Performing Arts: Dance
  NEW YORK THEATRE BALLET
June 21, 2015
In the first performance in their new home at St. Mark’s Church, New York Theatre Ballet presents Legends & Visionaries as an intense night of dance. Performing a full evening of work in a building with no A/C is not a simple feat, but through sweat and vigor this company of talented dancers captured the energy of the space, staking their claim. Composed of five pieces including two full works, the night came to a whimsical start with Capriol Suite by repertoire standard Fredrick Ashton. Traditional folk dance dripped from the seams of this ballet centric piece. With costumes that felt like they were meant for the courts of high society and the mix of simple and complex steps, everything in this style conglomeration felt correct and fun.

Pointe-as-tap shoes is the name of the game in David Parker's Two Timing. The always captivating Elena Zahlmann donned purple pointe shoes and tapped rhythms along with her hand clapping partner Jeffrey Kazin. Starting with simple rhythms, escalation quickly set in as Zahlmann and Kazin began using each other's bodies as rhythm generating instruments. Audibly there were many moments where each dancer seemed to be working under their own pattern of sound creating rhythmic dissonance, whether or not that was the intent of the sound, the dancers held a confidence self-assuredness and never lost connection with each other.

Gemma Bond's Cat's Cradle took dancer connect to a more literal level by physically connecting the dancers in groups of 2 and 3 with flowing white fabric tied around their waists. Inspired by the children's rope game, Cat's Cradle had the dancers weaving, in, over and through each other creating shapes in the cloth. Set to a musically whirling score by Karen LeFrak, Bond explored connections in the small groups and the collective as a whole. There were moments when the fabric prop felt underutilized and interesting ideas were lost in the visual, but ultimately this unique dance was a joy to watch, particularly because of the precision of these dancers.

Post intermission, the company jumped into its first full length work of the evening, Such Longings. Accompanied by a live pianist Michael Scales, dancer Steven Melendez begins with an emotionally driven solo. Melendez subtly brings the recognizable music of Frédéric Chopin to life, but before long the other dancers begin to join him. Each performer leans into each other and the music to elicit genuine feeling and empathy from the audience. Beautiful and heartbreaking, each solo and duet presents a new embodiment of longing.

Antony Tudor's Dark Elegies was the final work of the night, hitting the emotional peak and bringing the audience along for the ride. With head wraps and simple clothing, the female dancers begin to sway and move. Arms always geometric and strong, the solos and duets are heightened by the group never leaving the stage. There is truly a darkness and sadness to this piece.

Fear, grief, and a whole spectrum of feelings echo through the visceral dance. The work is brought to a higher plane by the live musicians that accompanied, including once again pianist Michael Scales and in addition, Opera Baritone, Darren Chase. Chase stood to the side of the stage, bellowing a magically melancholy Songs on the Death of Children composed by Gustav Mahler. Momentarily, the heat of the building could be forgotten and lost in the experience of night, though the fans that Danspace handed out didn’t hurt either.
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EYE ON THE ARTS, NY-- Annie Woller




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