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Review 2, 3-18: Still Kickin'
Dancing Feld, Baryshnikov Re-orders the Alphabet
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- "Aurora
I," opening one of Ballet Tech's programs at the Joyce (March 11-
April 13), reminded me that Eliot Feld is a very inventive movement
maker and that the obsessive way he composes that inventive movement
into dances drives me crazy. It's no surprise that one of his preferred
composers is Steve Reich, whose insistent pattern music gives him
a perfect field for endless repetitions of movement motifs.
The dozen dancers in
this 1985 work wear white sneakers and silvery space suits by Willa
Kim, adorned at wrists and ankles with blurry bands of magenta or
aqua. They slide down steeply raked platforms in myriad ways, sitting
on their fannies, splitting their legs apart, diving upside down.
The interlocking traffic patterns are stunning as dancers descend
then climb back up the steep slope, progressing across the half-hexagon
the platforms describe. Allen Lee Hughes uses low side light to
cast long shadows: arctic twilight. But the pretty patterning persists
for nearly half an hour without achieving a satisfying metaphor.
Seen Saturday, the nearly
three-hour (too long!) program also included Feld's ode to America,
Portrait," with actor Michel Gill speaking the Great
Emancipator's words amid parading civilians, representing a cross-section
of citizens, and a swirl of dancers who resemble an Olympic gymnastics
Also on the program,
the enigmatic "Behold the Man," in which Nickemil Concepcion, Ballet
Tech's reigning male star, does a spectacularly acrobatic solo,
wearing only a dance belt and tiny light bulbs all over him (costumes
by Gregg Barnes). Two women in leather-look dresses spin around
him and fashion a grotesque crown of thorns on his head, made of
long thin balloons, the kind guys at carnivals twist into animal
shapes, while two men in futuristic military garb do a jazzy unison
duet. Then they all run around the stage in a circle, Concepcion
looking like a reindeer or an Indian chief and the two couples behind
him wielding balloons like scimitars.
Feld and Mikhail Baryshnikov
have collaborated several times over the years since 1977, and Feld's
1995 solo for him, "Tongue and Groove," set to Steve Reich's "Clapping
Music," showed up on the program, too. Concepcion danced the quirky
balletic steps with youthful aplomb, and Alan Pierson and Jason
Treuting of the new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound on stage, skillfully
clapped their hands red.
Feld's may be premature
calling his new dance for Baryshnikov "Mr. XYZ." At age 55, Misha
is still lively and wry, and no further alphabetically than, maybe,
STU in his phenomenal career. He's as charismatic as ever on stage
and obviously enjoying performing. For music, Feld has turned to
one of his standbys, Leon Redbone, singing old standards.
As Redbone growls Irving
Berlin's "My Walking Stick," Baryshnikov walks a little pattern
using a cane as a third leg. He leans on the cane when he jumps,
rides it like a horse, taps it like a blind man, and turns it into
an umbrella, and a campstool. Hughes's lighting plan has one of
the stage crew suspended above the stage, following the dancer with
with a dress form on a dolly to "Lulu's Back in Town," and when
"Lulu" rolls offstage and jilts him he scooters himself around in
an office desk chair to "I Ain't Got Nobody." He squeezes the chair
between his legs and rocks it provocatively. Then, seven ladies
in black tights take turns giving him a spin in the chair. Ecstatic,
he balances the chair seat on his head and twirls the inverted base
like a helicopter rotor.
Feld has created an
ode to infirmity, but when the feisty elf Baryshnikov rolls upstage
into the sunset in the chair, we know there's lots of life left
in those magical legs, and we haven't seen the end of his Terpsichorean
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