JESSICA LANG DANCE
February 22, 2014
Concentrated pacing begins while bodies clad in black unitards contrast the bright backdrop, creating a detached landscape of stoic faces; the simplicity in this abstraction is fleeing. The New York-based Jessica Lang Dance company (stocked with technically adept dancers – particularly the ladies) had its full season debut at The Joyce Theater this week, showcasing choreographer Jessica Lang’s contemporary-inspired ensemble work, balletic pas de duex, dance on film, and an array of glitzy production elements.
The six piece program opened with “Lines Cubed” (2012), the strongest of the evening’s three New York premieres. The color-centric work is split into four sections, each powered by a hue-derivative mood. That aside, its beauty lies in the choreographic architecture; dancers travel in shifting webs of lines, joint accentuations - a bend the wrist, a flex of the foot, - decorate the momentum of recurring patterns and sharp unison.
Following is the subdued “Mendelssohn/Incomplete” (2011) the first of what will become a two movement work. Set to the Felix Mendelssohn’s “Piano Trio in D Minor,” three sets of partners join and disband in fluid movement phrases, polished with balletic niceties. Most striking is that the work is left to stand on its own, existing solely in the relationship between the dance and music, which quickly proves to be a rarity in the program.
An excerpt from Lang’s 2013 “Aria” highlights the talented Laura Mead en pointe with dancer Todd Burnsed. Her fiery red dress (by Fritz Masten) parallels the palpable drama, largely led by the accompanying, powerful soprano solo “Son Contenta di Morire” of Handel’s opera, “Radamisto.” Adding to the program’s dynamics, a well selected excerpt entitled “The Calling” (2006) comes next. Simplicity once again prevails, with the stunning soloist Kana Kimura draped in white, her skirt consuming the stage. Her gestural movements are slow and controlled, with moments of an accentual thrash, allowing the audience to enjoy the illusion of her body being swallowed into the fabric as she twists around or bends her knees. The visual effect is memorable - it’s no wonder it has become one of Lang’s signatures.
The dance film “White” (2011) is a curious piece born from a collaboration between Lang and visual artist Shinichi Maruyama. Taking the theme of illusion a step further, the dance is presented (and manipulated) entirely through film, pinning dancers moving in real time next to those in suspended slow motion. It challenges the inherent limitations of the body in which the art of dance exists.
“i.n.k” (2011) closes the program, featuring a film of animated ink droplets slowly falling, rippling and splashing. The dancers and choreography often appear intentionally supplemental, along with Jakub Ciupinski’s eclectic, water-inspired, and rhythmic score. While Clifton Brown and Kimura’s earnest duet is the pinnacle of the work, there are countless other moments where Kimura succeeds at stealing attention; her body lines morph from slicing extensions to effortless silky ripples, as if swimming along the stage.
Lang has undoubtedly made a name for herself with over 80 commissions under her belt and talented dancers at her fingertips; her four-year-old company however, proves to still be in its infancy with room for growth.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson