It’s hard to believe that 10 years have gone by without a New York performance from Rennie Harris Puremovement (RHPM). Not to worry, the Joyce Theater took care of this misfortune recently (January 28-Februaru 2). The program included older works, nothing new, but boy did they deliver. From the laid back cool of P-Funk (1992) showing “Brothers” on the street corner having a good time while rattling off throwback moves (popping and locking), to the priceless show of bravado (bare chests, bulked up muscles and hip-hop technique that stops on a dime) in Student of the Asphalt Jungle, the evening was hot! The 1997 hit, Rome & Jewels brought back original cast member, Rodney Mason (a dream) in his role as Rome spitting Shakespearean text with Ebonics. Other returnees, Ozzie Jones (Dramaturg and narrator/MC), Raphael Zavier (Tibault), Joel Martinez (Mercutio) and James “Cricket” Colter (B-boy family) made the return seem like time stood still. Harris' penchant for “West Side Story” comes to life as the Hip Hop Family (donning black) and the B-Boy Family (in red and white), pitted against each other chant a version of “Cool.” Mixed with monologues and chants are some seriously crazy spins and balances - a handstand morphs as poker-straight legs creep backwards to touch the floor, in just one instance. In Continuum (1997), a dance that was all about the women – Dinitia Clark, Katia Cruz, Mariah Tlili and Mai Le Ho Johnson - they whacked and vouged, driving the audience into screams. The sole female, Clark, in the very dark March of the Antmen (1992) showed incredible precision in her delivery. Joshua Culbreath and Shafeek Westbrook must be highlighted for their raw and beautiful talent, and D. Sabela Grimes for his incredible words. Kudos to the rest of cast (Kyle Clark, Ryan Cliett, Phil S. Cuttino Jr., and Brandyn S. Harris), they represent hip hop in a big way.
Douglass Dunn & Dancers – A nice visit
Dunn’s Aubade is beautiful. From the start, against a screen with two lines that eventually intersect, Jin Ju Song-Begin and Timothy Ward frame the stage on either side with a series of shifting lines, while musician Cleek Schrey weaves in and around them. The music, at first, is abstract and so too are Charles Atlas’ images on the screen. Soon, the music changes and the dancer’s lines seem to break; their bodies change, they roll, hips now move, wrists turn, they leap here and there, then others enter. The tempo becomes livelier and even more dancers enter (Montclair State University students). Other sculpted images help to change the mood like Atlas’ countdown clock on the screen when no one is on stage, there is also the moment when the band bursts quietly into Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” or Dunn’s seamless melding of the dance students with his company, especially the partnering. The very serene work ends with Dunn, his wife (Grazia Della-Terza company member since 1980) and Christopher Williams up center forming a triangle while the others surround them. Nicely done.
New York City Ballet - Balanchine’s “Jewels” – Always A Treat!
The dancers of New York City Ballet are ever so lucky because they get to dance George Balanchine’s works. Balanchine was a genius, and his works continue to prove this. In a recent program (February 2) they danced the famous suite of ballets- Jewels (1967): Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds to music, by Gabriel Faure, Igor Stravinsky and Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, respectively. The splendor of each ballet is underscored when each time the curtain goes up and a pleasing gasp fills the theater. Emeralds is first, there is green everywhere and the corps, moving in perfect unison, highlighted the solos and duets; Sara Mearns never seems to disappoint. The all red and very sexy Rubies follow. This is where Balanchine flips the page on ballet and goes all out with his love of jazz, dancing off center and in-your-face moves. Sterling Hyltin, like the others, thrust hips, glides on heels and take chances with balances. Diamonds, the elegant timepiece of early ballets with the requisite shimmer and processional leading up to a grande révérence was a beautiful way to close the evening.