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Barney Yates

Alessandra Corona's "Labyrinth" and
"Breaking Through the Generational Curse"
by guest choreographer Maiya Redding.

Photos by Steven Pisano

I went with a happy heart to Alessandra Corona Performing Works' live performance of dances by Ms. Corona and Maiya Redding on May 6, 2021 at Theatre at St. Jean 150 E. 76th Street. I was introduced to Ms. Corona's work at a concert in May, 2017 at Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Ave. and was eager for more of her magic. This time, there were two premieres, Corona's "Labyrinth" and "Breaking Through the Generational Curse" by guest choreographer Maiya Redding. The performance was offered both live and streaming.


The pieces were more abstract than usual for Ms. Corona's company. "Labyrinth" employed an original score by Thomas Lentakis and background projections by various artists. The projected images were mostly quiet urban scenes, grey walls and empty places, both outdoor and indoor. The company of eight, garbed first in black and later in black and white, showed us energetic movement with balletic partnering and lots of lifting. As the piece progressed, we got geometric projections, staccato movement, athletic solos and duets for the men and a nail biting section in which a woman walked unsteadily on the backs of the crouching men. One projection showed us a series of red doors in a grey hall which looked like a storage facility. There were projections of skyscrapers, scenes where the ensemble danced (all masked) around padded footstools and a culminating duet featuring Maria Vittoria Villa and Brian Castillo that knocked my socks off. The audience yelled in appreciation. Ms. Corona took a curtain call and it was then that I realized she had not danced in this one.


Guest choreographer Maya Redding premiered her "Breaking Through the Generational Curse" which was supposedly inspired by family dynamics: jealousy, loneliness, regret, forgiveness, support, and love.   Music by Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar was unusually romantic selections from both artists. Emerging from a projection of a starscape, the cast was dressed overall in red with one man in black. The choreographic style was interestingly akin to Corona's, but with more reaching gestures. A duet for Alessandra Corona and Zackary Anderson had tango-ish movements and a trio of Brian Castillo, Andy Santana and Nick Sartori suggested a siblings' relationship. Everything was quite athletic and in the curtain call, I was surprised because it looked like nobody had broken a sweat. Once again, the applause was storming in appreciation.


I requested access to the video of what had been live streamed because of my curiosity to see how the live dance would appear to the virtual audience. In short, I found that the video was well done, but only served me as a useful reference. It can't recapitulate the magic of the live experience. I'll admit I'm a Corona fan; I enjoy her full-blooded sensuality and the athleticism of the dances. The video reminded me of what I treasure in her work, but it doesn't recreate it. On video, if you shoot dance in a single wide shot from a fixed camera position, you get a "back of the house" feeling. If you want more than that, with many different shots and editing, you won't really be seeing the choreographer's art but the film maker's.

It's worse with theater, you know, with people speaking at you out of their little boxes on Zoom. Some day soon, we'll begin getting productions that are written expressly for this: maybe it'll be named Zoom Theater. It may become a nice genre unto itself, but it's just birthing now. By watching streaming, in both dance and theater, we as audiences can at least fulfill our responsibility to keep a life line open to artists we follow. That's a lot. (Even if it's not enough.)

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