Fall for Dance Festival: Program 4

By Rachel Straus

Larry Keigwin’s imagination is as unbound as an attention deficit disorder diagnosed savant. The retro electric pop band Fischerspooner and the drag queen entertainer Murray Hill have sought out his choreographic range. The Martha Graham Dance Company and the New York City Ballet Choreographic Institute commissioned him to make unconventional dances. The Radio City Rockettes employed him as an associate choreographer to shake things up.

On October 6 at City Center, The 38-year-old choreographer’s Megalopolis opened the Fall for Dance Festival’s Program 4 with a Pow! Keigwin’s 2009 work immediately channeled the haughty absurdity of Chris Rock in his infamous role as an interstellar-drag queen-DJ in the movie Fifth Element. Fritz Masten’s silver spacesuit costumes and the dancers’ extroverted antics—pelvic lassoing and Vogueing—screamed Halloween rave party. Keigwin’s work trafficked not in high art.

With 18 performers culled from Keigwin + Company and the Juilliard School’s senior class, Megalopolis upended any semblance of seriousness attached with concert dance. To Steve Reich’s Sextet/Six Marimbas and to excerpts from MIA’s World Town and XR2, Keigwin’s satiric dance referenced a dizzying array of places and people: Martha Graham’s ubiquitous traveling steps and arrow-shaped arms, club kids on stimulants, the antic roar of modern urban life, and nightclub dance floors where the hottest movers (momentarily) rule. John Travolta’s Tony Manero of Saturday Night Fever would have been proud.

Keigwin demonstrates in Megalopolis that he has enough choreographic finesse to develop a movement vocabulary that hangs together. Time will tell whether his choreography—which presently serves to pay homage to pop culture—will get sillier or more serious.

The second work on the program was María Pagés’s Sol, which was made for the brother-daughter duo Carmen and Ángel Corella in honor of the inauguration of their Corella Ballet Castilla Y León. This Spanish ballet company, helmed by Ángel Corella, comes with backing by the Spanish government. Unsurprisingly, Sol looks less like a dance and more like an advertisement for Corella’s enterprise, which will acknowledge native Spanish dance (its music, it sensuality), will present classical and contemporary ballet (as understood by the director who made his name with American Ballet Theatre), and will warm the cockles of audience’s hearts through technical virtuosity (Corella spins like a top).

The program also featured Russell Maliphant’s Afterlight Part 1. In its U.S. premiere, the solo performed by Daniel Proietto demonstrated how tricky it is to choreograph to Eric Satie’s Gnossiennes 1-4. The fin de siècle piano composition sucks the oxygen out of any room because of its power and simplicity. In the first section of the dance, however, Maliphant came close to matching the score’s stark, still quality. Proietto slowly rotated like a dreaming dervish under a well of light care of animator Jan Urbanowski and lighting designer Michael Hulls. The work, which premiered in London in 2009, is inspired by Vaslav Nijinsky’s geometric renderings, which he began drawing obsessively as he spiraled from the heights of dance fame into mental illness. Maliphant captures through darkness, repetition, and Proietto’s sweeping wingspan a sense of sailing into an inescapable place, which in Nijinsky’s case was a sanatorium, where he lived out the rest of his days.

The last work on the program was a world premiere by Jason Samuel Smith & Friends. RHYTHMDOME hung thinly on a story (told in voice over) about a doomed future where tappers and hip hop dancers have lost the means to communicate with each other. The dance appeared equally doomed in the first 10 minutes. Then, like a patient waking from a coma, the group dropped attempts at narrative continuity and got down to the business of tapping and breaking. The revelation came when both sets of dancers riffed off of each other’s rhythms. In the last minutes, the eight dancers found common ground: The tappers “breaked” with their feet; the breakers “tapped” with their muscle fibers.









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