Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Orientalish NY: Ballet Next at the Joyce Theater

Ballet Next by Paul B. Goode
(from the Joyce Theater website)

Though this doesn't relate to main focus of Orientalish, this week I’ve seen two modern dance performances: Pina Bausch’s company at BAM on Saturday and tonight Ballet Next at the Joyce.  The three hour Bausch performance (“…como musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…”)impressed me with its stamina and single-minded vision.  The stage rent itself apart in jagged lines(or was designed to appear to do so); dancers groped for each other and grasped at ropes.  Couples batted at love with rollicking Latin dance music.  Melodramatic men adored women and then solos showed the inevitable aftermath, including the work’s end: one lonely dancer, bleeting on all fours, lonely animals.  We.

Tonight’s show at the Joyce, however, had an edge I didn’t realize I was wanting.  Out of the three premieres, choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti’s “BachGround” startled me most.  In comparison to the show at BAM, the much smaller cast on a much smaller stage spoke more loudly.  The staging was far more minimal, two spotlights my friend told me were called “specials,” dancers in black lycra (men can wear skorts), and black folding chairs.  The minimalist, urban chic highlighted the grasping and elastic choreography. 

The work opened with a row of dancers on chairs.  Their solemn gaze and line beneath the dusky spotlights created a tension that was one part boxers waiting in the corner of the ring and two parts chorus in line to render a Greek tragedy, both images fitting for the melancholy anguish and technically stunning movement.  The male soloists, Clifford Williams and Jesus Pastor, fully surrendered to Bigonzetti’s complex and sometimes intentionally busy composition.  Yoga seemed to work its way in, but what yoga it was….Compass poses were turned on their heads.  Hanumanasana was simply a prep, and Williams’ uddiyanabhanda was pleasingly obvious in a few balances.  The men jabbed each other, women competed, lovers paired off for a couple of rounds of eensy-weensy-spider up and down each other’s bodies.  The chair-slamming, driving energy of the piece seemed to only secondarily succumb to the staid, continuous flow of the piano, Bach, of course.

In a nearby Cuban restaurant, I kept talking about Bigonzetti’s piece.  My overworked friend wanted only to eat his fried plantains and I kept bringing the choreographer and his work back into our conversation.  I let the topic drop, resolving to post by night’s end.  But behind us, other diners were mimicking the hand-puppet like movements, gestures that chopped and undulated and jabbed, that were a significant repetition in the work and an effective repetition, one that brought stingers together for a moment on Eighth Avenue.

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