Julliard Dance – Repertory Concert 2014 – March 22, 2014

By Fran Kirmser

Julliard Dance Department presents it’s 2014 repertory concert at the stunning Peter J Sharp Theater Lincoln Center within which works by choreographers Twyla Tharp, Lar Lubovitch, and Eliot Feld were staged on the students and performed as this years program.

The first, Baker’s Dozen (1979) by the great Twyla Tharp and music by Willie “The Lion” Smith, by her own account was intended as a perfect society and noted in programs by such companies as American Ballet Theater as to take place at the ‘Palm Court’. A take on society dancing that ebbs and flows as it explores movement between individuals, duos, groupings and unison groups of the even twelve dancers – at times a nice, neat and tidy six couples. A long time favorite in dance, Baker’s Dozen, is performed in formal white costumes on a ballroom floor with flowing and releasing movement yet not lacking form with this young ensemble of dancers now feels like young people in love: today I love Johnny and tomorrow Jimmy. In my opinion, the piece has never felt more fresh and alive and as if it was made for this particular group of young fledgling dancers. The Julliard ensemble performs the free and flinging Baker’s Dozen with exacting precision and at the same time a reckless abandon, the kind that might best be felt in a young dancer’s body. Perhaps with this ensemble of dancers, the performance with a new perspective explores best what Tharp writes herself was originally intended  – the tension between individuals and the couples, the couples and the group. The relationships are delicious and pure, and the movement full of life, velocity and springtime -a- bloom.

Concerto Six Twenty-Two (1986) by another great choreographer of our time Lar Lubovitch, music W. A. Mozart concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra and Solo Clarinet performed by a virtuosic Julliard musician Weixiong Wang, finds us with another piece in formal white costumes and introduces with traditional formations of unison groups, duets and quartet groupings. This piece while also infused with at times freedom and and with humor, pedestrian gesture and released movement, more often finds a significant amount of placed balletic vocabulary.  Perhaps on the young ensemble, between the Mozart and the mostly balletic movement vocabulary, there is a slight loss of exuberance. While the piece is well executed, it lacked the exceptional performance and joy of Baker’s Dozen.  In short – the dancers were not having a blast! Young bodies do not lie. Great veteran dancers can often brilliantly trick themselves into a ‘way in’ to buy into any and all material but the young vessel does not have the experience yet to do such a thing. 

That said, a stunning moment of the evening was the Adagio performed by Robert Moore and Dean Biosca.  The choreography admirably and lovingly walks the two through the journey of a true friendship. Sometimes you hold a friend’s head, thoughts, mind lovingly and at another point in time you have your torso – your practical weight lifted up so that you may take another step forward in the face of a challenge. The two young men proceeded throughout with an authenticity in caring to each others weight and shape as they moved through space carefully and honestly mindful of each other until eventually conjoined shoulder to shoulder each with their arm around the other like those rare forever friendships that stand the test of time and last forever.

The last piece of the evening was The Jig is Up (1984) by the Eliot Feld who the City of New York and it’s public school children have much to thank this great artist who continually offers auditions to 30,000 children a year in more than 200 elementary public schools throughout the city and provides them with tuition free intense ballet training and academic education at the school founded by he and business partner Cora Cahan called Ballet Tech. Bravo!  And Bravo to an incredible evening of dance at Julliard, NYC!

Remaining performances are Monday March 24 and Tuesday March 25 at 8pm. For tickets, $30 for Orchestra Seats, walk up to the Julliard Box Office Marquis 11am to 8pm at 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam.


Time I Know—Rebecca Stenn Company – January 2014

By Emily Skillings

To Make Much of Time

One of the first projected films ever made was comprised of a rapid succession of photographs taken in 1878 by Eadweard Muybridge, a pioneer of motion-capturing photography. The photographs revealed a secret about the stages of a horse’s gait while galloping and trotting; there were times when all four of the horse’s hooves simultaneously left the ground, a feature of equine kinesiology that had been under debate until “A Horse in Motion” was captured with Muybridge’s glass-plate cameras.

I think of this early cinematic experience while watching Rebecca Stenn’s evening-length solo “Time I Know,” which premiered January 16 at Gowanus Loft, a new art space in Brooklyn. As I watch the piece’s skillful unraveling, marked by a focus on the juxtaposition between projected and physical identity, it becomes clear that this work is going to be similarly illuminating—revealing secrets about the body and perceptions of time through photography and movement.

The solo begins with a jarring series of hyperspeed images of Stenn, expertly projected to fill the walls surrounding the stage in thelarge loft.  She stands upstage, her stillness amplified by both loud industrial rock and the speed of the photographs (which move like a film). The photos, presumably of Stenn’s rehearsals in the space, acknowledge her creative process.

I quickly arrive at the conclusion that this solo is a duet. The photo/film is a dancer.

Stenn’s choreography and performance quality are almost butoh-like in their concentration and intention. Classical port-de-bras often leads Stenn in unexpected spacial pathways. Almost like the “exquisite corpse” drawings of the surrealist writers and painters, Stenn’s lower body is capable of reflecting an entirely different energy from the reality of her gaze andtorso. This radical isolation, I think, is one of the distinct qualities of her vocabulary. The more gestural, isolated movements begin to feel like units of measure delineating and revealing the space. There is a quality in the performance of these movements, something specific to do with Stenn’s curious, interested gaze, that suggests that the dance is “happening” to her (as opposed to an autocratic performance making the dance happen) and she is merely witnessing it unfold, allowing her body to react conversationally to her observations.

It is so refreshing to see projection, which I notice is often used in downtown modern dance for more generalized aesthetic heavy lifting re: contextualization and establishing a tone, that actually does something inside a performance; in this case the projection is a major player, an entity in the space, an interactive timepiece. At one point, Stenn’s shadow almost crawls into a projected photo of Stenn’s shadow. The moment is unapologetically beautiful.

Towards the end of the piece, Stenn stands downstage and makes a stirring motion with her arm while establishing eye contact with every member of the audience. It feels like she is taking our individual temperatures, compiling important data that she will later use to affect her posture.  A bit later, she makes a repeated, exhausting swiping motion with her arms on a sharp diagonal, an event that seems to bring about a kind of personal clarity.

I’ve missed seeing this caliber of beauty, attention, musicality and compositional eloquence in recent performance. I leave the space, and my notebook contains these fragments:

minor shifts in temporal reality

demure clarity

syncopated body / unraveling creature

gestures frame the body with points / as soundscape frames space with notes

reverberating spine, interestingly held