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Flash Review 2, 10-23: Decadent Display
Fireworks from Re-born Lubovitch Troupe

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung

NEW YORK -- Lar Lubovitch presented a rich evening's program at City Center, watched on Oct. 17. In fact, by the end of the night, it felt so rich that it was downright decadent. But it was the good kind of decadence, like eating one too many chocolate truffles, or watching a big fireworks display whose grand finale keeps building and building.

The program began with a new production of "The Wedding," which outfitted Lubovitch's 1976 choreography with new costumes by Ann Hould-Ward and sets by Brian Webb. To Stravinsky's still-abrasive sounding score of "Les Noces," the story provided a solid framework on which Lubovitch could hang phrases evocative of Nijinski, yet based in the Soviet era. In front of a giant Socialist Realist portrait of Lenin, he favored angled arms, flexed feet, pumping fists, and limbs unfurling to form human X's. The dancers, in wide fourth position, swung their arms like heavy pendulums, swiftly shifting direction by sweeping their legs a quarter-turn more and shifting their subtly their shoulders.

Lubovitch has assembled a cast of dancers who are roundly excellent, or in any case are well cast to their strengths -- so much so, that it is difficult to single any out. Nancy Bannon and Jason McDole played the couple, their diminutive sizes underscoring their rolesā youthfulness and their understandable trepidation at their impending arranged marriage, into which they ultimately entered resignedly. Hould-Ward's costumes, while authentic in their rustic fullness and layers, hindered a clear reading of the crisp dancing surely going on beneath. And Webb's sets approached the operatic in scale, perhaps a bit literal and time-specific for this everyman ceremony.

"My Funny Valentine," a world premiere, was a duet for American Ballet Theatre guesters Sandra Brown and Marcelo Gomes, danced to a live rendition of the Richard Rodgers chestnut. Perfectly matched and simply costumed, Brown and Gomes were a physical embodiment of an ideal of love. The final partnering move, made as both sit back to back on the stage, has Brown effortlessly carve a circle in front of Gomes's head, sliding serenely into a reclining position. I wished Gomes, who in one instance seemed to wrestle a little with Lubovitch's vocabulary, had been given more to show off his wonderful technique, still lingering in my mind from the last ABT season.

City Center seemed a better, roomier stage for the dark, hypnotic "Men's Stories (A Concerto in Ruin)," than the venue at which it premiered last season, the Angel Orensanz Foundation. The nine men comprising the cast are such powerful stage presences to a person that a bit more distance to the audience did not detract from their projection. The ensemble enters like a flock of big birds, silent and majestic, rotating around one another, each taking a turn cutting the path. They take turns in solo, displaying the unique way of moving that, in this level of dancer, is increasingly defined with age and experience.

There is so much lush movement to this dance that by the end of the first movement, the audience was halfway to their feet ready to give an ovation. Then began the second movement, which was even more stunning. A soloist dancer or a few at a time, the men would form a tableau, but they wouldn't lock into position; one would continue the movement, drawing the eye to a certain spot on the stage. While Lubovitch may sometimes rely upon conventional methods of composition available to every choreographer, such as oppositional diagonals, or arranging the dancers in graduating levels to lead the gaze a certain way, there doesn't seem to be a contemporary who can so consistently manufacture such kinetic beauty. The original score, by Scott Marshall, a collage of all types of music layered with spoken passages and electronica, added a note of dissonance.

"Men's Stories" dripped with decadence, of the cumulative narratives of Lubovitch and the dancers. They moved so eloquently that I was exhausted from "listening" to what they had to tell, yet privileged to have heard.

Dancers in this year's edition of the Lar Lubovitch company were Nancy Bannon, Stefanie Batten Bland, Griff Braun, Sandra Brown, Gerald Casel, Elisa Clark, Nancy Colahan, Philip Gardner, Marcelo Gomes, Roger C. Jeffrey, Marc Mann, Jason McDole, Scott Rink, Kevin Scarpin, Michael Thomas, and Shila Tirabassi.

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