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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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