BALLET DE LORRAINE
February 21, 2017
The Joyce Theater welcomed the international Ballet de Lorraine to its stage in what marked its inaugural United States tour. In France, the company’s extensive history begins with its inception in 1968. By 1999, it had earned the Centre Choreographique National (CCN) title, securing its place as one of the top resource centers for dance in the country. Today, the 26-dancer company remains dedicated to the work of contemporary choreographers, under the artistic direction of former Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet principal, Petter Jacobsson.
With such attention on artistic experimentation, one could anticipate the company’s diverse offerings to be delivered in two distinct programs. Through the course of two hours, Program A, took the audience from what felt like lengthy dance competition number, to the rhythmic and gestural world of Alban Richard, and then back in time to a Merce Cunningham classic.
The New York premiere of “Devoted,” choreographed by Cecilia Bengolea and Francois Chaignaud is set to Philip Glass’ “Another Look at Harmony Part IV.” This minimalist piece is layered with similarly structured choreography. The ensemble, en pointe throughout, resolves into cascades of chaine turns time and again.
Heavily contrasting moments of dancehall hips and jumps resulting in abrupt splits embellish the work. Bengolea and Chaignaud’s costumes are curious, conjuring a team of rags dolls in ballet class, a select few donning a fishnet-covered leg.
Richard’s “Hok Solo Pour Ensemble” follows, also a New York premiere. He brings a dozen of Ballet de Lorraine company members to the stage, soon to be bound by every beat of Louis Andriessen’s persistent “Hoketus.”
The performers emerge as an androgynous collective, unraveling from one movement pattern into the next, largely driven by swift arm gestures. Individuals fold in and out of the group as the formations expand and rotate and disperse across the space.
Cunningham’s 1975 work, “Sounddance,” closes the evening, likely a nod to Jacobsson’s early training with him. David Tudor’s intense score “Untitled” (1974/1994) whisks clockwise through the surround sound, leaving us encapsulated in the vigorous, timeless work.
Here, the dancers’ range of talent is at last highlighted. They convey drama, take on occasional animalistic imagery, and give us a glimpse of their technique all throughout the choreography’s demanded momentum. Ultimately, the dancers are pulled one by one through the backdrop and out of site; a sharp moment of stillness reigns.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson