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October 2004

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Juilliard Dance

Published: October 4, 2004
Category: review

A Dance to Each Taste: Fall for Dance Festival

By Rachel Straus

For an express indoctrination into the dance world no better festival exists than Fall for Dance. At City Center – formerly a Masonic meeting hall of the Ancient Order of the Nobles of Mystic Shrine – the new festival’s $10 ticket price wooed and converted while the six-night smorgasbord of 30-company performances proffered a sanctuary of riches.

On Friday night, Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo sent six Boston Ballet dancers into club-kid body rolls and through a maelstrom of off-kilter sky piercing turns in “Plan to B.” Dancer Larissa Ponomarenko’s leg-whipping ease matched Franz von Biber’s wickedly paced violin sonata. Nothing was beyond the capability of these dancers, who are trained in ballet – not a technique that welcomes floor work or funk, though they achieved both with bravura.

Later in the program, four dancers – dressed as though they just left the fields – captured the spiritual pathos of antebellum black America in “Big Brick – A Man’s Piece.” Choreographer Reggie Wilson’s voiced percussion and syncopated footing recalled slaves who, denied the drum, made their bodies their beat. The Fist and Heel Performance group, which included four gospel singers, did more than reinterpret ritualized movement of the African Diaspora. As the dancers’ heavy breathing and cadenced footing grew, their symbolic perseverance shouted out a history not to be forgotten.

Eiko and Koma – two Japanese dancers working in the slow-movement style of Butoh – knelt in a square field of cold-blue light against a winter flurry in “Snow.” Their passage towards each other occurred in minutes, but the starkness of their white, drawn faces, and bowed figures encapsulated a lifetime of hardship. When Koma surrendered to the earth, the pain she succumbed to seemed real.

On opening night Tuesday, 38 dancers affiliated with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performed parts of “Continuous Replay” – without a shred of clothing. Snippets of sound – from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” and Daniel Bernard Roumain’s techno groove – created a gimmicky vehicle that advanced one of the dance’s central ideas: Humans don’t change.

On Saturday, Yin Mei began “Empty Tradition/City of Peonies” with a voiceover about being young in China: “When I was a child,” she said, “I didn’t know what to believe.” Then she retreated to a chair, where dancer Petros Fourniotis manipulated her arms and legs with what seemed like sexual aggression. Ms. Mei found a child’s freedom as her company twirled her aloft like a flying sundial in the final moments of the dance.

The Fall for Dance Festival finished its 12-hour, six-day marathon with a devotional dance by company Sidi Goma. At City Center, New York’s first dance temple, the festival gave a splendid opening to what promises to be a divine season of New York City dance in which some of these 30 companies will deliver more blissful intensity.

The New York Sun

Copyright 2004 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC

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