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Review 2, 11-7: Bring on the 'Boyz'
George Piper DANCES
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- It's tempting
to take George Piper Dances for a marketing ploy -- the company
almost demands it. Its founders, William Trevitt and Michael Nunn,
are known as the "Ballet Boyz," words spray-painted rebelliously
on their promotional images, and they run sassy video documentary
/ travelogue segments during costume changes. But as seen in the
troupe's New York debut at the Joyce Theater Tuesday, their technical
skills as Royal Ballet alums and their savvy at choosing repertory
and dancers say we would be wise to take this chamber-sized company
of five quite seriously.
Between Ballett Frankfurt's
season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, American Ballet
Theatre's recent presentation of "workwithinwork," and now GPD's
rendition of the1984 work "Steptext," New Yorkers have been veritably
wallowing in William Forsythe's choreography this fall. In "Steptext,"
Forsythe at first pulls apart the disparate elements of a dance:
house lights remained up, stage lights dark. After a soundtrack
of chattering voices, snippets of Bach switched on and off, sounding
more like noise than music, while two isolated men whirled and positioned
their arms (seen separately on video being marked dutifully by Trevitt
in his hotel bathtub after a rehearsal with Forsythe, also shown).
The lights assumed their "proper" roles for a moment, and Oxsana
Panchenko entered, all business, clapping her forearms together
like a chalkboard or a dire warning of some kind. The partnering
focused on aggressive tugs of war and violent yankings into deep
penches and angled front extensions. Trevitt, in a strong solo,
showed his feline power, alternating big arcing jumps with whipping
pencil turns. The wiry Panchenko demonstrated complete body control
in even the most violent of moves, although she externalized her
facial emotions a bit hotly for Forsythe's cool, analytical tone.
They were joined by Hubert Essakow.
The company danced the
New York premiere of Christopher Wheeldon's "Mesmerics," set to
sonorous Philip Glass music. Wheeldon has a fundamental respect
for ballet vocabulary, leaving it largely intact while making small
but cumulative forays. Simple things took on emotional weight --
a woman tendued through a standing man's legs, establishing closeness.
Or she stood on pointe in a wide second, and allowed her tipping
self to be caught. And in another scene, a man danced with a phantom
partner, his arm shaping around her absent body. The dancers --
Trevitt, Nunn, Panchenko, Essakow and Monica Zamora -- later moved
in canon, sliding through arabesques; plie-ing in second, they wheeled
their arms and flicked their loose hands to one side. The music
set a serene tone, but toward the end of the work, it seemed as
if Wheeldon strained to match its ponderousness move-for-note. Julius
Lumsden designed the work and the red-piped short unitards made
of black and sheer panels.
2002 "Torsion," in its New York premiere, provided a keen example
of how ballet training equips certain dancers for just about anything.
A video clip screened just prior to the piece warned us that we
were about to see some pretty hard stuff -- precarious balances
between Trevitt and Nunn, both powerhouse dancers, who were having
hilarious difficulty on the video. Obviously they figured it out,
and on stage impressively executed Maliphant's style which, once
movement was initiated, flowed seamlessly. (He tends to create "event
phrases," between which the dancers walk casually.) Moves within
a phrase used energy from the previous move to create a continuous
stream, as in capoeira. Maliphant smartly intuits the laws of physics
in his dances -- seen in the aforementioned upside-down balances,
or in action/reaction chains in which one performer's hip buckled,
and the following moves fell into place in consequence, like dominos.
Toward the end, one man leveraged the other's stiffened body, pointing
him at the audience like a rocket launcher, which suited their prison-style
indigo costumes by FCUK. These were skilled dancers interpreting
provocative choreography, and the result was hypnotic. Richard English
provided the varied, percussive score; Michael Hulls lit this work
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