Vail Dance Festival: ReMix NYC – Day Three: NY City Center 5 November 2016

The third night of the Vail Dance Festival: ReMix NYC at New York City Center was going to be a full night. There were 11 dances scheduled. For this night, I was on the right side of the front mezzanine so part of the right side of the stage was cut off. And because of the curve of the row, my particular seat was narrower than the other seats and uncomfortable. At least I hope so – I couldn’t have gained that much weight from the night before. At the first intermission, one couple nearer the center of the row decided they wanted to sit at the end of the row where no would be behind or in front of them. So the rest of us all moved across three seats and all got a better view of the stage for the rest of the night. And I got a better fitting seat.

The evening began with Ballet X performing Switch Phase, which was choreographed by co-founder Matthew Neenan. The female dancers were barefoot and wearing different colored dresses. The men wore t-shirts, pants, and ballet shoes. The company would dance and roll over each other on the floor, then there would be duets, some solos, and adagio with one very strong guy. I found it boring and kept asking myself, “Where is this going?” It didn’t help that it went on for too long. The FLUX Quartet was in the pit performing music by Komitas Vartapet, Café Tacuba, and Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin. Costumes were by Martha Chamberlain and lighting by Drew Billiau. The dancers in Ballet X are Chloe Felesina, Francesca Forcella, Gary W Jeter II, Zachary Kapeluck, Daniel Mayo, Caili Quan, Richard Villaverde, and Andrea Yorita. This dance had its premiere at Vail in 2012.

Anywhere on this Road had its premiere at Vail in 2013. It was choreographed by its dancers, Fang-Yi Sheu, who was a principal dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company, and Ron “Prime Tyme” Myles, who frequently dances with his cousin Lil Buck. The dance was very short and performed to a recording of music from The Living Road by Lhasa. The dance was a combination of modern dance and jookin’ with lifts included. It felt like they were coming up with the moves organically and it was brilliant – free and freeing with strong dancers comfortable with their bodies and each one sure of her/himself.

All photos are from the City Center site.

Partners Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild have an easy and playful way with each other, which was evident in José Limón’s Suite from Mazurkas performed to Frédéric Chopin’s “Duet (Opus 41, No. 1)”; “Solo (Opus 41, No. 3)”; “Solo (Posthumous A minor)”; and “Duet (Opus 30, No. 41)” played by Cameron Grant on the piano. Peck was wearing a mid-calf dress and ballet shoes and Fairchild wore black pants and shoes. They did a duet, each took a solo, and they finished with a duet. This piece was reconstructed and directed by Logan Kruger. It premiered in August 1958 in New London, CT.

After the first intermission, the FLUX Quartet were on stage for First Fall danced by Wendy Whelan and choreographer Brian Brooks. This piece was created by Brooks for Whelan and premiered at Vail in 2012. Whelan wore a yellow dress and Brooks a black t-shirt and pants. It starts with no music and Whelan falling back over and over. Then you hear Philip Glass’ “String Quartet No. 3.” At times Whelan seemed to be pushing Brooks. Then she’d be on her toes and falling backwards onto his back. She was also walking while leaning on his back. And she fell back several times with Brooks catching her like one of those trust tests. It’s so beautifully done – the falling and being held up by each other and the constant push and pull. Original lighting was by Joe Levasseur.

Jodie GatesLiquid Velvet premiered at Vail in 2016. It was created for Carla Körbes and Jared Angle. Suliman Tekalli (violin) and Cameron Grant (piano) performed Luigi DAllapiccola’s “Tartiniana seconda, Divertimento per violino e pianoforte, Fourth Movement” and “Variazioni.” Körbes wore the most beautiful midnight blue dress and Angle wore dark blue pants and t-shirt. Both wore ballet shoes. Costumes were by Martha Chamberlain. The dance was aptly named. It was another beautiful showcase for two brilliant dancers.

This Bitter Earth was a repeat from the first night. It was just as heartbreakingly beautiful as before and Calvin Royal is impossibly thin. Here’s a repeat of my review: Usually performed to a recording of a remix of Dinah Washington singing Clyde Otis’ “This Bitter Earth” and Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight,” instead we heard a live version sung by Kate Davis standing alone in a corner on the front left side of the stage while spotlit and the Catalyst Quartet upstage on the right side. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and danced by Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III, I was stunned by the beauty and sadness of Boylston and Royal’s pas de deux. They dance and fall and move together with such grace. Boylston was wearing a simple blue leotard and Royal was in black leggings and sleeveless shirt. This piece premiered at Vail in August 2012.

