Small stage forces bland dance performance

It’s a shame that Buglisi Dance Theatre didn’t get the full treatment at The Egg on Friday night.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

It’s a shame that Buglisi Dance Theatre didn’t get the full treatment at The Egg on Friday night.

This marvelous modern dance ensemble, a healthy and radiant spinoff of the Martha Graham Dance Company, was relegated to the Swyer Theater for its area debut.

The Swyer is fine for chamber ensembles of musicians and dancers who don’t use theatrical trimmings like lights and sets.

But Buglisi, named for founder and artistic director Jacqulyn Buglisi, has made its reputation on lush production values that build forceful moods.

But at the Egg, the company had to dispose of atmosphere. The Buglisi experience translated to just another dance.

More unforgiveable was the sin of shaving off space. Room is the life bread of dance. And the Swyer stage is small, oddly shaped and has no wings. So this company of 14 dancers, plus a pianist at a grand, had a tough time maneuvering the cramped quarters. Of the five pieces on the bill, three looked constrained and cluttered.

Even Buglisi’s masterpiece “Requiem,” the evening’s finale, suffered.

This is usually a heartbreaker. Five women, representing the world’s inhumanity, clawed the air, clutched their stomach and hid their eyes as they crumbled and collapsed off of platforms. Their gowns, draped at the hips, gave the impression of carrying the baggage of history.

But without the smouldering dry ice swirling at their feet and the shadowy lighting treatment, the inherent mystery and scale dissipated.

Making its world premiere was Buglisi’s latest work, “Interplay 3/5.”

The ensemble work, set to live piano music by Bach, Chopin and Scriabin, as performed by Melody Fader, swung between swift and upbeat and slow and juicy.

The dancers playfully interacted with Fader, clapping for her and moving around her sheet music. Juxtaposed in between were romantic duets that were keepers, especially the one with Marie Zvosec who exuded drama.

But when all nine dancers were gathered, they couldn’t dance this musical work full-out for fear of falling off the stage, slapping a fellow dancer in the face or stubbing their toe on the piano.

“…ING,” choreographed by Buglisi’s co-founder Donlin Foreman, fared better as this was a duet.

Virginie Victoire Mecene and Kevin Predmore chased and then embraced with tenderness. They experienced some moments of awkwardness in the many precarious lifts. Yet their calm rapport carried them through.

The evening was rounded out with excerpts from “Caravaggio Meets Hopper,” in which Buglisi took on film noir with little to no references to Caravaggio’s paintings.

The choreographer did capture the essence of Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Red Hill with Sun” in “Red Hills,” a work in which one could sense the heat off of Helen Hansen.

The evening wasn’t a complete compromise as Buglisi Dance Theatre was able to adjust.

Still, it would be nice if the company got a second chance in the proper Hart Theatre.

In the meantime, those who want to see Buglisi Dance Theatre in a more appropriate setting should see them at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center next weekend.

The company will perform a different program on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in the center’s Studio Theater. Buglisi deserves a look.

Categories: Life and Arts

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