Fall for Dance: Program 1: New York City Center 2 October 2018

by Carene Lydia Lopez on October 5, 2018

It’s fall! And that means Fall for Dance, the New Yorker Festival, and Open House New York. All the same October weekend. It does not look like I will make it to any OHNY locations this year but I will be seeing all five FFD programs and will be attending several NYFest events.

The first night of the first program (there are two nights each of five different programs with four to five dance companies represented each night) was also a celebration of the 15th anniversary of FFD, so it included music and champagne before the show. I attended the next night but did not feel like I missed out because we had a very fun pre-show dance lesson.

Caleb Teicher is only 24 years old but he has an amazing presence and is a wonderful teacher. And is a Bessie award winner and has his own company. What were you doing when you were 24? He started with Michelle Dorrance’s Dorrance Dance, so you can already imagine how great he is. His eyes sparkle and that flop of dark hair with the blond tips makes him perfect for advertising geared towards millennials. He has a wonderful sense of humor and he teased us and made jokes and made us feel comfortable enough with our bodies to not only do well but to want to please him.

Since we did not have tap shoes, he was not going to teach us tap. Instead, he showed us how to use our bodies percussively by clapping, stomping, slapping thighs, and finger snapping. There were various rhythms and we took the moves he taught us and put them together into combos. Teicher had us stand in a circle so we were all watching each other. Naomi was also teaching us but whenever he gave her the mic to say something, she pretty much stayed silent. But she was a great dancer also. We were doing a combo and then a break for three bars when he would point to someone in the circle to improvise. I was one of the five he pointed to and thankfully did not embarrass myself. I do not remember what I did – some combination of hand clapping, thigh slapping, and stomping I think. We voted to end our lesson on a difficult combo that I never really got in the correct order but it was fun all the same.

Before going upstairs for the dance lesson, I stopped off at the gift shop to get my free notebook, which is another 15th anniversary gift. In the Grand Tier lobby there were backstage posters from various shows – designed and signed by the cast members of each show and usually never seen by the public. Also there were photographs of Balanchine dancers. They will be celebrating George Balanchine this year also (New York City Ballet started at New York City Center). I have mentioned in past reviews how beautiful NY City Center is and no matter how often I have been there, I always fall in love with its beauty again and again.

Peter and my seats were in the Grand Tier on the right side, row E, which is behind the aisle crossing the section, so pretty good seats.

The first piece was the Boston Ballet performing Bach Cello Suites. This was the New York premiere and was adapted for FFD. A solo cello played by Sergey Antonov (stage right) played the first movement and then dancers came out. They alternated between company and couples and the dance was mostly Western classical ballet with a few modern dance moves thrown in. The men wore black leggings and black t-shirts and the women wore black leotards, white tights, and toe shoes. The dance was pretty and, of course, beautifully executed. The dancers were Maria Branova, Irlan Silva, Lia Cirio, Patrick Yocum, Kathleen Breen Combs, Derek Dunn, Misa Kuranaga, John Lam, Addie Tapp, and Lasha Khozashvili. Mikko Nissinen is the company’s artistic director; choreography was by Jorma Elo; costumes by Charles Heightchew; and lighting by John Cuff, adapted by Brandon Stirling Baker. This piece had its world premiere at the Boston Opera House on April 30, 2015.

The audience continued to talk loudly when the curtain was rising for the second piece. The pianist was playing and you could see the shadow of the dancer upstage. Several of us had to “shush” loudly to get people to shut up. And during each break between movements, people would start to talk again. What is wrong with audiences today?

