Friday, August 10, 2012

Ballet NY

I once saw a demonstration of second-tier gymnasts, people who were just below Olympic level. Watching their strengths and weaknesses made me understand and appreciate gymnastics more deeply and realistically than did watching the near perfection of gold medalists. Ballet NY offers a similar experience. The dancers aren't the best of the best, but some are quite good, and watching their work offers a different insight into dance than offered by the brilliant dancers who make it look easy.
Nadezhda Vostrikov

The evening starts with the company premiere of "Triptych," choreographed by John-Mark Owen to music by H.F. Biber and Sergei Rachmaninoff. (More accurately, it's "Diptych," since only two movements are performed.) Owen explains in a choreographer's note that the piece is about "a couple that can neither live with, or without, one another." The dancers certainly spend a lot of time clinging to each other; in each of the pas de deux, the male dancers lift, twirl, and, frankly, shlep the women around. Some of the lifts are lovely, and some moments connect emotionally, but the piece comes across more as an exercise than a fully realized piece. It is largely well danced by Kelsey Coventry, Michael Eaton, Nadezhda Vostrikov, and Fidel Garcia. However, in the first movement, Eaton and Coventry lack both chemistry and acting skills. Eaton in particular always looks like he is working hard--which he is!--but never like he is emotionally involved. (This movement is also hurt by the decision to have the other two dancers stand downstage throughout, blocking many audience member's views and pulling focus in general.) Garcia and Vostrikov have much more chemistry and emotional connection, which brings their pas de deux to a higher level, but by the end Garcia is clearly tired. I would be too, after all of those lifts, but it does take away from the performance. Timothy Church's costumes for the women have a distracting tendency toward camel toe, and the men's bare chests are distracting in different way.

The second piece, "Duet from The Other," choreographed by Agnes DeMille, is a delight. It is supposed to depict "vitality, light and shadow," and it does so with great panache and humor. Dancers Jennifer Goodman and Luke Manley bring elegance and charm to the proceedings, and it is sheer pleasure to see extended periods of actual dance after the incessant lifts and grabs and slithers of "Triptych." The costumes are traditional and effective: white dress for her, tights and vest for him. The lighting design by David Grill is exactly as it should be.

Next comes "The Garden of Souls," choreographed by Medhi Bahiri and nicely danced by Goodman and Jason Jordan. Here again there is too much reliance on lifts and what I can only call voguing. There are a handful of great moments, such as some lifts that snap together perfectly, providing both pleasure and emotion. The actual dancing is sloppy, however; Goodman and Jordan are so out of sync that it's hard to tell if they're even supposed to be doing the same movements. Every once in a while, however, they achieve unison, and it is possible to see the beauty of Bahiri's work. (Like Garcia, Jordan also seems tired by the end of the piece; a lesson of this evening may be that there is a limit to how many lifts even a toned person with a gorgeous chest can do in a short period of time.) "The Garden of Souls" is a work in progress, and I hope that Bahiri hones his vision and that the dancers have more rehearsal time before it's performed again.

The evening ends with the quite enjoyable "Trois Mouvements," also choreographed by Bahiri. A fairly traditional piece utilizing eight dancers, it featurs various duets and solos and, yay!, no overdependence on lifts. The dancing ranges from good enough to quite good, with Nadezhda Vostrikov standing out for her elegance and graceful line.

Please note that the program does not specify which dancers dance which movements, nor are there pictures of the dancers in the program or the lobby. As a result, it is possible that I have some of the names wrong in this review. Corrections gratefully accepted.

(fifth row center; press ticket)

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