Performing Arts: Dance
March 27, 2017
Old Friends was a soothing evening of ballets presented by the Hamburg Ballet at The Joyce Theater during the spring season. In a unique all-enclosed vision, the choreography, costumes, and lighting were created by the company’s Artistic Director, and Chief Choreographer, John Neumeier.

Old Friends consists of several short choreographic scenes embroidered together with a nostalgic thread. Drifting in a daydream sense of time, Chopin’s Nocturnes prevailed over the two-hour program. Ever so beautifully played by Ondrej Rudcenko at a grand piano accommodated in the orchestra seating area, the variations he interpreted included eight of Frederic Chopin’s Nocturnes as well as excerpts from "Variations on a Theme" of Chopin by Spanish composer Federico Mompu.

Framed in a contemporary aesthetic, the set included a modern wooden bench, a couple of transparent plastic chairs, and a circular white flat surface lit from behind in the background and a section of a light blue cyclorama delimited by the black backdrop.

The lengthy series under the title “Dangling Conversations, Nocturnes” represented glimpses of memoirs of several relationships. Accordingly, ten dancers dressed in loose light pastel attire drifted through the stage, each holding a teacup and a saucer, while a series of pas de deux fluctuated in contemporary and classical adagios alternating couples.

These “conversations” were delimited by two sections of a dance-theatre interplay of contemporary duets titled “Old Friends I, Chopin Dialogues” and “Old Friends II, Opus 100 - for Maurice”, respectively, accompanied by a recording of Simon & Garfunkel’s music.

The first section was introduced by a solo male dancer dressed in black pants, black jazz shoes, and bare chest, sitting center stage in one of the two transparent plastic chairs placed together. Longingly, he reaches to a light brown sweater resting over the backrest of the adjacent chair. A ballerina enters the scene, wearing black tights and a burgundy long- sleeved red casual blouse, with her hair loosely gathered up away from her face. Her nonchalant demeanor is also expressed in her gestures, as she and her partner hesitantly approach and divert from each other, intertwining contemporary partnering and fluid neoclassical ballet.

The scene comes to a conclusion as the ballerina sits on a chair, and her partner sits by her side on the floor reaching out to her, while she responds-- approaching to kiss his hand as the curtain is lowered for intermission.

After the work is resumed with “Dangling Conversations, Nocturnes,” the previous scene presented before the intermission returns with a different setting where two male dancers dressed alike in black pants, jazz shoes, bare chest, and black trench coats, engage in an 80s jazzy duet. Vigorous movement contrasted by gestures clusters is interrupted as the female dancer from “Dangling Conversations, Nocturnes” reenters the scene, leading to a final blackout.

In consonance with Neumeier’s program notes, Old Friends goes through strange and indefinable relationships with profound emotion.

Nevertheless, the opening “Overture, Bach Suite 3”, where dancers in coral pink and orange costumes engage in festive neoclassical play of compositions to the orchestral suite by J. S. Bach, and the many enthusiastic curtain calls led by Neumeier, infused a sense gaiety to the melancholic night.

©2001 Eye and Dance and the Arts | All Rights Reserved