Performing Arts: Dance
October 28, 2021
The line outside NY City Center for Fall for Dance was imbued with heightened anticipation – returning to the theatre for indoor performance, adding checks of COVID vaccination status to the ticket retrieval process. Program 3 features a stylistic metamorphosis through ballet, contemporary, and stepping. Sequenced so linearly from ethereal to earthbound movement, a clear commonality of restlessness pervaded the works – to return to the stage as much as we were eager to witness it.

Opening the program was the Philadelphia Ballet with the NY Premiere of Juliano Nunes’ Connection. Ten dancers in tight flesh tones move together as a fluid swarm from which each dancer participates in a highlighted duet. Nunes’ partnering tests limits of flexibility and strength in forward fluid motion that forbids indulgent positional loitering. Even as men unilaterally manipulate women, each mover takes on a viscous form in space.

Limbs tangle and unwind in chains of shifting equilibriums in which arms that might otherwise simply support are absorbed into all-consuming partnerships. Albeit created in pre-COVID times, one can’t help feeling that performing this marathon of contact now helps to make up for the past two years of distance and isolation.

Micaela Taylor sets herself front and center in her TL Collective’s Drift. Taylor’s movement has a similar flow to Nunes, but is subject to sharp rhythmic manipulations in short theatrical spurts of physical sentence fragments, connected by transitions of pedestrian stillness and pacing.

It adheres perhaps too loyally to the soundscore, dominated by a spoken word piece discussing the concept of “drifting” as an antidote to modern life’s pressures.

Initially establishing an intricate ensemble texture, Taylor, whose towering, narrow, and bendy form already makes her hard to miss, takes the reins and relegates her company as backup dancers to her authoritative execution of her aesthetic.

All authority was dismantled by Step Afrika!, who turned the house on its head with Conrad Kelly II’s The Movement. Of the three works, Step Afrika! succeeded at achieving an equitable balance of ensemble and spotlighted dancing. They had to, given the subject matter. Created most recently, The Movement is a Black Lives Matter rally, conjuring the pain of 2020’s breaking point of racial violence and seeing it through to a call towards a brighter future.

No movement other than body percussion can equally satisfy the intensity of community grief and the levity of celebration, so much so that, by the end, they had the (largely older, white) audience on its feet, clapping more or less on beat, fully on board.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman

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