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Fall for Dance: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui / Sadler’s Wells London, BodyTraffic, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
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Fall for Dance: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui / Sadler’s Wells London, BodyTraffic, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

- Onstage with the Dancers

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NY City Center
Fall for Dance – Program V

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui / Sadler’s Wells London
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

At New York City Center

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

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 4, 2013

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui / Sadler’s Wells London
Faun (2009): Choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Music by Claude Debussy, Additional Music by Nitin Sawhney, Costumes by Hussein Chalayan, Lighting by Adam Carree, Performed by James O’Hara and Daisy Phillips.

This erotic ballet by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells Ballet, caught me by surprise, as many Fall for Dance productions do. The Claude Debussy score anticipates either the classical Nijinsky version or the contemporary Robbins version. Yet, the Cherkaoui version includes contemporary new age music by Nitin Sawhney, that’s evoked when Daisy Philips is spotlighted. Her partner, James O’Hara, is spotlighted to Debussy, or so it seemed. Their dance takes Nijinsky’s faun-scarf scene to new heights, with long passages of intertwining bodies, Mr. O’Hara’s muscular back writhing onstage, and strong chemistry sparking. The projected backdrop of a dim forest is highly effective, against Adam Carree’s warm lighting. The ballet is stunningly different, without distorting or diminishing Fauns past experienced. Both mature dancers have attitude and affect that’s searing and steamy. As the two musical scores shift and combine in the memory, the gestalt is one of refinement.

O2Joy (2012): Choreography by Richard Siegal, Music by Oscar Peterson, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Glenn Miller, Costumes by Rita DiLorenzo and Richard Siegal, Lighting by Kindred Gottlieb, Production Manager: Burke Wilmore, Performed by Lillian Barbeito, Tina Finkelman Berkett, Miguel Perez, Guzmán Rosado, Andrew Wojtal.

O2Joy received huge accolades at the curtain, with one member of the five dancer ensemble lip-synching to Ella Fitzgerald’s “All of Me”, with accentuated drag effects. Other recordings included Miller’s “Taps Miller”, Holiday’s “On the Sunny Side of the Street”, and Peterson’s “Mumbles” and “My One and Only Love”. Richard Siegal’s choreography is casual and charming, with lots of hip swivels and some ballroom partner dancing. The dancers were illuminated emotionally, making the songs vivid. And, everyone loved the music.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Black Swan Pas de Deux (1890): Choreography by Marius Petipa, Music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Lighting by Kip Marsh, Performed by Chase Johnsey, Carlos Hopuy, Paolo Cervellera, Boysie Dikobe.

Speaking of what everyone loved, there are few companies loved more than Les Ballets Trockadero, and everyone knows and loves the “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake. Four dancers from the Company danced (in resounding fashion) the Petipa choreography for Odile (Chase Johnsey), Prince Siegfried (Carlos Hopuy), Von Rothbart (Paolo Cervellera), and Odette (Boysie Dikobe). What was expected, and the dancers did not disappoint, was hilarity and camp. What was not quite expected was the mastery at the highest levels of elevation, spins, lifts, balance, poise, leaps, and more.

Mr. Johnsey, whose stage name is Yakatarina Verbosovich, danced fouettés en pointe with outstanding capability, and the theatrics brought the house down. Mr. Hopuy, whose stage name is Innokenti Smoktunmuchsky, was compact and virtuosic in the spirited male role. Mr. Cervellera, whose stage name is Vyacheslav Legupski, wore a large colorful cape. Odette, Mr. Dikobe, whose stage name is Sonia Leftova, was in a comic scene of being pushed offstage, crying, so Odile and Von Rothbart could deceive the Prince. Funniest of all was the size and height difference between the tall Odile and the shorter, but dynamic Siegfried.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Home (2011): Choreography by Rennie Harris, Music by Dennis Ferrer, Raphael Xavier, Costumes by Jon Taylor, Lighting by Stephen Arnold, Production Manager: Kristin Colvin-Young, Performed by Matthew Rushing and the Company.

A wonderful decision by the Fall for Dance producers was to schedule three renowned virtuosic companies for the program finales: Dance Theater of Harlem, Graham Dance Company, and Ailey Dance Theater. There was substantial essence in each of these three closers. Tonight, the Fall for Dance final program ended with the Ailey Dance Theater in Rennie Harris’ Home. Like the other two company closers just mentioned, Ailey brought out the crème de la crème performers, frequently reviewed in this column over the years. I was thrilled that Matthew Rushing returned to the stage for this show as a guest, as he’s one of the most riveting dancers anywhere. What joy and personality he exudes. Also in tonight’s fourteen member ensemble were company favorites, like Linda Celeste Sims, Glenn Allen Sims, Hope Boykin, Vernard J. Gilmore, and Akua Noni-Parker, plus the fabulous Briana Reed, Jacqueline Green, Demetia Hopkins, Rachel McLaren, Samuel Lee Roberts, Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Marcus Jarrell Willis, and Jermaine Terry.

Warm spotlights and electronic music charge this piece with opportunities for each company dancer to show personalized virtuosity, muscularity, speed, energy, persona, balance, and sheer excitement. Robert Battle has kept the company in fine form, and I’ve been following the Ailey Dance Theater for several decades. Their performance was so inviting, I thought maybe the audience would join in the vibe. Dancers wound about in improvisational dervish with delight and determination.

Kudos to all five New York City Center, 2013 Fall for Dance productions.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui/Sadler's Wells London
in "Faun"
Courtesy of Diego Franssens

Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo
in "Black Swan Pas de Deux"
Courtesy of Sascha Vaughn

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