Newcomers Steal The Show
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The roster for City Center’s third annual “Fall for Dance” festival boasts plenty of giants; its opening weekend featured performances by the companies of Bill T. Jones, Paul Taylor, Trisha Brown, and Stephen Petronio. But during the second of six festival programs Saturday night (repeated Sunday), it was the little guys who stole the show.
That’s not to take anything away from the Paul Taylor Dance Company, whose dancers gave a characteristically excellent performance of the 1987 classic “Syzygy,” set to a propulsive Donald York score. Or from the powerhouse dancing of Stephen Petronio’s limber, stylish troupe as its dancers whipped through the lashing turns of his 1995 electronica fantasia “Lareigne.”
But the evening belonged to the newcomers. From the moment the curtain rose on “Prophet & Betrayer,” a New York premiere from Nathan Trice, the house buzzed with curiosity. Mr. Trice’s silhouette stood out against a splash of sunset on the back wall; his impossibly muscular arms carving shapes in the air as foreboding music (by Arvo Pärt) played. Downstage, a preteen boy (Michael J.Waters of Restoration Youth Arts Academy), sat cross-legged in a pool of light, bent forward with his head in his hands.
The archetypal duet that unfolded — between what the notes described as “a young and old spirit,”both bare-chested and in loose trousers, had an ancestral quality. Both man and boy commanded the stage with simple yet mesmerizing movements of the arms — one pair muscular, the other thin and undeveloped. Emotion came from the vigorous movement, rather than from emoting faces. Young Mr. Waters brought an admirable concentration to his dancing, matching Mr. Trice’s formidable intensity.
Likewise, the Montreal-based Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie (making its first New York appearance) excited the crowd, performing an excerpt from “Fifteen Heterosexual Duets,” the James Kudelka contemporary ballet set to Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata. The theme was straightforward: five male-female couples in five duets describing five relationships.The dancers ably embodied the characters, but it was their execution that dazzled — the split-second timing during complex partnering, and the gratifying lightness of low-to-the-ground leaps and lifts.
The B-boys of the French hip-hop troupe Compagnie Franck II Louise put their definitive stamp on their American debut. Striding onstage in beetlelike metallic armor and helmets, they launched into a pop-and-lock routine in a sci-fi landscape of snaking mechanical tubes and smoky haze.
Franck II Louise, the quintet’s youthful choreographer, also composed the electronic score, a mélange of hip-hop beats, machine-like beeps, and industrial buzzing. One by one, the futuristic warriors took off pieces of armor (hence the piece’s title, “Drop It!”). Then all five reappeared, shirtless and in baggy pants, for a breakdancing contest. A final, dazzlingly trick — a dancer spinning literally on his head — put the exclamation point on an evening of bold statements from the next generation.