Gesange op. 6,' 'Garden,' 'Petit Pas,' 'Faith in Spring,' 'On the Fritz'
by S. E.
October 6, 2003 --
Joyce SoHo, New York
Given in the intimate yet capacious and welcoming space at the Joyce
SoHo, Sensedance presented an evening of five works choreographed by the
company's artistic director Henning Rübsam.
A solo titled “Selections from Gesange op.6,” music by Brahms, opened
the program and featured Rübsam as performer.
Set to songs 1, 6, and 8 of the opus six cycle of songs, this brief trio
of dances neatly introduced the aesthetic that characterized the evening's
works as well as yielding a sense, if not the sense, of Sensedance. The
choreography reflected both the melodic contour of the songs and, through
its choice of gesture, the imagery of the lyrics. (The program included
the lyrics for the three songs of Gesange and the two for the eponymous
work titled "Litanei" and "Fruhlingsglaube" in German
and English.) One found in the works of Rübsam
an intent to fashion the meaning bearing features of music, text (when
present), and gesture into an interlocking coherence.
"Garden," set to traditional Iraqi music, describes in six episodes
a day in the lives of eight athletic garden spirits or nymphs. Costumed
in either white or light gray peddle pushers and pastel orange sports
bras, the eight ladies are appropriately dressed for the cartwheels, jumps,
runs, lifting, and circle dances they are about to endure or execute.
While there is little beyond the title to suggest a botanical setting,
the languid music, the recumbent dancers positioned in intimate pairs
about the stage, and the red lighting of section one suggest a dawn in
a woodland grove envisioned by Bouguereau. In fact, the flat archaic poses
and poses of linked figures that echo ancient conventions of boarder ornamentation
encourage one's fanciful evocation of a mythical world of Nymphs and Fauns.
(Fauns, however, never appear.)
With their morning ritual completed, the nymphs whirled into life. While
marked by the combinations of dancers, a particular intensity of light,
and a distinctive meter of the always-percussive rhythmic patterns of
the music, the feature of episodes 2-5 that caught one's attention was
the pace of change in the textural qualities within the episodes. For
example, the countless entrances and exits that wrought additions, subtractions,
and exchanges of dancers or sweeps within each episode gave "Garden"
a turbo driven, frenzy of life look. Yet calm returned with the deep blue
light of the last section. Signaling the end of day, the fading light
turned the morning into the evening's ritual. Upon pairing and repairing
to their places of rest in an echo of the opening scene, the once breathless
nymphs went still.
As the radioactivity of the dance in "Garden" betrayed the rootedness
and passivity suggested by the title, so too the studied awkwardness of
the movement and the wonderfully obnoxious music betrayed the inherited
aesthetic of Petipa or as rhymed by Rübsam:
“Petit Pas.” Although it retains the form of a classical pas de deux,
“Petit Pas” is a skillful exercise of inversion. Costumed alike, the hetero
couple, danced by Henning Rübsam and Erika
Pujic, wore velvety black bicycle pants and sweatshirt looking tops. They
rolled on the floor and went bare foot. Pulverized perhaps by the endless
press of the booming music of his variation, the fearful non-cavalier
stuttered through his dance. And she, a warrior fresh from the Battleworks
(Pujic is also a member of Robert Battle's company), attacked her petit
allegro-ish solo -- set to the acid sound of what could have been an angry
celesta's vengeful dream -- with the verve of a legion of furies. Lifts,
neither for technical display nor symbolic rapture, served instead as
a form of combat training. In fact, to show that at least she has ‘heart,'
Pujic a la Elizabeth Streb runs up and then springs off a wall of the
performance space into the arresting arms of Rübsam.
Two endings follow this (classically) dynamic coda. The first witnesses
the exhausted couple collapsed and crawling on the floor. The second,
following a brief black out, features the couple standing side by side
facing the audience and looking troubled as the voice of Gloria Steinem
forecasts a utopian, role-less world that affords distinction between
neither human males nor females nor the larva of blue grass weevils. Ignoring,
because of one's of suspicions of all utopian visions, the second ending,
one rather naughtily reasons that the exhausted crawling collapse of the
first ending suggests that “Petit Pas” describes a male's vision of the
ultimate petit mort. In this sense, perhaps, “Petit Pas” isn't so different
from a classical pas after all.
Announced only by the whisper of her sheath-type skirt, Eva Evdokimova
wafted softly into the darkened performance space. The instant of light
and music discovered the statuesque and contemplative Eva absorbed in
Schubert's "Litanei." In resonant port de bras, for example,
she shaped the solemnity of the text, and her subtle accommodations, her
sensitivity to the thermals and shears of the music illustrated her celebrated
musicality. Yet, the gusty "Faith in Spring," part two of this
two part solo, set to the "Lieder" of Schubert, transformed
this legendary Sylph and Giselle into a Firebird again. Eva crossed and
re-crossed space with weightless effort or sliced the space about her
slippered feet with flashing quickness. Dramatic, thoughtful, musical,
and precise Eva Evdokimova, “prima ballerina assoluta,” soars still.
“On the Fritz,” set on the company of eight ladies and one Henning
Rübsam, was a humorous medley of references to decades worth
of popular culture. In fact, one moment -- via failing arms and costume
-- reminded one of the 1950's show, American Band Stand. For this
viewer, however, the quotation of the macarena transformed the nuttiness
of the piece into a nightmare.
Edited by Holly Messitt
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