. . . make that wicked bad-ass with a Bronx accent.
We're talking about Nicole Graniero and Skylar Brandt as the hot-footed, red-footed Bomb Squad duo in last night's opening performance of Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room. Clearly and unquestionably, they were out to rip the Pump Bump Award away from the ripped Stomper Sascha Radetsky who is now so crazy Tharpian in this role that it probably frightens Twyla.
The ladies repeatedly shot across the stage -- their pointes striking the floor in perfect unison like bullets from precision rifles. Bliss. Radetsky along with Jared Matthews and Patrick Ogle stomped, punched, and rolled their ways through the choreography with a New York edge and attitude that made the audience scrappy-proud.
What a terrific, explosive performance from the company. Herman Cornejo, Craig Salstein, Kristi Boone, and Simone Messmer were also standouts in a cast that made it hard to focus on any one dancer because the stage was always loaded with heavenly bodies unbound by gravity while bound by their love of dancing.
The evening's program included a stellar performance of Jose Limón's The Moor's Pavane (Variations on a Theme of Othello) by Marcelo Gomes as The Moor, Cory Stearns as His Friend, Veronika Part as His Friend's Wife, and Julie Kent as The Moor's Wife. Everything was moving along as expected until Veronika's Emilia fixated on the white hanky in Desdemona's hand. Julie's Desdemona accidentally dropped the hanky while the four were dancing, and Emilia quickly snatched it from the floor. Suddenly, a chill passed through the audience. After tucking the hanky part way into the front of her bold, blood-red dress, Emilia cavorted about happily before tossing it over the back of her shoulder to Stearns' Iago who then delivered the "evidence" of Desdemona's unfaithfulness to The Moor. It was time to cover the children's eyes. Thank goodness Emilia stood in front of Desdemona and widened her skirt with her hands so no one could actually see The Moor pummeling Desdemona.
Stearns was excellent in his role. Even though it was still hard to see the emotion in is face, his body was filled with Iago's torment and jealousy. The characterization came through loud and clear. Gomes was terrific in his second role as Othello; his first was in Lar Lubovitch's fabulous production. He began at what for anyone else would have been a dramatic peak, and then moved upward. Kent was a credible Desdemona but when it came time for the Limón sweeps and curved arms, she looked like she was marking it when compared to the other three dancers who were dancing with the emphasis on weight release, fall, and recovery inherent in Limón's choreography.
The program opened with Morris' Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes with a completely different cast. It was nice to see that some of these dancers are still alive -- you wouldn't know it from the casting for the spring season. Thomas Forster looked exceptionally strong in the legs and feet although he still gives an impression of being slightly bent over at the head and neck. Yuriko Kajiya was fresh and joyful. Ditto with Melanie Hamrick. Joseph Gorak was absolutely brilliant until he decided to strut some 180 degree developpe battements -- the point being to show off his flexibility and perhaps get a dollar stuffed in his belt. But then, this piece is so freakin' boring, it's understandable how the dancers might be tempted to supe it up. Having to sit through this dance for a third time on Friday night will probably put Haglund in a sour mood for his first viewing of Ratmansky's new ballet.
While leaving the theater last night, it seemed everybody was talking about In the Upper Room and what a treat it was to see it again. People were remembering performances from decades ago. Stiefel, Selya, and other names from the past were being tossed around on the sidewalk. And they were talking about Radetsky. The HH Pump Bump Award, a Dune Bellma striped pump with red accents, must be shared by Nicole Graniero, Skylar Brandt, and Sascha Radetsky for their kick-ass performances last night.