New dancers sprinkle new life into a dance ensemble, but it’s rare to see a troupe as established as the Maude Baum and Company Dance Theatre — it’s been in Albany for more than 40 years — take the stage with an entirely new cast.
Thus, even while her group of five is dancing old repertory standards, including inimitable works by Isadora Duncan, the company feels revived.
This cleaning out of the old is unusual for the loyal Baum, who tends to rely on the familiar, allowing her dancers a place on her stage for as long as a dancer desires — not always a good idea. So this unseasoned group, which performed the company’s annual Spring Salon concert Friday night at its eba Theatre, is a welcome sight. That is true even though the company didn’t appear in any new pieces (that would have been a creative boon, as the company hasn’t, sadly, unveiled anything new in several years).
Still, an entirely new group needs time to coalesce. And at first, the show looked to be a challenge for the all-female troupe, which opened the program with Baum’s “Songs I REEEEEEELY Like.”
This suite, a combination of sultry, silly and poignant — yet the first piece — to Nina Simone’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” with Whitney Forbes and Zoe Drori Werboff, felt awkward. They were out-of-synch in this churning struggle — thinking more about the movement than surrendering to it.
But the next set of songs offered redemption. Regina Marie Felio and Armelle Kessler gave audiences a kick in “What a Kick.” Dressed in sneakers, the pair threw their legs and arms in the air in an aerobic, slapstick workout that had Felio begging for an end.
Drori Werboff had troubles again with a very large skirt in “(sigh) Men!” to Simone’s rendering of “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” Yet this piece, partnered with a chair, was so heart-wrenching that she pulled it off earnestly.
Simone’s vocal talents again entertained in “What’s Wrong with Baby?” to her “Baby Only Cares for Me.” In it, a sexy trio, with its back to the audience, swung its hips and slid its legs out long, cabaret style. It ended with a surprise that had the audience roaring.
This new ensemble demonstrated its potential in the Duncan dances, however. These works — the basis for all modern dance — were performed with the spirit of its creator clearly in the fore. The dancers delivered such works as “Mazurka #4, The River Maidens” and “Visions of Heaven’s Light in the Greek Afterlife: The Elysian Fields” with an engaging combination of lightness and softness.
There was a breath that carried each of these dances along as if riding a breeze. The heave in the dancers’ chests inflated their buoyancy, keeping the dances fresh and relevant. The dancers also lent the reverence to the dances that they deserve.
The costumes were gorgeous, too — light and colorful silk tunics that responded to every ripple of their movement. Better still, guest pianist Ryan Devine played the Chopin music.
There was only one problem: Felio’s hairstyle was too modern. She must discard the headband for a more natural ’do to give her a classical appearance to become a true Duncan devotee.
The company will repeat its Spring Salon concert at 8 p.m. today and Sunday.
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