CriticalDance Forum

Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:52 am ]
Post subject:  Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

In the New York Times, Siobhan Burke previews the Joyce Ballet Festival, August 4-16, 2015.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

Jerry Hochman reviews the August 4, 2015 performance of Joshua Beamish's MOVE: the company for CriticalDance.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

Robeert Greskovic reviews Chamber Dance Company, MOVE: the company and the Ashley Bouder Project for the Wall Street Journal.

Included is a review of Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev's Solo for Two at City Center on Friday and Saturday, August 7-8, 2015.

Wall Street Journal

Rose Marija reviews MOVE: the company for Broadway World.

Broadway World

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

In the New York Times, Gia Kourlas reviews the Thursday, August 6, 2015 performance of Chamber Dance Project and the Saturday, August 8, 2015 performance of the Ashley Bouder Project.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

Alexandra Villarreal reviews the Ashley Bouder Project for the Huffington Post.

Huffington Post

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Aug 14, 2015 12:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

Jerry Hochman reviews the August 11, 2015 BalletX performance of Matthew Neenan's Sunset o639 Hours for CriticalDance.


Author:  balletomaniac [ Mon Aug 17, 2015 12:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

Pending editing and publication on CriticalDance, below is my review of the August 13, 2015 performance of Emery LeCrone at the Joyce Ballet Festival.

Emery LeCrone
The Joyce Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

August 13, 2015
Ritornare (New York Premiere); Partita No. 2 in C Minor;
Lasciatemi Qui Solo (New York Premiere); The Innermost Part of Something (World Premiere)

-- by Jerry Hochman

The Joyce Ballet Festival continued on Thursday with a program of four dances by Emery LeCrone performed by members of Emery LeCrone Dance, the company she established in 2013, and guest artists from American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet.

LeCrone’s work is well-known to New York audiences, and has become increasingly familiar to audiences in venues around the country. Based on those pieces I’ve seen, she has a style that sets her apart from many of her contemporary peers: her work is refined and classically lyrical, marked by swirling fluidity rather than angular punctuations. And although her pieces are more substantial than simply delicate, there’s a filigree quality to them regardless of the dance’s pace, theme, or atmosphere. To her credit, she appears more concerned with her craft than in making a statement, creating movement for movement’s sake, or finding different ways to express angst.

The first three dances on Thursday’s program are consistent with this apparent, and to me commendable, stylistic predisposition. Ritornare is a quiet duet that reflects the affection and mutual dependence of the characters for each other; Partita No. 2 in C Minor is a tight Baroque gem; and Lasciatemi Qui Solo a tour de force of sublime misery for a single dancer. But with The Innermost Part of Something, the evening’s world premiere, LeCrone ventures into different choreographic territory, and as well-crafted as this piece is, it missed the mark.

Ritornare, which means ‘return’ or ‘come back’, opened the program on a gentle note. The piece is choreographed to a deeply reflective and dreamlike composition of the same name by Ludovico Einaudi, an award-winning Italian musician/composer who has scored many films and television programs (including the trailer for Black Swan). Almost too saccharine, the composition is musical love poem of a remembered romantic interlude, or perhaps of a relationship interrupted. LeCrone applies this gossamer music to a ‘real time’ relationship in which the man and woman appear deeply in love, separate briefly from time to time but always return to each other. Izabela Szylinska and Shane Ohmer do excellent work with LeCrone’s lyrical choreography, and movingly portray the relationship. But as lovely as the choreography and dancing is, and as pleasant as it is to watch, it’s all on one emotional level, with little in the way of conflict or drama.

The second piece, Partita No. 2 in C Minor, has had several incarnations. I first saw it in 2013 in a program presented by Youth America Grand Prix, performed by New York City Ballet principals Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle, and admired its lyricism and movement variety.

Subsequently, and after considerable tinkering (and a presentation at one of the Guggenheim Museum’s “Works and Process” programs), the ballet now involves two couples who alternate the movements in the J.S. Back composition, with a solo sandwiched in between. But it has lost none of its polish. And in the performances by the two couples, guest artists Stephanie Williams (ABT) and Russell Janzen (NYCB), and Stella Abrera and Alexandre Hammoudi (both ABT), the piece has glorious interpreters. On them, the baroque format looks thoroughly contemporary.

Whether intended or not, Williams (who replaced NYCB’s Sara Mearns on very short notice) and Janzen on one hand, and Abrera and Hammoudi on the other, appear as contrasting pairs – the first youthful; the second more mature. There was no difference in the quality of their dancing, but the difference in impression between the couples added to the depth and impact of the piece as a whole. And although all performed with obvious enthusiasm and their usual competence (including Hammoudi in the solo), Williams made the greatest impact – she infuses whatever she dances with arresting qualities of serenity and confidence that make her appear concurrently vulnerable and regal.

