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Jack Anderson

Nordic Modern Dance

"Ice Hot: A Nordic Dance Festival"
Tero Saarinen Company (March 6-9, 2013)
Dansk Danseteater (March 11-13, 2013)
Carte Blanche (March 15-17, 2013)
Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street, Chelsea
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, March 19, 2013

Photo by Erik Berg.

Three Nordic companies came to New York to affirm the vitality of modern dance in northerly realms: the Tero Saarinen Company from Helsinki, Dansk Danseteater from Copenhagen and Carte Blanche from Bergen. Only the Finnish group was known in New York, but it had not visited here since 2006 (when I reviewed it for New York Theatre-Wire on March 30, 2006). This time around, it once again made “Hunt,” Saarinen’s powerful solo to “The Rite of Spring,” its major attraction. The Danish and Norwegian presentations were totally new to us. There weren’t all that many, however: this was far from a choreographic smorgasbord. Each group presented just one production, lasting only an hour.

Photo by Erik Berg.

Tim Rushton, the Danes’ British-born artistic director, based “Love Songs” upon a few movement motifs: dashing and sliding. Dancers would dash on stage, occasionally slide across the floor a bit, and land in a partner’s arms, to a potpourri of jazz and pop standards. Despite the outpourings of energy, this was mellow dancing to mellow music. Even when steps grew technically strenuous, when there were kicks and turns, Rushton made everything amiable. A few episodes were too similar in tone, possibly because Rushton’s lovers were sketchily characterized. Yet if “Love Songs” could be called an “easy watching” counterpart to “easy listening” music, I found it pleasant watching, whereas the Norwegians’ “Corps de Walk” soon grew tiresome.

Photo by Erik Berg.

It, too, was based upon a movement motif: walking in lines. Lines of dancers would march stiffly in, parade mechanically, and march stiffly out, only to reappear moments later to parade again in new formations, but looking just as mechanical as before, and all this to a thudding, clanging taped collage. Although individuals would occasionally step briefly out of line, they appeared as robotic alone as they did when part of a mass. The program gave no choreographic credit as such. Instead, it said that the production was “Staged by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar,” who also designed the deliberately drab costumes, which made the cast resemble unadorned shop-window mannequins.

Admirers of “Corps de Walk” might well praise its formal patterning, which is indeed ingenious. But I can see no reason for its unrelentingly mechanical quality: the work resembled a giant machine grinding ceaselessly away without actually manufacturing much.

These glimpses of Nordic modern dance were tantalizing without also being consistently satisfying.


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