Posts Tagged ‘Miro Magloire’

Musical Pointe Shoes: New Chamber Ballet

Monday, February 7th, 2011

By Rachel Straus

When a ballet dancer runs, the box of her pointe shoe hits the floor. The sound is unmistakable: low in timber, dense, much like a percussion instrument. Most choreographers don’t want the audience to hear dancers’ feet. But in Miro Magloire’s Night Music, which had its world premiere at City Center Studio 4 on February 4, the German-born choreographer made percussion the subject of his ballet. Reminiscent of Kabuki for its formalism and pregnant pauses, Night was the second of five works presented by Magloire’s New Chamber Ballet.

In Night, Madeline Deavenport, Katie Gibson and Lauren Toole become multi-instrumentalists, thanks to the black claves they grasped in their hands. Unlike the majority of works on the evening’s program, Night did not present the dancers in conventionally feminine ways. In black velvet tunics, the women engaged in abstract combat (lunging into each other’s space, circling like birds of prey). When one dancer struck her claves together, the others dropped to the floor, as though felled by the force of the sound. This was dramatic, but occurred midway through the dance. And when the performers rose from the floor as though nothing had happened, Night lost some of its edge.

The other two premieres on the program also possessed striking moments. But in the bare bones environment of Studio 4 (no lighting, no wings), the works’ choreographic weaknesses became more glaring. New Chamber Ballet (lead by Magloire) spends its funds engaging live musicians and highly trained ballet dancers rather than renting formal theaters. It’s too bad that a presenter (like Joyce Soho) hasn’t offered this small but ambitious troupe a better performing space.

In Emery LeCrone’s premiere Virtuoso, Alexandra Blacker’s wingspan and suppleness was exceptional, but her close proximity to the audience made her appear more vulnerable than wondrously superior. Then there was the choreography. Against Camille Saint-Saëns’ melodically torrential Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor—played live by Erik Carlson (violin) and Steven Becker (piano)—choreographer LeCrone failed (or chose not) to develop cascading phrases reflective of the composer’s first movement, Allegro Agitato. Consequently, the music and dance felt at odds with each other.

The last premiere on the program was Constantine Baecher’s Sketches of Woman Remembering. A dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet, Baecher has contributed five works to New Chamber Ballet. His sixth ballet takes its inspiration from Vaslav Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun (1912) in which a Faun’s sexual advances are rejected by three nymphs. In Sketches, three women—Alexandra Blacker, Victoria North, and Lauren Toole—dance solos of regret. It’s important to know that back in 1912 the Faun was Nijinsky, who was the non plus ultra of sexuality on the ballet stage.

Sketches begins with the barefoot dancers standing upstage like Greek columns (instead of togas the women wear pink leotards and are covered in a diaphanous fabric). One by one each walks forward. Each solo involves the manipulation of their floor-length veil. In Nijinsky’s ballet, a similarly translucent piece of fabric is stolen from the lead nymph. It becomes the surrogate for the nymph’s body. In the ballet’s scandalous finale, Nijinsky (legend has it) simulated climaxing into the scarf.

Nothing so sexual occurs in Baecher’s ballet, which is also choreographed to music by Claude Debussy. Against Preludes – Book 1, Nos. 6, 3 and 1 (as performed by Steven Becker), the fabric becomes a symbol of mourning. But dancing about a lost sexual opportunity isn’t easy to convey. The strongest moment was when Katie Gibson wrung her shroud out in time to the music’s trilling, as though attempting to wash away her regret.

All three new works have the potential to become dances worthy of seeing again, especially if they are presented with some theatrical distance and more dramatic lighting.

The other works on the two-night program were Magloire’s Klavierstück, to Karlheinz Stockhausen, and his Sculpture Garden, to George Frederick Handel’s Violin Sonatas in A Major.