Wednesday, July 05, 2006

nicholasleichterdance 10th anniversary concert, attended 6/30/06

Over the weekend of June 29th through July 1st, 2006, Nicholas Leichter presented four works at Dance New Amsterdam's new location near City Hall. It's been a long time since I've seen Leichter's work, so I was really looking forward to this concert. It was enjoyable and I'm glad I went, but it didn't totally wow me. Overall the weakest part of the show was the lighting. So much of it was underlit that you couldn't see the action. It was difficult to see faces in too many instances. I understand the need to create a mood or an atmospheric setting for the dance, but there was an overuse of gobo patterns on the floor for my taste. The dancers have rehearsed many hours, and their faces and bodies deserve to be seen by the audience. The other distraction was that a photographer sat front and center in the blocked off front row snapping pictures during most of the performance.

The first piece was danced by the entire company: Lauren Basco, Daniel Clifton, Aaron Draper, Jared Kaplan, Nicholas Leichter, Dawn Robinson, and Naima Bigby Sullivan. The men wore tuxedo pants and long-sleeved dress shirts in shades of orange, maroon, red, and purple, while the women matched in silk culottes and draping tops. The dancers were a little unsteady at the start, which worried me that the whole concert would not be up to par. The movement was safe with pleasing lines. There was a motif of pulling someone's extended leg. This recurring move involved launching one dancer to a horizontal position by cantilevering a foot at the hip and holding one hand, while another dancer catches the extending feet. There was a lot of partnering, but nothing memorable. "Discretion (Primo Vere)" was a calm start to the program.

Leichter's solo, "Animal," from 1997, began with awkward posture entering profile from upstage right. He morphed from character to character, or was it just multiple personas trapped in one man? There was a lot of facial mugging and contortions confronting the audience downstage center. He would alternate slow movements with bursts of street jamming and fashion runway posturing. Perhaps it was almost Darwinian in purpose, although it showed that man has not progressed as far as we had thought.

"Undertow" was by far the highlight of the evening. It was a quartet for four women danced by four men. Clad all in black, they wore stretchy lycra long skirts with slits up the back and nylon windbreakers. After the movement had been established, they faced each other in pairs and unzipped the jackets to reveal stockings that had been cut into shirts. The visual imagery throughout was fantastic, and the strength of the dancing was brilliant. At one point where the dancers were in a heap on the floor on top of one another, just hearing their breathing was mesmerizing. The dance included incredibly inventive floor work. It was fast-paced, physical, and completely engaging. I didn't want to blink for fear of missing something extremely cool.

New York premiere "Sweetwash Special" may have been better on the first night when the music was performed live. They opened up the space on stage left so that there was an extra half-stage's worth of performance area where the wings had been. It was difficult to see anything on that side, so it was hard to care about the dancing in that quadrant. Most of the movement seemed to come from contact improvisation sessions, and it was not very compelling. It may have been better received if some of the other pieces of the night had had different movement origins. The movement also took on a pedestrian nature, including physical manipulation by dancers of themselves and their fellow dancers. Street, funk, and hip hop movements were intertwined in the work and incorporated in the modern dance framework. The best movement motif was a trio of two women and a man, where the man took turns partnering with the women. Whichever woman was solo at that moment, took on the movement of either one of the others from the duet. It proved to be the most interesting section of the piece and was appropriately repeated as the final movement image.


At 2:47 PM, Blogger webperformer said...

This is a strong review, and you have pointed out one way that blogs could be an exciting addition to our field. There are not enough reviews of performances. There are many performances and too few reviewers. Now we can all sharpen our skills of attending performances and writing about what we have experienced.

This is a good blog with a good start!


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