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Dances from the Garden

The Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, The American Repertory Ballet Company

March 4, 2004 State Theatre, New Brunswick, New Jersey

By Marshall Huntenberger

"Dances From The Garden” was accurately billed as “an evening of dance with three accomplished New Jersey dance ensembles.” Three independent dance troupes performed their individual brands of dance and performance art. The actual presentation was in a different order from the program and which ended up being a very smart change.

First, The Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company performed a varied set of dances/stories. The Dorfman presentation included narratives with several of the dances. That delighted the children in attendance and brought Radio City presentations to mind. "The Pilgrimage" and "The Yam Story" had that particular flavor to them.

I found all the work presented by Dorman to be professional and well considered although not my particular cup if tea. Throughout the performance I thought that more rehearsals would have been beneficial although several of the dances were well honed. All-in-all I can’t tell you to see The Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, nor can I tell you to avoid them. Take note that I’m not saying much about the content the performance itself. I found the content bland while competent but uninteresting.

I was very glad that Dorfman was put on first and not second as the program showed as soon as Nai Ni Chen took the stage. WOW… Chen has energy and fabulous focus and expertise, precision. "Calligraphy II," Nai Ni Chen’ s program for the evening uses Chinese calligraphy as inspiration, and goodness are they inspired! What wonderful movement and focus. The dancers ranged in size from a tiny woman who seemed to turn into fluid electricity to a large powerful man who at once overpowered the stage and touched the audience’s heart. The stage set design was wonderful with outstanding lighting and space management.

I cannot say great things about the music used by Nai Ni Chen which mimicked traditional Chinese music while bringing to mind really bad science fiction. I would have preferred more traditional Chinese music in keeping with the beauty and wonder of the presentation.

Nai Ni Chen closed the show by using long flowing fabric banners to create shapes and movements smartly utilizing color and motion. I was transfixed and delighted overall with Nai Ni Chen. I can recommend seeing this innovative, focused dance troupe heartily.

The best was last. The American Repertory Ballet put on a stunning, interesting performance. I was very impressed with Graham Lustig’s choreography, delightfully presented in this wonderful program. The costumes were also noteworthy and interesting providing everyone with the thrill of seeing the attractive dancers at their best. Brightly colored Speedos never are a bad thing!

The program titled “Vista” was fabulous, sublime, hypnotic and skillful. The music by John and Evan Lurie, a bluesy-jazz meld, captivated the audience immediately. The movements were truly choreographed – skillful and delightful. This dance troupe has ballet in its blood and shows that pedigree joyously. The second dance in "Vista," a duet set to jazz was hypnotic, erotic and joyful. I wish I could credit which of the dancers in the company performed this piece but neither the program nor their web site was clear enough to do so.

The stage had blacked out panels that allowed the dancers to disappear, reappear and frame from one place to another. One wonderful move had a male dancer run and disappear - an instant later a female dancer appeared moving backward from the site of the disappearance. The use of the stage design to present and modify movement was interesting and masterful.

American Repertory Ballet, headquartered at Princeton, is high on my list of dance companies to see. I look forward to seeing more and different programs choreographed by Mr. Lustig. Oh and I was sitting in the first row of the balcony, a ways from the stage so I don’t know if ARB heard me during their bows, so, B R A V O, a great performance.

Not a bad evening, three of three competent, varied, dance presentations. Thank you, State Theatre of New Brunswick, for an enjoyable evening.

Edited by Jeff.

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