Above: Eun Jung Jung and Eric Vlach in rehearsal for Nomad Contemporary Ballet.
Sunday September 23, 2012 matinee - Nomad Contemporary Ballet, under the artistic direction of Kristen McGrew, gave their debut performances in New York City this weekend at the Alvin Ailey Studios. I attended the second of two performances; there was a full and attentive house, an unbroken progression of successful and pleasingly contrasted danceworks, a troupe of very accomplished and appealing dancers, a fine array of music, nice costume designs, effective and uncomplicated lighting. In short, it was a very satisfying afternoon of dance.
Ursula Verduzco's wonderfully animated THE GAME opened the performance with the dancers running in place. They wear colourful flannel tights embellished with constellations and galaxies, reminding me of a kid's pajamas. To music by Dead Can Dance, the dancers swoop and leap about the space, forming mini-cliques and then going off on other tangents. A very good way to kick off the programme.
It was the duet ADRIFT, choreographed by Ms. McGrew, that introduced me to Nomad when it was performed recently as part of the Latin Choreographers Festival 2012. I loved it then and loved it even more today as it took on a new resonance by virtue of this brief program note: "Two people who love one another but are not lovers, bound together to a single person who they both loved and lost: his wife, her sister." That single sentence threw a poignant light on the duet and it became a very moving piece to watch today...and just a bit harrowing in my current fragile state of mind. Dancing beautifully to Bach, Erin Ginn and Eric Vlach were so expressive that they left me with a lump in my throat.
Above: dancer Shannon Maynor photographed by Melissa Bartucci.
If ADRIFT was touching, the next work MIDNIGHT ABYSS made me feel suicidal...oh, it was very well-choreographed (by Adrienne Hurd) and danced, but that song - Jacques Brel's 'Ne me quitte pas' - what a stab in the heart that is! Luckily there was no revolver or razor blade to hand. So I made myself focus on the two dancers who opened the piece: Shannon Maynor and J'Michea Walker. Excellent, both of them. The piece develops into a large work with some ritualistic unison phrases; on my playbill I scrawled 'gorgeous ensemble'. Shannon is a really impressive dancer to watch; her dancing has both strength and beauty. It was a piece that matched my mood and thus took on a particular dark lustre of its own. I'd love to see it again.
Choreographer Janet Atallah turned to music of Philip Glass for her work SYNAPSE; some people think Glass has been over-used for dance but I say: the more Glass the better. I've yet to see a work set to his music that I actively disliked. Ms. Atallah's piece unfolded pleasingly, on pointe and with lots of classic ballet vocabulary woven into fresh sentences and paragraphs. A solo for Shannon Maynor and her duet with J'Michea Waker were among the finest passages, as was an adagio for four women.
In a triple tour de force, Alexei Agoudine (of ABT) not only choreographed his ballet RUSTY ROMANCE but also wrote the music for it and designed the costumes. Witty and wistful, this story of the love of a spark plug for a fuel filter was a real charmer from start to finish. Joel Levy as the mechanic sets things in motion (later his own pirouettes drew a round of applause); there's a quartet of on-pointe sparkplugs and then there's the hapless fuel filter, played by Eric Vlach. The winsome and pretty Erin Ginn loses her heart to Eric and they have a love duet after which Erin's energy has drained away. She pines for him as her sister-sparks make fun of her; but love conquers all and the ballet ends with a triumphant apotheosis.
Above: dancer Erin Ginn, photo by Melissa Bartucci.
Kristen McGrew's RUA ('Red') ended the afternoon in fine fashion, the dancers in red and black moving fluently to music of Antonio Vivaldi. The piece is very astutely structured and the combinations are woven together with a sure hand, giving the dancers ample oppportunity to shine both as individuals and as an ensemble. A particularly lovely adagio for Eun Jung Jung and Eric Vlach gave the ballet its center. Kristen's musical choices - Bach and Vivaldi in this programme - put her in alignment with me as to setting the creative energy on music that is worthy to be danced, especially when a work is on pointe. Music for dance needn't be classical, but it does need to be classy.
In addition to the dancers named in the above paragraphs, Nomad Contemporary Ballet also gave us Khiara M Bridges, Alessandra Giambelli, Bethany Lange, Rebecca Ross, and Malik Warlick each of whom I was able to focus on in the course of the afternoon.
I'm hoping these calling-card performances will be the start of a prospering time for this Company which can offer performing opportunities for dancers steeped in classical ballet, and the possibility for choreographers to create new works in that genre. I congratulate Kristen and eveyone involved for this new beginning.
Here are some images from the actual performance; the photographer is Melissa Bartucci:
From THE GAME with dancer J'Michea Walker in the foreground
From ADRIFT; the dancers are Erin Ginn and Eric Vlach
The ensemble in MIDNIGHT ABYSS
Shannon Maynor and J'Michea Walker in SYNAPSE
Above: dancer Eun Jung Jung
Click on each of these images to enlarge.