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In the Garden of Souls – Revisited | Ballet NY at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, 2014….

April 28, 2014
Ballet NY’s Katie Gibson, Jessica Lawrence & Amy Saunder in Margot Parson’s Dreams: Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ballet NY’s Jessica Lawrence, Amy Saunder & Katie Gibson (left to right) in Margot Parson’s ‘Dreams’: Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ballet NY is the brainchild of two of the greatest dancers of their generation, Medhi Bahiri and Judith Fugate. During the company’s 2014 New York Season at Ailey Citigroup Theater the program consisted of three company premieres and all by women choreographers, plus Mr. Bahiri’s revisited In The Garden of Souls.

Mr. Bahiri won First Price at the Prix de Lausanne in 1974, later became a member of Maurice Béjart’s Twentieth Century Ballet, he was a Principal Dancer for the Boston Ballet and Ballet West. His partners have included Cynthia Gregor, Ann Marie DeAngelo and Valentina Kozlova. Known for his powerful, tour-de-force performances, he traveled the world as in International Guest Artist.

Ballet NY’s Taurean Green, Brent Whitney & Micheal Eaton in Antonia Franceschi’s Kinderszenen (Childhood Scenes): Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ballet NY’s Taurean Green, Brent Whitney & Micheal Eaton in Antonia Franceschi’s “Kinderszenen (Childhood Scenes)”: Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ms. Fugate is a former Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet and has danced roles in virtually every ballet in the NYCB repertory, counting among her partners Peter Martins, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Helgi Tomasson. She danced the leads in many of Balanchine ballets, such as Concerto Barroco, Valse-Fantaisie and Symphony in C. It was Jerome Robbins who gave Ms. Fugate her first solo, the girl-in-pink in his Goldberg Variations. When she stepped on stage your eye was drawn to her intrinsic musicality and her lyricism of movement.

The evening opened with Antonia Franceschi’s Kinderszenen (Childhood Scenes) set to Allen Shawn’s Childhood Scenes and wonderfully performed by pianist Yoshiko Sato. Ms. Franchesch noted in the program that “Kinderszenen was made with the composer, the painter and George Balanchine in heart and mind.”

Ballet NY’s Miriam Ernest & Taurean Green in Antonia Franceschi’s Kinderszenen (Childhood Scenes): Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ballet NY’s Miriam Ernest & Taurean Green in Antonia Franceschi’s” Kinderszenen (Childhood Scenes)”: Photo by Eduardo Patino

It is a neo-classic work that was light and melodic with a dash of humor for three couples. The choreography gave evidence of Balanchine’s influence on ballet, his use of line and blend shape and musical rhythm.  Miriam Ernest and Taurean Green must be mentioned for their heart-felt and stunning performance. Mr. Green’s strength blended with the kinetic energy of Ms. Ernest seamlessly. Bravo to both…

Margot Parsons’ Dreams is concerned with the inner propulsion of going forward against the force of time. Set to music by Ai Isshiki and Steve Milton, it is a work for three women, Katie Gibson, Jessica Lawrence and Amy Saunder. Preformed en pointe the work utilizes the classical vocabulary with pedestrian movements blended in.

Ballet NY in Ginger Thatcher’s ‘Urban Study– Excepts’: Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ballet NY in Ginger Thatcher’s ‘Urban Study– Excepts’: Photo by Eduardo Patino

Two women run on stage as if chasing the wind and are soon followed by a third woman who runs on and then back off. Ms. Parson’s choreography shifts constantly from angular shapes to lyric phrases of movement. The dancers often walking backwards, as if reality is reversed. It’s not going to become one of my all-time favorite works, but that’s just me and asking people as we departed the theater their thoughts about the work…well, they loved it. I was the only one grumbling…maybe I just needed a sandwich or something….

Premiered by the Oregon Ballet in 2001, Urban Study– Excepts, with music by Annie Gosfield, was choreographed by Ginger Thatcher, a former principal dancer of the Cleveland Ballet and former soloist of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. When the lights come up we see four women already moving wearing  trendy black tops and short skirts with black toe shoes. Of the works shown this is the only piece that utilized Ibrahim Perez who fairly exploded onto the stage. I hope to see more of Mr. Perez, he has an exuberance that is refreshing.

Ballet NY’s Miriam Ernest & Michael Eaton in Ginger Thatcher’s ‘Urban Study– Excepts’ Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ballet NY’s Miriam Ernest & Michael Eaton in Ginger Thatcher’s ‘Urban Study– Excepts’ Photo by Eduardo Patino

In the work Ms. Thatcher plays with motifs, poses that are backlit for dramatic effect. The movements seem at times awkward, the torso bowed, the legs bent with feet parallel. The work does have an urban grit to it, it reminded of riding the subway in NYC at 4 am and witnessing the odd behavior sometimes seen in the often un-acknowledged residents that live in their own private and gritty world.

Medhi Bahiri’s In the Garden of Souls – Revisited was the pièce de résistance of the evening, a work in progress that Mr. Bahiri wants to grow into a longer, fuller work. The music is a mix of Azam Ali’s extraordinary voice, Greg Ellis’s powerful percussions and a blend of Native American and the Far East blended with the ancient tradition of India. Veronika Rogoza created stunning costumes; both the men and the women are seen in red bodysuits with black piping, the midriff exposed by side cutouts with only a thin strip of fabric connecting the top and bottom.

Taurean Green (Left) & Brent Whitney in Ginger Thatcher’s ‘'Urban Study– Excepts'’ : Photo by Eduardo Patino

Taurean Green (Left) & Brent Whitney in Ginger Thatcher’s ‘’Urban Study– Excepts’’ : Photo by Eduardo Patino

In the Garden of Souls – Revisited is a work that is emotional poignant in tone. The stage opened to billowy fog and the stage became a place where magic is alive, mysticism is real.A lone woman emerges from the back of the stage, her movements; the use of her hands has an eastern feel, as if a forgotten Hindu goddesses has come alive.

Lighting Designer Scott Borowka sustained this illusion perfectly and along with the haunting voice of Ms. Ali and Mr. Ellis’ percussion, you are transported to another  place, another time.

Ballet NY in Medhi Bahiri’s ‘In the Garden of Souls – Revisited ‘: Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ballet NY in Medhi Bahiri’s ‘In the Garden of Souls – Revisited ‘: Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ms. Ernest and Mr. Green performed a duet that possessed a refrained sensuality mixed with a feeling of regret. The choreography is intrinsic, nothing forced. Kinetic energy flows effortlessly through the dancer’s body with smooth transitions from shape to shape.

In the Garden of Souls – Revisited  has a mystery that draws you in for there is something hypnotic about the work. I look forward to Mr. Bahiri continuing work on this piece.

Ballet NY is the New York City-based ballet company, founded in 1997. 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.

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