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Justin Peck, DanceBrazil & New York City Center’s Fall for Dance, Program 1….

September 29, 2013
DanceBrazil’s “Fé do Sertão,”  (adapted for Fall for Dance) by Jelon Vieira

DanceBrazil’s “Fé do Sertão,” (adapted for Fall for Dance) by Jelon Vieira

The opening program for the 10th Anniversary of the New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival, if it is to be any indication is going to be a very exciting festival.

The evening opened with the Richard Alston Dance Company performing Richard Alston’s 2006 work, The Devil in the Detail. Set to the iconic music of Scott Joplin and played on stage by Jason Ridgway, the work itself was a light and lovely piece, though a tad too long.

This was my first exposure to the work of Mr. Alston’s so I was unsure as to what to expect. Was I disappointed, no, was I thrilled, not really. The choreography for The Devil in the Detail is a hybrid that ranged between the structure and style of Paul Taylor with the musicality of Mark Morris.

Richard Alston Dance Company performing Richard Alston’s 2006 work, The Devil in the Detail

Richard Alston Dance Company performing Richard Alston’s 2006 work, The Devil in the Detail

Peter Todd’s costumes have the women in cream-colored polka-dotted dresses with a flower in their hair and the men are in stripped shirts and cream-colored slacks. There is a breezy feel to the choreography akin to the feel of a picnic on a summer day. The Joplin score is explored liberally with the different layers of the music expressed in varying groupings and individual bodies. Direction of the dancers often changes, facing where ever their movement phases finished, they start a new one. There is a sense of camaraderie that exists between the performers, a solid trust. The women throwing themselves into the men’s arms with a sense of contained abandonment.

Choreographed and performed by Argentine dancers Gabriel Missé and Analía Centurión, Esencia De Tango was listed in the Playbill “as a brief history of the Argentine dance, from its ethnic and gaucho influences, to its glorious rise then fall with the emergence of rock and roll, and its resurgence in the new era.”

Though at times fascinating with its complex footwork and legs interweaving around one another with dizzying speeds, the work was still somewhat confusing. A coat rack was brought on stage from Mr. Missé to use while he changed his coat and hat while JP Jofre and his bandoneon keep appearing and disappearing at odd intervals. Mr. Missé and Ms. Centurión performed a not very exciting duet to Elvis Presley’s Blue Suede Shoes that didn’t really seem to fit and seemed to have been added anyway.

But when it came to the actually tango, it was the performances of Carlos Barrionuevo and Mayte Valdes that were memorable. There existed a heated passion between the couple that could not be missed. Both dark and sultry, Mr. Barrionuevo had full command of Ms. Valdes who exhibited such precision mixed with an undeniable elegance that was a delight to experience.

After the intermission was Justin Peck’s new work, The Bright Motion which was commissioned for the Fall for Dance Festival and performed by New York City Ballet’s Sara Mearns and American dancer Casey Herd who now performs with the Dutch National Ballet. The piece was set to Mark Dancigers’ piano piece, The Bright Motion II and performed on stage by Cory Smythe.

Justin Peck’s The Bright Motion excels in its vibrancy. The work showcases Mr. Mearns to perfection while Mr. Herd weaves her through the music with a scalpel-like precision. The manner in which Mr. Pecks explores and accentuates the music has to be seen to fully appreciate. Accents were hit in mid-movement, a leap that seems suspended flows through the music’s melody. Though the work is only eight minutes, it is eight minutes that will be replayed again and again in my memory. Bravo to all involved….Justin Peck is one of the most exciting young voices in contemporary ballet today, each time I see a piece he has created I marvel at the sheer genius of his talent.

DanceBrazil’s “Fé do Sertão,”  (adapted for Fall for Dance) by Jelon Vieira with an original score by Marquinhos Carvalho, closed the program with a bang, a big one. Highly physical, the dancers were alive and powerful. The influence of capoeira cannot be missed, but it has been artfully blended the ethos of modern dance.

It is hard to believe that DanceBrazil has its home in New York City, for during their performance you are transported to someplace in Brazil, a place of mystery, mysticism and great beauty.

The Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center presents performances by 20 acclaimed dance companies and artists from around the world, including three new works from today’s most exciting young choreographers, commissioned by New York City Center in celebration of the tenth anniversary, Sept. 25th – Oct. 5th.

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