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Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch will close this weekend after two weeks of sold out performances (September 14 – 23) at BAM. And for this run, long after Bausch’s death, the program offered two of Bausch’s iconic works: Café Müller (1978) and The Rite of Spring (1975), both were part of the company’s 1st season at BAM in 1984 that marked their introduction to New York. Bausch, the sole choreographer for the company, died in 2009. In a sense, this was a celebration of the continued power of Bausch. For sure the program showcased a Tanzetheater Wuppertal staple, performers ranging in age from the 20s to 60s, which the new Intendant and Artistic Director, Adolphe Binder promises to keep this going, and like the veteran dancers in Café Müller, the audience was drawn into a Baushean dreamlike state, and time stopped. Ghost-walking through upturned chairs and tables in a ransacked café, after closing hours, six bodies crash in and out of doors and crevices, each with storied encounters, both synchronously and asynchronously. Throughout, Azusa Seyama and Scott Jennings are either kissing or madly slamming into walls, while a skittish Nazareth Panadero punctuates the happenings with fast entrance and exits. Michael Strecker and Pau Aran Gimeno’s humor was balanced by Helena Pikon’s lovely offering of Bauschian swirls and dips, arms and legs caress the air, and bodies sweep through the space to give breath to their drama-filled world. Café Müller is an autobiographical work set in a café which resembled the restaurant that Bausch’s parents owned when she was very young. The quiet of Café Müller was paired with Bausch’s raw and driving The Rite of Spring prompted by Igor Stravinsky’s music of the same name. In making the work, Bausch wondered out loud, “There is so much fear in it… [and asked] how would it be to dance knowing you would have to die?” Joined by a cast of 35, Tsai-Chi Yu, company member since 2008 who worked with Bausch for just one year before her death, was the one who would die; dancing the role of the “Chosen One.” Bausch’s Rite begins on a stage filled with sodden dirt, and the costumes were just skimpy enough to hold the dirt from their thrashing, digging and rolling. The mostly newer and some younger members of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch were intoxicating from beginning to end. They are: Olivia Tarish Ancona, Pau Aran Gimeno, Emma Barrowman, Astrid Boons, Damiano Ottavio Bigi, Michael Carter, Moonsuk Choi, Leonor Clary, Cagdas Ermis, Silvia Farias Heredia, Jonathan Fredrickson, Scott Jennings Milan Kampfer, Mariko Kida, Yosuke Kusano, Chen Wei Lee, Douglas Letheren, Raymond Liew Jin Pin, Chiara Mezzadri, Jan Mollmer, Blanca Noguerol Ramirez, Breanna O’Mara, Yoann Rifosta, Azusa Seyama, Ekaterina Shushakova, Oleg Stepanov, Julian Stierie, Charlotte Virgile, Stephanie Troyak, Tsai-Wei Tien, Paul White, Simon Wolant, Chih-I Wu, Ophelia Young and Ghih-Ming Yu.
The truth is, the annual DanceNOW Festival that runs at the beginning of the dance season (September), must be on your calendar. The challenge of making a 5-minute work for the incredibly small stage at Joe’s Pub is enough of a draw, but the lineup is yet another reason to show up. The 2017 season opened with standout performances by binbin Factory/Satoshi Haga & Rie Fukuzawa, Kyle Marshall Choreography and Jane Comfort Company. Deborah Lohse (aka TruDee), as always, was the funny and talented anchor between the performers and audience. For their premiere, Untitled, in pink tutus and ever-changing facial expressions, Haga and Fukuzawa skittered around the space, one-behind the other in lock step, until they extend their arms like birds taking to the air. Miriam Gabriel and Nick Sciscione in Marshall’s two wage, were simply smooth. Deliciously moving from slow and shared balances to rhythmic patterns with undercurrents of protest (a gun and an uncontrolled marionette)—this left us wanting more. And Comfort’s Four Screaming Women, performed by Comfort, Peter Sciscioli, Nancy Alfaro and Leslie Cuyjet was a constant stream of laughs in the way the cast melded movement, gestures and words. They’d repeat movement and matching phrases with questions like: “are you nervous?” “did you vote?” “did you win…?” until the audience knew what was next and just joined in. Also on the program were works by Loni Landon Dance Project, Heidi Latsky, Cleo Mack, Take Ueyama, Amber Sloan and Ian Berg.
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Talk about two people that make magic together! Larry Keigwin and Nicole Walcott were back together again, thank goodness, in KEIGWIN + COMPANY’s Places Please! (May 4–6) at Joe’s Pub at The Public. And, as is expected, when these two join forces, you will always have a rollicking good time, and you will get some good art to boot. Brought together through DanceNow’s Dance-mopolitan series, Places Please! was a well-tuned spoof on “…the final moments before the curtain goes up,” complete with costume changes on stage, working through rehearsal bits, and loads of audience participation. With a history that began in 2002 after creating their signature work, Straight Duet, and furthered in 2003 when they co-founded KEIGWIN + COMPANY, it’s no wonder the framework was already laid for this return engagement. In Places Please!, autobiographical or not, each took turn telling their own story—Keigwin told about his love/hate relationship with Broadway and fame, and Walcott ran down a review of dance and life. Both were sure to interject their dance diary, keeping their love for dance as the connecting force. Keigwin and Walcott’s ease and expertise in this non-stop mix of dance, theatre, and just the right amount of fun essentially confirms their meant-to-be duet. They are simply great collaborators. More please!
GRIT, or “Gibney Repertory Initiative for Tomorrow,” where the Gibney Dance Company gets to have works made or shown on them, featured works by Joanna Kotze and Reggie Wilson (May 4 – 6) at the downtown Gibney Dance Center. Following a promise to “make space for the future of dance” by commissioning works by contemporary dance artists, in this instance, Kotze and Wilson, were chosen and they shared an evening of starkly contrasting works. The large studio space was set in the round, and the dancers and audience got to be really close. First up was Kotze’s very abstract premiere, Already Ready, where in equally abstract costumes, Gibney Company members rush into the space and offering up a series of mostly of solos against a small group, clustered in opposing areas. Each soloist would begin their part and the others would pick up as a duet, trio or the like, and move on to the next thing. Next up was the sharply contrasting config. Khoum-baye Heah, Wilson’s reimagined mix of three previous works (PANG, The DEW WET, and Big Brick – A Man’s Piece) which pushed each mover to truly move in and out of complicated rhythmic scores, and sweat out their individual way while living-in-the-moment of Wilson’s layered and repeating score.
Gibney Company members are: Nigel Campbell, Kassandra Cruz, Amy Miller, Devin Oshiro and Brandon Welch.
Joanna Kotze is a Brooklyn-based dancer, choreographer and teacher who received the 2013 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer. Reggie Wilson (Executive and Artistic Director, Choreographer, Performer) founded his company, Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group, in 1989. Wilson draws from the cultures of Africans in the Americas and combines them with post-modern elements and his own personal movement style to create what he often calls “post-African/Neo-HooDoo Modern dances.”
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I am a performer, historian, consultant and dance writer. I am a faculty member at Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College (Guest), Empire State College's online program Center for Distance Learning. I am also a former faculty member of The Ailey School and the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University dance major program, Kean University and The Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Trainee Program. I write on dance for The Amsterdam News, Dance Magazine and various publications. Click below to read more about me at my home page - "About Me."