For a break in the ballet/modern dance we got a tango – a very sexy tango. Universe was choreographed by its dancers, Gabriel Missé and Carla Espinoza. It wasn’t a long dance but it had more fast (and faster) leg kicking than I’ve ever seen in a tango. Both danced alone with an imaginary partner around each other as Latinos are wont to do when dancing any of their country’s dances. Then they partnered and their legs were kicking in and out between and around each other’s legs so fast that you could barely see it happen. Espinoza was wearing a silver dress and heels and Missé wore a white shirt, black vest, and grey pants. On stage were JP Jofre (bandoneon), Cameron Grant (piano), and the Catalyst Quartet. The music was by Jofre. The dance had its premiere at Vail in 2016.

Tabla-Ture was choreographed by jooker Charles “Lil Buck” Riley and Vail’s artistic director Damian Woetzel. Music was based on a theme by John Zorn. Musicians were Sandeep Das (tabla) and Eric Jacobsen (cello). Das, Jacobsen, and Lil Buck start on a platform. Lil Buck is bare chested and wearing black pants and white sneakers. He jumps off the platform and starts jookin’ in answer to Das’ tabla. The faster Das plays, the faster Lil Buck dances. Each strike of the drum is answered with a step. Lil Buck can adapt his style of dancing to any type of music – he can meet any challenge and never lose himself. This piece premiered at Vail in 2014.

After the second intermission was a dance that many in the audience were looking forward – one section of Ife/My Heart originally choreographed by Ronald K. Brown for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Matthew Rushing was as wonderful as you’d read and hoped. The dance was performed to a recording of Ursula Rucker’s “Release.” The dance echoes the African-Cuban rhythms that Brown is so fond of. Rushing walks across the stage barefoot in a mix of African, Cuban, and modern dance steps dressed in a white shirt, white pants, and flat cap looking like he just got off the plane from Cuba. The dance was exciting and the beats and movements were invigorating. The full dance premiered in NYC in December 2005 and the solo adaptation premiered at Vail in 2013.

Tiler Peck and Jared Angle were back on stage for the Divertissement Pas de Deux from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Choreographer George Balanchine’s dance premiered in NYC in January 1962 with music by Felix Mendelssohn. The Catalyst Quartet performed the “String Symphony No. 9 in C major” in the pit. It was traditional ballet with Peck and Angle dressed exactly as you would think a ballet princess and prince would be dressed. It was also simply beautiful.

Keigwin + Company performed Canvas, the last dance of the night. The FLUX Quartet and Cameron Grant (piano) were in the pit playing music by Adam Crystal. The dance was choreographed by Larry Keigwin, who was the first artist-in-residence at Vail. The dance starts with the entire company. The women are dressed in different colored dresses in similar styles and the men are in short-sleeved button down shirts and grey pants with black belts. All of them are barefoot. The men made me think of Mormons – all of them were clean cut with short hair except for one hipster in a beard and man bun. At the start the backdrop was sunset red and with the steps the company were doing, I couldn’t help but think of Appalachian Spring. It’s not that they were imitating Martha Graham because they weren’t. I don’t what it was. Maybe it was also the conservative dress. One woman in yellow kept circling a man and she kept smiling and he kept ignoring her. They did duet and the company would come out to dance and run back out. They duet again and finally he smiles back and they embrace and that’s the end. Of course, it being a dance it wasn’t that simple. But it was such a different feeling from the first dance of the night. I don’t necessarily need a story but I need to see that the dancers are working towards something. This dance was much more satisfying. It premiered at Vail in 2013. Costumes were by Emily Deangelis and lighting was by Burke Wilmore, based on an original design by Lauren Parrish. The dancers were Zachery Betty, Derek Crescenti, Brandon Cournay, Drew Fountain, Kile Hotchkiss, Gina Ianni, Emily Schoen, Mary Kate Sheehan, Jaclyn Walsh, and Allison Ullrich.

There was still one more day of the Vail: ReMix NYC weekend but that was going to be a dance workshop. I did go and I’ll write about that next. But before I do, some more notes about the performances I’d seen so far.

The Catalyst Quartet is Karla Donahew-Perez, Suliman Tekalli, Paul Laraia, and Karlos Rodriguez. The FLUX Quartet is Tom Chiu, Conrad Harris, Felix Fran, and Daniel Panner (guest artist). Ballet master was Jeffrey Edwards. Lighting designer was Aaron Copp, scenic designer was Clint Ramos, and sound designer (who did a terrific job) was Jody Elff.

One thing I noticed at City Center both during Fall for Dance and the Vail: ReMix NYC shows was that they have men stationed at the doors and one of the things they do is have women open their purses for a search before they enter. I’m not sure what kind of contraband they think we’re going to bring in. But almost every time, the doormen would just wave me through without checking my bag. They would check the bag of the well-to-do old lady behind me though. Not sure why but I just smiled and walked on by.

By Carene Lydia Lopez