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Paul Taylor Dance Company

City Center, New York  Feb. 25 - March 15, 2009

Huntley Dent March 16, 2009
Glorious reign.  Every spring through a fortunate conjunction of stars the Paul Taylor Dance Company overlaps with the annual visit of the Vienna Philharmonic to New York.  Carnegie Hall is a far more lustrous venue than dusty, musty City Center. Its Moorish plaster ceiling recalls an earlier life as the Mecca Temple—out in the lobby you can view red Shriners fezzes with the word "fez"  embroidered in sequins.  But I venture that a great dance company is rarer than a great orchestra, and the number of choreographers of genius is a small fraction of great conductors. The vocabulary of music is anchored to scales and harmony, but the raw stuff of choreography is inchoate and invisible. We all move our bodies, yet there is no vocabulary (in modern dance, that is) to fall back on or even begin with. Read more.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo: Men in Tights (and toe shoes)

Renée Dumouchel February 16, 2009

Men in tights, dancing on point, corsets squeezing not-so-tiny waists, savoring their moments as heroes, and yes, heroines—an oxymoron, a cross-dressing incarnation of Robin Hood, a Chelsea nightclub dream-come-true, or simply a fantasy? Would you buy all four?

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a troupe of burly male dancers more affectionately known as the Trocks, bounded into The Joyce for an evening of hilarity and surprising grace. Read more.

Eiko & Koma in Hunger

Joyce Theater, New York, Oct 28- Nov 2, 2008


Performed in collaboration with Charin and Peace of the Reyum Art School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Renée Dumouchel November 21, 2008
Eiko and Koma have remarked, “We often take our inspiration from nature, which has its own sense of time and a grotesqueness that in our eyes can be beautiful.” I can’t think of a more perfect way to describe the visual assault that is an Eiko and Koma performance—complex, hyperbolic and deeply oxymoronic. Their true genius is an uncanny ability to simultaneously offend and captivate, perplex and create common ground, manipulating time and space to blur the lines between. Read more.

Beyond Passion—Noche Flamenca
Renée Dumouchel August 24, 2008
Close your eyes. Ready your ears. Open your heart. Listen to the steadily more frantic taka taka taka taka tak of a herd of wooden heels ricocheting off of trembling floorboards, and you can just about hear descriptive words pounded from the beat. Passion. Culture. Fire. Presence. Intensity. Restraint. Ecstasy. Drama. 

These are the words often associated with the sensuous art form of flamenco, and yet they are not the most singular traits that echo from the fiery footfalls of Soledad Barrio and company, Noche Flamenca—they are simply the crude beginning of a much more intricate and delicate kinesthetic blueprint. Read more.

Mikhailovsky Ballet
Coliseum, London
Huntley Dent August 5, 2008
Dog days already? It’s not yet August, but suddenly the weather is muggy enough to be, and with malefic stars in transit – or something mystically murky – my lovely run of events has curdled. I was briefly part of a baffled audience at the Royal Court for Gone Too Far, a hip hop street play about Nigerian kids in London that turned on jokes about picking up girls who couldn’t understand Yoruba. This followed the passé feminist (anti-feminist?) comedy, The Female of the Species in my last post. Luck be a lady tonight, but no. I had high hopes for a triple bill by the visiting Mikhailovsky Ballet from St. Petersburg. The troupe had never visited the U.K., and they mounted a massive production of Spartacus, which I avoided as basically Soviet junk, plus Giselle, which creaks unless done superbly. Read more.

Romeo & Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare
Bard Summerscape, Saturday, July 5, 2008, 3 pm
Mark Morris Dance Group
American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Music by Sergey Prokofiev
Scenario by Sergey Prokofiev and Sergey Radlov
Renée Dumouchel July 15, 2008
In the game of love, first impressions are key. Whether by design or destiny, choreographer Mark Morris’s Romeo & Juliet, On motifs of Shakespeare begins with a slow walk toward The Richard B. Fischer Center for the Performing Arts, designed by architect Frank Gehry. A fluid building thrusting out of the tranquil grass, Gehry’s silken steel is at once sensual and imposing, welcoming and slightly ill at ease in its natural surroundings—eliciting a feeling not unlike the thrill and trepidation of a first meeting. A stroll among stone benches and errant trees soothes the heart and the eye, so by the moment of first entry, there is nothing left but calm, purposeful exhilaration. An auspicious beginning, to be sure. Read more.

The English National Ballet
at the Southbank Centre, London

Huntley Dent July 6, 2008
Walking across the Charing Cross footbridge, wishing the Thames didn’t look muddy no matter how blue the sky, I spied what looked like a Safeway supermarket attempting liftoff from the opposite shore. Actually, it was Royal Festival Hall. The building consists of a multi-storied cube topped with a plain barrel vault. You’d never suspect the interior was devoted to music and dance – it could easily be a widget factory. But gratitude is due the city planners, who plunked RFH down in 1951 when the South Bank was littered with little else but closed factories and depressing detritus from the war. This year the hall reopened after expensive  refurbishment, with public promises that its bad acoustics had been remedied. 

I can’t report on the acoustics because I went there yesterday for the English National Ballet, in town for a limited run --  they usually tour the land wherever railroads can take them (think Swan Lake in Bradford and Hull). Read more.

