Since I had plenty of time to get uptown and to eat after the New Yorker Festival event and before the fifth and final program of the Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center for 2016, I decided to walk. It was not a great evening for walking. It had been drizzling and raining on and off all day and now it was drizzling. On the way I passed a Cambodian sandwich place and I needed some vegetables after having snacked mostly on bread, tamales, and chips. I got a salad, which was good but, if this is indicative of typical Cambodian food, I can’t say that I’m a big fan. By the time I left the restaurant it was raining harder and I put my sweater over my head and continued to walk uptown. By the time I got to City Center the front of my shirt was soaked. The doors weren’t open yet so I waited outside with the other patrons. There was one man who I’ve seen at several Fall for Dance performances through the years. And I’ve seen him at concerts at Town Hall. And the next day I would see him at at least one New Yorker Festival event and it’s possible he was on his way to the other I was going to. He’s a small odd-looking man with an Einstein haircut and a huge mole or growth on his forehead. He wears a sports coat with a coat of arms pinned to it. He speaks with a sort of vague Eastern European accent. And he always has a tote bag. I’m not sure what to think about the fact that he and I have similar tastes in music, dance, and interviews.
There was no pre-show for this program. The night before Cloud Gate 2 had done the pre-show. Based on their performance, I am now curious to know what they could have possibly done for the pre-show.
Since there was no pre-show, enjoy these photos of the beautiful Grand Tier lobby ceiling.
For the last program I was on the left side (as I’d been for all the other programs) in the lower mezzanine. For the first dance there was no one in the seat in front of me but the rest of the row was filled with young people (possibly students) taking notes and, when bored, pulling out their cell phones and texting. One woman was recording part of one of the dances. For the second dance a guy with a big head sat in front me, who had the annoying habit of constantly pushing his hair back and up. For the third dance everyone in the row moved down one seat and a shorter woman was in front of me. For the fourth dance, the annoying guy started using his cell a little too long and I finally leaned forward and asked him to please shut it off. Which he did with apologies.
The night started with Shantala Shivalingappa performing Shiva Tarangam. “In Sanskrit, tarangam (“waves”) is the name given to devotional songs written by the saint Narayana Tirtha, one of the founders of the classical Indian dance form Kuchipudi. Created in the Kuchipudi style, this work is dedicated to Shiva, Lord of the Dance.” (Does Michael Flatley know about this?) This dance premiered in Paris in 2010. Before the curtain opened, a female narrator recited in English a poem or lyrics about Shiva. The curtain lifted to reveal a group of musicians on the left. Like all the Indian dances I’ve seen at Fall for Dance programs, there is live music and, as always, I think it adds to the experience. The musicians were BP Haribabu (nattuvangam (type of hand cymbals) and pakhawaj (two-headed drum, which is the precursor to the tabla)), KS Jayaram (flute), N. Ramakrishnan (mridangam (another type of two-headed drum that is older than the pakhawaj)), and J. Ramesh (vocals). All were wearing white. Shivalingappa started out upstage in the dark, squatting with knees apart. She was wearing an outfit that was electric purple with gold accents. There were pants and a cloth wrapped around the top that came down in front of the pants so that from the front it looked like a skirt. When she was squatting, the gold pattern on the material looked like a giant fan in front of her. Her hair was decorated with gold jewelry and flowers. Her toes, the sides of her feet, and her fingertips were decorated in red. And, of course, there were bells wrapped around her ankles. On the right side of the stage was a small altar to Shiva with a small gold statue surrounded by yellow and red flowers. In front of the altar were burning candles. The back of the stage was covered with a white curtain. The moves were very pretty and graceful and typical of most Indian dance. At one point, Shivalingappa took a gold plate, stood on it, and made it move backwards and forwards while dancing on it. Choreography was by Shivalingappa, music and lyrics by Sri Narayana Tirtha and Ramesh, artistic consultant was Savitry Naïr, scenery by Shivalingappa and Nicolas Boudier, costumes by DS Aiyyelu, lighting design and technical director was Boudier, and technical coordinator, light technician, and stage manager was Marie-Josée Petel.
The Nederlands Dans Theater surprised the audience with the opening of the US premiere of Woke Up Blind, which premiered in The Hague earlier this year. The lights had come down but no one noticed the curtain going up and many in the audience were still talking when we heard the music start and a light was shown on the couple on stage. They stood facing each other, she hissed at him, and ran off stage. All the movements the male dancer made were sudden and rapid. Others joined him on stage – all the men were bare chested and very muscular. The women wore beige tanks and everyone wore black pants for the first song and red pants for the second song. There were no duets, which was strange considering the dance description was “a rollercoaster of a work set to two love songs by Jeff Buckley, who died tragically at the age of 30. Like young lovers, the dancers throw themselves into the unknown regardless of the consequences, driven purely by longing.” At one time the company danced in sync but usually they were running on stage, dancing herky-jerky, and then running off stage. The dance took place in dim lights and shadows. For the second song, the back wall was lit with a yellow light and groups of white lights that gave the effect of the moon surrounded by constellations. At the end, the solo male dancer faced left, left arm pointed towards the audience with his finger pointing, said, “Good night,” and the stage went black. Dancers were Aram Hasler, Anne Jung, Thiago Bordin, Olivier Coeffard, Prince Credell, Jorge Nozal, and Rupert Tookey. The company’s artistic director is Paul Lightfoot, choreography was by Marco Goecke, dramaturge was Nadja Kadel, music was sung by Jeff Buckley (“You and I” (Jeff Buckley) and “The Way Young Lovers Do” (Van Morrison)), scenery and costumes were by Goecke, and lighting was by Udo Haberland.
