Above: Amber Neff of New Chamber Ballet in rehearsal
Friday September 6, 2013 - Miro Magloire's New Chamber Ballet inaugurated their 2013-2014 season tonight at City Center Studios. This unique Company has retained its sense of performance intimacy while growing its audience: there were several 'new' faces among the crowd tonight.
As pianist Melody Fader commenced the violent pounding motif that marks the opening of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Klavierstruck IX, we knew at once we were entering Miro's world. This ballet, entitled Klavierstuck, could be considered his signature work and is in fact an homage to the piano itself. Two dancers, Elizabeth Brown and Holly Curran, move around the sleek black instrument which becomes a barre, an altar and a mystic source of life-giving energy. In the end, the dancers actually lean into the sounding box in an effort to get as close to the music as possible.
A new work, Oracle, is a powerful addition to NCB's repertoire. Sarah Atkins and Holly Curran are seen first as two slumbering nymphs; each wears an anklet laced with small rattles and jingling bells. Clad in simple grey Grecian tunics with fillets of gold in their hair, they evoke visions of Isadora. Broken and disheleved, a third woman (Traci Finch) seeks to bond with others; they dance a stylized, synchronized trio - the rattles providing the ballet's score - and each steps forward in a solo passage. Traci begins to tremble and falls to the ground. The other two wood nymphs remove the stricken dancer's anklet and move off across the mythic landscape, leaving her crumpled body to the elements. Oracle is both lovely - in a primitive way - and darkly disturbing. Though without making a direct reference, Oracle might be viewed as Miro's tribute to the 100th anniversary of THE RITE OF SPRING.
The solo In a Simple Black Dress is perhaps Miro's most inventive work. The ballerina wears one pointe shoe and one soft slipper as she skims about the space in a restless, wafting dance. Violinist Doori Na took the technical demands of the Pierre Boules score (Anthemes) in stride while Amber Neff, in the titular black frock, made a vivid impression with her expansive, questing performance. Musician and dancer together crafted a nuanced, intriguing dance experience.
Following the intermission, two familiar works completed the evening. In Anna's Last Day we experience a darkly colorful score by Rebecca Saunders: Duo for violin and piano, played with lyric clarity by Doori and Melody. At several points, Melody must reach inside the piano to detonate certain chords. Amber Neff as the deceased younger sister sits quietly while Sarah Atkins as Anna dances a solo of panoramic emotional resonance; she moves restlessly about the space in a state of anguish over her sister's death. Hair down and wearing a white shift, Sarah gave a vibrant performance of this demanding solo.
To conclude this evening where shadowy emotional depths have been explored, Melody Fader played Haydn for the final work: The Letter. Elizabeth Brown, a founding member of New Chamber Ballet and one of Gotham's truly unique dancers, joins Holly Curran in this sometimes puzzling domestic drama where delivered missives seem alternately to cheer or upset the two women. Both skilled actresses, Elizabeth and Holly raced - sometimes literally - about the space until Melody, having had enough of their ongoing spat, stomps off. Elizabeth follows her, leaving Holly to resume her original task of dusting the piano.