Better Late Than Never: What She’s Having

I sit here at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night trying not to be disgusted with myself. Soon I will leave to see a dance concert, and I had made a vow not to see the next dance concert before writing about the previous one. Nationally known dances get excepted. I did see Paul Taylor on March 31 and dreamed my way home. Yet unwritten is the March 20 “I’ll Have What She’s Having” program that I really did want to write about. Events (trips, grandchildren, work) intervened. I have the program. I carried it and my small brown Moleskin notebook full of scribbled notes with me on two transcontinental trips, trying to fool myself that I would write on the plane, write on the train, write in the car, somehow write.

But no. And now of course I can’t find that notebook, though I have its sextuplet siblings, all looking alike. Memo to self: in the future draw designs on each empty Moleskin with in colored markers.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got in my head about this concert, exactly four weeks later, and I hope dusty thoughts are better than no thoughts. If I find my notebook, I’ll add to it – and I solicit comments from anyone who was there. One friend, Barbara Palfy, has already done that, and I’ve put her additions in italics. So here goes.

If you thought you’d see something sexy, from looking at the title, “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” referring to the Meg Ryan film where she fakes an orgasm in public to prove that women do and can, and the lady at the next table over says (well now you know what she says) you were correct. In “Translations” Shari Nyce, one-upped herself from last year’s concert. She used a children’s story, read by her father, as a metaphor, and she added Henri Velandia. With her signature end-over-end tumbling movement style, the pair had some unusual couplings and did an effective roll in the hay duets. (If I were her choreography teacher I would seek to extend her reach by requiring her to do a pavane. She seems to be a Johnny One Note.) You gasp at the derring-do of the gymnastics but as that’s pretty much all there is, it palls, even the cutesy country gamine overlay. Problem: the story is one of those cumulative “bump-on-a-log” tales and goes on faaaar too long for the paucity of movement invention.

On the sex theme, Marie Alonzo took her cue from LaTraviata in “Passion and Fire,” referencing “the story of a doomed love affair between a famous courtesan and the writer, Alexandre Dumas, author of the original “Dame aux caméllias.” I’m not that familiar with the boudoir of courtesans, but this looked more like a bordello. Not in the least ladylike. I guess if you want to be extremely sexy in concert dance and get away with it, just invoke opera and set it not to Verdi but to hot salsa music. Still it was an effective scenario and more power to Alonzo; the piece worked and it captured one’s attention, if only for the all-out dancing of the principals.

Indeed it seemed like everyone improved from last year. Alison Maxwell, she of the ladylike and detailed épaulement, choreographed and danced a soulful elegy in a purposefully circumscribed space, “Esprit Libre,” and a duet with Gonzalo J. Aniano Porcile to “Georgia on My Mind,” made for them by Ilana Suprun, that was a little reminiscent of Tudor’s Judgement of Paris. Both good. I liked Suprun’s seven-dancer eponymous homage to Bach, so pleasant to the eye, and her solo “Farewell,” also an elegy. I seem to remember that Claudine Raniere’s “A Girl in the Green Dress” to the Barber Adagio, was deceptively simple-seeming but actually ever-so-detailed, an incantatory and passionate tribute to modern dance as we knew it. I want to see more of her.

Olivia Galgano and Needle in collaboration with composer Dr. Linda Marcel put together “BRCA1/Genome,” “exploring the complexity of the BRCA1 breast cancer gene [and its] diagnosis and treatment.” The piece was dedicated to all survivors. Complex it was, and pointedly ballet based — the second part showed an actual, if disjunct, ballet class. A series of op-art projections made great backdrops and the dancers were polished, but the three parts needed a fourth to make a powerful conclusion.

Two big works were exciting. Susan Tenney’s “Je me reviens…” (translated, “I remember”) begins with a lineup of eight dancers age 71/2 to 65, stock still, standing in rows. Using no décor and minimal props it had overtones of the cemetery in “Our Town.” A little girl takes a watering can and waters the feet of a couple of dancers and the scene comes to life. I took detailed notes, frantically trying to jot things down so I could figure it out later and of course we know where those notes are(i.e., we don’t). But some images are vivid. I knew at the time what it was about. Goings and comings with an emphasis on going and saying goodbyes. At one point Gary Echternacht flops rigidly to the ground. He’s definitely dead, as far as I’m concerned. We’re saying goodbye to him. There’s lots of joy here and I get the idea that it is remembered joy. Lines of dancers doing jetés on the diagonal. Clumps of dancers going east-west and west-east across the stage. A solo that seems, yes, like another elegy. (It would be the evening’s third.) Or perhaps this whole piece is an elegy. Yes, that’s what it was, an elegy not to a person but to a remembered past. It has layers and layers of meanings. If there’s a narrative, intended or not, you bring it with you. I want to see it again. And again. These dancers aren’t Paul Taylor dancers but they are as eloquent. Yes!

Forest, by Lynn Needle, was a premiere and an eyeful. Dancers on pointe in deep second plié, Bugaku style, hands down on the floor, like predatory spiders, all against a jungle backdrop. Three dryads, one languorous but muscled faun, one very willing nymph. Oh for my notes! But I remember thinking, this is Nikolais all the way and sure enough the program bio reveals that Needle toured with Alwin Nikolais, indeed. She has some gorgeously trained dancers. A wonderful piece. Nikolais on pointe.

Thanks, BP, for your help.

3 thoughts on “Better Late Than Never: What She’s Having

  1. Susan Tenney's work "Je me souviens" will be shown at Princeton Ballet School's faculty concert on Sunday, May 23, at 6 p.m. The school is located in Princeton Shopping Center, 301 North Harrison Street. It's a big dance weekend. On Saturday, May 22, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 23, at 2 p.m., Janell Byrne celebrates her 30th anniversary with the Mercer Dance Ensemble at Kelsey Theatre, Mercer County Community College.

  2. Thank you Barbara for your comments on my piece I was thrilled that you recognized my true Modern dance training as well as appreciated all the details. Lynn Needle's and I will be performing our pieces again in Bergen County- Paramus NJ at Bergen Community College w/ Bergen Dance Makers featuring works by Claire Porter, Rusty Curcio, Kent Lindemer, and many more… on May 6th, 2010 @ 7:30pm.more info at…www.bergendancemakers.orgThank You,The Girl In The Green Dress

  3. Thank you Barbara, much appreciated. I also like the additional thoughts by your friend she was quite on target with her comments! Just to let you know that last year’s duet Songs of Nilad was chosen to be performed at the 92nd St Y 75th celebration of the Harkness Dance Center on May 28. My part will be danced by Danielle Mondi with Henri Velandia of course. This is so exciting for them to get exposure to NYC audience and hopefully reviewers too!!! Maria Snyder

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