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Flash Review, 3-15: Command Performance
Tynek Casts a Demi-Spell
By Alison D'Amato
Copyright 2007 Alison D'Amato
NEW YORK -- Dusan Tynek's offering for the 92nd Street Y's Harkness
Dance Festival clocks in, all in all, at around two hours. That's a
lot of material. I knew I was enjoying the show very, very much when I was eager to go
back into the theater after intermission, and only just twitching
slightly by the end of the second half. The three works on the bill,
seen March 8 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, are fairly consistent in
tone and substance, which makes it even more impressive that a
choreographer can command our attention for that long.
The first piece, "Fleur-de-lis," is a premiere featuring three couples
set to the stirring violin sonatas of Heinrich Ignaz von Biber. (The
evening in its entirety is called "String(s) Theory," a reference to
both Tynek's use of string-based accompaniment and the "String Theory"
of physics, which even a good hard look at Wikipedia couldn't give me a
basic, working definition of. No matter.) "Fleur-de-lis" begins with a
gentle insistency, the three couples slowly easing into the space. The
men wait with outstretched arms and the women walk with eyes closed,
barely edging into their grasps. This slow, pedestrian imagery doesn't
last long, though -- Tynek's choreography gives way in no time to a
full-on flurry of kineticism.
For this piece, costume designer Karen Young has created sophisticated
outfits of sleek and well-tailored khaki. The clothes disappear,
however, as the dancers go about their considerable business, and
by the last section, they've got nothing left but their underwear. Dusan Tynek's dancers are beautiful, especially the women. I don't just mean that they're pretty and have
impossibly gorgeous bodies, although they do. In "Fleur-de-lis"
especially, it is hard not to be drawn in by their expressions, which
radiate a deep commitment to the movement and a joy at being caught up
in it. Either they're great actors or they're relishing every step of
the demanding choreography. It may help that Tynek himself dances and
thus gives his performers material that they will truly enjoy. I
neglected to notice his mention as a dancer in the program, and so was
fairly astonished to see him step forward out of the performers'
curtain call to claim individual choreographer's applause. It's an
accomplishment for a young choreographer to create such complicated,
multi-layered images as he does while also being entrenched in them.
The force of Tynek's movement lies in a particular clarity of shape
and intention, with the dancers' bodies evoking the concrete and
architectural. The movement phrases are strong and specific, and often
call on the performers to approach each other in the service of some
exhilarating moments of partnering. One such moment is an exceptional,
visceral duet for two of the male dancers in "Fleur-de-lis." It only
lasts a moment, but the two men make the most of it, leveraging each
other up into the air with a whiplike intensity. There is much
of the classical in Tynek's approach, and thus the choreography often
seems exciting without being at all edgy: the performers do a lot of
balletic scurrying around, their chests puffed forward and arms
dragging behind. I tried to mentally edit out these slightly forced
moments of transition, however, because I was enjoying the meat of the
work so much.
Next up is a bite-sized excerpt from "Scenes," called "Nympholepsy," in
which any hints of fussiness in the movement vocabulary are eclipsed by
the pure thrill of seeing the dancers negotiate the full, blood-red
skirts that somehow both ground the movement and enable it to suggest
heightened emotion. It's a brief section, but one with considerable
Unfortunately, the sparkle faded somewhat in the second half of the
program, which featured "Kosile," a lengthy work making use of the
bright white "kosile" (a kind of Czech "wedding shirt") as well as
huge lilies carried around in the ladies' mouths. There are some
moments of striking inventiveness: late in the piece, one of the
dancers is undergirded by the shirts and held aloft, swung back and
forth like a pendulum. Maybe because Tynek considers
this work so substantial, though, it felt slightly overworked; where
"Fleur-de-lis" was live and buoyant, "Kosile" seemed occasionally to
plod along. It's also a bit older, and perhaps the
dancers just know it too well. It can be nice to see a cast try so
hard; it endears us to them. Where movement is a little rougher,
Tynek's dancers a little less surefooted, the work seems to brim with
life. For me, the highlight of "Kosile" is a section in which the
dancers move rapidly, skittering backwards into one wing and out
another. They have to look backwards to proceed, keenly engaged, as if
any moment could bring a collision or tumble. For a moment, the stakes
are just as high again.