to you by
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.
More Flash Reviews
Review Journal, 11-2: Dance Dream, War Nightmare
Cedar Rapids: Fast & Furious Dancing Brings Repertoire to Life; ABT
at 'The Green Table'
Copyright 2005 Gus Solomons jr
Photography by Julie Lemberger
Doing Laps with Cedar
NEW YORK -- A generous
owner with a great love for dance has afforded artistic director
Benoit-Swan Pouffer, a former member of the Alvin Ailey American
Dance Theater, the opportunity of a lifetime -- 20 top-notch dancers
and a spanking new state-of-the-art studio and theater in New York's
Chelsea neighborhood, in which to create dance art. Billionaire
Nancy Laurie founded the company out of her infatuation with dance.
Cedar Lake Contemporary
Ballet inaugurated its new space on October 24 with three new ballets,
one each by Edwaard Liang, formerly of New York City Ballet, Complexions,
and "Fosse"; Jodie Gates, who danced with New York's Joffrey, Pennsylvania
Ballet, and Ballett Frankfurt; and Pouffer himself.
The theater's wide proscenium
affords every one of the 200-odd seats an unobstructed view, but
the seating is so close to the big stage, it's difficult to take
in everything at once. And a lot is happening at all times. All
three ballets feature unceasing streams of technically challenging
modern ballet movement: stretchy, writhing torsos, high extensions,
and quasi-symbolic gesturing, backed by highly sophisticated video
and film projections. Indeed, the technical presentation is so eye-filling
and the dancing so spectacular that you might momentarily forgive
the choreographic lapses.
Liang's "This Mortal
Coil" begins with sturdy, blond Kristen Elizabeth Weiser in a white
bikini, dancing an urgent, if emotionally scattered solo. It's full
of lunging, lurching steps and heavy emoting, but you can't fathom
its intention. When the solo ends, the rear screen bursts with filmed
images of Weiser hurtling through space in slow motion. Gradually,
four men walking toward us are superimposed over her.
The four live men, Juan-Antonio
Rodriguez, Nickemil Concepcion, Jason Kittelberger, and Jubal Battisti
then enter and perform a brief passage, before Jessica Coleman Scott,
Heather Hamilton, Jolene Baldini, and Shaun Boyle join them for
a series of short push-me-pull-you duets. The men propel the women
around in daring, swooping lifts, sliding second-positions, and
endless leg extensions. Assorted music by Larry Beckett and Tim
Buckley, Tan Dun, and Antonio Vivaldi accompany the frenetic action.
The movement is richly
physical and visually clear and clean, but each section seems like
a fragment of something bigger, because none of the brief sections
reaches an emotional conclusion: the dancing just stops when the
music does. At the end of the ballet, Weiser returns and crouches
in the morning light from a projected window, indicating perhaps
that everything we've just seen was happening in her imagination.
But whose life was it anyway?
Jubal Battisti, Juan Rodriguez, and Jason Kittelberger of Cedar
Lake Contemporary Ballet in Jodie Gates's "Momentary Play."
Julie Lemberger photo copyright 2005 Julie Lemberger.
Without a break comes
Gates's "Momentary Play," in which nine people, dressed in white,
flit among filmy white curtains that fall dramatically from above
at precise musical moments to enclose squares of light the dancers
are trapped in. It's equally startling when the dancers run into
the curtains and sweep them offstage. Leading off is a fluent, sinewy
solo by lean, muscular Gideon Poirier. Films of the dancers play
on the fabric, as they continue dancing inside the curtained cubicles.
Over the course of the piece, dancers shed garments, as they rush
back and forth, down to leotards and shorts. Violist Leanne Darling
plays Bach sonatas onstage to our left, and sound designer Stefano
Zazzera works a console of electronic sounds opposite her.
After intermission comes
Pouffer's "Seed," an ambitious work with a lively atmospheric and
percussive score by Zazzera. As artistic director, Pouffer perhaps
feels less need to be as constantly "entertaining" as his guest
choreographers. His ballet modulates the constantly frantic pace
and delves into a broader range of emotion, tempo, and dynamics.
Seven wall sections
in forced perspective (set by Timothy R. Mackabee) ring the stage,
providing a screen for projection designer Adam Larsen's elaborate
films and animations that accompany the dancing. First we see Kittelberger,
underwater, wearing headphones -- presumably in utero. He then appears,
crouching in a downstage corner, wearing a knitted placenta, which
unravels as he dances across the front in a tight, contorted solo.
