Over the years, the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company has come and gone, plagued by funding challenges. But thankfully, Lubovitch and dancers are back. And they are as strong and beautiful as ever.
On Thursday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, this sumptuous 11-member ensemble got the Saratoga Arts Fest off to an auspicious start in a program of old and new. Regardless of age, all four works proved that Lubovitch is a blessed choreographer — one who lucidly draws dance from the inherent drama or joy in music.
Seeing both old and new also shows that Lubovitch had the gift then, in such works as the 1978 “North Star,” and he has it now with new works like “Coltrane’s Favorite Things.”
The program began with Lubovitch at his most hypnotic — “North Star,” to the score by Philip Glass. The group work grabbed the eye instantly as the dancers inundated the space, undulating on their feet like massive waves on the ocean. Holding hands or with arms about waists, the dancers came together and then spread as one unit surging back and forth across the floor.
This fetching opening dissolved into a quartet in which four now reached up, rather than out. Yet the most infatuating portion of “North Star” was saved for a contrasting solo with Jenna Fakhoury. While other portions of the dance flowed fluidly with the music, her solo was jerky. Her whole body vibrated as she raised and lowered her angled arms and jagged fingers. As her hair flew around her face, she was a force of untamed nature.
The pas de deux from “Meadow,” from 1999, was equally beguiling. To music by Gavin Bryars, Katarzyna Skarpetowska enthralled as she posed like a tautly drawn bow or a gazelle in mid-flight upon the head and shoulders of Brian McGinnis. Touching the ground for brief moments, she was both at peace and acutely alert, ready to spring at the sign of danger. The short work ended with her being rotated by McGinnis as she stood on one foot, her head down in silent contemplation.
There was nothing contemplative about “Coltrane’s Favorite Things.” Set to a live recording of John Coltrane’s Quartet rendering of “My Favorite Things,” the dance was a departure for Lubovitch. Though he is not know for his work with jazz, nor for being a hipster, the piece, with dancers in sneakers, was a surprise. It was also a rambunctious delight.
Set against a backdrop of ladders and red and blue lights, the piece was a snappy romp with dancers skipping and kicking up a tornado. Skarpetowska with partner Jonathan E. Alsberry stood out with their shimmying duet that had the audience hooting. The piece ended aptly with the couple slowly sinking to the floor – falling flat out on the last beat.
The program was completed by the lovely “The Legend of Ten,” set to Brahms’ “Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor,” which featured pianist Glenn Gould. While the dancing was lush and juicy, it did not have the instant appeal of the others. It was a delicate, exotic work, however, that rewarded viewers who stayed with it until its end.