Sunday March 30th, 2014 - I like to think of myself as the first person in Gotham to have 'discovered' Andonis Foniadakis. The Greek choreographer brought his solo setting of THE RITE OF SPRING to Joyce SoHo in 2008; I was invited to the dress rehearsal and I went, not knowing what to expect. It was a thrilling experience, made even more memorable by the incredible dancing of Joanna Toumpakari. I was so blown away by this RITE that I immediately arranged to see it again the following evening.
In May 2013 Andonis created HORIZONS for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and earlier this month his simply gorgeous ECHO was by premiered by The Martha Graham Dance Company. And now Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève have brought Andonis' GLORY, created on them in 2012, to The Joyce. I was only able to attend today's final performance of the run; I wished now that I'd planned to see it more than once.
Take a look at GLORY here.
The first thing I love about GLORY is the music: Andonis starts with a selection of vocal and instrumental works by George Frideric Handel which Julian Tarride has woven into a tapestry of sound incorporating strains of contemporary vocalism, fleeting rhythmic gestures, and the occasional sonic thunderclap. The only slight miscalculation is the use of the Hallelujah Chorus which - in my view - is too familiar to be included; there are dozens of celebratory choral works in the Handel catalog and I would have chosen something rarer. Nonetheless, between Handel and Tarride, the dancers can take wing in this hour-long work which flows on endless waves of lyrical, expansive movement.
The lighting (Mikki Kunttu) plays a major role in the visual appeal of GLORY: shafts of light radate thru the dancing area in ever-shifting patterns, creating chiaroscuro effects, variously illuminating the dancers from all sides and evoking the sunlight pouring into the dark caverns of antique cathedrals. Costume designer Tassos Sofroniou has clad the dancers like dark angels at first; later brilliant ruby red gowns will bring a satanic touch to the proceedings. The dancers change costumes often, some taking on pale yellow and lighter hues, and at one point the men appear in dance-belts like living statuary as they manipulate a single woman in complex lifts.
Andonis has structured GLORY in such a way that there seems to be more than the twenty listed dancers onstage. They come and go in various movement units and from time to time simply march forward, having descended the two steps a the back of the stage, like oncoming armies. At times they arrange themselves in mirror-image Rorschach-patterns. The Geneva dancers are remarkably flexible and strong, their energy level seeming to soar as this physically demanding work progressed: the ballet is a non-stop panorama of movement.
Graham-like rituals alternate with knotted clusters of bodies, and visual polyphony plays a key role: there are usually several things happening at once. Along the way, solos or pas de deux bring individual dancers into focus. In the ballet's most striking passage, a woman appears in a long cape of black parachute silk which is manipulated by the black-clad men using metal rods (photo at the top).
Although at times there was a sense of repetitiveness in the choreography and a feeling that the work was perhaps a bit too long for optimum effect, the overall beauty and the combined theatrical power of the dancers, the choreography, the music and visual representation made for a very pleasing afternoon.