Buglisi performances promise best of modern dance

If Martha Graham had a successor, it probably would have been Jacqulyn Buglisi.

If Martha Graham had a successor, it probably would have been Jacqulyn Buglisi.

As a dancer, she was one of Graham’s muses, teaching in her school and performing lead roles with her company for more than a dozen years.

Buglisi Dance Theatre

WHERE: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany and Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, Broadway, Tivoli

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday in Albany or 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27, in Tivoli

HOW MUCH: $20, $18 seniors and $10 children in Albany or $25 and $10 for student rush in Tivoli

MORE INFO: 473-1845 or www.theegg.org in Albany or 845-757-5106 or www.kaatsbaan.org inTivoli

Now, as a choreographer, Buglisi reveals her lineage. Graham’s supple torso and the spiraling back now propel her dancers’ bodies. This technique serves Buglisi’s dramatic landscapes, environments that meld lighting, costumes and sets to moving effect. As a New York Times critic put it, “each dance is an encounter with destiny.”

Over the next week, area audiences will be able to experience the range of Buglisi Dance Theatre. Tonight, the company will perform at the Egg, a first for the ensemble. On the following weekend, Saturday and Sunday, the company will appear in a different program at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center. Both showcases are expected to be a revelation and a promise that the future of modern dance is secure.

Program highlight

Among the highlights at both venues will be “Requiem,” a work that is considered the choreographer’s masterpiece. Set to Gabriel Faure’s memorial for his father, the work originated as a metaphor for the oppression of women. Then came Sept. 11, 2001, and the tone shifted to the weight of war and terror. Performed by five women on pedestals, the piece is a smoldering lament. Yet in the end, it is a benediction, a call for hope and recovery.

While the piece is a prime example of Buglisi’s masterly use of movement, light and costumes, the choreographer said the work was a departure for her.

“The use of stillness in that piece was new for me,” said Buglisi, speaking by phone from Kaatsbaan, where she is spending three weeks. “It takes a lot of courage to be still on stage. After 9/11, I wanted the audience to take a slower pace, to absorb and recognize within themselves the absolute vulnerability and fragility of the human condition.”

“Interplay,” Buglisi’s latest dance, the one that is being forged at Kaatsbaan, is yet another departure for the dancemaker. Set for The Egg program, the new work is stark compared to her others, as she concentrates on the cello and piano music by Bach, Chopin and Scriabin, and its give-and-take with the dance.

“I wanted to start out with a simple theme,” said Buglisi, who will be accompanied by pianist Melody Fader at The Egg. “I wanted to make the music a pivotal player in the dance narrative, to explore how music affects our feelings and emotions. It’s a metaphor for relationships.”

That straightforward simplicity is atypical. Buglisi usually is drawn to larger issues — mainly social causes and the environment. She also finds inspiration in painting and literature and layers her works with references gleaned from exhaustive research.

Homage to rain forest

For example, “Rain,” which is being reserved for the Kaatsbaan showing, is an homage to the rain forest. To create it, Buglisi visited the jungles of South America — at great risk, since outsiders are unwelcome in the areas where the forest is being destroyed. It paid off, though; The multimedia work, praised as “visually stunning,” gives the sensation of strolling through the lush, dewy groves of the jungle.

“The film [by Jacobo Borges] that goes with the dances gives this wonderful sensation of the rhythms of the forest,” said Buglisi, who set the film and dance to Glen Velez’s percussion with additional music by Lori Cotler, Villa-Lobos and Mahler.

While research is invaluable, Buglisi admits that the studio is where the dance takes shape. “I have to let it go and allow things to happen like a scientist in a laboratory.”

Things happen more easily for Buglisi, since she is blessed with a stellar lineup of dancers. The company formed in 1994 with not only Buglisi but other Graham luminaries Terese Capucilli, Christine Dakin and Donlin Foreman. Both Capucilli and Dakin still perform with the group, which pleases Buglisi, since those mature artists have much to offer.

“This is one of the unique things about the company,” said Buglisi. “The range of dancers are in their early 20s up to their 50s. The older dancers make it richer and the younger dancers really learn.”

Other Graham alumni who sharpen Buglisi’s creations include Virginie Mecene, Kevin Predmore and Miki Orihara.

She cherishes the time with each dancer as “the more we work together, the stronger our voice.”

Inspired by paintings

She expects the voice and vision to be strong at both programs, which will be rounded out by works inspired by paintings — “Caravaggio Meets Hopper,” a dance that juxtaposes the stillness of Hopper’s “Nighthawks” with the bright and convivial Caravaggio’s works, and “Red Hills,” a moving reproduction of Georgia O’Keeffe’s luxurious desert landscapes.

No matter what’s on the bill, Buglisi wants the dances to serve a larger vision — that of expressing the spirit of humanity.

“I want people to make their own interpretation of the dances, to recognize themselves in the dance,” she said. “It’s about awakening empathy and compassion while experiencing the passion of the dances.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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