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Fall for Dance: Mark Morris Dance Group, Lil Buck, Trisha Brown Dance Company, The Joffrey Ballet
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Fall for Dance: Mark Morris Dance Group, Lil Buck, Trisha Brown Dance Company, The Joffrey Ballet

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NY City Center
Fall for Dance – Program I

Mark Morris Dance Group

Lil Buck

Trisha Brown Dance Company

The Joffrey Ballet

At New York City Center

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

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 28, 2011

This was my first chance to see the newly renovated City Center, with the entrances and aisles shifted for extra viewing space, and brand new seats have extra leg room. But, the highpoints are in the cleansed exterior and interior architecture, wall and ceiling murals, shiny brass, gorgeous collection of new stage curtains, and new lobby wall with inlaid dance videos. Also apparently new is advanced lighting design technology, as the backgrounds brightly changed. Sound and sightlines were measurably enhanced, as well. City Center has always been a gorgeous space in which to view live dance and special events, and the upstairs lounge is now truly exquisite. You should rush over to City Center to see the next show. There are even original photographs from the Jerome Robbins collection.

Mark Morris Dance Group
All Fours (2003): Choreography by Mark Morris, Music by Bela Bartók, Costumes by Martin Pakledinaz, Lighting by Nicole Pearce, Production manager, Johan Henckens, Musicians: Jesse Mills, violin, Gregory Valtchev, violin, Jessica Troy, viola, Wolfram Koessel, cello, Performed by the Company.

Tonight, this first work for what will be sixteen (I have to miss Program V due to scheduling conflicts) works by sixteen companies, was vibrant, full of the Mark Morris imbued energy, and scored by sumptuous live chamber music, with two violins, cello, and viola. However, tonight I decided to choose one favorite work each night, and this was not it. Mr. Morris sent his expansive Company of ebullient dancers, and they carried his choreography through the five movements of Bartók’s “String Quartet No. 4”, ending in the “Allegro molto”. Women wore black, then white, short pleated dresses, and the men wore shorts. The motion ranged from spastic to static, with arms in outstretched propeller-like fashion. There’s much shifting of weight, jumping, and dashing to and fro. But, the gestalt was one-dimensional, with little interest, except for some nice winged figures.

Lil Buck
The Swan (2007): Choreography by Lil Buck, Music by Camille Saint-Saëns, “The Swan”, Lighting Production Manager, Aaron Copp, Musicians: Joshua Roman, Cello, and Riza Hequibal Printup, Harp, Performed by Lil Buck

Lil Buck was billed as a solo combo of classical and Memphis jookin’, but to me it was rarified hip-hop. He’s a young talented athletic performer, who used Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan” as his score, to die onstage with imaginary wings about him. He wore athletic clothing and sneakers, while undulating, moving on tip toe, poking his head above and under his shaking arms, gesturing facially with angst and sensitivity, and wowing the crowd with his seemingly boneless body contortions. Yet, this was not ballet or even dance; it was, rather, performance art, exuberant to behold but not in any way ballet or modern dance. I must say Lil Buck is imbued with extraordinary skills, dramatically and physically, and he has trained his torso and legs to fold up into magical knots. But, to hear the exquisite “Dying Swan” score, so often seen in ballet galas, was heart-rending, in that the emotional fulfillment of the familiar, unfolding ballet was nowhere to be seen. To be fair, Lil Buck should enjoy a prolific career, as he develops his performance art.

Trisha Brown Dance Company
Rogues: Choreography by Trisha Brown, Music by Alvin Curran, Lighting by John Torres, Choreographic Asst., Carolyn Lucas, Production Manager, Sarissa Sulliman, Performed by Neal Beasley and Lee Serle.

There was no program notation on the date of this work, and it was performed by two men, Neal Beasley and Lee Serle. Alvin Curran’s new age score includes harmonica, and there were whistles, twisting, turning, and isolated motion from each of the men. They rarely connected, and the choreography was quite improvisational, but fascinating. Stylized, synchronized steps were prominently showcased, with motion sometimes starting slowly, then forming into featured patterns. This piece was upbeat, but not particularly memorable. A larger ensemble might have added texture and depth.

The Joffrey Ballet
Woven Dreams (2011): Choreography by Edwaard Liang, Music by Maurice Ravel, Michael Galasso, Benjamin Britten, Henryk Gorecki, Scenery and Costumes by Jeff Bauer, Lighting by Jack Mehler, Principal Stage Manager, Katherine Selig, Performed by Victoria Jaiani, Fabrice Calmels, and the Company.

Here it is, my favorite work of the night. Woven Dreams is swoon-able, mesmerizing, and monumental. Edwaard Liang has choreographed a work of art for Joffrey Ballet, timeless and incredibly moving. Victoria Jaiani has been reviewed here on many occasions, since her performance with Joffrey Ensemble in 2003. Fabrice Calmels was reviewed in last year’s Fall for Dance, with the Joffrey, and both Mr. Calmels and Ms. Jaiani have been praised in this magazine for magnetic pas de deux with other partners, as well as for Ms. Jaiani’s “The Dying Swan”, a renowned solo ballet.

Tonight they were joined by what seemed the entire Joffrey Ballet, and the audience swooned and gasped. There are no fewer than six movements to this work, scored to music by four composers. I wish the program notes mentioned the composers for each movement, as a reminder, and I certainly would like to see this work again, soon. There’s much interweaving of bodies and legs and rapturous lifts, in the third and fifth movement pas de deux. Also catching my eye, were Valerie Robin and Temur Suluashvili, both of whom have been reviewed in the past in Joffrey Ensemble, galas, and competitions on these pages. Jack Mehler’s lighting worked perfectly with the City Center’s new lighting design technologies, creating transporting visual imagery. Jeff Bauer’s sheer leotards added luster and shimmer. But, it was the extraordinary tall, muscular figure of Fabrice Calmels, with his petite partner, the dazzling Victoria Jaiani, that remains yet in my mind. Kudos to both, and kudos to the Joffrey Ballet.

Lil Buck in "The Swan"
Courtesy of Erinn Baiano

Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani
in Edwaard Liang's "Woven Dreams"
Courtesy of Herbert Migdoll

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