Another Big Five-Course Meal

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

Like the first two programs in the “Fall for Dance” festival this year, Tuesday’s concert was a delight, with youthful, enthusiastic audiences lured by $10 tickets and a diverting of five different companies.

Yet halfway through this year’s festival, there are minor quibbles, mostly of the embarrassment-of-riches variety. The programs feel a bit run-on, at two-and-a-half hours with intermission. And some of the individual pieces feel overly long — at least, for inclusion in a multi-company evening. A little savvy streamlining could sharpen each evening’s impact.

Nonetheless, the cheering crowd appeared quite satisfied with Tuesday’s five-course meal. First up was Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, a San Francisco troupe full of gorgeous, lithe dancers. The long-legged women wore tangerine-colored leotards with short ruffled skirts (no pointe shoes), while the bare-chested men wore mustard-colored trousers for the company’s performance of excerpts from “The Moroccan Project” (2005).The scene was completed by two floor-to-ceiling panels of golden fabric and a North African score of traditional drums, oud, violin, and women’s voices.

The music suggested powerful images of communal ritual, but for the most part, Mr. King resisted choreographing either unison or large groups. Through much of the piece, he worked with a brightly-lit foreground and a dim background, with dancers occupying both zones. The focus was on the foreground dancers, who danced mainly with their arms and fingers. Those fascinating hands — curled, splayed, and balled in every conceivable permutation, from the balletic to the purely gestural — spoke for the whole body.

Mr. King has a dazzling gift for inventive movement, and some of his odd hybrids blended ballet with pure athletics. But Mr. King’s weakness is the ability to structure a dance and build it to a conclusion — a fact that became apparent as “The Moroccan Project” progressed.

Next came the 1932 Martha Graham solo “Satyric Festival Song” with live flute accompaniment by Elizabeth Mann. Miki Orihara, one of the finest dancers in Graham’s current company, made a whimsical wood sprite. Squeezed into a long tube dress printed with horizontal stripes, she shook her black mane and pounced through the steps, highlighting their quirky physical comedy. At one point, she got a laugh simply by raising her big toe.

From here the scene shifted to a smart evening party on a starlit terrace, with three couples from New York City Ballet dancing Jerome Robbins’s 1970 suite of romantic pas de deux, “In the Night.” The pianist Cameron Grant played the score — four of Chopin’s Nocturnes — from a position just below the stage, as one by one, the couples illustrated three shades of romantic angst by means of aggressive, virtuoso partnering and abrupt separations.

Despite some distracting unsteadiness in the dancing, the performance’s emphasis remained on the three love stories. Rachel Rutherford and Tyler Angle found the note of restrained mystery in the first duet; even the ripe passage in which duo gesture at each other from across the stage projected dignity. The best moment of the second duet came when Charles Askegard slung Sofiane Sylve upside down over his shoulder, provoking a gasp. Her feet began to twitch immediately, and when he set her down on her fluttering toes, they carried her away on a long ripple of tinkling piano notes.

Wendy Whelan and Sebastién Marcovici, as the third couple, threw the requisite tantrums with an ardor just shy of melodrama. A final ensemble section, with a comic bit of gossiping, struck a cute note that was rather at odds with the underlying Chopin.

After intermission came the first appearance in America by Abou Lagraa, a Frenchman of Algerian descent. Mr. Lagraa’s solo, “Où Transe,” was a frenetic, almost spastic attempt to, as his program notes put it, “bring forth a memory inscribed in the neuronal source of his movements.”

Dressed in a turtleneck and jeans, his silhouette at times dancing behind him, Mr. Lagraa was eerily uninhibited. He kicked and twisted like an infant in the womb. He seemed fascinated by his own fingers, which appeared to talk to him, practically barking in his face. But his trance-like state and bouncing body also recalled a club dancer.Mr. Lagraa repeatedly walked a line between dance and palsy, lingering so long that the piece began to feel like an improvisation. Still, here was a fascinating case of a man using his body almost like an antenna.

David Parsons’s “Swing Shift,” a highoctane, low-concept romp through a movie-like score by Kenji Bunch, closed the program. The vigorous dancing by Mr. Parsons’s polished company almost made up for the choreography’s repetitive excesses. The dancers have a healthy, lusty quality that matched their red and orange costumes — and more importantly, matches Mr. Parsons’s fullthrottle, sexy style. There was a lot of juice in “Swing Shift,”but a fare amount of rind, too; it veers close to wearing out its welcome. But although less might be more, “Fall for Dance” was quite happy to have it all.

“Fall for Dance” until October 8 (130 W. 56th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues, 212-247-0430).

The New York Sun

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