June 18, 2016
Jessica Lang offers a link to our modern dance pioneers with their spiritual ethos and, simultaneously, to the architects of classical ballet. No wonder she has been commissioned so many times; she leaves you feeling optimistic about the future of American dance, moved by her themes, her inspired collaborators and marvelous dancers--her clarity is infectious.
For her fifth year as artistic director of her own company, Lang opened her season at The Joyce Theatre with Patrick Coker dancing Solo Bach, an absolute delight created in 2008. Clifton Brown and Eve Jacobs, on pointe, performed Among the Stars, (2010) with its signature regal use of a long swath of fabric.
Nine dancers came together for Thousand Yard Stare (2015), that shows the comfort of company, the merits of military precision and uniformity marked by rhythms broken, solos taken, stillness. Beginning in silence and ending with stomping, this piece takes on theme of battle fatigue, with limp bodies carried by others, as Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 Third movement Adagio sets the tragic tone.
Sweet Silent Thought (2016) opens with a stirring solo by the long limbed Milan Misko who is later joined by John Harnage, and two women Kana Kimura, and Laura Mead whose white costumes by Bradon McDonald, cut to thigh top in front and below the knees in the back, waft as they are carried as briefly as a deep breath. This dance is not as immediate as the other dances, primarily because of the demanding, original score by Jakub Ciupinski inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets 30, 64, 40, 105, and 71, with vintage radio-sounding recitations by Nilanjana Bose-Ciupinska, Chukwudi Iwuji, and Chris Myers.
Shinichi Maruyama’s for video art of i.n.k (2011) is an utterly compelling complement to Lang’s choreography for seven dancers, with its central duet, in which a man catches a woman who keeps collapsing. As the two stand side by side, an unknown slowly descends ominously on the back wall; its inevitable fall creates a liquid crown sculpture. Lang swings the mood back up with an ensemble romp for the close.
All Lang’s dances are brilliantly lit by Nicole Pearce, matching Lang’s elegance. In i.n.k.she throws a strong white light from high, downstage, the dancers appear to be dancing with their alter egos on the back wall. In Thousand Yard Stare, Pearce throws a side light on the heads of dancers all facing the audience giving the impression of an oppressive, black frame, and later, she zaps the dancers with a violent flash, in sync with Beethoven’s punches.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers