Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Dance Review: Juilliard New Dances/2009

Fabien Prioville, Photography by Ursula KaufmanThe Peter Jay Sharp Theater houses the best dance party of the season, hands down.  Alive with birthday cakes, M.I.A. beats, Lady Gaga-esque costumes and cowboys, the New Dance Edition concert at Juilliard reminds me that I live in New York City.  Should Dorothy have landed in the theater she would have begun clicking her heels immediately.  Or would she?

The freshman piece, Unwrap These Flowers, reads as the opposite of fledgling.  From moment one, they prove their right to be in the school, in the theater, and in the professional dance world.  Vibrantly curving, athletic movement allows the moments of violence to read as intrinsic to the characters and not startling.  Their enigmatic quality of being both new and capable should keep upperclassmen on their toes.  Choreographer Andrea Miller would be wise to take a careful eye to fully sculpting the piece.  Occasionally it reads as a dance concert where the exits in and out of the wing need more preparation.  Given full continuity, this piece blows the seniors out of the water.

Only the FIERCE Dancers Apply!  Become a Member of iDANZ Today! Boasting the best piece of the night, the sophomore class haunts a packed house with Un Denier Verre (A Last Drink).  Fabien Prioville’s Americation debut offers the audience a birthday party where the birthday girl will cry…or talk if she wants to.  Drawing on his background with dance theater choreographer Pina Bausch, Prioville makes the mistake of giving his dancers far too much text.  When devoted solely to the dance, they send chills up my spine, convincing me of the despair their words make me doubt.  The piece’s heroine, a fuchsia clad soloist, extends her torso like a snake shedding his skin, arms teaming with articulation, feet planted.  The remaining cast members execute flawless unison sections rife with tangible turmoil.  These moments seem to represent the emotional tightrope of her mind, giving physical representation to the words that might as well be axed.

Larry Keigwin, Photography by Tom CaravagliaFlinging the theater into a flirtatious, Friday night feel, Larry Keigwin’s Megalopolis borrows futuristic costumes from Lady Gaga, music from M.I.A., and builds on the energy that makes New York the city that never sleeps.  Two unitard-donning dancers open the piece with gyrating hips snugly held by shiny unitards with Working Girl shoulders.  Before this has a moment to get old, the stage is flooded with black and silver unitard encased dancers leaping, jogging and swirling with the precision of a marching band.  A bird’s eye view would have felt like…a night at a club where people could actually dance.  Keigwin’s greatest win is his ability to showcase talent and sexuality and acknowledge that having one doesn’t negate the ability to have the other.  Unlike Prioville, he recognizes his dancers versatility without presumptions about other artistic realms to which they can delve.

Closing the show is Aszure Barton’s Happy Little Things (Waiting On a Gruff Cloud of Wanting).  As I watch, I truly wish that Barton’s piece had more time to come into its own.  Nicole Pearce, the show’s set designer beautifully sets up a Western feel.  If Barton’s piece would have only seemed to have some connection to the West, I would be calling the pair a dream team.  Unfortunately for the seniors in this piece, it did little to honor their talent.  While their embodiment of Barton’s choreography fully shows their ability as dancers, the overall confusion of the disjointed sections, unflattering costumes, unutilized western flair, and sole dancer in cowboy boots never takes me into their "world," whatever it is.  Without a set or costumes, this piece could have engaged me fully as a work in progress.

Juilliard dancers have unlimited facility and talent, period.  When choreographers work with the very thing they were put on this earth to do, success emanates.  Uncomfortable text and poorly constructed aesthetics can only act as sequins on naturally bedazzled creatures.  Go to the Peter Sharp Theater to see the core of what Juilliard dancers do best – dance with guts, grace and abandonment.

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Official Dance Review by Eileen Elizabeth
Performance:  New Dances/Edition 2009
Choreographers:  Larry Keigwin, Aszure Barton, Fabien Prioville, Andrea Miller
Venue: Peter Jay Sharp Theater, Lincoln Center
Show Date: December 12, 2009

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