Lambarena redux

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  August 23, 2006

The Piano Dance is a neo-Balanchine work — think Rubies with less engaging music (Chopin, Cage, Ligeti, Bartók, Ginastera) and pointlessly funky costumes (red leotards with short tail skirts for the ladies, red trousers with one leg bare and the other sporting three orange hoops for the men). The only music I recognized was Chopin’s E-minor Prélude (lugubriously played by Dianne Chilgren), which Gibson decorated with dreamy développés, as if stretching before (or after) sex. There were also some flashy original moves — Louise Nadeau thrust upside down and held in sexual suspension — in the ninth of the 10 pieces. But so much of it looked like a Rubies homage (with perhaps a nod at The Four Temperaments) that I wondered why they didn’t just do the real thing. It’s not as if Boal didn’t have good dancers.

Ripple Movements, for one woman, three men, and four cubes for sitting, had still funkier costumes — red with black and yellow accents — and more negligible music, Jacqueline Fuentes singing “Sinuoso trópico,” Nina Simone doing “Ne me quitte pas.” The press material promised “a modern dance æsthetic” in which the dancers would explore Dawson’s “idea of how neutrons and electrons interact.” Real neutrons and electrons would have been more interesting.

In the Doris Duke Studio, Choreftes, a troupe from Athens founded in 1993, presented the “evening-length” (one-hour) Behind Her Eyes, which company co-founder Aliki Kazouri choreographed in 2004 to a melodic-industrial score by Stathis Ioannou. The cast: four boys and four girls in various stages of gender bonding and coupledom; a woman in a white dress acting as a chorus; a woman in a black dress singing live on stage and channeling Björk. Boys and girls size each other up; boys talk and whistle; boys inspect girls, interminably, with desk lamps. Boys do a goofy line dance; girls dance with one another. Girl rolls around with black plastic bag on head. Couples emerge in spotlight dances, one Fred & Ginger–inspired, one troubled and violent, one with mouths glued together. Boys in black T-shirts have various kinds of bad days as they spell out E-P-O-S and other Greek words. Boys and girls all put fishnet stockings over their faces. Girl peels off purple dress to reveal red hooker outfit underneath; boys flash money and manhandle her while two other girls make out. Girl in white leotard stands downstage right while a dancer — in fœtal position to start out — is projected on her womb. Curtain. About a third of the way through I found myself wishing I could see some old-fashioned Greek dancing, the kind the chorus did in the ancient dramas.

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