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Russell Maliphant: The Rodin Project at the Joyce Theater

Rusell Maliphant Rodin ProjectMuch like the original production of Sunday in the Park with George or that amazing flamenco interpretation of John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo, I was very excited to see Russell Maliphant’s physical exploration of the work of the artist Auguste Rodin. Unfortunately, I felt his interpretation lacked direction and cohesion.

The opening scene revealed a large Pina Bausch-esque set of various elevations draped in white as well as four white drapes hanging vertically downstage. The six dancers (three male, three female), were also draped in white as they let the warm lighting pour over them through their sculpture-esque poses. Each bone, muscle, and piece of flesh was revealed as they elegantly maneuvered to the dissonant score by Alexander Zekke.

My favorite part of the entire evening occurred in the first scene as the women wrapped themselves in the drapes, acting as the muses and counter balance to the men. Unfortunately, the women’s role throughout the rest of the piece was held in the background and occasionally in the nude.Russell Maliphant Rodin Project

That is due to the fact that the men were the powerhouses with the parkour meets capoiera choreography that dominated the rest of the evening. It was beautiful and exciting but it just didn’t work as an evening length piece.

Act I had all the draping and fluidity that worked within the group dancing, trios, duos, and solos while Act II revealed a bare set, casual costumes, and disjointed choreography. A fine change, but the connection to Rodin was lost – even with the allusions to his studio practice. How does it connect to this contemporary choreography? And how can it be executed without feeling like “Voguing?” I understand the sense of exploration of movement in the vein of Rodin but what is the goal of the “Project?”

Russell Maliphant Rodin ProjectYes, the dancers have an otherwordly quality with their strength, flexibility, and speed, and the choreography pushes the boundary of contemporary hip hop, but I missed the larger meaning of the piece. Why is Rodin so important to contemporary art?

All in all, the concept is amazing but the piece falls flat.

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Doug Varone and Dancers at the Joyce

Doug Varone
Gong played by David Van Tieghem at Chapters from a Broken Novel by Doug Varone and Dancers at the Joyce Theater

Doug Varone and Dancers had their New York premiere of Chapters from a Broken Novel at the Joyce Theater and it was powerful.

The program states: “Drawn from a collection of quotes from books, films and overheard conversations, Chapters from a Broken Novel is comprised of twenty short dances. Viewed together, they form a continuously unfolding sequence of intimate portraits, exposing human nature with beauty and rawness.” It was exactly that – 20 beautifully executed sequences (without intermission) where each group piece became more epic than the last. The intermittent solos, duets, trios, and quartets explored human nature in depth while the five pieces in the middle including “Ron Tells the Truth,” Tile Riot,” “Rewind,” “Twelve Dreams for Rent,” and “Men” offered a comedic break to the intense emotional height of the performance.

The backdrop of the piece designed by Andrew Lieberman was more like a “topdrop” that shifted throughout, offering a multitude of lighting options that were unique and fresh. The lighting by Jane Cox was also unique with its neon yellow, green and blue.

The music by David Van Tieghem was beautiful and allowed for the epic dance sequences. I was lucky enough to sit right in front of the huge gong as additional percussion was played live by David Van Tieghem himself. Van Tieghem had two large tables and various contraptions filled with typical percussion instruments including a xylophone and tambourine, and not so typical instruments including tupperware containers and tin cans (reminded me of ETC).

With regard to the piece itself, human nature was exposed through fast-paced and fluid dancing. The dancers thrust themselves with off balance moves – utilizing lots of contact and strong partnering. The high energy played out through intricate traffic patterns that seemed to extend offstage.

All in all, I really enjoyed the technical merit of the dancers, the artistic caliber and the awesome music of David Van Tieghem.

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Buglisi Dance Theatre at the Joyce

Requiem

"Requiem" Dancer: Terese Capucilli; Photo: Kristin Lodoen Linder, 2007

I had a good friend of mine invite me to see Buglisi Dance Theatre last minute and thank goodness I decided to go. Though I had never seen the company, I knew that it must be good technically speaking with its origins stemming from Martha Graham Dance Company. What I was unsure of was its subject matter and I have to say that I was overwhelmed by emotional and visual spectacle that I saw on stage.

Immediately, upon the opening of “Requiem,” the bleak but warmly lit stage holds five dancers in hunched seated positions with long draped skirts. The dancers gently arch their backs and reach toward the ceiling in a slightly varied unison. In those beginning moments, the dancers’ vulnerability is exposed and later the dancers become dignified and reverent as they morph into poised statues. These statues ultimately succumb to collapse from pain and sorrow. The costumes by Jacqulyn Buglisi and A. Christina Giannini have warm tones, shine, and layering that add a formal yet fluid elegance to the piece.

In the second piece, “Letters of Love on Ripped Earth” Artistic Director, Jacqulyn Buglisi assembles gorgeous tableaus of men and women who must find love through the letters they write to their long lost loves fighting in war. With warm lighting and live narration, this work becomes so much more than a dance piece on stage.

All in all, Buglisi Dance Theatre’s performance was beautiful and emotionally charged.

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