City Center’s Fall for Dance kicked off its 10 day season last evening with a $10 sampler of goodies designed to appeal to a variety of dance palates. But this season has also been carefully infused with choreography and derivatives from Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes for whom the world is celebrating the centennial of its invasion of the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris where bold innovation imbedded with strong craft and creative brilliance began a revolution in the world of ballet.
Last evening opened with the presentation of the 58th Annual Capezio Dance Award to Arlene Shuler, City Center’s President & CEO. Edward Villella flew up from Miami to make the presentation. He observed how Shuler’s extraordinary career had come full circle – from a 13 year old performer on the City Center stage in Balanchine’s Nutcracker to a member of the City Center Joffrey Ballet to Columbia Law School to the NEA to Lincoln Center and back to the City Center as its chief executive. Shuler, noting that she had indeed worn Capezio pointe shoes as a performer, choked with emotion as she recalled and thanked the late Robert Joffrey – “He was my teacher,” she said. He was also the ballet world’s champion of Ballets Russes era restorations and had a passion for details and historical accuracy for which we can all be grateful.
The first performance on the program was the Boston Ballet in Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun. Altankhuyag Dugaraa was the faun who awakes to see a bevy of nymphs led by Lia Cirio. The nymphs dance around the faun and arouse him and eventually leave behind a scarf which the faun then uses in the self-gratification process. Nijinsky’s choreography references Greek bas-relief with torsos front, arms at right angles, and faces in profiles. The brilliance is in how Nijinsky imagined that these characters would move if brought to life from their static poses. They walked with bent knees and exaggerated heel to toe movement. The nymphs’ hands were delicately curled when joined with one another. Last night’s performance had a museum quality and textbookish tint to it. The faun was about as erotic as an 8 week old kitten. Haglund thinks that the problem with presenting Afternoon of a Faun is always the same problem – it needs Nijinsky.
The Paul Taylor Dance Company gave a spirited performance of Offenbach Overtures. Michael Trusnovec, Sean Mahoney, Robert Kleinendorst, and Jeffrey Smith were especially funny in the American Eagle Waltz..
Batsheva Dance Company’s Iyar Elezra and Bobbi Smith performed Ohad Naharin’s B/olero to Isao Tomita’s synthesizer version of Ravel’s Bolero. Tomita has been described as pio-neering, but how much pioneering is involved when you take other people’s creative brilliance and skilled work product and just change it to accommodate your own talents? It’s kind of like the Manhattan Transfer’s version of basic Christmas carols - eh. Naharin’s choreography was his stereotypical fast changing, start-stop, just do anything that comes to mind vocabulary. But the dancers did it very well, and the audience appreciated their explosive energy and responded with loud woo-whos.
Savion Glover closed the evening with a rousing tap jam with jazz quartet on stage entitled The StaRz and StRiPes 4EvEr for NoW. The musicians, The OTHeRz, each had extended solos before Glover came out and masterfully tap-conducted everyone. Then they all performed with additional tappers Marshall Davis, Jr. and Cartier Williams in a bring-the-house-down choreographed finale. Pianist Tommy James set Savion’s feet on fire throughout the piece, and for that, Haglund awards this Pump Bump – the Golden Ann Miller:
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