This was the second night where the first half was three short pieces and the second half was a longer dance.
Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo performed the world premiere of Witness. Ferri retired from ballet in 2007 and returned to dance in 2013. She is 53 but there is no indication of her age in her performance. This was another dimly lit dance. There was a pole upper stage right that was lit with different colored segments. In the front, stage left, was what looked like a small cylindrical heater. There was a white screen in back and the floor was white. Ferri wore a short black dress and toe shoes with bare legs. Cornejo wore a beige short-sleeved shirt and black pants. The pas de deux was just lovely. There wasn’t anything overwhelming; it was all grace and beauty. Some of the moves had them lying on the floor and doing lifts, which were romantic and sexy. The description is this quote by Agnes Martin – “We perceive. We see. We see with our eyes and we see with our minds. We want to see the truth about life and all of beauty.” Choreography was by Wayne McGregor, music by Nils Frahm (“Immerse”), lighting by Clifton Taylor, and stage manager was Leticia D. Baratta.
Cloud Gate 2 is…interesting. It is not a junior company of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan nor does it prepare dancers to join the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. Cloud Gate 2 showcases original works by innovative young choreographers, holds free outdoor performances, and hosts residency programs in schools and grassroots communities. The US premiere of Beckoning (premiere was in New Taipei City in 2015) began with the curtain lifting very slowly. A shirtless man wearing black shorts is squatting over a drawing on the white floor. There is a small spotlight on him. As he slowly moves up the spotlight widens but the stage stays dimly lit. In fact, it stays dimly lit for most of the performance. This was an evening of the dimly lit stage. As he rises and then stands, he twists and turns his body in uncomfortable ways. He reminds me of the way actors twisted their bodies to portray the Elephant Man on Broadway. The drawing underneath him was a typewritten smiley face emoticon with circles instead of dots for the eyes. Above it, two circles are drawn close together with one pointing towards the other. And off to the left is a filled black circle. None of these drawings seem to come into play. The music is low strumming sounds sounding like the hum of ungrounded equipment. Occasionally there is a bell/cymbal sound. Another male dancer joins the first. He stays upstage and is dressed in a yellow shirt and pants. His dance is in sync with the first dancer and the bell sound happens more frequently. A third dancer joins them, also dances in sync, and the bell sound is now happening more rapidly. The first dancer leaves. Others join. All the men are wearing shirts and pants that match but each is wearing a different color. And the style of each is slightly different. All the women are in different colored dresses – again the style of each is slightly different. At one point all the women come out in a circle, dance around in a circle as everything speeds up, and leave the stage. Circles feature prominently both in the drawings and in the dances. The dancers circle around many times. The music keeps changing – sometimes all percussive, sometimes all strumming. After one duet the woman in green stays downstage, lies down, and watches the next duet. After that duet, the woman in green moves upstage and sits facing the back while the next couple dances. After that happens a few times, the entire company joins her with all of them upstage in a cramped circle and all facing different directions. They all lean to the right, then towards the back, then right, then towards the front and they do this for a bit – making a circle with their bodies. After one man dances solo, he sits in silence for an uncomfortable amount of time. Then he dances in silence. Later the company dances in silence, leave the stage, return to dance in silence, and leave the stage and return and leave. The dance is “an abstract work that is playful yet poetic, explores how people can shift identities almost instantaneously, creating a mysterious zigzag of body language with movements distilled from Taiwanese street-dancing rituals.” As I said…interesting. The company’s founder is Lin Hwai-min, artistic director is Cheng Tsung-lung, and associate artistic director is Chen Qiu-yin. Choreography was by Cheng, music composed by Chung Cheng-da and Quiet Quartet (mixed by Jaime Hsu and Blaire Ko Studio), music arranged by Ko, lighting by Shen Po-hung, scenery by He Jia-sing, costumes by Lin Bing-hao, and rehearsal director was Yang Ling-kai. Dancers were Chan Hing-chung, Chen Yi-en, Hsu Chih-hen, Lee Yin-ying, Liao Chin-ting, Lin I-hsuan, Luo Sih-wei, Su I-chieh, Tsou Ying-lin, and Wu Jui-ying.
Another year, another Fall for Dance Festival. This is one of the best bargains in NYC and I’m lucky I get to enjoy it.
By Carene Lydia Lopez