New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
1, 6-14: Reveal and Refresh
Brookoff Revisits and Revives the Ballet
By Alicia Mosier
Copyright 2002 Alicia Mosier
NEW YORK -- In a program titled
"Misalliances and Other Dances," the Brookoff Dance Repertory Company swept into
the Cunningham Studio last night with an evening of sophisticated new works and
deeply satisfying older ones. Choreographer Matthew Brookoff is taking his place
among a new breed of ballet makers who, instead of bucking the tradition, study
it with loving attention and create dances that both reveal and refresh ballet's
rich heritage. On the basis of several of the pieces seen last night, I'd say
New York City Ballet would do well to keep an eye on him for its next Diamond
"Stolen Dances," a work in three
movements for thirteen dancers set to Bach's Violin Concerto in E, is one of those
pieces. Completed in 1996 (the first movement was choreographed two years earlier),
it is a marvel of distillation, fresh with the perfume of Balanchine, "Sleeping
Beauty," Baroque painting, Greek friezes, and the Lindy hop, all of which play
into but never dominate Brookoff's own idea. The first movement is a scurry of
gazelle leaps and kicked-out lunges, courtly arms and hip-hop. Two fingers to
the lips bring to mind both Polyhymnia's gesture in "Apollo" and a sharpshooter
blowing on a gun. In thirty seconds' time, five women summon "Serenade" (heads
tilting side to side), "Swan Lake" (coupes with arms linked as in the pas de quatre),
and "Giselle" (chugs in arabesque) -- glimmers of Ballet Past which enrich the
rush of movement Brookoff has in motion, letting us see where experiments with
spacing and counterpoint have their roots, but never overwhelming his own experiment.
The second movement, a promenade
of all the dancers from left to right across the stage, turns out to be (or so
it can be read) a poem about the arabesque. A majestic architecture emerges bit
by bit in little runs facing sideways, simple walks with arms raised as in a bas
relief, flattened dimensions full of interior tensions. (A long penchee by Tasha
Taylor, near the end, by then contains multitudes.) The groupings here echo the
shape of Bach's music: sometimes it's one dancer moving across the stage, as in
the steady bass line, other times it's four or five at once, bringing out the
polyphonic structure inside the simple frame. The third movement unites the first
and second in a myriad of circles, lines, and knots, spinning the dancers out
into a concluding freeze-frame panorama worthy of Petipa.
The program's three premieres demonstrate
the growing sophistication of Brookoff's craft. "Faun," set to Erik Satie's Gnossienne
No. 5, summons Nijinsky and Jerome Robbins, both of whom made ballets on the theme
of that narcissistic woodland creature. Brookoff's Faun, Brock Labrenz, is all
animal instinct. Seated with legs coiled on the ground, he turns his head slowly,
focusing like a tiger on some prey. Hungry for everything -- space as well as
food and drink -- this faun stands nobly as the Sun shines on his bare chest,
uses the ground as a catapult (after tapping it with his toe, quick as a cat's
paw), and drenches himself in water (after, in a nod to Ovid, gazing at his reflection
in it for a moment). Kristen Swiat, a nymph in pale green, gains his attention
for a while -- and then he returns to his taut, silent watch.
Labrenz gives a performance even
better than that smoldering one in "By Land and Sea Dream (A Bedtime Story)."
One mark of Brookoff's talent is his attentiveness to impulses of his dancers.
In "Faun," he showed Labrenz as a handsome young god, small, well-muscled, and
ready to pounce. Here the dancer is a dreaming boy, a teenaged Wordsworth, blond
hair tossed in a galloping reverie. Debussy's "Danse (Tarantelle Styrienne)" carries
him along in darting brisees as he holds the reins of an invisible stallion; as
the music softens, he extends his arms like wings and floats one leg around his
body in a steady promenade as if balancing on a mountain peak. In a loose white
blouse, he rockets into the air (with no apparent preparation), then slips along
the ground as in the ocean's waves. Instead of "sentences," the steps make a vivid
stream-of-consciousness flow of images. In "By Land and Sea Dream" Brookoff captures
the rush of Debussy's music, the self-assuredness and free-for-allness of a gifted
young artist, and the ecstatic flight one feels in the most wonderful dreams.
Another ambitious new work is "Fragile
Spring," an idyll for two couples, set to Igor Stravinsky's "Serenade in A." It
could be the eve of World War I, perhaps in Britain -- young lovers playing for
the last time at the beach, the boys (Richard Decker and Stephan Laks) in brown,
the girls (Robin Hoffman and Taylor) in light green frocks. Like a spring wind
that rustles through the leaves, the dancers rush forward in each other's arms,
wheeling into roundabout formations, meeting in a courtly square in the midst
of Stravinsky's agitated rhythms. Hoffman and Laks break off in a tender, rapturous
duet; Decker enters with a sad little jig, full of petit battement executed with
soldierly precision. After the couples bid each other a strained farewell, Taylor
dances alone, perhaps the only one of this group for whom the fragility of spring
will be too much to bear. This is a skillful dance-drama whose emotional complexity
-- explored through choreography that is at once turbulent and eloquent -- brings
to mind the best work of Antony Tudor.
The Brookoff company's program also
included "Shell Games," "Aphrodite's S(c)ent," "No More," and "Let's Step Out,"
all reviewed here last year and all performed
last night with brio and a greater subtlety of feeling. Once again, Brookoff was
blessed to have Body Wrappers donate many of the elegant costumes. In addition
to those already mentioned, the dancers are Cynthia Cortes, Frank M. Dellapolla,
Luz Marina Diaz, Audrey Harris, Yuka Kawazu, Kim Larimore, Tomiko Magario, Molly
Phelps, Therese Wendler, and Cynthia Xavier. Brookoff Dance Repertory Company
continues at the Cunningham Studio (55 Bethune Street in Greenwich Village) tonight
and Saturday night at 9 pm. For more information, please call 212-924-0077.
Go back to Flash Reviews