This solo precedes a
series of scenes that go from a large group section, identified
in the program as "Death," to a love duet by Christopher Adams and
Scott, backed by a panoramic projection of the 23rd street subway,
to eight male field workers to a bunch of school children and back
to Baldini in a "wet sweater," the female counterpart of Kittelberger's
opening birth. As she hurls herself against various wall panels,
her image appears on them. While the imposing segmented wall, skillfully
lit by Jim French, gives the film images a wonderful sweep, its
proximity to the dancing seems to push it into our laps; it feels
The individual scenes
are fascinating and beautifully danced by this sleek cast -- which
includes in addition to those already mentioned Roderick George,
Jessica Keller, Ebony Williams, Emaline Green, and Radoslaw Kokoszka
-- but the logic of the sequence is elusive. I'm sure Pouffer could
explain in detail how each scene contributes to his concept -- and
did to his cast, who dance with utter conviction -- but to us uninformed
viewers their arrangement seems arbitrary. Reworking of the scenario
would give the work more emotional resonance in addition to its
powerful visual impact.
The company's next New
York City showings will be in late January. We'll be curious to
see whether Cedar Lake's Utopian creative situation nurtures choreographic
depth. Meanwhile, it's nice to see a group of such talented dancers
treated to the kind of wages and benefits they so richly deserve
while pursuing the dream. Now, aren't there any other dance fans
with funds willing to challenge this model with competing ones of
Evergreen: ABT reanimates Jooss
The fall season of the
American Ballet Theatre at City Center gives us an opportunity to
see a much more varied repertoire than the classic, three-act warhorses
that will fill the seats of the vast Metropolitan Opera House during
the eight weeks of the company's annual spring season. In the more
intimate City Center, not only can you see the dancers' faces without
a telescope, but the company can show more experimental, contemporary
This season, one of
the highlights has been a revival of the modern dance classic "The
Green Table" by German choreographer Kurt Jooss, which had its premiere
in 1932 -- a welcome addition to the repertoire. Inspired by the
Dance of Death and the aftermath of World War I, this "Dance of
Death in Eight Scenes" captures searing emotional images with archetypal
movement, and its political commentary is as timely now, 73 years
later, as it was then.
The company rehearsed
for six weeks with Anna Markard, Jooss's daughter, whose career
is devoted to resetting her father's classic on companies around
the world. The result is a vivid revival by a cast headed by Isaac
Stappas as Death, the central figure originally danced by Jooss
himself, and an ensemble that, seen Saturday, projected the stylistic
sense of discovery of Jooss's original movement invention -- done,
of course, with ABT's customary technical perfection.
The pantomimic derivation
of the movements is apparent, but Jooss abstracted and composed
it musically with recapitulating motifs in keeping with F.A. Cohen's
two-piano score, which received a masterfully nuanced performance
by Daniel Waite and David LaMarche, the conductor of the ABT orchestra.
The geometric clarity of its Laban-based movement influence gives
the choreography enduring vitality.
Section subtitles define
the action: In "The Gentlemen in Black," ten politicians in vibrantly
grotesque masks by Hermann Markard confer at the eponymous table,
an expanse of green felt with a solid black base. Their robotic
cordiality resonates with the claptrap we hear daily from our Washington,
DC, politicians. Subsequently, "The Farewells" sees young men leaving
their loved ones to go to war; "The Battle" shows soldiers fighting
and dying and The Profiteer, looting the corpses, danced by Julio
Bragao-Young with appropriate creepiness; "The Refugees" is a group
of women mourning their loss and displacement, with Kelly Boyd as
The Young Girl, Kristi Boone as The Woman, and Melissa Thomas as
The Old Mother; in "The Brothel," the Profiteer cynically pairs
up men and women.
The figure of Death
is omnipresent, hovering at the fringes of the action or interceding
to wrest away another victim. In a particularly moving passage a
pair of lovers is rent apart by Death, who replaces the man (Kenneth
Easter) as the two are about to embrace. In "The Aftermath" the
characters parade like puppets, numbed by war. The final scene reprises
the opening confab of the ten Gentlemen in Black, inured to the
suffering of the real people in the world outside their hermetic
conference room. How art does imitate life!