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Fall for Dance: Richard Alston Dance Company, Azure Barton & Artists, Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson, Grupo Corpo
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Fall for Dance: Richard Alston Dance Company, Azure Barton & Artists, Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson, Grupo Corpo

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NY City Center
Fall for Dance – Program II

Richard Alston Dance Company with
Montclair State University Vocal Accord
Azure Barton & Artists
Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson
Grupo Corpo

At New York City Center

Arlene Schuler, President & CEO
Mark Litvin, Sr. VP & Managing Director
Stanford Makishi, VP Programming
Clifton Taylor, Festival Lighting Director
Danny Erdberg and Leon Rothenberg, Festival Sound Supervisors
Joe Guttridge, Director, Communications

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 29, 2016

Richard Alston Dance Company
Rejoice in the Lamb (NY Premiere):
Choreography by Richard Alston, Music by Benjamin Britten, Costumes by Peter Todd, Lighting by Zeynep Kepekli, Production Manager: Karl Oskar Sordal, Performed by Nicholas Bodych, Ihsaan de Banya, and an Ensemble of eight, with Montclair State University Vocal Accord, Heather J. Buchanan, Conductor, Steven W. Ryan, Accompanist, Vincent Carr, Organist, and the Chorus.

Azure Barton & Artists
Awáa (2012):
Choreography by Azure Barton, Music by Curtis MacDonald and Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin, Scenery and Lighting by Burke Brown, Costumes by Linda chow, Video by Tobin Del Coure, Stage Manager: Pamela Rapp, Performed by an Ensemble of seven.

Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson
The Ballad of Mack and Ginny (2015):
Choreography and Direction by Arthur Pita, Music by Kurt Weill, Music Director and Arranger: Frank Moon, Costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant, Lighting by Bruni Poet, Stage Manager: Lynne Otto, Tango Tutors: Amir Giles and Tara Pilbrow, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson, with Musicians: Frank Moon, Bev Lee Harling, Stephen Little, Aidan O’Donnell, and Stefan Vasnier.

Grupo Corpo
Suite Branca (NY Premiere):
Choreography by Cassi Abranches, Music by Samuel Rosa, Scenery by Paulo Pederneiras, Costumes by Freusa Zechmeister, Lighting by Paulo Pederneiras and Gabriel Pederneiras, Performed by the Company of twenty-one.

Once again, the hall was packed with buzzing balletomanes looking to see a long-retired favorite make another of her recent comebacks, within new dance genres. But first, there were two featured performances, opening with The Richard Alston Dance Company’s Rejoice in the Lamb, choreographed by Mr. Alston. The Montclair State University chorus, called Vocal Accord, conducted by Heather J. Buchanan, was accompanied by Steven W. Ryan and Vincent Carr, organist. They performed Benjamin Britten’s chorale during interludes and dance. Nicholas Bodych and Ihsaan D Banya led an ensemble of eight additional dancers. Unfortunately, this barefoot, expansive modern dance, about Christopher Smart (Mr. Bodych), who obsesses on his cat (Mr. De Banya) while imprisoned in an asylum for his spiritual fanaticism, mostly presented shadows, silhouettes, and swirling patterns of motion. The pastel costumes by Peter Todd were a highlight. This work, seen on its own with the British Alston’s repertory, would be better showcased.

Azure Barton’s Awáa, performed by an ensemble of seven, called Azure Barton & Artists, traces its roots to aboriginal people in western Canada. It’s a slow, pulsating work, with atmospheric projections and primal propulsion. The music of this excerpted (from a larger original) work was by Curtis MacDonald and Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin, video by Tobin del Coure. Like several dances among the 20 produced by Fall for Dance, this piece left little impression or desire for more. The final work of the night was the Brazilian-based Grupo Corpo’s Suíte Branca, choreographed by Cassi Abranches. I was caught by surprise, gazing upon the varied, pristine-white costumes against a crinkly white backdrop, on a shiny white stage. The ensemble of 21, in gravity-defying leaning postures, in lines and formations, in rolling and falling about the stage, all to Samuel Rosa’s horns, percussion and guitar, was mesmerizing in the moment.

But it was the third dance that drew the pulse of this crowd. The City Ballet Principal retiree, Wendy Whelan, returned to the New York stage in neither the first nor the last sighting of this stunning performer. She’s always welcome. Arthur Pita’s The Ballad of Mack and Ginny, scored with the “Tango Ballad” from the Kurt Weill-Bertold Brecht The Threepenny Opera, was, of course, in the loose motif of Argentine Tango. Ms. Whelan wore long, blond tresses, black garters and mesh, seamed stockings, while smoking a cigarette. Her partner, The Royal Ballet Principal, Edward Watson, was costumed in tango club fashion as well, with white tank top and suspenders. They did pull off some boléos and sliding, intertwining legs, but the band had no bandoneón, and the piece was “tango light”. But this was Weill, not Piazzolla, and we were all drawn in, especially when the knives came out and Ms. Whelan’s shirt came off, with her crystal-adorned back facing the audience. Music Director-Arranger, Frank Moon led the five-piece band, as he played banjo, electric guitar, and musical saw. This dance did grab my interest with its dramatic dance narrative, both witty and wanton.

Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson in
Arthur Pita's "The Ballad of Mack and Ginny"
Courtesy of Andrej Uspenski

Grupo Corpo in
Cassi Abranches' "Suite Branca"
Courtesy of Luiz Pederneiras

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