FALL FOR DANCE #1
October 4, 2016
Fall For Dance’s programming turned New York City Center’s iconic venue into a template, briefly defined by whatever filled it. Opening night, a hype-man blasted beats amidst an industrial Ferris wheel. Streb Extreme Action prepares to perform Airslice, commissioned by the festival, which manages to draw out one of the most satisfyingly diverse audiences in New York today with an autumnal energy: a momentary cross pollination of a motley crew summoned from their usual habitats.
A quartet slams into a padded ramp from every possible point of potential energy. They call out maneuvers like football plays, between showmanship and solidarity. Red unitards connote action figures; their physical feats and the accompanying explosive sound effects suggest their owner being a hyperactive toddler playing Godzilla in a bathtub.
Within this spectacle is an intensely geometrical experience of shapes shifting from solo into composite situations. Simple coordinations are combined and spatially futzed with to their logical completion. Commands such as “kiss” and “spoon” interject, as if to categorize affection as an analogously extreme form of action. After an interlude involving T-shirt cannons, the company inhabits a ladder, secured in a scaffold, perpetually spun by the collective physical result of swinging, ejecting, and narrowly avoiding decapitation.
Consistency was not as strong as eclecticism. Dada Masilo/The Dance Factory followed with Spring. Stravinsky’s legendary bassoon calls the lights to rise on what begins as a feminist Afro-centralization of the Rite of Spring, sidetracked into an Arvo Pärt finish. Vignettes suggest ritual and sacrifice with no connecting throughline. The tribal atmosphere is disappointingly general, illustrated by an unremarkable movement vocabulary that, though fiercely executed, is only performed as such, rendering even high energy dull. Between textural counterpoint and vocal cues too frequent to feign actual joy, the work suffers from a “sort of” sense that never fully realizes. Dances often insist on filling music longer than the dance should last; here music changes arbitrarily, with nothing accomplished to warrant the change or reconcile the tension of a Black experience danced to two towering institutions of European music.
ABT offered Frederick Ashton’s Monotones II, a trio of white bedazzled unitards. In contorted promenades Veronika Part rotates between Thomas Forster and Cory Stearns, dispassionate manipulators testing her limits. Despite uniformity, they maintain traditionally gendered partnering roles, subverting any potential androgyny or complex physical interplay. Passages of insufficiently coldly executed academic movement spatially stagnate frontally with an odd man always out, similarly “sort of” in effect.
Reviving the evening was flamenco virtuoso Farruquito’s Mi Soledad (Solea), exploring his Farruco lineage of training. His musicians are equals, each body exchanging representation or completion of another at some point. Farruquito, however, most directly projects this internal unity, building up steam, circling his platform until catching a beat that he stamps to the rim with subatomic subdivision. Sung in a foreign language with no apparent representational imagery, the driving impulse of the work remains palpable due to the extent it exploits its vocabulary. Such ineffable certainty brought City Center to its feet through the multiple improvised encores the curtain had to eventually quell.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews