Sunday night at the Fall for Dance Festival I saw Program 2, which included performances by Vertigo Dance Company, Drew Jacoby, Jessica Lang Dance, and Richard Alston Dance Company. First up was Vertigo Dance Company of Israel with an adaptation of Mana, choreographed by company Artistic Director Noa Wertheim. The piece opened with one man dancing smooth, quiet movement mixed with swift arm motions and abrupt pauses. Behind him was a large, white, seemingly two-dimensional house-like structure. He was joined by another male dancer, and at the end of their duet, a square cutout in the center of the set structure glided slowly backwards to reveal people walking on the other side. Eventually the entire cast of three women and four men were dancing and breathing as one unit, demonstrating fantastic jumps and swooping motions first with arms and then through undulations of whole body- moving swiftly through space and across the floor. The ethnic sounding music and conservative costumes made for a surprise when one of the women strut across the stage wearing only black underwear and a shirt while attached to huge black balloon on a string. As the piece progressed, the set changed around the dancers and the music grew more and more percussive. Suggestive movements, a provocative male duet, and an animalistic, horny women’s section conveyed a no longer conservative, but rather progressive society. The dancers’ expressive hands, arms, and focus created an intriguing and exotic energy, making the piece ultimately successful in my opinion, but seemingly less appreciated by much of the audience.
Next, Drew Jacoby “transformed into wind” in the world premiere of Bloom by Andrea Miller, Artistic Director and Choreographer of Gallim Dance. As a Radiohead-head, I was disappointed in the music choice (Bloom by Radiohead). Aside from Thom Yorke dancing himself, only a much more interesting interpretation of the music would justify choreographing a dance to it. However, Jacoby looked stunning and moved remarkably well through rapid movement that would be easier for a shorter dancer. It was nice to see an attempt at something different from both Jacoby and Miller. I am grateful that Miller did not include the usual showy extensions that Jacoby is known for. That being said, I’d prefer to see Jacoby do the Jacoby-thing as a lot of this dancing looked forced. I took much of the piece to be satirical, although it is unclear if this was Miller’s intent and if so, whether or not Jacoby was aware of it.
Among the Stars by Jessica Lang featured dancers Yuan Yuan Tan of San Francisco Ballet and Clifton Brown. It began with a breathtaking image of Tan facing the upstage diagonal in a steel blue dress with a silk train that stretched across the entire stage, on the end of which, kneeled Brown. Detached from her dress, the silk connected the two throughout, wrapping around them, floating over them, or stretching between them as Tan gracefully floated, bound, and was suspended in the air effortlessly. It was an innovative new ballet, like a classic “dream scene” reinvented. Though the narrative was not evident, the striking beauty of Among the Stars was satisfying enough for any true admirer of classical ballet, which was reflected in the buzz throughout the audience afterwards.
Lastly was Roughcut by Richard Alston of the Richard Alston Dance Company. The music, New York Counterpoint and Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich was performed live by a musician on either side of the stage along with recorded music as the composition required. Roughcut was playful, lively, and a clear representation of the music. However, Alston’s vast use of space and many shapes seemed astonishingly similar to Paul Taylor’s style. Many of the dancers looked to be very serious Brits and I would have liked to see them come out of their shells! They could have extended much further beyond their reach and taken risks by going off-balance or using dynamic extremes within the safe movement.
Although I am fully supportive of Fall for Dance’s goal of making dance accessible to all, each year I am reminded of the widespread lack performance etiquette when a loud cell phone rap ringtone is heard (of course) during a silent part of the performance. Several audience members do not even wait to rudely leave during the final applause, but get up during the last piece (not in protest) to beat the rush. It is even more disheartening that this behavior is no longer surprising, but rather expected. In addition to making dance available to a broader audience, how can we educate our audiences on appropriate and respectful theater etiquette?