Performing Arts: Dance
  Fall for Dance 2014– Program One
October 9, 2014
The opening night program of New York City Center's annual "Fall for Dance" festival brought Black Grace, San Francisco Ballet, Russell Maliphant/Sadler Wells London, and Mark Morris Dance Group to the stage in what was a very musically driven evening.

The New Zealand-based company Black Grace presented two of Artistic Director Neil Ieremia's correlating works, distanced in their creation by a decade. Together they proved a great opener for the festival, which aims to showcase diversity and high-level talent. First, the male-only "Minoi" features six in close-knit arrangement, their stances wide as their movements - pulling from traditional Samoan dance style - beget the elaborate soundscape. Stomps, claps, slaps, snaps, synchronized exhales, and deep-voiced chants riddle the purposeful choreography.

The second is an ensemble piece, "Pati Pati," continuing in the same vein with four female dancers introduced into the mix. While more full-bodied, music-making movement comes into play here, it's really the simple elements of ripple effects and contrasting movement patterns that shine within the specific formations. The coordinated uniformity in the Black Grace dancers' timing is enchanting; one can truly see the journey of their rhythms.

Taking a turn for the classical, San Francisco Ballet’s "Variations for Two Couples" follows. Choreographed by Hans Van Manen, this double duet pins the dancers in an evolving maze of largely partnered movement to the various string quartet accompaniment. The work relies on an a balance of abstractions and challenging technique -which its four dancers have an abundance of.

British choreographer Russell Maliphant's "Two x Two" features a barefoot duo in a fluid movement dialogue. However, it's the production effects that become most memorable here; Michael Hulls' lighting is integral, housing dancers Fang-Yi Sheu and Yuan Yuan Tan in their own cube of lit space. Near the end, slivers of light highlight the building speed of their flailing arms and extended feet as Andy Cowton's percussive score intensifies in pace.

Though the program lineup marked two New York premieres and one U.S. premiere respectively, it is the local Mark Morris Dance Group that presents a world premiere, "Words," as a "Fall for Dance" 2014 commission. Mark Morris's choreography here is straightforward, accessible, and yet intricate in its musicality. An added treat, Felix Mendelssohn's "songs Without Words" - to which Morris' work is set - is performed live by the company's associated musicians, violinist Georgy Valtchev and pianist Colin Fowler.

Created for 16 dancers (and 8 while on tour), the heart of Morris' newest creation centers on duets ornamented by surrounding organized chaos - entrances, exits, group moments, contrasting and evolving timing. A screen walked on and off stage serves as a peel away tool, changing the enveloping goings-on by concealing certain exits and additions, triggering a shift in scene and mood. Ultimately the work embraces a carefree aire; the dancers collect, arms extended and gazing upward in a series of dizzying turns.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

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