The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
Books  |  Comedy  |  Dance  |  Museum And Gallery  |  Theater


Postmodern dance takes flight
By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  July 15, 2009

ORBO NOVO: In Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s world premiere for Cedar Lake, the dancers tumble, twist, roll, shudder, struggle, and collapse, answering a primal instinct to keep going.

Postmodern dance's conceptual, physical, and metaphysical roots spread far and wide, as four summer festival performances attested last week. The three newly minted works and a 30-year-old classic all used invented movement vocabularies with a tip of the hat to the formalities of ballet, they all applied highly theatrical staging effects, and none of them looked the least bit like the others.

At Jacob's Pillow, life was giving a hard time to the dancers of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Andrea Miller's Gallim Dance, and they were making the most of it. Cedar Lake's Orbo Novo, by the Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, meditates on the idea of disability, inspired by the author Jill Bolte Taylor's account of experiencing a stroke. Sections of this harrowing text are recited in perfect vocal and gestural unison by Jubal Battisti and Kristen Weiser. They're joined by the other 16 dancers, speaking or mouthing the words in choral formations.

This preamble prepares us for the dance's metaphor of resistance. A massive wall of sliding lattice-work panels (by Alexander Dodge) cages and releases the dancers, separates them, and finally herds them together in a desperate, struggling cluster. Some of them are able to wriggle through its openings, and the whole structure can be pushed apart to allow for intervals of dancing.

Cherkaoui has invented a movement vocabulary that draws on the shifting, fluid center of weight employed in contact improvisation and the articulated, topsy-turvy acrobatics of hip-hop. From the premise that any part of the body can be totally flexible or inoperable at any given moment, the dancers, in groups and solos, tumble, twist, roll, shudder, struggle, collapse, answering a primal instinct to keep going.

The men of the company had most of this infinitely mobile movement to do, but Ebony Williams (a product of Boston Ballet School and Boston Conservatory) had a remarkable solo in which she'd unlock a limb and send it vigorously out into space, only to lose control of it and start unlocking another body part. The impressive, post-minimalist score by Szymon Brzóska was played live by the Mosaic String Quartet with guest pianist Aaron Wunsch.

You can't really track where Andrea Miller's movement comes from. The six dancers in Blush, which she choreographed for her company, seem to exist in a state of constant rage that's either being suppressed or being vented on some colleague. To begin the piece, a man poses and crouches, spars and sprints around the space. He could be a boxer, a muscle man, some athletic character, or someone else altogether. The images flash by before you can really know him.

Three women appear, dancing in unison, evolving slowly into poses and bursting out of them only to ooze into new ones. The three men are lying on the floor upstage in a ghastly silver light (by Vincent Vigilante). The women imply but don't exactly copy the seductive poses of fashion models. Shoulders a-tilt, elbows lifted, they frame their faces and draw attention to their upper bodies. They suddenly turn into harpies, stooped over and clawing in the direction of the men.

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
Related: Review: Dance on Camera at Lincoln Center, Stuck-togetherness, Where the chips fell, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Boston Conservatory, Alissa Cardone,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article
HTML Prohibited
Add Comment

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   NEW STUFF  |  January 19, 2010
    One thing that impressed me was that dance invention seems to be making a comeback as a major challenge for young choreographers after years of being stirred into the multimedia stew.
  •   2009: THE YEAR IN DANCE  |  December 22, 2009
    You could say there were two tremendous forces that propelled dance into the world of modern culture: the Ballets Russes of Serge Diaghilev and the choreography of Merce Cunningham.
  •   ANNIVERSARY WALTZ  |  December 15, 2009
    Caitlin Corbett Dance Company, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary at the Tsai Center last weekend, achieved another of its people-dance successes, a two-part series of one-minute duets featuring 36 big, small, awkward, suave, surprising, funny, and raring-to-go dancers and non-dancers of all ages.
  •   SNACKS  |  November 24, 2009
    The most substantial item in the assortment of dances by the Trey McIntyre Project last weekend was an oddly proportioned 20-minute meditation on climate change and Glacier National Park. McIntyre, whose company appeared at the ICA as part of the CRASHarts series, has gotten a lot of press exposure as an up-and-coming choreographer with serious ideas.
  •   SUSTAINABILITY  |  November 04, 2009
    If you wanted to know what happened at the Merce Cunningham memorial a week ago Wednesday in the Park Avenue Armory, you could get a thousand answers.

 See all articles by: MARCIA B. SIEGEL

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2010 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group