Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Juilliard New Dances/Edition 2008

New Dances/Edition 2008
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
Review by Adrienne Jean Fisher
December 12th, 2008
Refrain for a Broken Chorus
Class of 2012

Choreographer Sidra Bell, her father, composer Dennis Bell, the live music by the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble and the first year students combine forces to create ripples that turn into tidal waves of androgynous red and black satin and smooth as silk movement. This piece takes an intense look at refrains, deep breaths and “time-outs” from the repeating or broken chorus that is life and its rituals. The movement is smooth as water as a blond male begins to send ripples of energy from one end of his body to the other sometimes pausing on one leg in an unfaltering balance before making another splash.

It is as if every time one of the dancers holds up a finger to say “hold on”, they are simultaneously throwing a rock into a pool of water that sends ripples throughout. These “time-out ripples” quickly turn into tidal waves as the movement escalates to a climax in a solo dance. Then, the movement gradually decrescendos back to a ripple and finally to a singular breath. The piece begins with a phrase that ends in the soloist holding up his ribcage with his hands in a moment of deep inhale. The piece comes to a close when the same soloist is at his deepest inhale with his hands on his ribcage as the other dancers gradually walk away facing him with their “wait a minute” index fingers held high in the air.

All of the dancers wear beige socks that inhibit any friction that bare feet on marly would cause bringing us deeper into the world of life’s unrestrained rituals.The shallow breath that accompanies life’s daily patterns that are only brought to a halt when a person says “Wait a minute, take a deep breath.” The dancers rush on and off stage holding up their index finger now and again in order to convey a forced pause in the regiment. By doing this, they throw a pebble of breath into the pool of customs causing yet another ripple that turns into a tidal wave, and once again back down to a breath.

This piece starts with breath and ends with a breath. The dancers brilliantly execute their technique as they send ripples throughout their bodies. When these ripples turn into tidal waves, one is awestruck at the display of strength, balance and focus. When they peter out back to a ripple and then again to a singular held breath, one can’t help but want to take a deep breath after holding as together we skid off the path of conventionality.

Exposed Sights
Class of 2011

Exposed Sights begins with a quartet including three mirrors and a girl in hot pink. On vehement display throughout are the different perspectives that one gains from not only the “mirror mirror on the wall”, but also the other several pieces of looking glass in our lives that are very effective and resonant on a daily basis. In this piece, observed is the looking glass created by all of the people who surround us, who each reflect back different images, and the looking glass created by one’s own perception of the surrounding world.

The music by Rodrigo y Gabriella sets the stage for this piece on questioning ones own self-perception, the perception of the world and the world’s perception of oneself with a latin fusion of beats and guitar that include covers of Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and Metallica’s Orion. As the soloist in hot pink dances with the trio of mirrors onstage, she publicizes her inner angst. This inner turmoil is rooted in receiving contrasting notions of herself from different angles. She runs from upstage to downstage, sometimes not able to look in the mirror as she flawlessly dances through her self-perception queries in this opening soliloquy.

Darrel Grand Moultrie, choreographer and Broadway performer, shows us a grand display of fireworks amidst these reflections of humanity. While facing upstage, the dancers support themselves with their elbows while sparks seem to ignite in each of their fingers as they open and close. The costuming is incendiary creating a hot pink and orange parade of fireworks. The fireworks climax on stage when the dancers partner, the choreography of which is stunning and unique. The beginning soloist, shoots fireworks from her head, feet, hands and core as she dances with her mirrors. The display of fireworks on stage at all times while the soloist intermingles with the different sights that she sees in the mirrors of her mind is astonishing.

Upon completion of the introductory dance soliloquy, people soon appear in the shadows behind the mirror, as they roll and writhe on the ground. These are her inner demons as she looks in the mirror. At the close of the piece everyone has hit the deck on stage except the hot pink soloist. As she searches for an answer, she pleas, contracts and soars over all of these people that make up her foundation, each of whom is as much of a looking glass as the mirror that hangs on the wall.

“because there isn’t any”
class of 2010

“Hate to break it to you, but you can’t ever find a place that is nice and peaceful,” says a man as he lays comfortably on the ground or, rather, in the ground, six feet under because maybe that is the only place that is “nice and peaceful”.

