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Light Music

New York City Center's 80th anniversary features a fall dance season worth celebrating. Lyon Opera Ballet brings a staging of Lucinda Childs's “Dance;” Savion Glover directs and performs alongside Dormeshia in the Rogers and Hart classic “Pal Joey”; Pam Tanowitz hosts her own weekend as the third featured “Artist at the Center”; and Joshua Bergasse, Jade Hale-Christofi, Jon Boogz, and Caleb Teicher collaborate on Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's jazz “Nutcracker, Sugar Hill.”   

Performance

New York City Center's Fall for Dance Festival, Program 1

Place

New York City Center

Words

Cecilia Whalen

Caleb Teicher and Conrad Tao (piano) perform Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue.” Photograph by Steven Pisano

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Kicking off the season was the annual Fall for Dance Festival, now in its 20th year. As per usual, the festival welcomed a star-studded lineup including Sara Mearns in a piece by Bobbie Jene Smith, a collaboration between Michelle Dorrance and Ephrat Asherie, Brazilian company Grupo Corpo, and a duet of Paris Opera Ballet étoiles Hugo Marchand and Germain Louvet. 

Program 1 opened with Crystal Pite's “The Statement” from 2016, a tense, dark depiction of a corporate cover-up set to text by Jonathon Young with music by Owen Belton. Danced with precision by a quartet from Ballet BC, the piece follows a conflict of conscience and a struggle of power. 

Positioned around an imposing glass table, four dancers articulate in perfect coordination to spoken text. The voices never reveal what exactly they're trying to hide, but hint towards violence and mayhem with a guilt that is itself covered up by party allegiance. 

Mirroring the voices’ conversation of manipulation, the dancers’ movement is slinky and feline. They hop on and off the table soundlessly and twitch their heads and shoulders while the voices finalize the party-line.  

“The Statement” looks kind of like an anime cartoon: Characters are clearly defined but slightly detached from the voices, with choreographed moments of hidden inner dialogue. Equally cartoon-like is the piece's ability to shift visual scenes swiftly and dramatically, enabled by Tom Visser’s exceptional lighting. Using the table as both prop and boundary, Visser creates reflections and shadows, then shuts off the lighting altogether. At one point, all is dark except for underneath the table, which becomes a hell-like cave where dancers quiver in sin. 

Ballet BC in Crytal Pite's “The Statement.” Photograph by Steven Pisano

Closing Program 1 was Sonya Tayeh's “Oh Courage!” for Gibney Company, which premiered in 2021 as part of the company's Joyce Theater season. Set to music by the folk-rock duo The Bengsons, “Oh Courage!” depicts dancers moving in and out of a set of old stereos (set design by Rachel Hauck). The piece is made of flowing unison phrases and pleading solo moments, showing off Gibney Company's strong and supple movement quality, though never quite developing into anything more. 

Between these two earnest pieces, Caleb Teicher provided for comic relief. For the past several years, Teicher has been collaborating with pianist Conrad Tao, a musician whose resume includes solo performances with every major U.S. orchestra (including many with the New York Philharmonic where he will be returning for the 2023-24 season) and an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Tao and Teicher first collaborated in 2013 when they were paired as young performers by the Miami-based YoungArts. Remaining friends, Teicher commissioned Tao for a work on their company in 2017, and in 2020 the two premiered a duet at the Library of Congress. 

Gibney Company in Sonya Tayeh's “O Courage!” Photograph by Steven Pisano

Teicher and Tao revisited that 2020 performance for Fall for Dance with a virtuosic rendition of Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue.” Ever at ease in front of an audience—even that of a sold-out New York City Center—Teicher let Tao start the show, seated slightly upstage watching the pianist from a chair, legs crossed. Next, Teicher rose playfully to join Tao with a rhythm to match seamlessly. They took their time to start dancing, stopping from time to time to just enjoy Tao's playing. 

Juxtaposing Tao's bravado, Teicher assumed silly poses and slid slowly into splits and yoga poses. As the music built, Teicher upped their speed, adding jumps and multiple pirouettes. They flew in tap wings and sprinted in time steps. At one point, Teicher trotted over to Tao, tapping him on the head as they made a lap back to their space. Despite the detour, Teicher never lost the beat. They played duck-duck-goose while staying right in the pocket. It's a trademark of Teicher's work: always musical, but never too serious.  

 

Cecilia Whalen


Cecilia Whalen is a writer and dancer from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and holds a bachelor's degree in French. Currently, Cecilia is studying composition at the Martha Graham School for Contemporary Dance in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.

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