Above: Laura DiOrio of Lydia Johnson Dance
Sunday March 17th, 2013 - Friends of Lydia Johnson Dance were invited to an open rehearsal at Manhattan Movement and Arts Center this afternoon. A big crowd turned out and extra chairs has to be called for to accommodate everyone. A large contingent of dancers were warming up, including some who are working with Lydia for the first time.
With performances coming up in June, the repertory has been set: we will be seeing new pieces set to music by Franz Schubert and Osvaldo Golijov, as well as the Bach ballet CHANGE OF HEART, and a revival of the evocative DUSK, created in 2009 to music by Henryk Gorecki. DUSK was one of the first works of Lydia's that I got to know and I'm very glad of the opportunity to see it again.
For today's studio presentation brief passages from the Bach and Gorecki were shown; although these pieces are not new several of the dancers involved will be performing them for the first time, so in a way it's a fresh experience.
The new Golijov - as yet untitled - is shaping up excitingly. The score can best be described as kaleidoscopic, since it shifts - not just in tempo and instrumentation but also in emotional texture - at the blink of an eye. After breaking down some of the tricky partnering motifs and brushing up the timing of some ensemble moments, a large chunk of this work-in-progress was shown today. High, angelic voices underline a mystical solo danced by Laura DiOrio; moments later Blake Hennessy-York is dancing an impassioned, fast-paced passage that has an earthy vitality. There's a thrilling moment when Erik Williams rushes onto the scene holding Sarah Pon in a high lift before letting her plunge into his arms.
Kerry Shea and Erik Williams (above, studio rehearsal image) have a duet in which a sense of quiet tenderness becomes a sonic oasis; such tranquil moments do not last since the Golijov score never lingers in one mood for very long.
Above: Sarah Pon and Blake Hennessy-York, photo by Brian Krontz
Simply from watching a few minutes of ensemble work from the new Schubert, it's evident this is going to be one of Lydia's most memorable works, and not least because of the heart-rending beauty of such Schubert songs as "Nacht und Träume". While very much Lydia in style, the piece already shows movement elements that will set it apart from her other works.
Min Kim (above) joins Laura DiOrio, Sarah Pon, Katie Martin, and newcomers Alessandra Giambelli and Lisa Borres in this Schubert ensemble. In addition to Eric and Blake, there are some new men working with the Company this season: Ashley Lindsey, Darion Smith and Anthony Bocconi. Understudies are Lauren Alpert, Melissa Morrison and Elise Ritzel.
I look forward to seeing the Company developing this repertory - they are already off to such a beautiful start.
At the end of the showing, the dancers sat on the floor and introduced themselves; Lydia then invited questions from the audience and one of the topics which came up was: "How long does it take for a dancer to absorb the Lydia Johnson style?" Lydia touched on the fact that - while very much rooted in classical ballet - her work has its own unique characteristics that would not be part of the ballet vocabulary. It's these refinements that take time to become a natural element in a dancer's way of moving. In the end, Lydia said it takes a year of working on her repertory for a good dancer to become fully at ease in her works. That certainly proved true in the case of Katie Martin, a tall blonde girl who was a fine mover when she joined the Company just about a year ago and who has in recent months developed into a very clear and expressive 'speaker' of Lydia's particular language.
It will be especially interesting to me to see how the newer dancers develop over the coming weeks, and to see the new works take their final shape leading up to the June performances.