Ebb and flow

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  December 17, 2007

Paul Taylor
Many artists talk a good game of dissent, but Paul Taylor is one of the few real resisters around these days. His Jacob’s Pillow programs in July included the 1962 Aureole, the new De Sueños (one of his danse macabre fantasies, inspired by the Day of the Dead), and his 2006 ditty Troilus and Cressida (reduced), wherein, to Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours,” his dancers scamper through 15 minutes of love, rape, deception, kidnap, ballet, Martha Graham, and the Trojan War. Aureole and Troilus and Cressida (reduced) also appeared on his November Celebrity Series program at the Shubert Theatre, accompanied by the new Lines of Loss — a succession of soloists and duos who rage and lament to unrelated selections of music ranging from Guillaume de Machaut to Arvo Pärt and Alfred Schnittke — and his 1975 Bach-violin-concerto exploration, Esplanade, which since its creation has evolved into a bouncy, almost slapstick company rout.

Elizabeth Streb
Elizabeth Streb has changed the name of what she does again: the show of “extreme action” she brought to the Institute of Contemporary Art in February was called “Streb vs. Gravity.” The ferociously physical choreography seemed a little less slam-bam and a little more airborne than it used to, but an hour and a half with Streb still celebrates bodies locked in combat with the laws of the universe. Challenge is what Streb is all about, and having demolished one impossible barrier, she and her seven heroic dancers are ready for the next.

Prometheus Dance
All three dances on Prometheus Dance’s Memorial Day–weekend program at Boston Conservatory Theater seemed to tell of women’s travails and their temporary deliverance. Choreographed by Diane Arvanites-Noya and Tommy Neblett over three years, Dievas Mannu/Full Moon (2006), Knowing We Can Never Know (2003), and Devil’s Wedding (2006) were presented under the collective title “Devil’s Wedding.” All 10 performers were women, and from dance to dance, they shared a movement vocabulary that suggested pain, struggle, solace, and submission to unseen but unbreakable constraints.

Misnomer Dance Theater
Like its name, Misnomer Dance Theater, which returned to Concord Academy Summer Stages Dance in July, seems devoted to contrariness. Whatever the rules of dancing or human encounter are supposed to be, choreographer Chris Elam finds 50 ways to subvert them. Elam says he likes to see how people function when they subject their bodies to extreme stress; this doesn’t translate into the kinds of acrobatic derring-do you see elsewhere on dance stages. Misnomer dancers never conquer the detours and distortions they’ve engineered, but they keep trying out new solutions. You get quite fond of their machinations.

Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève
This Swiss company’s US debut at Jacob’s Pillow in August was an unexpected gift. Neither of the two pieces BGTG performed, Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara’s Para-Dice and Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Loin, was classical — but symphony orchestras present new compositions alongside centuries-old works, and ballet companies have to do the same. Para-Dice is a paean to air — its currents in the world as well as the breath inside us — and the women’s swooping undulations in their backs seemed a soft antithesis to the sharp contractions of Martha Graham. Loin was equally mesmerizing, an unceasing sweep of the tides.

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