Of Dreams and Waking: The American Ballet Theater Offers The Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadére
Renée Dumouchel June 29, 2008
Have you ever forgotten something existed until, in a single, unexpected moment, you are reminded of it in a burst of splendor? Your senses rushed and awakened, a lightning bolt of recognition blazing from top to tail, urging you to store this moment in the recesses of your heart and the interstitial space beneath your skin, begging to not be so easily forgotten a second time. 

And the object of such anticipation? The Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadére, recently performed by the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. Reac more.

Momix, Lunar Sea: The Decadence of Illusion
Renée Dumouchel June 6, 2008
Shifting positions, much less pre-conceptions (or misconceptions) are never easy. Minds, like bodies, are hard to change, and most would rather play an authoritative Queen of Hearts than an imaginative, forgiving, but much less in-control Alice. 

Creating its own kind of Wonderland, Momix calls for all manner of shifts—both physical and mental. Ninety minutes of shape shifting to amorphous music and distorted nature images could be a recipe for disaster. Luckily, the closest Momix comes to a resounding “off with its head” is over-saturation, thanks to the extreme technical prowess of the dancers and the whimsicality of each set of movements.

At times, the fluid, sensual, often humorous movements get lost amid a sea of recurring if not repetitive circles, parallelograms and Kabuki-like “puppetry.” Read more.

Akram Khan: Between Baggage and Nihility
New York City Center
Renée Dumouchel May 6, 2008
Tackling questions of being and knowing is a bit like a circus act. Like tightrope walkers, choreographers must be prepared to wobble, bend, contort and above all, have an indelible sense of balance and purpose, lest they plummet to their demise through a net of trite observations and half-truths. 

Akram Khan, a choreographer whose vision is both grounded and deliciously stratospheric, engages this challenge head on, face forward, toes poised to the next tine of an already thin rope in each of his two evening-length pieces, Bahok and Zero Degrees, recently performed at New York’s City Center.

Set in a fictitious transportation hub whose information board cycles through symbols and a series of frustrating edicts and subtitled translations, Bahok weaves Khan’s quietly violent movement and exquisitely abstracted score (composed by Nitin Sawhney) with his keen eye for the delicate intricacies of human behavior, speech and rhythm. Zero Degrees takes a more minimalist but no less effect approach, chronicling the struggles and discovery of two dancers experimenting with their relationship to each other, space and themselves. Read more. 

Jonah Bokaer: The Invention of Minus One
Renée Dumouchel March 21, 2008
How do you talk about a piece that is simultaneously disturbing and thought-provoking, poignant yet devoid of discernible emotion? Jonah Bokaer’s The Invention of Minus One, presented at the Abrons Art Center in New York, whether intentionally or not, stirs up provocations of perception and misperception, voyeurism, dehumanization, digital and organic interaction, form, function and functionality.

Moving among and between a set depicting an active photo studio, complete with tripods, reflective umbrellas, video screens and costume racks, a trio of dancers (Holley Farmer, Rashaun Mitchell and Banu Ogan, like Mr. Bokaer, formerly of the Merce Cunnigham Dance Company) sporting sequins and nautical-inspired dinner jackets designed by Isaac Mizrahi, and moving to punctuating music that almost sounds like the inner workings of a photo development machine, interact in near perfect disillusionment that there is anyone else on the stage but them. It is not so much narcissism as a complete lack of emotional interaction between counterparts that leave the piece feeling cold and unconnected. Read more.

Paul Taylor Dance Company at the City Center—Food for Thought: Byzantium, De Sueños and Arden Court
Renée Dumouchel March 20, 2008
There are enough people who are Paul Taylor supporters that I don’t feel I need to throw myself into the ring just for the sake of safety in numbers. I can fully appreciate his dancer’s pristine technique, his keen eye for flawless presentation and seamless transitions, his undeniable innovation and daring and the obvious thought and care that he so painstakingly infuses into each of his works. The disconnect, for me, then, is not one of execution, but of personal taste—and as we all know, taste varies. 

In the past works that I have seen, there is nothing that stirs in me that visceral internal furnace that signals the ignition of something explosive—something that resonates with the core of my being and awakens the dormant morsels of past experience. My eyes have feasted, but I am left feeling hollow. While his work has great substance, his particular flavors haven’t excited my palate and nourished my hunger in a way that has felt satisfying…until now. Read more.

Jacob’s Pillow 2008 Festival Season Preview
Renée Dumouchel March 11, 2008
Jacob’s Pillow may have evolved beyond biblical allusions to the Book of Genesis, but the spirit of its namesake is exquisitely infused into the fabric of the choreographic creations that have swept across the Pillow’s three stages, carving a legacy that is nothing short of divine. Opening with Garth Fagan’s theatric masterpiece Griot New York and concluding with the wit and charisma of Larry Keigwin’s Keigwin + Company, the 2008 Festival season, I have no doubt, will be no exception. 

Garth Fagan’s foray into fantasy, in a collaboration with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and sculptor Martin Puryear, sets the bar high, promising originality and an exuberant dance language born of a rare fusion of African, Caribbean, modern and ballet disciplines. Stravinsky aficionados will find music set ablaze as Heddy Maalem’s fourteen dancers hailing from across the African continent re-imagine The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) in a combination of effervescent movement and the striking imagery of filmmaker Benoit Dervaux. Read more.

Akram Khan, Bahok, photo Liu Yang
Andrej and Yitong in Bahok
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