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Review 1, 6-24: Mountain Fresh
Elevated Rep. & Dancers from Aspen Santa Fe
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- If you missed
the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at the Joyce Theater, June 17 - 21, don't
let it happen again! This exhilarating company of twelve, directed
by Jean-Philippe Malaty and Tom Mossbrucker, stormed the stage with
an eclectic repertoire that electrified the audience. Both directors
are alumni of the Joffrey Ballet, and neither are choreographers,
but they obviously have a perceptive eye for choosing strong dancers
and repertoire that shows off their strengths as well as delighting
audiences. The dancing is go-for-broke daring -- especially from
the women -- with high energy and edgy dynamics.
The ballet "sans detour"
by Dominique Dumais, formerly of the National Ballet of Canada,
turns the women into sinewy, angular creatures with cupped hands,
turned-in knees, and flexed toe shoes. As the title implies, the
movement -- propelled by Movement III of Philip Glass's "Third Symphony"
mixed with bits of Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" and Bach's "Chorale
Prelude" -- unravels in a fluid stream of big extensions, spinal
gyrations, deft partnering. In a solo with chair, Irene Joyce has
an emotional meltdown, pierced by silent screams. Peter Lavoie's
lighting articulates the space in interesting architectural ways,
and Guillaume Cote, the complex sound design. Dumais creates some
ravishing, sensuous duet passages for single and multiple couples,
especially one for Tom Chittenden and Irene Joyce. But she's packed
the dance so full of both movement and expression: abstraction,
neo-classicism, and drama, it leaves us wanting less.
After this neo-classic
blockbuster, Dwight Rhoden's eloquent "Ave Maria" -- set to Cacini's
version, not the more familiar Schubert one -- enjoyed a passionate
performance by ASFB founding members Brooke Klinger and Seth DelGrasso.
Its convoluted couplings and lifts keep building momentum, and the
gripping physical image of Klinger balancing on toe in an impossibly
deep second position plie always draws applause. Michael Korsch
designed the flesh-flattering lighting.
Moses Pendleton, a founding
father of Pilobolus, can come up with crowd-pleasing images with
his hands tied behind his back. His "Noir Blanc" fills the bill
with its how'd-they-do-that images that evoked applause several
times. Pendleton is adept at exploring the permutations of his unlikely,
if sometimes predictably manipulated, imagery. Behind a scrim, across
which astrological scenes are projected, glow ten all-white profiles.
They lean at impossible angles, finally floating off the ground
altogether. The trick is the costumes, conceived by Pendleton and
designed by Phoebe Katzin, which are half white and half invisible
black, concealing the dancers' supporting legs.
Riding the pulse of
music by The Buddha Experience and Harold Budd, the piece exploits
visual trickery in myriad gravity-defying ways: dancers glide across
the stage in mid-air; they appear to leap huge distances; they split
in two and reassemble their halves. At the climax nine bodies assemble
into an all-white mass, and a shadowy black creature is sucked into
the shape and disappears. Then the mass morphs into a towering mountain
Finally, "Vertical Dream"
by Nicolo Fonte, an American who danced with Spain's Nacho Duato,
explores similar neo-classic territory as Dumais, with even juicier,
elastic extensions, inventive partnering, and, yes, a bit of faux-angst.
Here, the women are off point, and Fonte's dynamic flow is nicely
modulated, hitched to percussive electric music by David Lang and
a somber, intense score by Arvo Part.
It opens with a forceful
solo by DelGrasso, who's then joined by Katie Dehler in Lloyd Sobel's
mysterious lighting. Eric Chase, Chittenden, and Patrick Thompson
meet DelGrasso in a powerful male quartet. The men wear briefs and
the women leotards by Billie Meyer: black, each adorned with one
narrow color stripe. Klinger, Joyce, and Elizabeth Johansen partner
with the men and dance together with each other. Upstage, four vertical
green neon tubes frame the dancers in their glare from time to time.
As the music dies, a strong wind is heard, and Johansen is left
alone onstage in a storm of delicate snow falling in a small rectangular
patch. The standing ovation that greeted the show affirmed that
this a company to be reckoned with.
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