The piano accompaniment for these dances was superbly played, respectively, by Melinda Faylor and David Aladashvilli.

By far the most exciting dance on Thursday’s program was a solo, Lasciatemi Qui Solo. The piece takes its name from a song written by Francesca Caccini, who charmed the Medici court in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and is widely regarded as one of the foremost composers of her time – particularly remarkable since so few were women. The song is from a book of music published in 1618 called Il primo libro del musiche, which features songs reflecting a variety of musical styles, apparently to be used as pedagogic references in Caccini’s music classes. But based on this one, the songs are more than merely academic.

The song title means “Leave Me Here Alone,” but that translation doesn’t do justice to the words of Caccini’s song poem (even as sung in the original Italian), the musical accompaniment, the choreography that LeCrone created to amplify the words, and the brilliant performance by Kimi Nikaidoh. It’s a stirring ballet, one that brings to mind Martha Graham’s emotional virulence (but more lyrical, and without Graham contractions). The woman has obviously suffered some extreme loss – the nature of which isn’t known or significant – and the choreographic lamentation is profound and cannot be ignored: I (and judging by its response, the rest of the audience) could feel Nikaidoh’s pain. Kudos as well for the performances by harpist Marion Ravot, and soprano Molly Netter, which added a measure of late Renaissance sensitivity to a solo that was temporally timeless.

With The Innermost Part of Something, LeCrone moves in a somewhat different choreographic direction. Although as finely crafted as the others, this one, to an electronic compilation featuring unidentified songs by German composer Nils Frahm and American Paul McMahon, is too diffuse to characterize or appreciate.

The piece is divided into at least two segments. The first has the dancers moving frenetically to and fro, onstage and off and back, with a distinctive angularity coupled with an absence of purpose. And with the repetitious electronic pulse and Victoria Bartlett’s garish-looking costumes, the dance has an uncomfortably eerie feel, as if the dancers were aliens from some other world that the audience was invited to observe from a distance like detached cultural anthropologists. At various points the choreography focuses on a particular dancer or pair, but although they all do excellent work (particularly the intentionally stoic and mechanical delivery, which some erroneously consider to be stereotypically Balanchine, by Miriam Ernest and Szylinska), there was nothing enjoyable about watching them. The second part sounds less annoying, and includes occasional lovely choral singing – I could decipher the repeated lyric “teach me how to see” from McMahon’s “Oh My Heart” – and the accompanying choreography looks more reflective than feverish, but aside from changing gears, it adds nothing except a calming sense to the piece. It was certainly different from, and more dramatic-looking, than the other pieces on the program, but its impact was little more than superficial.

This last piece aside, the evening of LeCrone’s work was marked by exquisite choreographic skill and performing excellence. Though not as flashy as some other Festival programs, it belongs in the same admirable artistic league.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

Jerry Hochman reviews the August 6, 2015 performance of the Chamber Dance Company for CriticalDance.


Author:  balletomaniac [ Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Joyce Ballet Festival, August 2015

Pending editing and publication on CriticalDance, below is my review of the August 15, 2015 performance of Amy Seiwert's Imagery at the Joyce Ballet Festival

Amy Seiwert’s Imagery
The Joyce Ballet Festival
The Joyce Theater
New York, New York

August 15, 2015
Traveling Alone, Starting Over at the End, Back To

-- by Jerry Hochman

Amy Seiwert’s Imagery is a contemporary ballet company based on San Francisco. The company made its debut New York performance as the final company in the 2015 Joyce Ballet Festival this past Saturday with a program of three dances: Traveling Alone, Starting Over at the End, and Back To, the latter two being 2015 premieres.

These same dances comprised a program titled “Sketch 5: Stirred Program” performed a month ago in San Francisco at the ODC Theater, where Seiwert and her company have been a fixture for many years. Labelling the evening as a ‘stirred’ program is particularly apt. Although the dances look very different from each other and Starting Over at the End is a co-choreographed effort, there’s an overall similarity of structure (linear) and style common to them all, but each piece is stirred differently. The results, stirred or otherwise, were mixed.

Seiwert’s choreography is an amalgamation of imaginative ballet steps and contemporary add-ins featuring angled hands and feet, interlocked arms used to push and pull, glides, occasional twitchiness (though not excessively contorted bodies), and almost acrobatic intricacies that put her dancers through their paces, but it’s not anything that is particularly new to the New York contemporary ballet scene. The first two pieces appeared diffuse and unfocused (despite something of a theme to Traveling Alone), but the final piece had the most coherence and greater accessibility than the other two, and proved quite enjoyable.

