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Fall for Dance 2007


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#1 drb

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 07:37 PM

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tonight was a reprise of yesterday's Opening Night program. This was not a typical NYC dance crowd. As the lights went down and the (recorded) Boyce music began playing for Paul Taylor's Arden Court the roar of conversations did not abate, and many people were also struggling to find their seats. But when the curtain opened, an instant silence. The virtuosity of Richard Chen See, Michael Trusnovec, Orion Duckstein, James Samson, Sean Mahoney and Francisco Graciano captured their attention. Later, the men were joined, one at a time, by Amy Young, Annmaria Mazzini and Paris Khobdeh. One could tell by the audience reactions, both to the energy of the dancers and to some of Mr. Taylor's humor, that this was a new work to them. And I realized that my initial displeasure at having to sit so far up, due to site-lock, was very misplaced. The right people had got in.

A pause, then the duet from Alexei Ratmansky's Middle Duet. The dancers were last year's Benois de la Danse laureate Ekaterina Kondaurova, partnered by Islom Baimuradov, both from the Mariinsky. This looked quite different from the performances at NYCB by Maria Kowroski and Albert Evans. In a way, there was more facial expression in the acting, while the American couple was more physical, even erotic (even in the duet excerpt at last November's Gala). City Center's website tells us to see this as a ballerina taking class, with the male dancer as the barre. Perhap in this performance he was also sometimes a choreographer or ballet master. I did miss the full production's two angels and the next victim/couple. But these were beautiful dancers, and they built a momentum that made their sudden fall (death) all the more powerful.

The second half began with four South Indian musicians and a solo dancer, Shantala Shivalingappa. A stunning woman, but the dance seemed over long. Of course I know nothing of this form of dance, and therefore could not make the needed connections. I did notice some poses that reminded of La Bayadere, as when the bayaderes mime carrying the water vessels. There was a point where she came forward and stood on a brass serving platter; then, without removing her feet from it, made it "carry" her about the stage. She had exceptional balance and control, but I wish I could have known the "code" of her various hand and finger positions. The audience gave her an exceptionally long ovation, crossing up whomever was the curtain lowerer, who did so much too soon.

Then the high point for me, Tharp's Deuce Coupe, danced by Juilliard Dance. This was the joy of dance, that is, dancers dancing for joy. City Center's site has an extensive vid-interview with some of them. Mary Ellen Beaudreau was the ballerina (en pointe), and had a real stage-filling presence, visually a sort of young Susan Jaffe. Male virtuosity was very strong, and the young women seemed to be having the time of their lives. There was one young woman, the one with the bangs and headband, who had a special charisma. I wish I knew her name, so I could google it in future to find which company she had joined. A career to really follow, I suspect. The dancers were Jaclyn Brewer, Aaron Carr, Brandon Cournay, Denys Drozdyuk, Erica Furst, Sarah Goldstone, Nathan Madden, Troy Ogilvie, Brett Perry, Rachelle Rafailedes, Kyle Robinson, Allison Ulrich, Christopher Vo, Arika Yamada. Thanks to all.

#2 carbro

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 08:53 PM

Thanks, drb.

I attended the Wednesday program in its entirety and the first half of the Thursday program. The Juilliard Ensemble brought its own cheering section on Wednesday, which brought an extra festiveness to the festival's opening night closing number. But the Deuce Coupe on stage did not live up to the Deuce Coupe in my memory. In so many ways it seemed dated including in a good way -- that this generation of dancers seems to have no problem with what was, at the time of its creation, completely novel Tharpisms. However, the conceit of the ballet dancer amid these surfer guys and gals is now a silly cliche. I was ambivalent in the time-travel aspect of this, as viewing it the day I turned another year older only exacerbated the bitterness in the bittersweet passage of time. But mindful, too, of the recent brief revival of Hair in Central Park (which I did not attend), the era's tribal feeling stood out as a great contrast to today's more isolationist -- in the sociological sense -- zeitgeist.

I also found Shantala Shivalingappa's Varnam somewhat tedious, probably for the same reasons as drb. Wishing I had an understanding of the gestures. However, a ballet-oriented observer could find plenty of pas de bouree, pas de chat and other familiar patterns, even aside from Petipa's suggestions in Bayadere.

Middle Duet was not recognizable to me as the same piece Kowroski and Evans danced. Yuri Khanon's score sounded to me like the love child of J.S. Bach and John Cage. I could have lived without the screechy train brakes, or whatever that was. The choreography is not without wit, but it several passages extended well beyond their original inspiration. How many gummy-leg collapses can you do and still be clever? And while I enjoyed Kondaurova and Baimuradov, the piece didn't show me what I want to know about dancers.

