'Three Dancers - The Romance of Dance'
'Canaveral (Solea),' 'Uqinisufokotho - Brace Yourself,' 'The Moor and His Passion,' 'Meditation on the Vertical Plane,' 'Ndlalette,' 'Del Amanecer (Alegrias)' and 'For Hedy Lamarr - A Three Dancer Improvisation'
by Carmel Morgan
November 6, 2008 -- American University, Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theater, Washington, DC
Last year’s “Three Dancers – the Essence of Dance,” which featured a trio of noted DC-area female dancers, was such a huge hit that immediately people began clamoring for more. “How about three male dancers next year?” people proposed. Luckily, Meera Wolfe and Jonathan G. Willen felt inspired again and organized a performance of three powerful male performers – Edwin Aparicio, Jonathan Jordan, and Lesole Maine. And once more their formula was a success.
This year’s dancers, like the women last year, possess diverse backgrounds. Aparicio, a native of El Salvador, is a renowned flamenco dancer. Jordan, a graduate of The Kirov Academy of Ballet in DC, is a principal dancer with the Washington Ballet. Maine was trained in South Africa and performs contemporary, Afro-fusion, and traditional African dance. Each is an amazing artist, and each is incredibly attractive as well.
The solo performances opened and closed with passionate flamenco works by Aparicio, who was joined by three musicians playing traditional music. Aparicio entered the stage in a suit jacket, with one hand at his stomach, his feet peeling slowly from step to step. His hands flipped and his wrists twisted as if they were lively birds. He gazed penetratingly at the audience. The fire in his eyes matched the intensity of his footwork. He stomped and shuffled, clapped and tapped, shook and spun in a percussive rhythm that definitely came across as macho. Aparicio, a master showman, knows how to entertain.
Maine’s two African-inspired pieces were more quietly passionate but nonetheless full of spirit. In “Uqinisufokotho – Brace Yourself” Maine embodied a warrior. Through many gestures focused around a horn and drum, he appeared steeped in memory and ritual. In “Ndlalette” he brandished a sword and shield and a bright, celebratory face. Maine tumbled and leapt to catchy music by Bambata & Hash’lemhlophe, delighting the audience with his warm smile, his gorgeous muscular body, and his boundless energy.
Jordan performed two solos choreographed by Roudolf Kharatian, a former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Armenia and founder and artistic director of Washington’s ARKA Ballet. Kharatian is also a painter whose striking artwork adorned the theater lobby.
The two choreographic works, both set to the music of Phillip Glass, were extremely dark. In “The Moor and His Passion,” Jordan danced with a cello as his partner. He twirled the instrument, rested his chin atop it, held it between his legs, lifted it with this toes, straddled it, strangled it, etc. In every permutation, Jordan wrestled with drama. He appeared to be having manic episodes as he jerked up and down and flung himself onto the floor. In a spooky gesture, his own hand became possessed and choked him.
“Meditation on the Vertical Plane” was similarly emotionally-laden and almost sinister. Jordan carried around a skull, pushing it toward the audience like a consumed Hamlet. At one point, he framed his eyes with his fingers in an odd child-like game. The weight of these works buried some of Jordan’s natural lightness.
Finally, the three dancers came together in an improvisation titled, “For Hedy Lamarr.” George Jackson, a local dance critic and historian, explained that Lamarr, a movie star in the 1930s, -40s and -50s, joined forces with avant-garde composer George Antheil to patent the use of frequency hopping to make radio-guided missiles harder for enemies to find or disable. Antheil had composed a work – “Ballet pour Instruments Mecaniques et Percussion” – that called for sixteen player pianos, but he had difficulty synchronizing them. Through a discussion with Lamarr, whose husband had been an arms manufacturer, they hit upon the idea. Thanks to recent technological advances, the “Ballet Mecanique” can now be successfully played as Antheil originally imagined it.
Antheil’s “Ballet Mecanique” along with Steve Reich’s “Different Trains (America – Before the War)” accompanied the improvisation. The three dancers, initially taking turns, made slow, thoughtful passages across the stage. Maine created a mesmerizing train step, Jordan flew in daring leaps, and Aparicio commanded attention with struts and hand coils. They maintained their varying individual styles throughout, but they also meshed their movement so that the piece had an exquisite flow. The improvisation was the evening’s highlight and was a fitting finale to a night showcasing three exceptionally talented male dancers. One hopes that the “Three Dancers” series will continue as an annual event.