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Fall for Dance: The Australian Ballet, Steven McRae, Pontus Lidberg Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

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NY City Center
Fall for Dance – Program III

The Australian Ballet

Steven McRae

Pontus Lidberg Dance

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

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
November 1, 2011

The Australian Ballet
Gemini (1973): Choreography by Glen Tetley, Music by Hans Werner Henze, Costumes by Nadine Bayliss, Lighting by William Akers, Production manager: Darren Conway, Performed by Adam Bull, Lana Jones, Rudy Hawkes, Amber Scott.

In shiny yellow unitards, the four dancers from Australian Ballet were stunning and startling, as they leaped into arms, turned in vibrant speed, and configured and reconfigured into duos, solos, and quartet. Gemini, a 1973 Tetley work, seemed just as fresh as if choreographed recently, but it did not win my “favorite of the evening” prize, as its drama and visual intensity seemed in need of differentiation in motion and style. It became hypnotic, although romantic, and the lead dancer was captivating. Henze’s recorded “Symphony No. 3” merged the ballet and modern motifs.

Steven McRae
Something Different (2009, US Premiere): Choreography by Steven McRae, Music by Benny Goodman & Orchestra (“Sing, Sing, Sing”…with a Swing), Costume and Lighting Design by Steven McRae, Lighting Recreated by Nick Houfek, Performed by Steve McRae.

The notion of a self-choreographed solo, just as in jazz, becomes a warning for improvisation, which can be exciting or meaningless. In the case of Steven McRae’s Something Different, even though he danced to the renowned “Sing, Sing, Sing”, by Benny Goodman, he could have been jumping onstage at a Club and doing an old soft shoe with a drink in hand. This was an extremely self-indulgent exercise, and, in view of the fact that Mr. McRae represented London’s Royal Ballet, I was longing to see him in something elegant, partnering a principal, showing us his stuff and the stuff of The Royal. Instead, adding the element of tap, he used his shoes to create a percussive stage performance, grandstanding, spinning, and teasing us with a peek into his balletic prowess. I certainly hope I can experience Mr. McRae’s talents in ballet form someday.

Pontus Lidberg Dance
Faune (2010, US Premiere): Choreography by Pontus Lidberg, Music by Claude Debussy, Scenery and Lighting Design by Patrik Bogardh, Costumes by Karen Young, Production Manager: Townsend Olcott, Ballet Master: Ola Beccau, Acting Consultant: Erik Singer, Performed by Adrian Danchig-Waring, Craig Hall, Drew Jacoby, Gabrielle Lamb, Pontus Lidberg.

Here it is, my favorite work of the evening. Where do I begin. This ballet was filled with masterful joy, professionalism, one of the finest ballet scores, and choreography that enhanced the memory of Nijinsky’s 1912 and Robbins’ 1953 “Faune” ballets. The exquisite soloists from City Ballet, Craig Hall and Adrian Danchig-Waring, here as guest artists, were joined by the choreographer, himself, and by Gabrielle Lamb, a Morphoses dancer, plus Drew Jacoby, who appeared last week. As the recorded Debussy melody unfolded, the five dancers fell atop each other in circular motion, with one at a time being slightly undressed to reveal more of themselves. The final dancer (Mr. Lidberg) to shed shirt and pants had the spots and horns of the faun. In any other imagined choreography, this could sound seamy or silly, but, here, the audience was breathless. Dancers undulated, soared, then sensually joined the slow tumble, in entrancing effect. Mr. Hall and Mr. Danchig-Waring, whom I had hoped to see promoted in their company years ago, are a mesmerizing guest duo, riveting the eye and guiding the viewer through this superior work. I hope to see more of Pontus Lidberg and his company. And I hope to see Faune again, soon.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Three To Max (2011, NY Premiere): Choreography by Ohad Naharin, Music by Various Artists, Costumes by Rakefet Levy, Lighting by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi), Lighting Consultant: Laurel Shoemaker, Repetiteur: Yoshifumi Inao, Performed by the Company.

After my obvious enthusiasm for the previous work, my horror at Three To Max, presented by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, was beyond expectation. For the first time, perhaps ever, I held my head in my hands, from a performance-induced migraine. With excruciatingly loud electronic music, combining phrases and passages from the likes of “Seefeel, Naharin, Rayon, Ali, Beach Boys, Eno, and Bach”, seventeen dancers moved front stage to rear stage, blankly eyeing the audience, and revealed flesh at random. There was no rhyme or reason to the seemingly endless work, which built in volume and intensity for all too long. Three To Max was a combination of Mr. Naharin’s previous choreographies, according to the notes, or a “collage of past works”, to be exact. It seemed a wasted presentation opportunity in this renowned dance festival.

Steven McRae of the Royal Ballet
Courtesy of Johan Persson

Pontus Lidberg Dance
in Lidberg's "Faune"
Courtesy of Erin Baiano

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