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BRAZILIAN VERVE IN SEARCH OF VARIETY.

BRAZILIAN VERVE IN SEARCH
OF VARIETY

CISNE NEGRO
THE JOYCE THEATER
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
JUNE 26-30, 20011


The Cisne Negro company, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, offered a crowd-pleasing blend of admirably schooled dancers, good music, energy, and enthusiasm. What it didn't have (at least on the program offered during a short New York season) were enough choreographers who could tease out a dynamic range of mood in physical terms.

Oddly enough, one of the pieces presented during the company's run purported to do just that. In Case of..., a new work by Dany Bittencourt (daughter of the company's founder and director, Hulda Bittencourt, and now assistant director), was described in the program as "a playful study on me various states of mind the human being is capable of." To lively music by Brazilian composer Tom Ze, the dancers grimaced, gesticulated, and mimed between and alongside sequences of jazzy, hip-hop-influenced dance. An odd mix of European dance-theater-style emoting and cheerful entertainment, the piece actually worked against the choreographer's goal of "expressing the different moods of the soul" by keeping the acting and the dancing in such discrete compartments as to render the relationship arbitrary. The program credited an acting coach, but the work underlined the probability that dancers best express those moods through dancing rather than dramatics.

The upbeat mood of In Case of ... also characterized Mark Baldwin's Danses Concertantes and Rui Moreira's Trama, which respectively opened and closed the evening. To Stravinsky's score of the same title, Baldwin devised a set of perky dances that showed off Cisne Negro's sharp technicians. Quick, sharp steps cut through the space as a group of women in short black dresses were quickly joined by men in black pants and sheer tops, all crisscrossing the stage with slicing, incisive motion. Baldwin started off well, with a playful air to the rapid opening duos and an undulating male solo. The elaborate patterning and disparate activities soon looked a little convoluted, however, and some of the choreography was heavily influenced by William Forsythe, without Forsythe's lightness of touch.

Moreira's Trama was similarly visually and physically busy, with elaborate costumes (black lace variants on body tights, then white crocheted outfits) and tasseled headpieces by Eduardo Ferreira (and beautiful lighting by Andre Botto), reinforcing the carnival air of the "various Brazilian composers" used as a score. The choreography, however, was a nondescriptly jazzy affair with much hip-thrusting and sambaing for the dancers; the only really ingenious section was a perfectly contrived sequence in which ramrod-stiff women were manipulated as if they were shop mannequins.

The best work of the evening was Itzik Galili's Earth Apples, in which six men in full pleated skirts (apparently an all-women cast also performs the work) moved deliberately to the gravely beautiful songs of Mercedes Sosa as they appeared to pick and plant potatoes. Galili made extensive use of the floor and the horizontal but kept the movement flowing seamlessly, communicating both the mechanical aspect of agricultural labor and the beauty of practiced motion. The potatoes were used both poetically and prosaically: The men placed them carefully in rows, then gathered them up into their skirts, spilling them out in ejaculatory celebration; a man lay on a bed of potatoes, which were gathered up and thrown into the darkness behind him. Beautifully performed without a trace of sentiment, Earth Apples communicated, above all, a powerful feeling of physical imperative, of the elemental power of dancing, in a way that--oddly enough--few dance pieces can manage.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:SULCAS, ROSLYN
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Words:582
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