The Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center is one of the best deals in NYC. For $15 you get to see four or more major dance companies from around the world perform in one evening. There are five different programs each year so you can end up seeing 20 or more dance companies in two weeks.
This year I was only able to go one evening and rtb invited me to join her for yesterday’s program.
Sometimes there are events before the shows. Last evening we got a lesson in Broadway dance. The teacher was fun and encouraging and I certainly got a workout as I learned the jazz step, skip steps, hop steps, turns, shoulder rolls, and flashy dramatic arm moves. The dance was to Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen,” which you cannot get out of your head once it’s there. By the end the entire group was able to dance the entire routine – with a few missteps here and there.
Vuyani Dance Theater
Artistic Director: Luyanda Sidiya
New York Premiere
Choreography: Luyanda Sidiya
Music: Xolisile Bongwana, Isaac Molelekoa, Anele Ndebele, Nompumelelo Nhlapo, and Luyanda Sidiya
Scenery: Oliver Hauser
Costumes: Luvuyo Msila
Lighting: Oliver Hauser
Lighting Director: Alexander Farmer
Premiere: October 2011, Dance Factory, Johannesburg, South Africa
Dancers: Xolisile Bongwana, Roseline Keppler, Lulu Mlangeni, Phumlani Mndebele, Teresia Mojela, Otto Nhlapo, Phumlani Nyanga, Keaoleboga Seodigeng
Musicians: Isaac Molelekoa, Anele Ndebele, Nompumelelo Nhlapo
The live music from the piece was the perfect antidote to “Danke Schoen.” All the dancers wear the same costume (a spaceman silver short toga with wide pants) and all have close-cropped hair or shaved heads so it was difficult for me at first to tell the men from the women – at some point I thought a woman was lifting a man. Bongwana bowed and cowered to a deity but then came through strong and respectful. The dance is a combination of South African traditional and Western dance.
The singing and movement were so beautiful. I think it really makes a difference when the music is live.
Stairway to Paradise
Choreography: Joshua Bergasse
Music: George and Ira Gershwin (“I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” performed by Patti Austin)
Costumes: Jeff Johnson-Doherty
Lighting: Laura Bickford
Production Manager: Laura Bickford
Premiere: July 19, 2014, Fire Island Dance Festival, Brookhaven, NY
Dancers: Sara Mearns, Peter Chursin, Tyler Hanes, Reed Kelly, Marty Lawson, Josh Pelatzky, Ryan Steele, Voltaire Wade-Green, Charlie Williams
This is where my new Broadway training came in handy. I could pick out the steps that we’d just learned. Although the dancers on stage were making the steps much more complicated and not at all as easy as the ones our teacher showed us.
The dance was pure Broadway with Mearns in what looked like a skating costume version of a tuxedo surrounded by men who barely let her touch the ground. They flipped her around and back and forth and Mearns used their hands as a stairway. It was everything you want in a fun Broadway musical.
Trisha Brown Dance Company
Founding Artistic Director & Choreographer: Trisha Brown
Son of Gone Fishin’
Choreography: Trisha Brown
Music: Robert Ashley (Atalanta (Acts of God))
Costumes: Judith Shea
Lighting: John Torres
Stage Manager: Dathan Manning
Premiere: October 16, 1981, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY
Dancers: Cecily Campbell, Olsi Gjeci, Leah Ives, Tara Lorenzen, Tamara Riewe, Jamie Scott, Stuart Shugg
You could make yourself dizzy trying to follow the dancers in this piece. Some were dressed in wet metallic wide pants and others in tights with wet metallic tops as they formed bigger and smaller circles going around and around each other. Brown’s description of the dance is “The infrastructure of the piece was related to the cross-sections of a tree trunk: A-B-C-center-C-B-A.”
It was fascinating to keep watching just one dancer move. Trying to keep them all in sight and figure out what they were doing was making my head spin.
National Ballet of China
Artistic Director: Feng Ying
The Peony Pavilion
(adapted for Fall for Dance)
Producer: Zhao Ruheng
Adaptor and Director: Li Liuyi
Music: Guo Wenjing Claude Debussy (Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faun, La mer, and Nocturnes), Maurice Ravel (Daphnis et Chloé and Ma mère l’oye), Ottorino Respighi (Feste Romane and Pini di Roma), Gustav Holst (The Planets), and Sergei Prokofiev (Scythian Suite)
Music Arrangment and Orchestration: Guo Wenjing
Choreography: Fei Bo
Scenery: Michael Simon
Costumes: Emi Wada
Lighting: Michael Simon and Han Jiang
Premiere: May 2, 2008, National Ballet of China, Tianqiao Theater, Beijing, China
Principal Dancers: Zhu Yan, Ma Xiaodong, Zhang Jian, Xu Yan, Yu Bo, Hu Dayong
Dancers: Du Jichao, Chen Haibei, Hou Shuang, Li Jie, Li Nan, Li Yaqi, Lin Xingbei, Liu Kai, Liu Lushi, Liu Qi, Lu Di, Lu Na, Ma Xueqiang, Sun Xiaoqian, Teng Jiankai, Wang Hao, Wang Hongbo, Wang Qi, Wang Ye, Yang Chunhui, Yu Xiaoting, Yu Yang, Zhang Tiao, Zhang Xi
This ballet took my breath away. The dancers were so light and the costumes so brilliant in color that it all seemed unreal. The white costumes on the two principal dancers were so ethereal and then their red wedding kimonos were so detailed.
Part of a larger ballet, this piece took us from Du Liniang (Zhu) being released from underworld and sent back to the world of mortals where she is reunited with her dream lover Liu Mengmei (Ma) and then their wedding attended by mortals, ghosts, and deities.
The parts where Du and Liu are each heartbroken and then finally find each other was just so beautiful. The dancers at time seemed to be floating slightly above the floor.
In the last scene a wall of colored shredded paper falls from the ceiling and I gasped at the sight.
By Carene Lydia Lopez