“The Garden of Souls”: Ballet NY at Ailey Citigroup Theater
I love getting to a theater early and seeing dancers warm-up on stage. To watch them rehearse a difficult phrase of choreography, run through lifts with a partner, someone practicing pirouettes or simply walking the stage and marking the dance in their head. There is a simplicity to the consistency that is dance, a sameness that all dancers experience, warm-up, rehearsal, performing, it becomes a mantra of movement that exercises a state of mind in which dance, as no other art form maintains to exist.
So it was at the Ailey Citigroup Theater’s performances of Ballet NY, the brainchild of two of the greatest dancers of their era, Judith Fugate and Medhi Bahiri. The evening consisted of works by Agnes DeMille, John-Mark Owen and with two premieres by Mr. Bahiri.
Mr. Bahiri’s “The Garden of Souls” is a work in progress that grabs you the moment the lights are up. The stage is filled with a billowy fog; the music is the haunting voice of Azam Ali with Greg Ellis providing percussions. Together they create a unique sound, a mixture of Ancient India and the Far East blended with traditional North American that is both mysterious and somewhat mystical. “The Garden of Souls” is incredibly beautiful with a tranquil peace but still holds a certain sensuality, not overt, but evident. Jennifer Goodman moves like Scheherazade or a classical Salomé, sensuous and confident. Her arms move in long sweeps with tiny bourrées that lead into Jason Jordan’s arms. Mr. Jordan is a rock, always there for Ms. Goodman, sweeping her up into strong lifts and then placing her again gently on the floor. Ms. Goodman’s movement quality is exquisite, so fluid and lyrical. This is an exciting start to Mr. Bahiri’s work in progress and it should prove to be an exciting and dramatic ballet.
“Triptych,” choreographed by John-Mark Owen to music by H.F. Biber and Sergei Rachmaninoff, is an intricate work filled with tender partnering of great passion. Explored is lost love and then love’s reunion. The program notes states it is “the relationship of a couple that can neither live, or without, one another”.
Though “Triptych” is a work in three segments, only two were seen in tonight’s performance, “Unam Ceylum” and “Vespers”. The work is performed superbly by Kelsey Coventry, Michael Eaton, Nadezhda Vostrikov, and Fidel Garcia. But I did not quite understand the need for two dancers standing downstage in partial light at the beginning of the ballet. I was unsure of their significance or importance to what I was seeing. Ms. Vostrikov and Mr. Garcia gave very emotionally charged performances.
Agnes de Mille’s “The Other” was choreographed the year before Ms. de Mille’s death in 1992 and deals with the play of emotional forces, life, death, light and shadow. Jennifer Goodman as “The Maiden” and Luke Manley as “The Lover” were allegorical figures representing vitality, love and youth. Ms. Goodman and Mr. Manley danced the pas de deux with elegance and you could sense a deep connectivity between them.
Mr. Bahiri’s “Trois Mouvements” is a ballet for eight dancers (five women and three men) and is set to Tomaso Albinoni’s Concerto/Konzert Op. IX N˚2 for Oboe and Orchestra. This work is structured with a more classical vocabulary than Mr. Bahiri’s “The Garden of Souls”. It is a tightly woven blend of movement and music that allows for visualization of the score. It looks like a fun piece to dance, dancers flowing on and off stage, always present is a lyricism that flows in not just the movements of the dancers but in the actual construction of the piece. I would love to see it again.
Ballet NY is the New York City-based ballet company, founded in 1997 by former New York City Ballet Principal Ballerina Judith Fugate and International Guest Artist Medhi Bahiri. It is a company of accomplished principal and soloist dancers. Foremost in Ballet NY’s mission is to offer emerging choreographers the opportunity to create new works on accomplished dancers. The Company is committed to keeping ticket prices affordable in an effort to attract, cultivate and educate new audiences for dance.
Please visit Ballet NY for info on future performances.