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Jack Anderson

Armitage Gone


Mei-Hua Wang and William Isaac in the world premiere of
Karole Armitage's "Ligeti Essays." Photo by Richard Termine

Armitage Gone!
Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street, Chelsea
Feb. 6-11, 2007, $36
Tickets: (212) 242-0800 or www.joyce.org
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, Feb. 9, 2007

The new program by Karole Armitage's company, Armitage Gone! Dance, seldom came to life on stage. Except when the pink pig was there. But more about the pig later.

The featured attraction was the world premiere of "Ligeti Essays," to an assortment of vocal and instrumental pieces by the late Hungarian composer, Gyorgy Ligeti. The music is remarkably varied; the choreography was not.

David Salle's set was dominated by a bare silver sharp-branched tree, the sort of tree theatrical designers might create for Beckett's "Waiting for Godot." Many of the gestures Armitage devised were comparably sharp and twisted. Yet effective contrasts included a mysterious procession in which dancers carried lanterns and a group frolic resembling a folk dance. Nevertheless, the choreography too often suffered from a sameness of texture and was so evenly paced that the energy drained from it.

Salle also designed the gleaming beaded curtains that adorned "Time Is the Echo of an Axe Within a Wood," a revision of a dance from 2004 to Bartok's hypnotic "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta." That score raised questions about Armitage's approach to music. As a dancer, she has performed choreography by both George Balanchine, who sought marriages of dance and music, and Merce Cunningham, for whom dance and music exist independently. Occasionally here, Armitage appeared to be uniting movement and music; at other times, she seemed to avoid such unions.

The results puzzled. For instance, Bartok's score opens with a gradual, but inexorable, crescendo which reaches a shattering climax, then dwindles away. Armitage simply had individuals come and go to this music, neither consistently mirroring it nor obviously working against it. Sections of other episodes looked like miscellaneous kicking and jumping for a cast of seven, to little cumulative effect.

Nevertheless, there was that pink pig. The program began with "Pig," a choreographic joke in which someone inside an big inflatable pig designed by Jeff Koons waddled about to music by Roberto Gómez Bolaños until Megumi Eda entered in what resembled a chic update of a Romantic ballet tutu. She instantly fell in love with the pig, their porcine romance recalling the scene in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," in which Titania becomes enamored of Bottom, who has been transformed into an ass.

It was a brief pas de deux. Yet it had a point. And life.

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