Thursday December 6, 2012 - I first saw Anna Sokolow's Lyric Suite in 2010 at a performance by the Eugene Lang College Dance Division. This evening at the 14th Street Y I had a chance to see it again, this time performed by the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble. I'm pleased to say that my first impressions of the piece were borne out at this second encounter.
The evening opened with A SHORT LECTURE AND DEMONSTRATION ON THE EVOLUTION OF RAGTIME dating from 1932. Eleanor Bunker in a shimmering white 'flapper' frock and Richard Kilfoil in a tux demonstrated the various aspect of dancing to piano rags (pianist: David Broome) as Greg Youdan, bespectacled and earnest, gave the tongue-in-cheek narration. The piece is a charmer, and I actually learned something from it.
The Jim May duet EMPTY NEST (1988) was so poetic in its concept: a couple appear as if out of the mist, walking slowly towards us. In a framework of very limited movement and almost stylized gestural language, they expressed their mutual tenderness and their vision of moving into the future together. Lauren Naslund, her lovely face a portrait of feminine emotion, and Richard Scandola with his clear-eyed handsomeness were simply perfect. This is a work that says so much by saying so little: deeply moving to experience.
Sokolow's 1953 setting of Alban Berg's LYRIC SUITE is a masterpiece of dance craft. Each of the six movements is presented as what could be a free-standing work: they seem unrelated, linked only by the music. The opening briskly athletic solo danced by Victor Gonzalez is sculptural; he seems like a young Greek god, called to move about the space by unseen voices. Francesca Todesco makes a lovely impression as a priestess-like figure in the ritualistic second solo. This gives way to the trembling, furtive expressiveness of Samantha Geracht. In the adagio, Melissa Sobel and Greg Youdan seem more domestic than romantic; they move fluently and with a sense of quiet joy as they sweep offstage. Luis Gabriel Zaragoza seems lonely and fearful in his darkish solo, hiding his eyes from the light. Finally comes the iconic quartet for four red-gowned women with its perfume redolent of both Duncan and Graham: the rites of acolytes in the service of some long-forgotten goddess.
A listing of Sokolow's creations piques the curiosity for the Ensemble's future projects. I will always look forward to their presentations. Tonight was a joy to experience.
Some of the Ensemble's dancers appear in this Facebook photo album from an Autumn 2011 rehearsal.