Compañía Nacional de Danza
New York State Theater, New York, NY
July 28, 2001
The evening was full of vitality and wonderful dancing. The music, all canned, was that of J.S. Bach, and each section of the piece was titled with the name of the musical selection which accompanied the dance.
There was an air of reverence from the start. In the Prologue, a dancer (Thomas Klein) costumed as Bach has an encounter with the choreographer (Nacho himself), in which the choreographer asks permission to use the composer's music. Bach makes frequent appearances throughout; Nacho reappears at the very end. Nacho's technique is still strong and flexible and expressive, and it was fascinating to see the creation on the creator before it was interpreted by the other members of the company.
The dancers were extraordinarily expressive and musical. They had the precision and clarity of classical training with the totally articulate bodies of more modern dancers. Men and women were equally important; if there was a slight edge, I'd give it to the men. They served many functions here. Sometimes they were the notes of the score, sometimes they were the instruments. They reflected different lines of the music, or the mood or the rhythms of different passages.
In one instance, a woman (Iratxe Ansa) became a cello played by Bach. This unusual pas de deux was quite lengthy, at times humorous, and at times almost too intimate, as the bow missed little of her body, and as she wrapped herself around the composer. But what started out as funny really did make me think about the musician/composer's relationship with his instrument.
In another section, men fenced with bows instead of foils to the Concerto for Two Violins, familiar to anyone who has seen Paul Taylor's "Esplanade" or Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco." It would be fascinating to see all three pieces back to back to compare how three renowned choreographers approached the same musical material.
Choreographically, there were moments of ingenuity. Kylian's influence was evident, but this was not Kylian. There was evidence of some American modern dance training, perhaps explained by Duato's studies at the Ailey school. I am not familiar with the work of Mats Ek, who reportedly also had an influence on Duato. As related to Kylian, this work seemed much more staccato. When given a choice of how to get from Point A to Point B, Kylian might have come up with an organic yet innovative, possibly circular path. Duato, at least here, would either leave the phrase hanging and go on to Point C, or move in an unexpected direction, in a straight and darting fashion. Whatever was happening choreographically, the dancers made it look good and right.
An impressive set designed by Jaffar Al Chalabi consisted of scaffolding across the back of the stage, with a series of ramps. The strongest image was at the very end of the piece, when Bach has died, and all the dancers have made their way up to the ramps. Nacho has reappeared and is led offstage by a death figure. The dancers freeze on the ramps. While death is inevitable for us mortals, the music lives on.
And so, too, the memory of this and many other engaging performances this season.
Edited by Marie.