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Jack Anderson

Another Feast of Appetizers

Fall for Dance Festival
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, Midtown
Sept. 26-Oct. 6, 2007, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3 p.m., $10
Tickets: (212) 581-1212
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, Oct. 3, 2007

Shantala Shivalingappa performing "Varnam." Photo by Stephanie Berger.

Fall for Dance programs can be fun even before the curtain rises. These annual festivals, which bring a multitude of companies and performers together for only $10 a ticket, attract hordes of dancegoers eagerly greeting one another and chattering away, as if at a party. The tidbits on stage become a feast of appetizers suggesting what a rich banquet dance can be.

This year's festival was once again a feast, as was the Dancenow/NYC festival earlier in September. And here are some personal impressions of the three performances I sampled.

As might be expected, merriment prevailed, most remarkably in the extraordinary interpretation of Twyla Tharp's "Deuce Coupe," performed with both pinpoint accuracy and bumptious abandon by students from Juilliard Dance. The Paul Taylor Dance Company's timing and dynamics made the choreographic contrasts of Taylor's "Arden Court" a succession of delightful surprises. Tango aficionados surely relished Tango Connection in Mariela Franganillo's "Tango del Sur." A program note for Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's "Batty Moves" explained that "batty" is a Caribbean word for "buttocks," and her Urban Bush Women set their entire bodies, buttocks included, cavorting.

In Larry Keigwin's "Love Songs," three couples from Keigwin + Company portrayed both lovers obviously united in spirit even when they didn't touch and lovers stuck together wishing to get unglued. But while they wisely avoided exaggeration, the dancers on this occasion seemed unduly muted. Damian Woetzel of the New York City Ballet clearly relished Jerome Robbins's "Suite of Dances," to Bach solo cello music. With Wendy Sutter providing live accompaniment, the solo resembled a lively conversation between dancer and musician.

Jamborees like Fall for Dance are not always ideal showcases for serious pieces. Ekaterina Kondaurova and Islom Baimuradov of the Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theater of St. Petersburg, failed to make the unbalanced movements of Alexei Ratmansky's "Middle Duet" convincing signs of emotional imbalance; in any case, Ratmansky's revised version for the New York City Ballet, in which the central couple is joined by another presumably human couple and a pair of apparently angelic figures, is more mysteriously interesting. Johan Kobborg moved deliciously through Tim Rushton's solo version of "Afternoon of a Faun," yet Rushton never suggested why he devised so many passages of rather rapid steps to Debussy's languid score. Four sleek couples from the Royal Ballet of Flanders coiled about and supported one another in an excerpt from Nicolo Fonte's "Cornered" that had insufficient impact out context.

But four women from the Lyon Opera Ballet in bright red costumes slashed forcefully through Maguy Marin's jagged choreography to Beethoven's "Grosse Fugue." Making her movements seem born from a spiritual source within her, Shantala Shivalingappa let pauses be as compelling as gestures in her "Varnam." And Ana Laguna and Mats Ek stalked and chased each other through a room filled with furniture in Ek's simultaneously funny and poignant "Memory," a study of middle-aged lovers experiencing, or remembering, moments of affection, indifference, and impulsiveness. Laguna and Ek thereby reminded audiences that dancing is not only for the young.

One attraction was unclassifiably nutty: Buckets & Tap Shoes. New York may have its Bang on a Can. But Andy Ausland and Rick Ausland, artistic directors of this Minneapolis troupe, and their little band of musicians banged away on buckets, the stage floor, and more conventional percussion instruments in "Buckets & Tap Shoes, MSP to NYC." Everyone made quite a bang, a very Big Bang. The two tall lanky company directors tapped with ceaseless maniacal energy in what became a revel for wild men (that is, wild men who are also accomplished technicians). I can't imagine what a whole evening of such hullabaloo might be like. But these Minnesota pranksters made their Fall for Dance event a ball that was also a brawl.


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