Above: Clifton Brown and Yuan Yuan Tan in Kokyat's image from a rehearsal of Jessica Lang's AMONG THE STARS. More photos from this rehearsal will be found here.
Sunday October 30, 2011 - The Fall for Dance 2011 festival continues with:
Vertigo Dance Company, Mana (adapted for Fall for Dance); Noa Wertheim, choreographer
Drew Jacoby, Bloom; Andrea Miller (Artistic Director of Gallim Dance), choreographer
Jessica Lang Dance, Among the Stars; Jessica Lang, choreographer
Richard Alston Dance Company, Roughcut; Richard Alston, choreographer
In Noa Wertheim's MANA (photo above by Gadi Dagon), Vertigo Dance Company from Israel featured eight dancers in dark-toned long tunics, skirts and wide-legged trousers dancing before a beautifully lit silhouette/facade thru the door of which they come and go. With folk-like motifs of circular patterns and casually organized duets, the movement feels both spontaneous and ritualistic. Ran Bagno's mid-East fusion score is rhythmically varied with some quirkly instrumentation; it is pleasantly innocuous and eventually unmemorable. The dancing was excellent and the dancers deserved the enthusiastic response of the audience, but the work would make a more persuasive statement if it were pared down a bit. It gives the impression of someone who goes on talking after his point has already been made.
The imperial contemporary ballerina Drew Jacoby (this year's calendar girl for Fall for Dance, in a Lois Greenfield photo above) then danced a new solo created on her by Gallim Dance's Andrea Miller. Entitled BLOOM, set to music of Radiohead, the solo finds the dancer on a blue-lit stage in a gossamer cerise frock; dancing bare-footed rather than in toe-shoes gives the ballerina a vulnerable look. Swirling thru windswept patterns that propel her around the space, Drew is restless and relentless. Elements of classic ballet technique are subtly spun into the choreography - big jete, attitude turns - and are executed at high velocity. In moments of relative calm the dancer seems aware of the audience but is then propelled on her way again, at times almost against her will. The curtain falls but Drew continues to dance at the lip of the stage and eventually sails back into the re-opened space. The solo personifies the dancer as a force of nature and is a wonderful Drew Jacoby portrait; we get to see Drew again at the Festival in Pontus Lidberg's Faune (November 1st & 2nd).
Yuan Yuan Tan, principal ballerina of San Francisco Ballet, and Clifton Brown, beloved Alvin Ailey star since 1999 and now a guest artist with that Company, created quite a stir as they danced Jessica Lang's mystically luminous duet for star-crossed lovers, AMONG THE STARS. Above, the two dancers at a recent studio rehearsal, photographed by Kokyat.
The duet draws upon the legend (found in many cultures) of Altair, a lowly herdsman who dared to love Vega, daughter of a goddess. They are punished by being transformed into stars separated by the vast river of the Milky Way, But it is said that the Goddess of Heaven, out of pity, decided to let them unite once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month as she was touched by their devotion.
Poetic images of tenderness and longing fill this pas de deux, which Ms. Lang has set to music of Ryuichi Sakamoto. Yuan Yuan Tan and Clifton Brown danced with poignant lyricism, the ballerina's compelling technical mastery wedded to her delicately nuanced gesture and expression while Mr. Brown was the epitome of masculine grace. The audience, spellbound by the piece and by these two magnificent artists, erupted in a frenzied ovation as the dancers stepped forward to bow.
ROUGHCUT, performed by the Richard Alston Dance Company, closed the evening. It was perhaps impossible to imagine something that could follow the sublime dancing of the Lang duet; in the event the Alston piece gave the right counter-balance of mood but stretched out beyond its viability as the choreographer worked to fill the two long Steve Reich pieces with dance. In the end it seemed too much of a good thing.
Clarinetist Roger Heaton and guitarist James Woodrow played the demanding Reich scores live, standing at either side of the proscenium. The nine Alston dancers gave unstinting energy and flair to the choreographer's spirited, driven combinations, soaring about the stage in spacious leaps and turns. There were passages of near-respite in some solo and duet segments but the onrush of movement never abated. As the dancers were rightly hailed at the end, I was thinking how much ROUGHCUT reminded me of some of David Parsons' fast-paced works. But David would have known when to get out the scissors.