On the other hand, the Taylor dancers offered two of the greatest Arden Courts since the departure of the original cast. They all seemed to be drenched by a collective endorphin rush. Of course, as always, Annmaria Mazzini was standout among her outstanding colleagues. She is physically powerful but emotionally vulnerable -- an irresistible combination. And on Wednesday, it was a perfect opening to the 2007-2008 dance season. It's that performance that I'm still floating on.

BTW, I did not buy a ticket for the Friday performance. My thinking was, why tempt burnout so early in the season? However, the playbill has full casting for the entire festival, and ABT's Corsaire pdd dancers will be Xiomara Reyes and . . . yes, Herman Cornejo. :P I'll be looking for your posts, whoever attends.

#3 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 09:02 PM

Despite vertigo and a stiff neck (very high up seats at an extreme angle), and having to constantly shift up and down in my seat to see over or under the railing, I also enjoyed the evening. It's just such a shame that even after the total renovations they did about 10 years ago, the sight lines are still just horrid throughout City Center.

I am happy to second just about everything drb said earlier, and add some comments about Shantala Shivalingappa. She is a Kuchipudi, dancer, which is a South Indian style originating from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Her performance to me, was much like the classic Bharata Natyam form from Madras, but with a sharper line, and some exaggerated moves. The photos on her website show that she takes some of the traditional movements to tastefully done original extremes, if that is not a contradiction. I have seen a few too many distortions of South Indian dance, and really appreciate what Shantala did. Her line was beautiful and her production values outstanding.

In several of the forms of Indian dance (mostly designated by the area they come from), the dancer (or dancers) alternate between abstract or "pure dance" sections, and narrative sections. (As if "Agon" had a short story portion in the middle.)

The "conductor" (often the dancer's teacher) accompanies the dancer on small hand cymbals and vocally throughout the dance. To the narrative sections he or she sings words -- the story. Often each line of the song is repeated, and the dancer interprets the words differently each time.

The pure dance sections are accompanied by sung syllables, much like our "solfeggio" (do re mi, etc), or another set of syllables ("bols") which solely denote rhythm for the especially fast rhythmic portions. If you have ever heard or seen musicians such as Ravi Shankar, you hear the "conductor" sing out a series of very fast rhythmic syllables, which are then repeated EXACTLY by the drummer.

I am able to distinguish the "narrative" portions (although I don't know what she is saying -- and the hand mudras -- symbols -- are so specific as to have a precise grammar) from the "abstract dance" portions, and felt she was excellent in both. Her musicians and "conductor" were also excellent.

Edited to add: I can understand that Carbro and drb felt it was over-long -- but being a bit familiar with the form, I could feel the build-up to the end, and didn't feel she went over the time line.

#4 sz

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 09:07 AM

I was there on Wednesday too -- staying only for the first half -- sitting in Orchestra BB or CC (I forget). Really close up... but could see the feet just fine, as well as every tiny thing else! My new 2nd favorite seats at City Center.

Thought Taylor's group did an excellent job. His dancers are so strong, so muscular and had, as usual, tons of high energy. Very powerful dancers. I especially liked one guy in the group with wavy brown hair (don't know his name). This dancer had a slightly different sensuality and sensitivity, almost balletic, to his movements when grounded. In the air, he was as wildly free as the others. Also agreeing with Carbro's comments re Annmaria Mazzini. She's always lovely, very emotional and physically strong.

But I bought my tickets especially to see Middle Duet with Kondaurova. While there were a lot of gummy movements involved, I was totally mesmirized by Kondaurova's gorgeously long, strong legs, arms, and body, overall. Perfectly curved, not skinny. She has a beautiful jump -- there were a few leaps among the gum... Her pirouettes looked a bit nervous, but I assumed she probably just got off a plane and didn't have much time to adjust to a non-raked stage. I loved Kondaurova's interpretation of Middle Duet, and immediately wanted to see her in something more classical, eg, tonight in Corsaire!!!! But I'll be plenty happy to watch Cornejo in the male role.

#5 nysusan

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 09:57 AM

ViolinConcerto, thank you for the insight into Indian dance, it helps put the performance into context. I went on Wed and Thursday and while I enjoyed it and pretty much agree with everything that has been said here, I found that I liked the whole program a little better the second night than the first. I thought that both Shantala Shivalingappa's performance & Deuce Coupe went on a little too long, but neither one egregiously so and both held my interest longer the second time around. This was the first time I'd seen the Tharp and I liked it but still think it's dated & don't think it's her best work. I felt more energy & confidence coming from the Julliard dancers on Thursday night & agree that the red haired girl (with bangs & headband) was a standout, also the tall blond guy.

