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Jessica Lang Dance: A Disappointing Finale for the Joyce Theater’s Ballet 6.0….

August 23, 2013
I.N.K., Jessica Lang Dance. Photo: Takao Komaru

I.N.K., Jessica Lang Dance. Photo: Takao Komaru

Ballet 6.0 is the Joyce Theater’s two-week festival that recognizes dancers and choreographers who are creating work outside the traditional large company milieu and are forming their own small companies. The six companies for this year’s festival ranged widely from Neo-classical to Contemporary in styles.

Ballerinas in pointe shoes were not the norm. Having seen four of the six companies perform, I witnessed more performances in soft shoes than dancers en pointe. But the commonality of the companies is that the choreographers are all classically trained and work within the classical vocabulary.

Jessica Lang Dance closed this year’s festival, and unfortunately, of the four companies I saw perform; Ms. Lang’s choreography was by far the weakest. Ms. Lang presented four pieces, her 2010 work, A Solo in Nine Parts, I.N.K from 2011, a 2005 work From Foreign Lands and People, plus the World Premiere of Aria.

From Foreign Lands and People, Jessica Lang Dance. Photo: Takao Komaru

From Foreign Lands and People, Jessica Lang Dance. Photo: Takao Komaru

A Solo in Nine Parts, created for the Kansa City Ballet in 2010 and set to the music of Vivaldi seemed more of an ode to Paul Taylor. The structure of the dance is similar in style to Mr. Taylor’s by way of Ms. Lang’s choreographic choices, the use of the dancers in space plus their relationship to the music and its timing.

The choreography seemed dated, somewhat antiquated, quick pirouettes with small rond de jambe à terre, and glissades into an assemblé with the arms opened wide, chest expanded. The work lacks the sophistication or innovation that is seen in today’s world of contemporary ballets.

Compared to Whim W’him and Oliver Wevers’ Flower Festival, the performance of Alex Ketley’s 2009 work Silt by BalletX or Troy Schumacher and BalletCollective’s the impulse wants company, Ms. Lang is up against exciting young companies who are making strong statements and not afraid to take risks in regards to concept or the use of bodies in space.

I.N.K., Jessica Lang Dance. Photo: Takao Komaru

I.N.K., Jessica Lang Dance. Photo: Takao Komaru

Ms. Lang’s 2011 work I.N.K was inspired by and incorporating the video art piece, KUSHO by Shinichi Maruyama. KUSHO is a captivating video in which the artist uses slow motion video to capture the moment when ink and water collide in space in front of a white background.

The dancers, all in drab and ill-fitting black costumes occasionally sought to assume the same shape as seen on the video in the background; this is accompanied with the drip and plop of water drops from an original score by Jakub Ciupinski. But when taken into account of the technical uses of video that is exhibited in such works as Wayne McGregor’s Infra, created in 2008 for the Royal Ballet or Pontus Lidberg’s interplay of dance and film seen from Morphoses’ performance of his 2012 work WITHIN (Labyrinth Within), dancers performing in front of a video in today’s world of dance is lackluster to say the least. Merce Cunningham, in the 1970’s, created much more dynamic works incorporating video and film without today’s technological achievements.

It must be mention that Clifton Brown’s duet with Kana Kimura during I.N.K was wonderful and a highlight of the evening. But I equate this more to the dancers’ ability than to the choreography for the piece itself.

From Foreign Lands and People, Jessica Lang Dance. Photo: Takao Komaru

From Foreign Lands and People, Jessica Lang Dance. Photo: Takao Komaru

Of the World Premiere of Aria, it was not memorable in the least. In fact, having seen it just six days before this posting, I barely remember it at all.

Ms. Lang’s 2005 work From Foreign Lands and People did fare better than the previous three. Created for the Colorado Ballet in 2005, the work uses square black pillars that are moved about the stage during the dance. Dancers move and combine them making various designs and platforms. Two men, each with a pillar in their arms performed a charming little duet and in a light-hearted moment you see two hands appear and begin to move as if on a keyboard in a mocking accompaniment of Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen Opus 15.

Ms. Lang has an impressive resume. Having created over 75 pieces for companies around the world, a Juilliard graduate and has once danced for Twyla Tharp. Her company made its premiere in 2012 at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, quite a statement in itself. But for such an extensive resume I had expected so much more than what I saw. In the world of Contemporary ballet, with such choreographers as Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Karole Armitage, Troy Schumacher and Aszure Barton the stage a place of excitement, experimentation and the unexpected. There is a uniqueness of vision, a statement of chance that the mentioned choreographers possess that I found lacking in Ms. Lang’s work. It was a dim ending after so many bright lights seen in this year’s Ballet 6.0.

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