writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, New York edition

An Inclusive Festival Opens

Breaking Lines Dance Festival
Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement
New York, NY
April 22, 2004

By Susan Reiter
copyright © 2004 by Susan Reiter
published 3 May 2004

The modest but festive opening evening of this new two-week downtown festival, which aims to break down the dividing lines within the dance community, certain covered a lot of bases. Within less than 90 minutes, this charming and intimate theater hosted an array of dance styles one rarely would encounter sharing the same stage.

Alwin Nikolais' Noumenon, performed by Alberto del Saz and James Murphy, received a performance on the very stage where it premiered in 1953. As the two figures encased in stretch jersey sacks moved in unison through their shapes and poses, it was jarring how the occasional emergence of the outline of a head became an odd protuberance rather than a recognizable human feature. Once again one could marvel at Nikolais' simple yet brilliant theatrical concept, and on how many have made use of his innovations in the ensuing half-century.

Ballet guests from the two major companies came downtown for this occasion. NYCB's Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar gave an intense, sensual but not flashy performance of the quasi-exotic Russian Dance from Peter Martins staging of Swan Lake. They performed as serious choreography, not kitsch, but allowed themselves the occasional glint in the eye, and it was a pleasure to observe their dramatic focus and responsiveness to one another. Misty Copeland, burdened with a cheap-looking costume (bright red tutu skirt and glittery bodice), gave a cheerful, precise—if not inspired—interpretation of Kitri's solo from Don Quixote's grand pas de deux.

The program opened with an earthy, fiercely focused Flamenco number by Nelly Tirado, accompanied by three expert musicians. Starting and concluding seated pensively in a chair, Tirado—a compact, solidly built dancer—built up to a slow burn, passing through an intriguingly contemplative section before arriving at a volley of staccato footwork.

The program's honorees were the three members of Paradigm, a collective of eminent veteran performers (two of whom are also chorographers) who perform very much on their own terms. Carmen de Lavallade, Dudley Williams and Gus Solomons taught the young 'uns a thing or two as they gave a riveting and liberating performance of Solomons' A Thin Frost. There was no music; the only accompaniment was the sounds of their grunts and eventually more pronounced nonverbal utterances as they gradually progressed from languid seated movements and shifts of places—a sophisticated game of musical chairs-to more uninhibited and extravagant expressions of vigorous if unspecified emotion. Sometimes they engaged in what could have been martial arts maneuvers, always maintaining a cool, imperious focus.

DeLavallade—still one of the most expressive and commanding of dancers—came forward for a solo in which her increasingly uninhibited vocalizing and dignified but impassioned movement persuaded that something dire must be at stake. For all the coolness of these long, lean performers—elegant in their simple, cream-colored costumes—the performance also suggested a playful delight in testing their own and each others' performing acumen.

After a decidedly informal presentation of the evening's Award to the trio, the program concluded with a gorgeous performance of DeLavallade's earnest trifle, Sweet Bitter Love, by Ailey company members Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Sims. Set to three love songs (sung by Roberta Flack and others), it presents a couple already torn apart, with the woman passionately recollecting (or trying to summon up) the lost love. Glenn Sims, a stalwart, imposing and honest performer, was the original man when this piece premiered in the Ailey repertory a few years ago. The revelation was Sims, one of the Ailey company's treasures, who gave a true ballerina performance—magnetic, soulful, and spontaneous.

Some aspects of Breaking Lines' presentation were not quite up to the level one expects at a New York dance event. None of the music was identified in the program, which limited itself to listing the choreography (and not even that, in the case of Don Quixote) and performers. Also, the individual off-stage introduction of each act, complete with less-than-perfect pronunciation of names, did not enhance the level of the evening.

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 16
May 3, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Susan Reiter



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The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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last updated on May 3, 2004