Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall for Dance Festival

New York City Center
Wednesday, September 17, 2008, 8 pm
Works by Shen Wei, Pichet Klunchun, Larry Keigwin, and Jiri Kylian

Shen Wei Dance Arts- Map (excerpts)
Map begins with a collection of floor sequences, spiraling floor rolls and bodies sweeping along the floor. Costumes are different brightly colored socks, gray running pants and fitted spandex tees. Octopus arms trail weightlessly out from the bodies during chaine turns.

A curly-haired dancer steps into a downstage spotlight with her back to the audience. She begins a series of little undulations bubbling up from her insides. The undulations echo into a trio when two other dancers join her movements. Eventually this movement takes the trio into the full area of stage bouncing splashing their languid limbs.

Dancers collected upstage in a box formation that had a sequence of moving parts in the front four dancers. Overlapping in timing, the four dancers stepped forward and spun causing a twinkling effect to the group. Unexpectedly, the back of the box filed out to create a full stage circle. Eight dancers moved in a one-count canon phrase, their heads lead their bodies backwards through space. Spiraling turns take dancers down to and up from the ground, each body displaying a different shape in a set position like numerals on a sundial. Socks added a gliding and slippery feel to the circular loops being inscribed in space.

Hypnotically, this lasted for several revolutions until morphing into a large group of flocking. Dancers are constantly swirling with soft curvy arms on top and quick skittering feet on bottom. Gradually they slip and spin down to the ground to end in a wipe-out.

Pichet Klunchun Dance Company- Chui Chai- World Premier
Six spotlights illuminate, setting the stage in silence.

Whispers* Coughs* Seats squeak* cough* fidget*cell phone ringing
(American Audiences have no patience for movement during extended periods of silence)

Figures appear and stand in stillness just outside of their spotlights. Unsure as to when their movement began, the dancers slowly rocked forward in a weight change from one foot to another. Slowly creeping toward their predicted destinations my eyes eagerly awaited the moment of arrival. Heaven behold the sight before me when they reached the warmth of light, their costumes glittered in solid gold sequins, a traditional Thai costume including a reflective glistening headpiece. A divine presence of six goddesses maintained their enchantingly slow speed while manipulating and articulating the flexible joints from their hands to fingertips.

Gradually the dancers movement accelerates. Feet pitter-patter, gently skimming the stage surface to carry the held positions of the statuesque women from stage right to stage left. Vertical lines change into figure eight patterns and continuous circles. With the appearance of a plainly-dressed man in black from upstage, all women leave the stage minus one, leaving man and woman.

A program note:
“Chui Chai” means the process of physical transformation. The princess Benyakai is ordered by her king to transform herself into Sita, the queen of his enemy.

A duet ensues between the presumed princess and her king, danced by Klunchun. He sternly articulates the muscles between wrist and fingertips while carving circles in his kinesphere. Movement that begins in the hands gradually spreads to carving with his full body.

Appropriately the dance ends in silence. Dancers slowly creep across a corridor of light and out of vision, leaving only Klunchun visable as the curtain descends.

Keigwin + Company - Fire
Fire is a four-part piece that displays a dynamic range of modern and contemporary dance forms in a humorous light.

Curtains rise to reveal a stage lit with red lace gobos setting a fancy atmosphere and accompanied by a Handel opera, Al lampo dell’ armi’. Three dancers enter in spandex body suits enhanced with padding and designed to look similar to a superhero’s getup. The two women’s corsets are embellished with feathers, sequins, and topped with swim caps. Extra long sleeves wiggle in place of hands, trailing behind each spin. The movement is technically correct, arabesques and swings, yet made absurd by the outlandish suits.

The lights black out and dancers gather in the downstage right corner, shedding the outer layers of their costumes. Off come the caps and hand covering sleeves. Obsessively, the dancers begin to examine their faces in an invisible mirror in the audience. An entwining trio ensues, sporadically interrupted with the awkward compulsion to examine the skin on their faces. Untangling her body a dancer separates from the trio and lights a cigarette, exhaling in relaxation.

A spotlight is onstage, a dancer runs in to occupy it but it quickly moves to elsewhere. She chases the limelight, constantly seeking our focus and wearing a commercial smile. The vocals of Patsy Cline’s Crazy illustrate dancer, Nicole Wolcott’s insane desire to be the center of the spotlight. Her arms flail in desperation, but the effort is merely humorous.

Unexpectedly the mood went from funny to hilarious when the trio again took the stage to Walk it Out, a current rap hit. The dancers maintained their serious composure and rocked out the same modern phrases but with a new feel. Julian Barnett was exceptionally dedicated to hyping the crowd and showing off his swagger, an instant crowd pleaser. The effect was a successful reminder that modern dance can be goofy at times but still spectacular.

National Ballet of Canada- Soldiers’ Mass
A drastic difference from the previous piece, Jiri Kylian's Soldiers’ Mass had a bold and serious tone. Twelve muscular men in bloused shirts, fitted pants and suede boots filled the stage evenly spread apart. Running across the stage, hands outstretched pushing the air forward, the men accumulated in a line, filling in the gaps like missing puzzle pieces. The line morphs into several that weave in and out of one another. Bodies gather upstage left, lifeless and dead to the eye, while a trio develops downstage. The men arabesque and delicately two lift the third.

Suddenly the lifeless bodies rise and all men stand feet apart, singing out to the audience, chanting the haunting lyrics of the music by Bohuslav Martinu. Assembling their anger as one unit, all twelve men rip off their shirts and crumple them each into a tiny sweaty ball. Perhaps displaying their disgust at the tragedies of war, they all threw their balled shirts down and one by one collapsed to the ground.

Related Articles:
NYTimes Review by Gia Kourlas
LifeWork Company- Pichet Klunchun

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