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New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival, Program 2….

October 2, 2013
Dance Theater of Harlem in Robert Garland’s Gloria; photo by Matthew  Murphy.

Dance Theater of Harlem in Robert Garland’s Gloria; photo by Matthew Murphy.

The second program of the five programs offered during the 10th Anniversary of the New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival begin with classical dance of India. Nrityagram, one of India’s leading dance companies, performed Vibhakta. Vibhakta was inspired by the tale that “…creation begins when, with the power of Yoga, the ONE splits into the two and becomes Ardhanārīśvara – half-man, half-woman.”

Choreographed by the Artistic Director of Nrityagram, Surupa Sen, Vibhakta, is a duet for Ms. Sen and Bijayini Satpathy. Both costumed exquisitely in red and gold, they created moments of great beauty. The music was performed live on stage by five musicians while the two women created intriguing geometric shapes with angled arms and hands carefully positioned. Their feet pounding out rhythms that were enhanced by bells around their ankles.

Nrityagram’s  Surupa Sen &  Bijayini Satpathy in Vibhakta; photo by

Nrityagram’s Surupa Sen & Bijayini Satpathy in Vibhakta; photo by Uma Dhanwatey

Though I know little of the intricacies and forms of Indian classical dancing, I can say the work was intriguing. It was interesting to see the different approach and implementation of the body in space. There were no sweeping arabesques or the usually assortment of “tricks” that have become prevalent in western contemporary dance. Instead there seem a rigid or rather a very structured approach to movement and the implementation of the music’s structure. From my limited perspective, it was all very well done.

The 605 Collective performed Selected Play, choreographed by the dancers to an original score by Kristen Roos with additional music tracks by Tehn, Ghislain Poirier and Thom Yorke. 605 Collective is a Vancouver-based company that is a blend of urban and contemporary dance.

605 Collective

605 Collective

Selected Play is a remix, the blending together of excerpts from two of 605 past collaborative works, Audible and Inheritor Album. The work is a conversation of movement, a kinetic dialogue that was shared, tossed about and enhanced by the dancers as the work progressed.

In the work there are moments when time stills, and lines in space are tangible. Jason Dubois lighting design creates a sense of mystery, the unknown. The lighting is dark, pales areas of illumination is the defined space that pulls in the performers. It’s very intense with its merger of movement, lighting and music.

The 605 Collective speaks with a voice this is of the moment, fresh, young and vibrant. Shay Kuebler is a dancer to watch; he explodes into action with a perfect blend of musicality and physicality. Impressive indeed!

Charlotte Broom & Christopher Akrill of HeadSpaceDance in Matt Eks’ Light Beings

Charlotte Broom & Christopher Akrill of HeadSpaceDance in Matt Eks’ Light Beings

London’s HeadSpaceDance, the brain child of Charlotte Broom and Christopher Akrill, presented Matt Eks’ duet, Light Beings, set to Sibelius’ Andante Festivo. There is no other way to describe this work, except fun and somewhat zany.

Performed by Ms. Broom and Mr. Akrill, the duet is a demonstration of everything you should not do in classical partnering. Mr. Akrill dragged Ms. Broom across the stage where she was bent backwards and having to step quickly to keep up with him. At one point Ms. Broom bent-over backwards, placing her hands on the floor, but evidently facing the wrong direction. Mr. Akrill then repositioned her by unceremoniously putting one hand behind her back and the hand on her crotch, lifts her into the air and sets her back down.

The audience loved it, laughs were heard constant and the ovations and curtain calls were testament to just how much. There is a sense of circus, the antics of clowns with Mr. Akrill swimming on the floor; then the two dancers cartwheel together across the floor, altogether, just plain fun.

Da'Von Doane corps de ballet of Dance & Theater of Harlem in Robert Garland's "Gloria"; photo by Matthew  Murphy

Da’Von Doane corps de ballet of Dance & Theater of Harlem in Robert Garland’s “Gloria”; photo by Matthew Murphy

I was thrilled to see the Dance Theater of Harlem performing Robert Garland’s Gloria.  The score is Gloria by Francis Poulenc (FP 177), scored for soprano solo, large orchestra, and chorus, is a setting of the Roman Catholic Gloria in excelsis Deo text.

With the beginning of the first section, Gloria in excelsis Deo, I really was not sure where this was going and frankly I didn’t like it. Something seemed missing, the score was too large, the structure of the choreography would swing from classicism to an almost jive movements of the right flexed foot forward, then stepped upon and then the left leg would repeat the motion, the torso’s weight is forward while the arms are swinging side to side.

But it was during the second section, Domine Deus, Rex caelestis that it all came together. Led by Da’von Doane and Ashley Murphy the work truly takes wing. Mr. Doane weaves himself in and through a line of dancers, their arms are interlinked. He is seeking and celebrating salvation while Ms. Murphy bourrées across the stage, her had down arms out to the side.

Performed en pointe, the women were excellent. The dancer’s technique throughout the work was superb. It is going to be very exciting watching this company once again become the vision that was Arthur Mitchell’s.

Dance Theater of Harlem in Robert Garland’s Gloria; photo by Matthew  Murphy.

Dance Theater of Harlem in Robert Garland’s Gloria; photo by Matthew Murphy.

It must be mentioned that I had been looking forward witnessing Michaela DePrince perform but that was not meant to be. Ms. DePrince is now dancing with the Dutch National Ballet.

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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