Performing Arts: Dance
October 14, 2019
Fall for Dance's fourth program delighted audiences with a luscious journey from contemporary dance icons to thriving choreographic proponents.

Honoring the centennial of avant-garde genius, Merce Cunningham, New York City Center’s ruby curtain unveiled a tranquil cinematic scene: Cunningham's Beach Birds. The aesthetically soothing lighting and costume design by Marsha Skinner allowed the audience to indulge in the sky-blue cyclorama delineating the silhouettes of a cast dipped in white unitards and thick black lines created by their arms, hands, and upper body. The dripping sound of a rain stick interrupted by piano chords added a nature-fresh dimension to the abstract visual composition. As the backdrop transitioned into a warm sunny orange tone, the predominant lilting, curved poses accented by sudden hand and leg flicks gradually grew in dynamic springing sequences embellishing the scene like paint dabs on a canvas.

Geoffrey Holder’s Come Sunday was exquisitely staged by his muse, Carmen De Lavallade. Deceivingly delicate in nature but powerful in performance, the recently appointed director of Julliard’s Dance Division, Alicia Graf Mack, shot energized beams of expression crafted by the magnanimous choreographer. Dressed in a long white gown, Alicia began “Glory, Glory,” the first of the four-song work, sitting tucked down on the dim stage bathed by a moonlight-like gentle spotlight. “Deep River” followed, generous in subtle torso ripples and boundless battements. Literally, with the audience in the palm of her hand, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand” warmed the house to conclude with “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” As Carmen de Lavallade joined Alicia for the final bow, patrons stood to express their endearing appreciation.

For Us, choreographed by Madboots Dance’s artistic directors, Jonathan Campbell and Austin Díaz was originally commissioned for the Fire Island Dance Festival Dancers Responding to AIDS gala, and created in response to the Pulse Nightclub’s shooting that occurred in Orlando in 2016. After running on stage into an abrupt roll over each other that interrupted Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” David Maurice and Austin Tyson engaged in a raw, energetic movement debate throughout the stage. Progressing through a reactive series of explosive grounded swirls while reaching towards and pulling at each other, the narrative reflectively passed into silence under West Side Story’s “Somewhere.” After halting in a colliding embrace, the dancers melted into a slow dance kiss fading into a blackout.

Unveiling displayed Sonya Tayeh's uncanny blend of stars from the theatrical, vocal performance, and contemporary ballet. The work's impact acquired a spectacular dimension with the breath-taking lighting designed by Davison Scandrett. The first scene revealed the statuesque vocal musician, Moses Sumney, poised in front of a microphone stand on a high black box platform showered by slick tubular light rays. Creating a ground-based rhythm loop tapping on the mic, Sumney deliberately added layers of humming sounds, lyrics, and percussion into an augmenting music track.

Meanwhile a male dancer, partially visible behind him, peeled off from the platform to take center stage. In an eloquent crescendo signature of Tayeh’s choreography, Robbie Fairchild’s solo of isolated weight displacing shifts was counterbalanced as Stella Abrera joined him in a pas de deux of viscous mutable lines. Detaching from the platform and sinking into the stage’s vanishing point, Sumney’s voice climaxed as Gabe Stone Shayer entered the scene adding sharp counterpoint elements to the composition and the eclectic quartet receded into the wings. The audience erupted in roaring applause.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada

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