To Test Some Boundaries, First You Charge Forward, and Then You Back Off: New York Theatre Ballet at Florence Gould Hall
By Brian Seibert, The New York Times
Sunday February 24, 2013
A choreographer chatting about his work can make for a dull spot in a dance program. But at Florence Gould Hall on Friday, Richard Alston not only spoke illuminatingly about his own choreography, he also gave an accurate endorsement of the troupe performing it, New York Theater Ballet. “I like the company I keep here,” he said, meaning both the unpretentious dancers and the high-class repertory. Mr. Alston’s “Light Flooding Into Darkened Rooms,” which received its United States premiere on Friday, is a fine example of the caliber of work this company regularly presents. Light, as from a window in a Vermeer painting, and 17th-century lute music composed by Denis Gaultier summon a culture in which a private moment between a man and a woman (Steven Melendez and Rie Ogura, both excellent) is governed by propriety. The encounter might be a dancing lesson. The vocabulary builds off Baroque steps. A rhythm between boundary testing and retreat subtly suggests how restraint might heighten sensuality but also the emotional toll of holding back. In a second section — set to mandolin music by the contemporary Japanese composer Jo Kondo, inspired by Gaultier but spikier — the pressure discharges more freely. Floating becomes flight, though not escape.
As Mr. Alston acknowledged, his work resembles the Stravinsky-Balanchine “Agon” in tone, yet “Light” is not another “Agon” copy. The correspondences between “Light” and the work that followed it on Friday, José Limón’s classic “Moor’s Pavane” — emotions contained by form and formality — are indicative of this company’s always thoughtful programming. There are salient connections too with the piece that preceded “Light,” the bedroom pas de deux from Antony Tudor’s “Romeo & Juliet,” though the stiff performances of Elena Zahlmann and Philip King served as a reminder that the company’s dancing isn’t always up to the level of its taste.
Jerome Robbins’s “Rondo,” last seen in New York a year or two after its 1980 premiere, is no lost masterpiece. But the ballet is a handsome arrangement of classroom steps for two women whose mirroring is complicated by individual embellishments and who partner each other on an unusually equal basis. Amanda Lynch and Amanda Treiber paid close attention to Robbins’s close attention to Mozart, as played crisply by the house pianist, Michael Scales. Live music: another company strength.
For Pam Tanowitz’s new “Short Memory” Mr. Scales, joined by the violinist Pauline Kim Harris, skipped ahead a few centuries to the California modernism of Lou Harrison and Henry Cowell. The placement of the musicians at center rear helps set up Ms. Tanowitz’s brilliant use of stage space: potentially dead corners are full of life; the front layer of activity is not more important than those behind it.
“Short Memory” is a dance for six, yet the groupings and comings and goings make it seem more populous. Eccentric gestures like wriggling fingers are woven into unpredictable yet convincing patterns, bristling with witty detail. Between Ms. Tanowitz’s piece and a premiere last year by Mr. Alston, New York Theater Ballet is producing new works as good as — and often better than — its bigger siblings.
< Back to News & Press