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Dancing in the Night : Lydia Johnson Dance at the Ailey Citigroup Theater….

June 16, 2013
Lydia Johnson Dance’s Kerry Shea & Guest Artist Carlos Lopes in Lydia Johnson’s Night of the Flying Horses. Photo by Nir Arieli

Lydia Johnson Dance’s Kerry Shea & Guest Artist Carlos Lopes in Lydia Johnson’s Night of the Flying Horses. Photo by Nir Arieli

Lydia Johnson’s lyricism of movement and musicality of phrasing is evident with the dancer’s first step. Ms. Johnson does not transition from shape to shape as most choreographers do, her choreography flows into a ribbon of movement, seamless, silky and continual.

Lydia Johnson Dance New York’s 2013 Season at the Ailey Citigroup Theater was a mixture of the new and the established works. The company premiered two new works, Night and Dreams to the music of Franz Schubert and Night of the Flying Horses to the music of Osvaldo Golijov. Also, Change of Heart created in 2012 and set to J.S. Bach’s Three Part Inventions performed by András Schiff, plus, the 2009 work Dusk where Ms. Johnson chose to use Henry Gorecki.

The amazing Carlos Lopez, former soloist with the American Ballet Theater was a guest artist and appeared in three of the pieces. His strong classical training and intrinsic lyricism of movement was a perfect match for Ms. Johnson’s choreography.

Lydia Johnson Dance’s Eric Williams, Blake Hennessey-York & Guest Artist Carlos Lopez in Lydia Johnson’s Change of Heart. Photo by Kokyat

Lydia Johnson Dance’s Eric Williams, Blake Hennessey-York & Guest Artist Carlos Lopez in Lydia Johnson’s Change of Heart. Photo by Kokyat

The evening began with the 2012 work, Change of Heart with András Schiff playing J.S. Bach’s Three Part Inventions. Classical influences underlie the movement choices for this work; there is a purity of technique that is woven into the fabric of the dance. In three sections, Change of Heart opens with nine dancers on stage as they begin to explore and expand the relationships between each other.

The duet between Kerry Shea and Erik Williams had me spellbound. Ms. Shea is a dancer of rare beauty whose presence radiates an inner calm. Gingerly she strokes Mr. William’s cheek and so much was said in that tender act.

When all six women come on stage, Laura Di Oro, Sarah Pon, Kerry Shea, Katie Martin, Min Seon Kim and Alessandra Giambelli, they become a symphony of movement with continuous motion and direction change. Eric Williams, Blake Hennessy-York and Carlos Lopez performed a tender trio, their energies turned inward.

Lydia Johnson Dance in Lydia Johnson’s Change of Heart. Photo by Kokyat

Lydia Johnson Dance in Lydia Johnson’s Change of Heart. Photo by Kokyat

Dusk, which premiered in 2009, was somber right from the start, the combination of Henry Gorecki’s score and the dancers attired, at the beginning, in Jessica Sand Blonde’s all black costumes set the stage. The work’s structure was reminiscent of the ballets created by Martha Graham during the 1930’s with its sense of ritual and the mind’s psychology expressed in movement.

Dusk begins with nine dancers arrayed around the stage, each angled in a different direction. With the first ominous sounds of the Gorecki score, we see a dancer raise her hand to the sky as if seeking the divine, another bends at the waist as if in pain, as yet another dancer’s hand goes to her forehead as in grief. There is deep emotion that runs through Dusk, nothing apparent or obvious, but an undercurrent that flows from dancer to dancer. Kerry Shea was magnificent, her every gesture, move and look was perfection.

In the second section, Ms. Blonde’s costumes have been altered, nude colored tunics and the men in black leggings and nude colored tees, perhaps some of the black has been discarded as the grief is lessened or by stripping away everything extraneous the emotion is made raw.

Lydia Johnson Dance in Lydia Johnson’s Dusk. Photo by Julie Lemberger

Lydia Johnson Dance in Lydia Johnson’s Dusk. Photo by Julie Lemberger

Ms. Shea and Eric Williams performed a duet exhibiting a deep connection of body and spirit as the two merged into a singular expression. There is an implication of solace in Dusk, a need for forgiveness, a sense of atonement that is sought, but is not so readily given, but also a feeling of ritual, something sacred observed.

Carlos Lopez performed a memorable solo, with his superb command of technique and his ability to transfer his emotion in into his dancing; this all blended and married well with Ms. Johnson’s choreographic style.

Night of the Flying Horses, one of two new works being premiered this season, using the music of Osvaldo Golijov,  is a work for four women and three men. This is a work of passion and mystery, though not a tango, it possesses the same emotional expression and soulful commitment that is found in tango.

Lydia Johnson Dance in Lydia Johnson’s Dusk. Photo by Julie Lemberger

Lydia Johnson Dance in Lydia Johnson’s Dusk. Photo by Julie Lemberger

Jessica Sand Blonde costumed the women in blood-red dresses and the men in gray khakis and comfortable dark tan shirt. The casualness of the costumes allowed for a pedestrian feel and gave the work an earthiness. Where Change of Heart and Dusk explored an inner landscape, a searching for atonement and seeking the divine, Night of the Flying Horses is more of the moment, an expression of the present.

Laura Di Orio must be mentioned for her outstanding performance. The first to be seen on stage she seemed to embody the spirit of the work; she danced with fervor of both emotion and energies. Brava, Ms. Di Orio!

The last section, returns to the quiet mystery seen in the first section, creating a full circle. The ending of the piece was quite moving, in silence and as the lights slowly fade, Ms. Shea falls backwards into the waiting arms of Blake Hennessey-York.

Lydia Johnson Dance in Lydia Johnson’s Night of the Flying Horses. Photo by Nir Arieli

Lydia Johnson Dance in Lydia Johnson’s Night of the Flying Horses. Photo by Nir Arieli

Night of the Flying Horses is filled with sublime imagery, moments of the dance I can still see in my mind’s eye. It’s a beautiful and emotional work, a dance that stays with you long after you have seen it….  Ms. Johnson reached in and pulled Night of the Flying Horses from her heart.

With Night of the Flying Horses, Ms. Johnson used her vocabulary to carve a moment in time. You feel the night envelope you when it begins, you are suddenly surrounded by mystery, desire, and emotion.

The passion found in Ms. Johnson’s choreography is intrinsic; it is the blood that sustains her work. It is never tangible, never overt but still ever-present, it is not forced, you cannot force true passion in art, for the passion in Ms. Johnson’s work is like the blue in the sky, you cannot touch it, but you can see it there.

Lydia Johnson Dance’s Kerry Shea & Guest Artist Carlos Lopez in Lydia Johnson’s Night and Dreams. Photo by Nir Arieli

Lydia Johnson Dance’s Kerry Shea & Guest Artist Carlos Lopez in Lydia Johnson’s Night and Dreams. Photo by Nir Arieli

Night and Dreams also had its premiere this season. Where Night of the Flying Horses was a dance of passion, a dance alive and of the moment, Night and Dreams was quieter and had a softer undertone.

It was a lovely work, but after witnessing Night of the Flying Horses I could not truly appreciate it….I would love to see it again, but not right after such a strong work as Night of the Flying Horses.

Night of the Flying Horses is a one of the must-see works of the 2013 season…a dance bold in its daring, and daring in its boldness. Bravo indeed to Lydia Johnson and all that were involved…

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