The Bright Motion, Fall For Dance
  • Het Ballet's Casey Herd, who partnered Sara in The Bright Motion, the Peck premiere, is large and confident enough to support her both physically and psychically (see above). Mearns' vulnerability is part of her terrific appeal, and she leaned hard enough on Herd that he had to adjust his stance at one point, but it allowed her to more fully find and expand her beautiful line. 
  • This brief dance was more grown-up feeling than Peck's previous works, which have emphasized youth. It showcased Mearns' sublime, archetypal arabesque, which she assumed in super slow-mo, and a bold fourth position on pointe with her torso twisted in opposition, so architecturally strong. 
  • The white bathing suit leotard added to the sense of her being completely exposed. She came across as somehow both completely empowered and completely vulnerable, like Princess Grace at the beach.
The Devil in the Detail
Richard Alston's The Devil in the Detail, Fall For Dance
  • A suite of dances to Scott Joplin, whose music breeds feelings of both hyper-familiarity on a pop culture level (thanks to The Sting), and unfamiliarity when used in dance; I can only think of Martha Graham's weird Maple Rag.
  • The jaunty, whimsical rhythms give Alston's superb dancers a chance to play around with the phrasing, an intriguing proposition, as they can arrest movements mid-air. 
  • Various combos and pairings to perhaps a half-dozen songs provided a glimpse of the crisp, barefoot style that deserves a better term than contemporary ballet. It relates at moments to Paul Taylor and Mark Morris.  
  • A performance by Alston's London-based company is a rare treat; his last gig in the metro area was at Peak Performances in Montclair. 

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