Johannes Weiland takes a close look at life and its extremes in her choreography and conception of this piece. It isn’t ever “nice and peaceful” because there is always the give and take that is going to keep life either buoyant or depressed, and everything in between lives in the gray that some people pre-conceptualize as “nice and peaceful”, but once one arrives there, one desires the excitement of the polar extremes once again. When living in the “danger zones”, all that’s wanted is a quiet life so that one can be at peace. Endless searching, endless circles, running, looking.

The piece starts with a man running in huge circles covering the maximum diameter that the stage will allow. There is a microphone center stage, down stage that he speaks into whenever he run past it. “I don’t even know why I am running…there isn’t any.” This vehicle of expression is used by quite a few of the dancers dressed in the rags of the Great Depression. One female dancer gets the mic pulled away from her, but she glues her lips to it and runs to keep up with the mic in order to finish her sentence because she wants nothing more than to be heard. That being said, there are only so many ways that one can express oneself, especially with a poor education. This is expressed by the useof the same phrases over and over again.

Their constant “search” for something new is expressed in the way that they change partners and the females drag their male partners to them trying to beat them into submission to stay home and prioritize, but the males are constantly wandering, searching for “that place” even if that means finding love outside the home. The partnering in this piece is very indicative of the feeling of deficiency. When the girls are thrust into the air in a lift, their moves are not quite complete in that the legs aren’t fully extended or they fall limp too soon.

The text spoken by the dancers in this piece is taken from the Catcher in the Rye. In this novel, Holden Caulfied wanders searching for “that place” as he experiences teenage angst. He comes to realize that once innocence is gone, there is an endless wandering in which we search for something, anything that is either more peaceful or more exciting than “the now”. He learns that one can’t “catch” innocence in order to hold onto it forever. Innocence must go as must a nice and peaceful place, not to be returned to until death.

Once again, kudos to the lighting and the costume design that made all of the dancers look as though in an yellowing antique photograph.

Class of 2009

Larry Keigwin’s work on Juilliard’s graduating class is brilliant. Runaway is set to a pulsing original electronic score by Jonathan Melville Pratt that creates a digital heartbeat for this retro catwalk to play and prey on. The dancers are expressionless high fashion models. Keigwin clearly paints a picture of self-loving models that rarely make eye contact with anyone else, as if no one else exists, even if they are strutting side by side with another dancer down the catwalk.

The women wear Jackie O bouffant wigs, high fashion makeup and high-waisted florescent mini dresses. Many of the womens’ jumpsuits are discarded to reveal 50’s style bikinis of the same florescent color, while never halting the urgent catwalk from upstage to downstage and then off stage right. The men are in black suits, many of which are discarded to reveal a Calvin-Klein model myriad of men in just tux shirts and BVDs…or just BVDs.

A model’s stereotypical self-involvement, narcissism and winner takes it all traits are physically expressed to a t by the dancers. At one point, two men walk the catwalk downstage as a women flies on them. They brush her off as if she were an unexpected horsefly biting them and don’t give her a second thought as they complete the exit of their runway walk.

There is also an animalistic, primal instinct that un-coyly permeates the stage at all times. Girls run from stage left, soar, and piggy-back the male model dancers men as they exit stage right after completing their catwalk. The males don’t as much as flinch, but allow the female models to stay latched on as they take them offstage. They never make eye contact, living in the universe where one takes care of one’s own needs and acts only based on personal gain.

The female dancers become petrified into live mannequins as they are abruptly picked up mid-catwalk by the male models. The image of mannequins in store window comes to mind. These fashion statues are whatever the designer needs them to be in order to benefit his image. Personal gain comes full circle. The shallowness that exists in the fashion industry is enormous, but with the shallowness, there are infinite heaps of passion and urgency alive and breathing in everyone’s self-importance and image. The fashion world is turned inside out with the recipe that Keigwin, Pratt, and the lighting and costume designers invent for in Runaway.

Scenic and lighting design by Clifton Taylor
Costume design by Fritz Masten

iDANZ Critix Corner
Dance Review by
Adrienne Jean Fisher
Performance: Juilliard New Dances/Edition 2008
Venue: Peter Jay Sharp Theater, Lincoln Center, New York City
Date: Thursday, December 11, 2008

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