TIVOLI — Elisa Monte is the kind of choreographer that the dance community should cherish because she drives right to the juicy nugget of visceral highs and lows that dance lovers crave.
Credit goes to her company of eight, Elisa Monte Dance, too. The buff ensemble, which performed their hearts out at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center this past weekend, push themselves to electrify the crowd. Maybe even a bit too hard, occasionally shirking quality for dazzle. Even so, it’s hard to fault Elisa Monte Dance, as much of what the dancers do is hypnotic.
Monte’s work has a swirling feel that, when performed well, sucks in its viewers. Of course, “Pigs and Fishes,” one of her best early works (1982), is a prime example of Monte’s magic. And so too is her latest creation, “Zydeco, Zare,” which was workshopped at Kaatsbaan these past three weeks.
If you love breezy zydeco, then this is the dance for you. The ensemble piece, with music by Jonno Frishberg, draws from musical drum beats from Africa and then segues into brisk zydeco — rhythmically zesty and playful.
The dancers begin as if overcome by heat — they slide languidly into the movement, falling and rolling and fanning themselves as they go. As the lights dim, they return, dressed for a party, and the fun begins.
The dance is peopled by a flirty trio and an over-the-top solo. The dancers are having a great time evident in their huge smiles. And so too does the audience who kinetically connects with their gusto.
The best part
The best part, however, is the central pairing for a fussy man and woman. They grapple, push and pull. Their collisions are aggressive, but not disturbing. It’s a healthy battle between the sexes that ends in a truce.
The piece concludes with a big finish, with all the dancers onstage, paired off in a hip-swinging, foot-twisting zydeco dance party.
“Arrow’s Path” was also developped at Kaatsbaan. Unlike “Zydeco Zare,” this duet for Rachel Holmes and Werner Figar is still in an immature state. Performed to commissioned music by Kevin Keller, the dance entwines the two physically, but not emotionally. The string music is stirring, but the intention behind the movement is cloudy.
Also on the bill was a revival of Monte’s “Audentity” from 1984. The piece opened the program, likely because it was the weakest. All in white, the dance has the potential to entrance as it runs from fast to slow, reflecting the relentless pulsation of the music by Klaus Schulze. But the dancers looked stiff and shaky. With the attention on the new dances, “Audentity” was obviously underrehearsed.
The wonderfully intriguing “Pigs and Fishes” polished off the bill. The eight dancers intersect in repetitive, but fascinating lines and circles. With their fingers interlocked, they bound forward and back, up and down. The infinite shifts hold the audience’s attention and win Monte due admiration.