I also don't think Arden Court is one of Taylor's greatest works, but it's still so wonderful to look at, I love the gently quirky humor in it and his dancers are absolutely fabulous. While Mazzini will probably always be my favorite Taylor dancer I have to say that Parisa Khobdeh and James Samson are two that have been growing on me every time I see them. She for her long line and understated lyricism and he for his strong yet unassuming presence. Everything about his dancing is so solid & expansive yet unforced, it all just flows so naturally. He would fit perfectly into the big guy discussion I saw recently in another forum.

My thoughts on "Middle Duet " fall in between drb's and carbros. I certainly recognized it as the same pdd that Kowroski & Evans did at NYCB, but was fascinated by the differences in interpretation and prefer the long version. I think I had less of a sense of combativeness with Kondaurova and Baimuradov (till the last section) and saw it more as an abstraction with Ratmansky playing with tension and counterweight. And yes, I LOVE Kondaurova - I've found her just as impressive in works like this & the Kirov's Forsythe program as she is as Myrtha in Giselle.

All in all it was a great program and seemed to be very well received.

#6 sz

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 10:09 AM

>Thought Taylor's group.....I especially liked one guy in the
>group with wavy brown hair (don't know his name).

Ah! This guy, Sean Mahoney's picture is included with Clive Barnes' review.

#7 sandik

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 08:54 PM

The right people had got in.


Thanks for this observation -- we all see so much dance that sometimes it's important to remember that any given performance might be someone else's first time in the theater, and we hope it's a thrilling one for them.

#8 sz

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 08:52 AM

The surprise of Friday, the 28th's performance was Yuriko Kajiya replacing Xiomara Reyes in ABT's Corsaire ppd. While I've always been impressed with Yuriko's big jumps and fresh, clean look, Corsaire demands a different sort of female (IMO). I knew it would be a big stretch for Yuriko to become very sexy, earthy, daring, with huge Kirov-like extensions and plenty of risky, dazzling turning combinations. She didn't come through for me. Yuriko looked so nervous, lovely but cold, and approached her performance with too much caution. It was nice, but not Corsaire, though her first 16 fouettes were effortlessly, strikingly beautiful.

Without comparison, Yuriko's male partner, originally scheduled, Herman Cornejo, was the thrill of the evening. A youthful, handsome, Latino, sexy male with huge, powerful jumps and turns galore while at the same time maintaining his amazingly clean classical lines. I loved Herman, as always, in this sort of role!

#9 carbro

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:53 AM

Thanks, sz. I wonder how much time Yuriko had to prepare for this performance. A bravura pas such as this is a major stretch beyond her usual rep. Nervousness under either circumstance is understandable; both together all the more so.

I hope I have a chance to see Herman do this pas some other time.

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 02:41 PM

Go figure about Thursday night :) My review will be up for DVT soon enough, so I'll elaborate there but I loved Shivalingappa - then again I happen to love classical Indian dance. It also didn't hurt that my companion was an Odissi and Bharatanatyam dancer so I recognize some of the conventions from prior performances. It's like ballet - it takes a bit to learn the code.

I also enjoyed the Juilliard dancers, more in fact than the Taylor or the Mariinsky, but that could just be novelty. It wasn't as if either of the first two dances were bad. I didn't see the older versions of Deuce Coupe and have only seen it in recent revival so I'm judging it in a vacuum.

#11 bingham

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 05:48 AM

Thanks, sz. I wonder how much time Yuriko had to prepare for this performance. A bravura pas such as this is a major stretch beyond her usual rep. Nervousness under either circumstance is understandable; both together all the more so.

I hope I have a chance to see Herman do this pas some other time.

Maybe, he will be finally cast as Ali in the full length Le Corsaire this spring(if they find a right-sized Medora) :)

#12 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 08:01 AM

Go figure about Thursday night :) My review will be up for DVT soon enough, so I'll elaborate there but I loved Shivalingappa - then again I happen to love classical Indian dance. It also didn't hurt that my companion was an Odissi and Bharatanatyam dancer so I recognize some of the conventions from prior performances. It's like ballet - it takes a bit to learn the code.


Macauley also really loved it, and referred to the rhythmic use of the feet:
http://www.nytimes.c...n...=1&ref=arts

Of course, since she carries bells in her fingers and wears jangling anklets, she becomes part of the music. Though her feet are bare, they too are an intricate part of the rhythm, with both ball and heel making their contributions clear. No barefoot American modern dancer has yet matched the percussive skills of Indian dance footwork.


