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Fall for Dance: Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Gallim Dance, Madhavi Mudgal, Miami City Ballet
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Fall for Dance: Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Gallim Dance, Madhavi Mudgal, Miami City Ballet

- Onstage with the Dancers


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NY City Center
Fall for Dance – Program I

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Gallim Dance

Madhavi Mudgal

Miami City Ballet

At New York City Center

Arlene Schuler, President & CEO
Mark Litvin, Sr. VP & Managing Director
Jed Wheeler, Artistic Advisor
Wendy Perron, Artistic Advisor
Clifton Taylor, Festival Lighting Director
Leon Rothenberg, Festival Sound Supervisor
Press: Helene Davis Public Relations

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 29, 2010

Merce Cunningham Dance Company
XOVER (NY Premiere): Choreography by Merce Cunningham, Music by John Cage, Décor and Costumes by Robert Rauschenberg, Lighting by Josh Johnson, Musicians: “Aria” performed by Joan La Barbara, “Fontana Mix” performed by David Behrman, John King, Takehisa Kosugi, Performed by the Company.

I found this abstract, atonal, quasi-esoteric piece, called XOVER, thoroughly unsettling as an opening work to the five-program, 20-company 2010, Fall for Dance Festival at City Center. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, nor of John Cage’s scores, that either grow on the listener or do not. In my case, they did not grow on me, nor did I enjoy Joan LaBarbara’s guttural or shrill vocal sounds, including bird calls, called Aria, nor did the later ambient sounds draw me in. As for the musicians, they made a gallant effort to bring magnetism to the music-less music of John Cage. Thirteen dancers moved in fairly slow motion in front of a Robert Rauschenberg backdrop, with large paint strokes in rumpled folds. Two dancers were featured in a zoned out tempo, slowly dragging a foot or leg, while the others made little impression.

Gallim Dance
I Can See Myself in Your Pupil (adapted for FFD): Choreography by Andrea Miller, Music by Balkan Beat Box and Bellini, Costumes by Andrea Miller, Lighting by Vincent Vigilante, Stage Manager: Randi Rivera, Performed by the Company.

The Gallim Dance work, I Can See Myself in Your Pupil, seemed mindlessly undeveloped, in need of gravitas on some level. The program called the dances “quirky”, a red flag word. The Israeli band, Balkan Beat Box, provided the score, and, again, the program says this is the “ecstasy of movement”. I found it to be wearing on the nerves. Fall for Dance is a festival to explore styles and highlights of the vast, global dance community, but at some point “the Emperor has no clothes”. As an example of what’s happening in Israeli dance, I would have preferred a piece with substance and relevance.

Madhavi Mudgal
Vistaar (World Premiere): Choreography by Madhavi Mudgal, Music by Madhup Mudgal, Costumes by Madhavi Mudgal, Lighting by Gautam Bhattacharya, Production Manager: Mitali Gupta, Musicians: (Vocal, Percussion, Flute, Sitar), Performed by Madhavi Mudgal, Arushi Mudgal, Diya Sen, Snehasini Sahoo, Shalakha Rai.

It was here that my mind and attention were gripped with exciting images of the dance of India. Madhavi Mudgal, a seasoned dancer at the far edge of her prime, is clearly a well-trained master of Odissi movement. Every muscle and fiber were focused on lovely gestures, facial expression, and a swivel of the hip, the arm, the hand. Rhythm was central in this work, with four other dancers joining Ms. Mudgal, including Arushi Mudgal. Madhup Mudgal was on vocals, with a vocal accompanist, percussionist, and flautist. This was obviously a family affair, and the celebration of culture, music, and flowing movement merged into a mesmerizing and welcome moment.

Miami City Ballet
The Golden Section (1992): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Music by David Byrne, Staged by Elaine Kudo, Scenery and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, recreated by John Hall, Performed by the Company.

Last year Miami City Ballet was in town to great acclaim in Balanchine ballets, and the acclaim was well deserved. I would have preferred seeing them again tonight in their prime ballet motif. Instead, they chose Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section, a modern dance work often performed on this stage by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. When the Ailey Company dances this work, the propulsion of the performers, hurtling themselves into each others arms, being carried or thrown off-stage, and wildly gyrating to David Byrne’s electric score, is enthralling. When Miami City Ballet danced this work it was enjoyable, but not a maximum use of their talents. Tharp’s piece, like most of her pieces, is certainly showy and magnetic, but the New York dance community sees so little of Miami City Ballet, that we would have loved revisiting their marvelous “Rubies”, from Balanchine’s Jewels, or even a portion of the dervish-like dance of La Valse. For this viewer, The Golden Section didn’t glow as it has on this very stage some Decembers.

Madhavi Mudgal Dancers
Courtesy of Madhavi Mudgal

Miami City Ballet Dancers
Courtesy of Joe Gato

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at