Back To is choreographed to a series of unidentified songs by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. With Welch singing lead and Rawlings harmony, the duo has recorded vocal music that might be classified as ‘folk,’ but which has a distinctive sound that more closely resembles bluegrass. The result is a twangy, relatively emotionless, bluesy sound that sounds somewhat ‘country;, but has Appalachian roots and a much harder, darker edge. To my untrained ear, the duo sounded a bit like Lady Antebellum, but with attitude.

The specific songs used are not identified, and the lyrics were virtually impossible to decipher unless you already knew them. But the song lyrics didn’t appear nearly as significant as the sound, which fixed the location in some rural Appalachian venue. What Seiwert has created, although at times it resembles pieces by Paul Taylor, honors and dignifies the lives of the dancer/characters much as Graham’s Appalachian Spring did, without the romanticized view of rural life or the obvious impact of a religious base, and moved south from frontier Pennsylvania to rural West Virginia, Kentucky, or Tennessee (but far away from Nashville). The unattributed upstage set could be the side of a barn, or a wall of a dilapidated factory, community center or church – it doesn’t matter, because whatever it is, the characters are not emotionally limited by it. For all its sense of a depressive environment, this dance is a celebration, and the costumes by Christine Darch (who skillfully crafted the costumes for each piece) added to the rural yet festive sensibility.

To each song Seiwert choreographs a relatively free standing dance for her eight dancers and a bench, with the bench being an active participant. Dancers move it around the stage, stand on it, slide on it, die on it, and marry on it. Each dance has its particular virtue – at times they’re highly energetic; at others more contemplative. But even though Seiwert’s style is evident, the dance doesn’t get bogged down in stylistic detail: rather, the style and the choreography illuminate the overall sense of joyousness. And the piece has a sense of humor, used judiciously but effectively. It’s a highly enjoyable piece.

All the Imagery dancers performed brilliantly, but Annali Rose, who currently dances with Ballet San Jose, and Rachel Furst, a wisp of a dancer who from my audience vantage point bears a fleeting resemblance to Maria Kotchetkova, danced with particular flair.
My only complaint is with the dance’s ending. In the penultimate segment, the piece recaptures the opening image of the dancers forming a triangle of community – which would have been a perfect concluding circularity. But instead of ending at that natural point, the piece continued with a wistful solo for Rose that puts a stamp of remembrance on the piece that doesn’t really fit -- beyond giving some possible explanation for the dance’s title. Like the strangely placed duet in Benjamin Millepied’s Two Hearts for New York City Ballet, it comes across not just as anticlimactic, but superfluous.

Like Back Up, Starting Over at the End is choreographed to a series of songs, but the songs are unidentified lieder by Austrian early-Romantic composer Franz Schubert. The pace is slow, the sound somewhat dolorous and the meaning, though clearly reflective, is unclear. Onto this music Seiwert and co-choreographer KT Nelson, who is co-artistic director of San Francisco’s ODC/Dance, have applied an urgent, edgy style to the Romantic German songs, and the combination (even though the contributions of the two choreographers appear so compatible that one can’t tell who contributed what) doesn’t gel into a cohesive whole.

Parts of the piece are quite moving, including duets danced by Brandon Freeman and James Gilmer, Freeman and Sarah Griffin, and Rose and Liang Fu, each of which were intricate and powerful, but at the same time delicate, choreographically imaginative, and awesomely controlled. For example, at one point Gilmer jumps onto Freeman’s outstretched hands, symbolic perhaps of mutual reliance, and although the effort sounds somewhat acrobatic, it doesn’t look that way. Similarly, the duet between Rose and Fu features not just arms intertwined, but necks. The result looks in no way awkward, but rather a natural, albeit unusual, depiction of mutual dependence. I also particularly appreciated the contributions of Danielle Bausinger, a refined dancer of particular grace, and Furst, whose body and limbs seemed to be everywhere at once, yet never out of control.

The opening ballet, Traveling Alone, is a concept piece that features one dancer, guest artist Dana Benton (a principal dancer with the Colorado Ballet) ‘traveling alone’ through space occupied by unfamiliar people as if she were a traveler visiting alien lands, attracting and abandoning indigenous dancers along the way. Despite Benton’s cold, angular passion and quicksilver movement quality, brilliant images that occasionally flash throughout the piece, and the dancers’ undeniable talent, the piece, which Seiwert choreographed in 2012, left me appreciative of the dancers’ abilities, but otherwise unmoved. I must note, however, that pockets of the opening night audience responded with a vocal and enthusiastic standing ovation.

A few final words about the Joyce Ballet Festival. Each of the companies I saw (I was unable to see the third program) was enlightening in one respect or another, and it’s to Executive Director Linda Shelton’s credit that these groups have been assembled and presented to New York audiences, many for the first time. Though I enjoyed some performances and ballets more than others, the program fills a void somewhere between the emerging and the established, and each was well worth seeing – attested to by the sold out houses at each performance I saw. I look forward to what the Festival presents next year.

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