Thursday, December 19, 2013

Juilliard's New Dances Plus: A Pina Bausch Revival and Three New Dances

Wind von West, by Pina Bausch
Juilliard's New Dances series showcases the school's accomplished dance students by class year. But it has also become a major commissioning entity for burgeoning choreographers; last week's production included world premieres by Brian Brooks, Takehiro Ueyama, and Darrell Grand Moultrie, plus the grand bonus of a reconstructed work by Pina Bausch, Wind von West. The three new dances, by nature, share a certain sameness; they all involve moving around a couple dozen good dancers for 20 minutes or so. Invariably, there are pull-out virtuosic solos and small group sections interspersed with stretches of sheer traffic control often involving running or matrices. 

The remounting of Wind von West (1975) is a major collaboration between Pina's alma mater, Juilliard, and the Pina Bausch Foundation, charged with overseeing her life's work. The significance of this project is as much about the future of Bausch's work as this one piece's artistic import. It's primarily a mix of her fluid, organic, somber style that is most memorable from her last solo at BAM (alongside an image of a fish), in Danzón, and still poses or arrested movements. 

The stage is segmented by gauze partitions into four receding chambers that were never utilized to maximum dramatic or metaphorical effect. A white-sheeted bedalso lightly used—loomed on one side. The celadon gowns and long hair were elements that would carry through her life's work. On the whole, it felt like an impressionistic scan of her signature voice, devoid of humor and text, yet perhaps more coherent than the pieces that would comprise the bulk of her oeuvre. But the mere fact of its existence holds great promise for future remountings, even if they lack her final stamp. 

Wind von West
Brooks' work tends to combine OCD tendencies in addition to his signature slithering arm and upper body action. He imbued his dance, Torrent, with extra finesse, no easy task for such a large cast. The class of 2016 formed a self-perpetuating cross-stage line one by one, falling gently but precisely into place. Sometimes the line would process clockwise, breaking apart and reforming seamlessly to release and absorb a soloist. The class moved as one organism.

In Nakamuraya, Take Ueyama dedicated his dance to the Kabuki great Nakamura Kanzaburo—a nice conceit, but the paean was unclear in the dance itself, which included some too-cute miming to start, a romantic duet to Lou Reed's "Perfect Day," and the requisite high velocity group segments. Moultrie's Seeds of Endurance revisited some of these adrenalized pack movements; his dancers shed their long, flounced gowns to reveal flesh-toned briefs and camisoles that evoked our natural state. Both contained exhilarating moments, but the structural demands of the exercise perhaps dictated too-similar scripts.

That said, the Juilliard New Dances series is unsurpassed in showcasing the maximum number of excellent dancers in new, commissioned choreography, and in rare remountings. 

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