Performing Arts: Dance
November 1, 2021
The Graham company looks better than ever, as if covid did not happen to them at all. The program was a perfect mix of Graham classics and excellent new work, and the dancers were simply stunning. The proximity of the Joyce Theater stage made it all the more enjoyable to see the clarity, beauty and commitment of the dancing.

The evening began with a powerful performance of Graham’s Steps in the Streets from 1936, Graham’s response to rising fascism. An all-female work, the Graham women immediately set the tone with their strong unison steps, clenched fists, and intense stares, sometimes looking straight at us, clearly demanding action. Led by the beautiful and imposing Leslie Andrea Williams, the work took on a new meaning with the current backdrop of political turmoil, BLM, and long-overdue change.

In a stark contrast between powerful community and propelling individual existence, the steady Jacob Larsen danced a solo with extended arms and swift changes of direction, created in conversations with Sir Robert Cohan during and after covid, “in the twilight of the choreographer’s life.” None of this was readily apparent in the sharp, angular movement, which speaks to the ineffability of both movement and personal experience.

The biggest surprise of the evening for me was Treading, a duet created by Elisa Monte for the Graham company in 1979, to music by Steve Reich. An image of amorphous life grows into the full-bodied, sinewy Lloyd Knight, moving with stealth motion and bird-like arms. As he receded, Marzia Memoli replaced him centerstage and executed her own unhurried, gorgeous solo floor work, her articulate torso going from extreme contraction to extended arms back like a balletic swan. Costumed in skin-colored unitards with smudges, the two reunited in a series of gorgeous shapes and seamless partnering from some natural world, a slow, deliberate mating dance, unlike nature, a union with stunning control.

Pam Tanowitz’s Untitled (Souvenir) is an homage to Graham, referencing lesser-known works, and to my eye, some Cunningham and Balanchine too. The Noguchi-like set pieces and fabulous Graham-esque costumes modernized by Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin of TOME, complemented the intricate and absorbing world created by this melding of styles. Moments of buzzing and others of stillness lived within asymmetrical structure dotted with very human moments, eye contact, and connection – moments we all hunger for in today’s isolating, covid-limited, smart phone world.

Rounding out the program was an energizing performance of Graham’s Diversion of Angels. The dancers moved with such fullness and joy they breathed new life into this classic tribute to a woman’s love as it changes over time. From innocence to passion to wisdom and back again, we felt the ups and downs of what it means to love, anew.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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