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New York Baroque Dance Company

Points of Departure

by Juliet Neidish

September 28, 2007 -- Mark Morris Dance Center, New York

The New York Baroque Dance Company in association with Company XIV and Concert Royal presented a varied and inspired evening of New York premieres at the Mark Morris Dance Center on September 28, 2007.  The program included five works choreographed by dancers of the New York Baroque Dance Company, directed by Catherine Turocy, and one piece by Austin McCormick, Company XIV Director.

Several of the pieces were performed to the live accompaniment of Concert Royal, a chamber ensemble specializing in early music, directed by James Richman.  Despite the stylistic range of these short pieces, the evening design was a unique and unifying project.  Entitled, “Points of Departure”, the goal of the program was to create contemporary work that derived from the choreography and theatrical structures defining Baroque dance, which, depending on the country of origin, can refer to the late 17th through the early 18th-centuries.  Thus the ‘point of departure’ is the historical material--in most cases the actual notated movement--which is manipulated to generate a reflection on historical style.

All three groups research and present historical reconstructions of authentic Baroque repertoire.  It is an important project to preserve, reenact, and use to pass on the cultural past.  However, the “Points of Departure” event represents a unique goal, exploring how the past can inform the present.  And in the very specific case of performance, how theories and oeuvres from the past can forge or generate work that engages our present day sensibilities.  [For a more in-depth analysis of the neo-Baroque choreography project, please see criticaldance.com: Ballet-Dance Magazine review entitled, Avant/Après le Déluge: 18th Century and Postmodern Baroque Dances by Juliet Neidish, April 2006]. 

All six pieces were engaging and polished in their own way.  Despite the variety of tastes, each offered a bit of its own particular food for thought.  “Prelude- an introduction to the concert”, choreographed by Turocy, set the stage for the evening’s defining new/old dichotomy by inter-mixing dancers in period costumes with dancers in contemporary dress, all of whom danced in period style.  Patricia Beaman’s “Accumulating Venus” used the element of period costume and accessory to evoke an interest in the trappings of the past, while exposing an allusion to sexuality.  “Trompe L’Oeil”, by McCormick conjured up mood and atmosphere in an imagistic setting, making good use of masks worn in unconventional ways.

Sarah Edgar’s “Armida Abbandonata” was perhaps the most successful at truly deconstructing a facet of the Baroque.  Using a cross-cultural clashing of European Baroque with classical Indian dance, she was able to isolate and unleash a powerful stylistic expressiveness.  The sweeping and well-crafted “Points of Departure” by Seth Williams created a classically modern dance look that seemed to derive from the lightness and subtle humor of the Baroque.  It was musically clever.

Turocy’s “Caprice”, which ended the evening, presented an array of personalities communicating: it was a dance of individuality and social interaction.  The light-hearted but sophisticated “Caprice” opened up the space for character by having the dancers work on an improvisation of 18th-century dance figures while dressed in contemporary garb.  Also vivid was the effect of clothing, particularly shoes, on the style of a movement.  The spirit of improvisation led to a pedestrian-style approach that suggested dialogue and then ultimately, play.   Turocy was most adept at demonstrating how “ a Baroque body” could be capable of channeling a contemporary sensibility, yet still remain Baroque.  This challenge offered both dancers and audience a great deal to think about with regard to the theatricality of the then and now.  Above all, the enthusiasm and commitment to the work made for an evening that was both enjoyable and stimulating.

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