Here's a little backgound about that particular use of the feet in some classical Indian Dance (particularly Kuchipudi, Odissi and Bharata Natyam): When the foot hits the ground, in the percussive steps, it's done with a flat, relaxed foot that gives a sharp slap as it hits the ground, basically adding another instrument -- along with her bells. An incredible skill that the dancers learn early on.

#13 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 08:19 AM

You know this better than I, but evidently it depends on the style. Odissi is much less percussive than Bharatanatyam per what I've been taught (my companion to her Odissi dancers, "Don't stamp!")

What's fascinating to me is the example that Alexandra gives of forests and trees. If you're far from Indian dance, it all looks alike. When you examine it, there's a whole range of distinctions.

OT, but did you go to the India Celebration at Avery Fisher? They had five different styles onstage in a single piece (Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kathak, Kathkali and Manipuri) and it was a great primer on the styles. I was proud that I could tell most of them apart!

#14 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 03:15 PM

You know this better than I, but evidently it depends on the style. Odissi is much less percussive than Bharatanatyam per what I've been taught (my companion to her Odissi dancers, "Don't stamp!")

What's fascinating to me is the example that Alexandra gives of forests and trees. If you're far from Indian dance, it all looks alike. When you examine it, there's a whole range of distinctions.

OT, but did you go to the India Celebration at Avery Fisher? They had five different styles onstage in a single piece (Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kathak, Kathkali and Manipuri) and it was a great primer on the styles. I was proud that I could tell most of them apart!


I regret that I was out of town, but, to expand my knowledge of Indonesian and South Asian dance I plan to see the Balinese company, Cudamani at the Skirball Center in Nov., and Pamina Devi's "Magic Flute" done by Cambodian dancers at the Joyce. I've seen both companies previously and am really excited.

One good thing about New York lately is that there is a lot of Asian Dance. I am thrilled that "Fall for Dance." also has a performance of a new Indian Dance choreography -- SRISHTI - NINA RAJARANI DANCE CREATIONS: QUICK!. Hope you have tickets!!

#15 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 09:21 PM

Hmmm, am I the only one at BT up at this hour?

At tonight's "Fall For Dance" performance, I got to see "Quick!" by Nina Rajarani, which opened the program. That piece, and the closer, "Nkululeko" by Via Katlehong Dance really brought the house down. They were similar in that they both were all male ensembles, very percussive and propulsive, very fast, extremely energetic (the stamina!!!) and satisfying to watch.

I heard (from people who went to the pre-performance talk) that Nina Rajarani said she had criticism from the classical Indian dance community for using Bharata Natyam to deal with a modern subject using contemporary (business) clothing and videos. I'm not surprised to hear that, and had thought about it myself a while back. However, being a Balanchine fan, I cannot hold it against her that she is using a classical vocabulary in a modern way.

Her dancers were exemplary, and their energy was unbelievable. They started out at a very fast tempo and never let up. That to me was the unusual thing -- in traditional Bharata Natyam recital pieces (for solo dancer, usually) a piece begins slowly, then gets faster and faster -- usually doubling the number of beats per measure -- and louder as well. That wouldn't have been possible here, because they began at breakneck speed and stayed there. That said, their footwork was quite precise, their postures and arm and head movements sculpturally correct. She had a few modern touches in the movement that were easy to spot and usually humorous commentary.

Rajarani set it as a simple plot -- going through a business day -- showing the tensions and, to me, dangers that lie in wait. There were four dancers and four musicians live on stage. Here again, the "conductor" (and here composer) of the music alternated the "bols" (rhythmic syllables) and "swaras" (the solfeggio syllables). He was exceptionally skilled, and did it all in 5th gear you could say. Her stage pictures were plain but effective. The only reservations I had were that she didn't use a broad vocabulary of steps -- and that it could have been a bit shorter.

I didn't care very much for "The Evolution of a secured Feminine" (though her music -- Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter and Nancy Wilson -- was great), have seen "Treading" before, with better performances, and actively disliked the choreography, sound, costumes, lighting and lack of pointe shoes in "Brake the Eyes" by Jorma Elo.

Again, Nkululedo was outstanding and really got everyone practically up on stage with the dancers. They were wonderful -- and their bodies, for the most part, were the instruments. They whistled, stomped, shouted, jingled and everything else-d to accompany themselves. Some of it sounded like the Balinese "Monkey Chant," (which apparently was put together by a German man) in the rhythms. One of the men, kinda heavy, could really, really shake it up, and the audience loved it. Me too!


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