American Repertory Ballet
Joyce Theatre, New York,
By Stephen E. Arnold
As if to shake the sleepiness out of the afternoon, the program given by the American Repertory Ballet at the Joyce Theatre at the Sunday matinee embraced a whirlwind.
The run began with "The Shrew," choreographed by Graham Lustig, artistic director of the ARB, continued through "a part between parts," choreographed by Dominique Dumais, and finally resolved at the closing moment of "Fandango Furiouso," choreographed by Kirk Peterson.
Lustig compressed "The Taming of the Shrew" by Shakespeare into six scenes, six characters, and four hooded, mysterious servants. Additionally, Lustig used a variety of Italian folk songs, a whiff of rock and roll, and sounds such as car horns, running motors, barking dogs, etc. to create a convincing sense of place and for characterization. Unique movement, invented by Lustig, flavors the piece and identifies each character. Ballet, for instance, avoids the character of Kate who, costumed in a red sweat suit, wears instead the aggressive moves and postures appropriate to her gladiatorial nature. Moreover, a continuous stream of leaps, tackles, kicks, rolls, and splits distinguished dancer Jennifer Cavanaugh, as Kate, as an Olympian of the highest order.
"a part between parts," on the other hand, takes us out of the time worried particularities of "Shrew" and into an otherworldly realm of Olympian obscurity. Set on six barefoot dancers, oft times paired into three couples, and costumed almost identically in black with exposed arms and gossamer capes trailing from their wastes, "a part between parts" opens in mist and darkness. Side lighting adds to the mystery of the moment and to an emerging otherworld atmosphere. However, the addition of vocal music by Baroque composers Monteverdi, von Biber, and Handle, completes the picture of otherworldliness.
Although, the title of the work hints at tidy distinctions, such as "part B lays between parts A and C," the structure and lexicon of the piece suggest something else. Notwithstanding, the work's division into solos, dances for men, dances for women- one section features women on pointe, and duets, the divisions of "a part," nevertheless, feather into each other. The soft edges of the parts of 'part between parts,' the amorphous nature of the modern lexicon used by Dumais, the silliness of the costumes, and the choice of music make "a part between parts" a pleasant, but confusing jumble of references.
"a part between parts," betokens perhaps, the beginning of a series. An infinite series of images, between images, between images, between images etc. that read like a postmodern rebus. A puzzle never meant to be completed, but instead an ever-developing parade of pictures that hold meaning temporarily and regionally rather than permanently and universally. The inexplicable appearance and disappearance of the women on pointe, for example, suggests the independence of that moment that image from the images that begin or end the piece. Yet, the piece features couples and the work intends, one thinks, to illuminate the untidy, personal world of sex and identity with editorial light. However, whether the stillness that ends the piece offers solace for or release from the 'series,' who knows?
The expected heat and fury of sexual contest forecast in the title "Fandango Furiouso," set to music composed Bernard Herrmann for the Hitchcock films, North by Northwest and Vertigo, on the other hand, comes to fruition. At curtain six ladies, still, tall, and saturated in red radiate the searing promise of branding irons. Nevertheless, quietly and in a sequence of pairs, six men, costumed in black trousers and loose dark purple shirts, whisk from the wings to join them. A sudden and sharply attacked chord for low register strings and woodwinds punctures the silence and ignites the action. In fact, the sense of an abrupt change of motion that signatures the fandango rhythm, i.e. Stop, rush, stop, Rush, stop, stop, in Herrmann's music weaves the choreography to the narrative and to the form. For example, the snapping changes of direction danced by the ladies on the fandango theme in the second section anticipate the equally sudden changes from love to hate and visa-versa. Moreover, the division of the piece into dances for men, women, soloist, the pas de deux, and the full cast arrange into a general furious, soft (or less furious) furious, etc. rhythm of their own.
In "Fandango Furiuoso" the ladies rule. Red costumes assure their visibility, the choreography reveals their strength (dancing entire cues in arabesques, attitudes, turns, and unfolding motions), and the music verifies their self-possession. Even in moments of softness, the choreography subtly confirms the attribute of female power. For example, contrary to ballet tradition, a male dancer displays his devotion rather the female dancer on the lilting sounds of oboe and strings. The lifts, however, passed through steady ballet tradition into flying, leaps of faith. "Fandango Furiouso" concludes with spectacular demonstrations of the ladies' faith. In sympathy with the tense, cliffhanger music, for example, female dancers repeatedly spun horizontally through the air reaching at length a net of arms. The peril and wildness, however, suddenly vanish, and in score and dance, an ordering civility of a social dance prevails.
Edited by Marie.