Around the World at City Center
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.
Fall for Dance, which began in 2004, opens Wednesday at City Center, and this year it seems even more inventive and far-reaching than ever, orchestrated so that one can speak of story lines, motifs, and memes as much as genres and categories.
International cultures entwine during the festival to make it a melting pot of dance, with companies from all over the globe — avatars of ethnic, indigenous dance. Something New York does not often get to see will be the The Gentlemen of Hälau Nä Kamalei, a troupe of male hula dancers. In addition, Fall for Dance’s curators are partial to artists who interject some updating by way of an infusion of contemporary sensibility into venerable stylizations. The Pichet Klunchun Dance Company, which makes its New York debut on the opening night, features Mr. Klunchun, who trained in Thai classical mask dance, and aims in his work to amalgamate those traditions with a modern dance vocabulary. More conventionally, Garth Fagan’s “From Before” is designed to honor as well as distill the antecedents of African and Caribbean dance.
Perhaps more prominent this season than in the past are representations of historic reconstruction. Sheron Wray will perform Jane Dudley’s 1938 “Harmonica Breakdown,” which is a wonderfully apt communiqué from Depression-era modern dance and its absorption into the demotic and populist. The Suzanne Farrell Ballet offers Ms. Farrell’s recent reconstruction of Balanchine’s “Pithoprakta,” which the choreographer created for her at New York City Ballet in 1968.
Wisely, Fall for Dance programmers don’t overload City Center’s Broadway-size stage with classical-ballet-size corps-de-ballets works. Ensemble pieces are on the small side, and sometimes the ensemble has a novelty factor, such as Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s “Uprising,” performed by a cast of seven men. A pendant to the experience of seeing the depth and expansiveness possible in a chamber ensemble is the experience of seeing the City Center stage dominated and enlivened by a single performer. Fall for Dance reserves a niche for solo performers; there is Fang-Yi Sheu, whose years with the Martha Graham Dance Company have made her a New York favorite, as well as Canada’s Louise Lecavalier, Israel’s Talia Paz, and Indian dancer Madhavi Mudgal. Solo performance meets historic reconstruction meets African dance with the inclusion of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s performance of Asadata Dafora’s 1932 solo, “Awassa Astrige / Ostrich.”
Prominent as always are what might be called preview appearances by companies that will move into City Center for runs later in the season. The San Francisco Ballet, which comes to City Center for a week in October, continues this year’s Jerome Robbins tributes (on the occasion of what would have been his 90th birthday) with Robbins’s “In the Night.” Paul Taylor’s “Esplanade” has been performed countless times at City Center over the last three decades and never fails to please and excite. American Ballet Theatre contributes to Fall for Dance an excerpt from the Antony Tudor repertory that will dominate its annual season at City Center next month, with the central duet from Tudor’s “The Leaves Are Fading.”
Two grand masters of modern dance, Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp, are represented with time-tested as well as relatively unfamiliar work. Mr. Cunningham’s own company will perform his “Sounddance” (1975). Twyla Tharp’s “Sweet Fields” (1996), set to 18th- and 19th-century American hymns, will be performed by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
Fall for Dance’s opening night program on Wednesday will be an auspicious microcosm of the fare during the 10 days that follow. There is Mr. Klunchun’s Thai company. There is Shen Wei, fresh from choreographing the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. There is the National Ballet of Canada performing Jirí Kylián’s “Soldiers’ Mass.” And there is a return appearance by Keigwin + Company; this year they perform one movement from Larry Keigwin’s sly and whimsical “The Elements.” Though the whole week is a sampler, the opening night offers an especially well-picked mix.