Thursday July 30, 2009 - Takehiro Ueyama (above), the former Paul Taylor dancer, and his troupe TAKE Dance have opened at Dance Theater Workshop for the first of four performances. My companion for the evening was one of Take's Taylor colleagues Richard Chen See, now director of the New York International Ballet Competition. I was always a fan of both Take and Richard as dancers since I first saw them performing with the Taylor Company up at Jacob's Pillow in the 1990s. The Taylor connection is further enhanced by the presence of two current Taylor dancers who also dance with TAKE: Amy Young and Francisco Graciano. Take, Richard, Amy and Francisco exemplify Paul Taylor's eye for beauty and individuality, and TAKE Dance continues in that vein: a collection of dancers who bring their distinctive dance personalities to Take's works.
First I want to again thank my young dancer-friend Sophie Bromberg who 'introduced' me to TAKE Dance; without her helpful hint I wouldn't have discovered TAKE (or at least not so soon as I did). TAKE Dance was one of the first companies to welcome bloggers to their rehearsals and performances. When I first saw TAKE Dance in the studio, it was the beginning of a re-connection to modern dance for me: something I had neglected since moving to NYC. The TAKE/Taylor link brings me back mentally to the many trips to Jacob's Pillow we made each summer when I lived in Hartford.
The evening opened with LINKED, a vibrant Take creation to the infectious rhythms of Pat Metheny's score. The energized opening and closing movements bookend a peaceful central section danced in silence.
LINKED begins with a quartet: Jill Echo and Kile Hotchkiss (above) along with Amy Young and Take move thru the fast-paced combinations with joyous abandon. Partners switch, and the mood is playful. The movement never stops...until it does.
The four dancers freeze in a diagonal and are joined by others in a calm adagio section in which the only sound is their breathing. There is a ritualistic feeling in unison port de bras and a sense of communion as they gaze out at the world. Photo: Gina Ianni, front left, Amy, Milan Misko and Sharon Park.
Then the bubble of silence bursts and everyone erupts in a swirl of colour and motion as the Metheny music drives LINKED to its conclusion, evoking a whooping response from the sold-out crowd. Above, Amy Young, Sharon Park and Jill Echo.
On my first visit to see Take working in the studio, I was captivated by two of his most charismatic dancers, Nana Tsuda and Kile Hotchkiss. Nana's delicate features and unusual sense of the poetic are complimented by Kile's blonde good looks and his quiet authority as a partner. Using music from French cinema, Take created a set of three duets for Nana and Kile (titled LOVE STORIES) which evoke the famous Magritte painting The Lovers. The couple begin dancing in a relaxed, young-romance mood: Kile's shirt is open and Nana's red dress seems to signal a passionate young woman.
In the second duet, they are more buttoned-up and Kile is wearing a tie. Undercurrents of discord pulse beneath the surface: moments of ennui or restlessness. They seem to be together out of force of habit. There are aborted attempts at the old tenderness and sense of unity but though they dance together they seem apart.
They have stayed the course but the relationship has altered drastically; they appear for the last duet wearing the white hoods - their emotions hidden and their passions masked. In the end Kile collapses; Nana removes his mask and then her own as the light fades. Usually when I see a dance work that really moves me, I start thinking of who else I would like to see dancing in it; but I really can't imagine anyone other than Nana and Kile in LOVE STORIES. It belongs to them.
SHABON ("Bubbles") is a frothy, fun work set to Steve Reich in which bubble machines fill the air with shiny, fragile globes. Sharon Park strolls across the stage like a captivated child, innocently blowing bubbles of her own. The dancers are clad in whimsical playclothes by Cheryl McCarron.
Mariko Kurihara and Kristen Arnold have a duet as the back panel changes colour. Bubbles cascade into the playing area from all directions throughout the piece.
And then with a sense of a small girl on a big adventure, Mariko walks along the shoulders of her friends. SHABON seems to me an evocation of the innocent fantasies of childhood.
After the intermission, darkness falls and we are transported into the brooding, shadowy world of FOOTSTEPS IN THE SNOW, set to Arvo Part's pensive, spiritual music. It's a complex work in a cold, misty setting which draws us to contemplate the mystery of death and what we leave behind in passing. Opening with a beautifully-danced duet for Gina Ianni and Take to the otherworldly sounds of Part's Spiegel im Spiegel, the work further features an expressive solo for Nana Tsuda who lets the haunting music flow right thru her fingertips.
A duet passage for Milan Misko and Kristen Arnold shows off the amplitude of these two tall dancers as Kristen makes a slow, spacious backbend over Milan's back. In a solo which caused murmurs of disbelief among the crowd, Francisco Graciano collapses to the stage in an un-broken fall, rising in a state of trembling agitation only to fall again.
Moments of tenderness and consolation (Amy and Jill, above) are threaded into the funereal fabric.
Mourners pass thru the terrain which comes to feel like a cemetery in winter. Yet for all the desolation, there are glimmers of hope and tranquility.
I've seen FOOTSTEPS evolving since its initial showing at the New School in 2008. There's a great deal to absorb, both musically and in terms of the dancing. Its solemn beauty appeals to me and I look forward to seeing it again and to delving deeper into its layers of meaning.
Above, Amy Young in FOOTSTEPS. In the three works in which she appeared tonight, Amy's speed, her sense of abandon and the utter clarity of her every movement stood out in an outstanding Company of dancers. Her Taylor colleague Francisco Graciano likewise made a very fine impression with his polished dancing and handsome presence.
We stayed after to say hello to Take and his dancers; the girls in their party frocks all looked so lovely and I especially enjoyed seeing Elise Drew again; Elise is a former TAKE dancer who is now in Chicago dancing with Luna Negra Dance Theater.
All photos: Kokyat. Click each image to enhance.