Above: Dance Theater of Harlem in Gloria; photograph by Matthew Murphy
Saturday September 28th, 2013 - The annual - and very popular - Fall for Dance festival is underway at New York's City Center. Tonight was the first of three programs - out of five being offered - that I'll be reporting on. The theater was packed, of course, and there was nary a peep from the audience during the dancing, but plenty of genuine enthusiasm after each work.
Above: Nrityagram (Surupa Sen & Bijayini Satpathy) in a photo by Uma Dhanwatey
Nrityagram is one of India's foremost dance companies; for nearly 20 years, Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy have taken traditional Indan dance all over the world while also commissioning new compositions from leading Indian classical musicians. Tonight the the two dancers opened this Fall for Dance performance with Vibhakta (2008, choreographed by Surupa Sen). Inspired by the belief that creation begins when The One splits into two and becomes Ardhanārīśvara (...'the Lord who is half-woman'...), this duet was performed to live music played by a small ensemble of excellent musicians seated stage right. Wearing gorgeous costumes of red, gold and pink, with jingling bells on their anklets, the two dancers cast a spell over the House with their graceful synchronized moves, long balances, accentuated footwork, and elegant gestures.
Most of the audience seemed to enjoy 605 Collective's offering, Selected Play, more than I did. I've seen this type of dancework countless times in recent seasons: the dancers clad in everyday clothes doing everyday dance moves to a vaguely ominous soundtrack. It was well-performed and well-lit, but there was nothing to set it apart from the many other similar works in this style that I have seen.
With the City Center stage stripped back to the bare walls and lighting scaffolds, HeadSpaceDance from London performed Light Beings, a duet choreographed by Mats Ek and set to Sibelius’ Andante Festivo. The dancers - Charlotte Broom and Christopher Arkill - burst joyously onto the stage and filled the space with witty combinations which seemed to gently spoof the traditional steps, port de bras and partnering motifs of the art of ballet. Their dancing, wth droll facial expressions, drew constant laughs from the crowd. The piece was a fun interlude and - at just under ten-minutes duration - showed that the choreographer understood the concept that brevity is the soul of wit.
Above: Da'Von Doane and corps de ballet of Dance Theatre of Harlem in Gloria; photo by Matthew Murphy
Gloria, choreographed by Robert Garland and performed by Dance Theatre of Harlem to the classic sacred work by Francis Poulenc, was s striking finale for the evening. The dancers, clad in rich hues of blue, forest green and chartreuse, moved thru Mr. Garland's well-structured choreography with assurance and commitment. The girls are on pointe and the vocabulary is classic, but with some fresh accents that give it a distinct flavor; a troupe of small girls from the Company's school also participate in this ballet. In leading roles, Ashley Murphy and Da'Von Doane looked superb. The combined effect of Poulenc's uplifting score, the beautifully-lit space, and the very attractive dancing evoked an enthusiastic ovation from the audience.