August 29, 2015
Another title for the dance drama spectacle at the David H. Koch theater could be Pearl Buck: I Watched Myself Grow-up. For many, The Last Emperor and The Good Earth shaped westerners’ impressions of China. Pearl Buck’s lustrous career is the basis of Pearl: Spring River Flower Moon Night created by Daniel and Arabella Ezralow, liu Bin and Angela Xiaolei Tang.
Panels of white light appear one after the other on the front curtain. Inside the panel appears the silhouette of an older woman reverting back to her youth. The images evaporate and are realized by a series of dancers playing the role of Ms. Buck throughout various stages of her life. Director and choreographer Daniel Ezralow formerly of MOMIX and ISO, draws on his dance influences and experience working with director Julie Taymor.
Visual elements rush around the modern dance movements in this cascading tale of an American novelist who straddled East and West. However, one of the dominant visuals—a river coursing through the stage—was invisible to those sitting in the orchestra.
All the performers assuming Ms. Buck’s role moved with ease, frequently running and spinning off little air turns, rolling playfully on the floor or flinging arms in agitated concern. Ezralow's spunky athleticism nods to martial arts movements and a desire to create pictures through dance. Projections and video by Mirada, show the countryside, social agendas, manuscripts, press coverage and Buck’s films.
Recorded music played by the remarkable cellist Yo-Yo Ma traces western and eastern influenced scores, additionally reflected in the costumes by Oana Batez and well balanced lighting by Christopher Akerlind. Pearl S. Buck was the child of Presbyterian missionaries. Through her parent’s work, Buck learned to respect the Chinese Culture despite the political upheavals. Married twice, Buck’s life is not spelled out as much as it’s suggested.
In the end, Special Guest Dancer Margie Gillis commands the stage. Feet planted firmly in the ground, Ms. Gillis stands solidly in front of the floating clouds and mountain range. Her quicksilver arms and agile torso express the emotional riches of a great life.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis