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Each August, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors transforms Lincoln Center, turning it virtually inside out. The massive theaters become sculptural backdrops for performances in the many surrounding plazas. Magically altered by a varied succession of music and dance troupes, but consistently informed by the city's vitality--the sight of soaring birds, a buzzing helicopter, the golden sunset, even the occasional siren--these spaces come alive with activity. With the fading light of evening, boundaries between performers and audiences dissolve. In spite of the huge crowds at each event (everything is free), there is a sense of intimacy and shared pleasure at these performances. This art belongs to all New Yorkers; it is the city at its finest.

During the eight performances I observed during the 1999 season, titled "Carnival of the Century," there were many memorable moments, on- and off-stage. One fearless toddler left his father's protective arms, entranced by the delicate cavorting of a masked ancestral figure on stilts, a member of the Jamaican troupe Ancient Vibrations. The dancer knelt before the child, who clapped gleefully as the strange and wondrous figure met his gaze.

During Peter Boal's dynamic performance of The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Molissa Fenley, the circus-bell tones of a passing ice-cream truck intruded mischievously on the insistent rhythms of Igor Stravinsky's score. This unusual juxtaposition of sounds did not detract from Boal's intense and intelligent shaping of this rigorous solo.

The young teen sitting in front of me found himself involuntarily chuckling at the wacky shenanigans of Sara Pearson/Patrik Widrig and Company in their Ordinary Festivals. Whether it was their stony-faced presences and non sequitur gesturing at one point or their robust physicality and game-playing at others, this utterly joyful, but rather sophisticated, romp was a total delight. Accompanied by a wonderful variety of Italian music, this finely crafted but completely unpredictable dance culminated with the dancers tossing one hundred oranges to each other. Eager youngsters rushed to gather those that fell from the stage.

In Risa Jaroslow's Pool Party Paradise II, dancers, bicyclists, a runner, and bystanders found common ground in the pleasure of water. Jaroslow's vital structural design and the complexity of the dancing sustained the playfulness of their interactions in and around eight plastic wading pools. Tossing their drenched hair to cast glistening arcs of water, slipping seductively into the pools, and partnering each other in and out of them, the dancers conveyed both the sensuality and the sustaining quality of water.

Strangely, of all the performing areas, the Damrosch Park Bandshell--the one made for performance--is the least successful. Unless you are seated up front or on an aisle it is almost impossible to see any dancing fully. Philadanco's world premiere of Ronald K. Brown's Ode to Ellington suffered because what appeared to be nuanced choreography did not register to those with the disadvantage of a distanced or obstructed view.

The most magical of the festival's performances, Vivaldi Carnivale, took place in the little grove of trees and benches between the New York State Theater and the bandshell. Transformed by Adam Macks's lighting and Mark Lattimor's set of Venetian bridges into both an enchanted forest and a sophisticated Venice, this was the site of romantic liaisons, evil intrigues, and happy endings.

Surrounded by the audience, the New York Baroque Dance Company, in elaborate dress and magnificent headdresses, danced and acted spiritedly to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. Jane Stein's elegant puppets aided in miming the action. It was possible to imagine this event taking place in the garden of a French chateau or Italian palazzo some two-plus centuries ago. Reconstructed in New York City in the summer of 1999, it made perfect sense.
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Title Annotation:highlights of several performances at the August, 1999, 'Carnival of the Century' staged at New York City's Lincoln Center
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Nov 1, 1999

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