The piece is cast for eight women, who at the beginning are lined up stage left, end to the audience. One by one the four soloists step forward, each in a different autumn-leaf shade of diaphanous shift: Lia Cirio, Erica Cornejo, Luciana Voltolini, Kathleen Breen Combes. Everyone walks about, swaying gently; there's some pairing off, and then a group dance. To "For a Tomb Without Name," Voltolini does a solo with a lot of slow spinning — funerary rites, perhaps. Cirio follows in a flowing trio with Kimberly Uphoff and Kelsey Hellebuyck to "That the Night Might Be Propitious"; an undulating Breen Combes does the Oriental-flavored "For the Dancer with Cymbals" with those two plus the rest of the back-up, Emily Mistretta and Claire Stallman, before Cornejo has an agitated solo to "For the Egyptian Woman." In "To Thank the Morning Rain," they all spin with arms in Greek-frieze right-angle arm position before bending to touch the earth.
By the time the siren call of Syrinx summons them into a line, it's clear that the theme of Robbins's dance is not sex but solidarity. Eight across, they interlace arms, turn and crouch, their backs to us, then turn and crouch again as the curtain falls. It's as if they were whispering to us to be still, to be quiet, not to give Syrinx's secret away.
Symphony in Three Movements, which premiered at New York City's Stravinsky Festival in June 1972, is Divertimento No. 15 turned inside out. The god of war seems to be roaring at the outset of Stravinsky's 1946 score, but what the curtain rises on is a diagonal line of 16 ponytailed girls in white leotards that make them look like '40s bathing beauties. America's answer to Hitler? That and lots of jiving, jitterbugging, and pony-stepping. In Divertimento No. 15, chaos underlies order; here it's the other way round. (The music itself is a chaotic affair, three movements that began life as discrete, unrelated pieces before coming together as a kind of victory-symphony commission from the New York Philharmonic.) Misa Kuranaga and John Lam swing and sway; the dizzying whirl of piqué turns takes us back to a Busby Berkeley extravaganza; Lia Cirio comes on and appears to be leading the girls in an Esther Williams splashfest before hooking up with James Whiteside. Then a third couple, Rie Ichikawa and Joseph Gatti, give us America's sweethearts under the apple tree There's a back-up team of five women in black leotards and five men in white shirts and black tights; the three principal men wear the same white and black, but their partners are in pink leotards, three different shades.
The Pulcinella-flavored andante is a pas de deux for Cirio and Whiteside, who play out what might be the dream of Harlequin and Columbine in their mechanical-doll-like moves and Cubist displacements, Cirio turning in attitude with flexed foot before resisting Whiteside's attempts to embrace her. Then Stravinsky's con moto finale becomes a numbers game, here very con moto as all 32 dancers form and re-form, their geometry suggesting they're trying to crack some Nazi code. Or are the continual eruptions in the music Stravinsky's allusion to Hiroshima? The order at the end is a mixed message, the women all standing or kneeling with arms either raised aloft or stretched out to the side, static, finished, the men in front of them, crouched, ready.