This next piece I found transcendent. Sara Mearns (NYCB) in Dances of Isadora Duncan – A Solo Tribute. When the film Isadora, starring Vanessa Redgrave, was released in 1969, I very much wanted to see it but never got around to it and I still have not seen it. But I remember all the talk surrounding it. It was a film very much of its time. Isadora was from the 1920s but her innovations in dance, with her emphasis on natural movement, and her bohemian lifestyle and advocacy of free love meant the late 1960s was the time that the world was finally ready for her. Cameron Grant (NYCBO) played piano (stage left) while Mearns stood on a small riser in a light pink chiffon toga and red scarf and was barefoot. Mostly he played while she slightly moved. She lost the scarf and came off the riser for the next movement. In one dance she was a butterfly floating around the stage with a very light pink scarf behind her. In another, Mearns wore a cotton/wool cape coat and moved slowly across the stage with her arms raised as if in a silent horror film while some very dark heavy music was played. A smoke machine was used just before this movement, which added to the horror movie affect. Mearns brought the red scarf back for one dance and she was a Gypsy with flowers in her hair for another. In the last piece, she carefully carried rose petals in her hands and eventually scattered them across the stage. There was a wonderful balance of light and heavy – she could be a young girl in love or an old woman weighed down by fright. Watching Mearns is always a delight but this was sensational. Imagine seeing these dances for the first time in the 1920s when you were used to the rigidity of Western classical ballet. The choreography and costumes were by Lori Belilove, after Isadora Duncan and her original designs and lighting was by Robert Brown. The piece premiered at Lincoln Center, NYC on March 18, 2018. The music was Prelude Op. 28, No. 4; Narcissus, Waltz Op. 64, No. 2; Boy/Girl Mazurka, Op. 33, No. 2; Butterfly Etude, Op. 25, No. 9; Harp Etude, Op. 25, No. 1; Death and the Maiden Mazurka, Op. 33, No. 4; Gypsy Mazurka, Op. 68, No. 2 – all by Frédéric Chopin – Flames of the Heart, Waltz Op. 39, No. 14 by Johannes Brahms; Les Funerailles by Franz Lizst; and Rose Petals Waltz, Op. 39, No. 15 by Brahms.

After intermission was the first of the showpieces of the night. Caleb Teicher & Company performing Bzzz, a world premiere, which was commissioned by NY City Center. All sounds were made by the dancers tap shoes or any other way they chose to make their bodies percussive and beatboxer Chris Celiz. Celiz appeared first, in front of the curtain, and went for laughs and applause. The curtain rose to reveal three square red boards. While Celiz beatboxed, one by one dancers stood together in one line on the board that was stage right. The dancers were all in street clothes and their shoes were not what you’d call tap shoes – they were regular shoes with taps. They tapped fast, wild, and improvised up a storm. When Teicher made his entrance there was applause and I was not sure if it was because he was the artistic director of the company or because he had been our teacher. I cannot emphasize enough how much fun it is to watch this company dance and how amazed you will be at their speed and showmanship. They will be playing at the Guggenheim Works & Process later this month and you should check out to see if they will be performing near you. The dancers are Brittany DeStefano, Naomi Funaki, Jabu Graybeal, Luke Hickey, Demi Remick, Bryron Tittle, and Teicher. Choreography was by Teicher with improvisation by the dancers; music by Celiz and Teicher; costumes by Marion Talan; and lighting by Serena Wong.

When the curtain rose for the final piece, there was an audible gasp throughout the audience. Upstage were several hunky Algerian men, barechested and muscular, wearing layered wrap skirts in shades of khaki, grey, and brown, jeans underneath, and full silver sequined face masks, which made me think of disco balls. They danced athletically – preternatural jumps and spinning around on their hands like upside down Whirling Dervishes. Soon others entered, dressed the same except for the masks. Eventually the unmasked took the masks off the original dancers or those dancers took their masks off themselves. All the while they performed amazing feats of athleticism including some being thrown in the air and then caught by their fellow dancers. Cie Hervé Koubi (Hervé Koubi, Artistic Director) was performing an excerpt from The Barbarian Nights, or the First Dawns of the World, showing us the origins of Mediterranean culture and how refined a “barbarian” could be. The piece ended with one man being carried forward and then he leapt off and with one arm reached up to the skies in an intense religious moment while the music swelled. The choreography was by Hervé Koubi; music by Maxime Bodson and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; staging by Hervé Koubi; costumes by Guillaume Gabriel; and lighting by Lionel Buzonie. Its premiere was in November 2015 at Festival de Danse de Cannes in France. The dancers are Adil Bousbara, Mohammed Elhilali, Abdelghani Ferradji, Zakaria Ghezal, Bendehiba Maamar, Giovanni Martinat, Nadjib Meherhera, Riad Mendjel, Mourad Messaoud, Houssni Mijem, Ismail Oubbajaddi, Issa Sanou, and El Hussaini Zahid.

These photos were taken from publications on the internet:

A wonderful start to Fall for Dance.

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