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Dance: Dancing Through Summer

By Dawn Lille
arttimes online August 1, 2016

Bryant Park Presents Modern Dance offered four free Friday evening concerts June 17 – July 8. Each performance presented one new choreographer, one emerging choreographer and one established choreographer.

July 8 it was cloudy and started to rain. The presenters covered the outdoor stage with a tarpaulin and announced a short delay. It was still raining when Adam Barruch decided that he and Chelsea Bonosky would perform on the now muddy ground in front of the stage.

Belladonna, to a sound score by Barruch, is an excerpt from a full-length duet based on Hawthorne’s story “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” in which a young student falls in love with the daughter of a scientist. She tends her father’s poisonous garden without harm because she is poisonous herself. The youth dies.

Adam Barruch
Adam Barruch and Chelsea Bonosky.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Romanksi

Barruch, who acted on Broadway and TV as a child, switched to dance and attended Juilliard. He has performed extensively and created works for many conservatory students. His company has been seen at Jacob’s Pillow, the Joyce Theater, the 92nd St. Y and other venues in the United States and Canada. He and Bonosky are collaborators in much of the work they produce for his troupe, now called Adam Barruch/Anatomiae Occultii.

He calls the result of their collaboration and his individual work “physical theater,” in which his approach is a distillation of the core of a narrative, but is also closely related to he human emotions involved. The task is how to generate movement from text.

The result is a gestural language that makes constant use of the arms to shape space, and hands that conduct their own dramatic dialogue. Their quick, but complete, continuous movements reflect an obvious emotional connection to the entire body.

In Bonosky, who is trained in ballet, is a graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts and has worked with him for seven years in performing, choreographing and teaching all over the world, Barruch has the ideal partner. When together, their bodies move almost as one and they are able to exchange movements with amazing fluidity. They took their bows calmly covered in mud, but the rain stopped.

Philadanco has been discussed in the recent past, but the concert they gave in the bandshell in Prospect Park in June was notable not only for the exciting dancing, but for the audience. This was a free concert, part of the yearly Celebrate Brooklyn! series offered by BRIC, a downtown Brooklyn arts presenter and supporter.

The audience, seated on folding chairs in a raked area in front of the stage, numbered 2,000 and the seating area on the grass in the back held several thousand more. They comprised all colors, sizes, ages and economic groups and they reacted with sheer joy to the well-trained and rehearsed dancers.

Young children ran to get closer and jumped freely with those on stage. A pot bellied man in shorts stood at the back. At one point he uttered “fabulous” and at another “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.” This was a perfect summer night, where a dance performance brought together a disparate group of people. Power!

American Ballet Theatre presented its annual season at the Metropolitan Opera House May 9 – July 2. The company is dancing better than ever. The newly promoted soloists are exciting to watch, the corps is strong and expressive and many of the principals displayed new artistic finesse. Misty Copeland was under great pressure to excel (she attracted large audiences) and she did.

In addition to the well-honed classics, there were several performances dedicated to the ballets of Alexei Ratmansky, the artist in residence. The one that drew my attention was the full evening The Golden Cockerel, which Ratmansky originally created for the Royal Dutch Ballet in 2012. Set to Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera music, this work, known by its French title Le Coq d’Or, was first choreographed by Michel Fokine in 1914 for the Ballets Russes and rechoreographed by him in 1937.

The scenery and costumes by Richard Hudson, inspired by those of Natalia Goncharova for the original production, are sumptuous and qualify for an exhibition on their own. The orchestra was conducted by Ormsby Wilkins, the music director, in a version that omitted the singing.

The libretto by the poet Belsky, based on a poem by Pushkin (as is the music) concerns an Astrologer who brings the Cockerel to King Dodon, who promises him anything in exchange for this magical bird. Dodon discovers the Queen of Shemakhan when he goes to battle and she returns with him to his kingdom. She disappears, Dodon is killed by the pecking bird and the Astrologer ends by stating that it is all only a fable.

The first Fokine version was an opera-ballet, with the singers on either side of the stage; the second was a well received all dance work. Many were anxious to see Ratmansky’s reincarnation, which he says was inspired by Fokine.

Ratmansky really created an extended mime drama, where the beautifully nuanced gestures lead into extended dance sequences that are telling a story. He, like Fokine, has a sharp and satiric sense of humor that came out in many of the intricately crafted and portrayed characters, from Dodon, to his housekeeper, to his courtiers. This was as much theater as dance, and pleasurable to watch.

Portuguese Folk Dance
Portuguese Folk Dancers
Photo Credit: Pamela Lazarus

During the course of a three day wedding weekend in Amaranate, Portugal, the groom, who is of Portuguese background, arranged for a fado singer and musicians one night and folk dancers and musicians another. The dancers came in costume, the women in full, embroidered skirts, the men wearing traditional flat topped black hats, all in a basic black, white, yellow and red color scheme. They danced and sang and some played drums and guitars, augmented by clapping.

There were line dances, circle dances and duets, using quick foot movement, often with the arms raised above the head. Many steps were reminiscent of the Spanish jota, which is not surprising since this part of Portugal is very close to Galicia, the area of northwest Spain.

At a certain point in the evening all the guests were invited to join the dancers, who led them in modified versions of the steps just performed. The result was an exuberant, moving crowd, including the bride and groom, who danced through the night although their wedding took place the next day – when there was even more dancing.

The River to River Festival, in its 15th year, presented eleven days of dance, music, visual arts and new media projects in many different venues, at various times of day and night, in lower Manhattan and Governor’s Island. Among the dancers featured in these free events was Sarah Michelson, who performed in the waiting room and boat terminal of the Governor’s Island ferry, along with five other dancers. Michelson, who has appeared at MOMA and the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, called this work R & R Attempt 2.

There were neon signs flashing numbers, probably indicating seconds, in the terminal area, where a single dancer gently performed a long series of movement phrases, accompanied by a sound and word score played from a parked car. Meanwhile Michelson, alternating between there and the other three spaces, moved repetitively to loud guttural shouts of her own making, while fending off the attack of one of the male dancers, who seemed to be a wild dog or human.

Her movements were often pedestrian, but then became convulsive, and ended in a series of shouted jumps. Three other dancers sat in one waiting room, occasionally using automatic sounding speech, but basically moving or not moving in poses reminiscent of a ward in a mental hospital. The audience never knew when they would have to move in order to follow the action, much of which was in two places simultaneously.

Michelson won the 2012 Whitney Best of the Biennial prize, the first for a choreographer. She seemed to be controlling this performance, which lacked a form of its own. One of the things she said in the beginning was that she is not in a peaceful relationship with dance and the last thing anyone needed was another well-formed dance. This one was not and its meaning completely escaped me.


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