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Flash Review 1, 1-4: "Feel Good" Dance
The de Lavallade/Solomons/Williams Paradigm

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2001 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- Look up "paradigm" in the dictionary, and you'll read: an outstandingly clear or typical example or archetype. Look at Paradigm on the Joyce Theater stage this week, and you'll find: Carmen de Lavallade, Gus Solomons jr, and Dudley Williams. A definition embodied. The most aptly named company around. These modern dance luminaries, all over the age of 60, have incredible resumes (between them dancing for Alvin Ailey, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Martha Graham, and Merce Cunningham, to name a few). To see the weight of such vast experience combined with the levity of dance in the present moment, as revealed in last night's opening of the Joyce's Altogether Different festival, makes for a remarkable concert.

The trio does indeed provide outstandingly clear examples of captivating stage presence and deliberate delivery of movement. Each gesture, down to the fingertips, is fully realized. In the world premiere of "Stages," choreographed by Robert Battle, Williams's wildly fluttering hands and de Lavallade's upturned thumbs alone speak volumes. Paradigm is also a prototype for dance composition. Both Solomons's "Gray Study" and his premiere of "No Ice in Poland" reveal his deep command of the craft of choreography.

Cloaked in elegant gray trench coats, the dancers begin "Gray Study" with a cannon of rhythmic locomoter steps that snake across the stage. They eventually break into individual phrases, rearranging their coats to expose brightly colored linings and to adapt them to costumes befitting their movement phrases. De Lavallade fashions a hot pink skirt with a regal air. Solomons carries his coat in his arms, offering up the emerald lining through a series of curving, wriggling gestures.

De Lavallade is stunning in the opening of "No Ice in Poland," standing in a pool of light, wearing a flowing blue dress by Oana Botez-Ban. Had she just stood still, I would have watched. But she treats us to a full range of expressiveness, moving from coquettishness to mild annoyance to triumph. Williams and Solomons share a playful duet that spills into a solo for Solomons. A tall, loose-limbed dancer, he draws incredibly clear lines. With a deep second position plie, a really curved contraction, and a slight toss of the head, he reminds us that to dance is to move the body because it feels good. Williams and de Lavallade return and the trio moves fluidly between unison, cannon, pairings of two against one, then back to unison and so forth. Reflecting the gentle currents of Chopin's score, the choreography fits together like a puzzle.

Dwight Rhoden's "It All," performed to music by Bjork, makes an interesting contrast to the Chopin. A tense, sexually-charged duet for de Lavallade and Solomons, it takes place on and around two chairs that seem to be anchors for the tempestuous relationship portrayed. In Robert Battle's "Stages," the dancers revel in lengthy solos filled with quirky, interesting movement vocabulary. Williams seems encased by a center spotlight. His arms shake in all directions. He is a man caught, unsure of where the threat comes from, but putting up a good fight nonetheless. The boundaries flip as the center spot fades and a large circle is projected on the scrim, thanks to innovative lighting design by Aaron Copp. Williams is eventually comforted and guided offstage by de Lavallade as Solomons crawls on Marine-style for his solo. At the end, the dancers gather, Amanda Kapousouz's provocative score brightens, and they revisit several of their solo phrases, as if recounting for each other private dreams they had. The trio gestures towards their mouths, seeming to both eat and offer food. They feed each other in the moment, while having already fed us for a long time to come.

Paradigm performs again at the Joyce Theater on Saturday, January 5 at 8 pm and Sunday, January 6at 2 pm. For more information, please visit the Joyce web site.


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