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Dance Review: Győr National Ballet at The Joyce Theater

Győr National Ballet, photo © Béla Szabó
Győr National Ballet, photo © Béla SzabóGyőr National Ballet of Hungary exhibits a powerful cultural force in “A Stravinsky Evening” at The Joyce Theater.  The evening is composed of two ballets that have powerful messages involving human experience:  Petrushka, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism and, Rite of Spring, that documents a human sacrifice ritual.  Intense music brings out intense dancing in both works.  Though thematically similar, the two ballets are uniquely transforming.

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Petrushka depicts the "little man" struggling to survive a communist society, living under the rule of a totalitarian regime.  Much of the dancing is done on the floor, the dancers mimicking swimming strokes, as if suppressed to the ultimate low by their government and struggling to stay afloat.  The leader tromps about, stomping on any individual that fails to meet standards.  The characters truly come to life on stage, presenting a very relevant reenactment of history. Petrushka is a civilian who expresses ideas that separate him from the others.  The powerful ruler or so-called “Magician” demonstrates his superiority, menacing in each movement.  The chorus dancers are the uncaring mob repeating meaningless sequences mindlessly, servants to a domineering commander.  Though appropriately pedestrian in some movement, the dancers encapsulate spirits of individuals, making the drama both haunting and enlightening.  Dance becomes a metaphorical language for reenacting a cruel totalitarian government and its destruction of the "little man."   It is incredibly inspiring to see dance that interprets societal change, thereby promoting positive change in a non-militant way.

Rite of Spring is equally riveting, with choreography by Attila Kun, depicting what he describes as a “sacrifice that redeems human beings and transforms life.”  Initially, I confuse the subject of Rite of Spring as being about a mating ritual or the institution of marriage; then, I realize, it is about a different type of human sacrifice.

Győr National Ballet, photo © Béla SzabóAnother orderly society presents itself, then trouble seems to arise with one individual.  Many couples begin singling out the single person to become the sacrificial gift.  I relate to the single woman onstage, the victim of society’s customs.  It seems she is chosen by the crowd of couples as the innocent fresh meat- the perfect sacrifice and is also victimized due to lack of a "male protector."  The white costumes show off the shapes of the dancers, and renders them blameless as they methodically perform the accepted ritual.

The Stravinsky program is an excellent choice for a mature audience.  Social equality is evident in dancing where women partner other women, and men, proving themselves to be capable and strong. Such choreographic choices are in stride with ways of the future, as women are gaining respect in societies for their contributions other than role of mate and mother.  The humanity of the dancers is appealing, and though the company seems very unified culturally, they have a nice range of shapes and sizes. Győr National Ballet has the gift of beautiful storytelling, a gift of presenting history that is difficult to tell yet important to recognize, and conveys it powerfully through dancing.

All photos © Béla Szabó

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Official Dance Review by Lea McGowan
Performance: Győr National Ballet: A Stravinsky Evening
Choreography: Attila Kun, Dmitrij Simkin, James Sutherland
Venue: The Joyce Theater, New York
Performance Date:  January 28, 2010

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