Returning after 18 years, this ballet troupe impresses with sensuous choreography and gorgeous dancers.
By Joel Benjamin
Ballet BC, returning to New York after a long time away, presented three ballets at the Joyce. All, refreshingly, were choreographed by women, one of whom displayed a particularly original voice.
That ballet, “Bill,” choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar to a pop-tinged, droning and ever quickening music by Ori Lichtik, took the beautiful Ballet BC dancers into the realm of ritualized sex and mindless physical display which included undulating torsos and sensuous drops into deep piles as punctuation marks for movement phrases. That the two worked with Ohad Naharin was evident in the seemingly random structure of the work which slowly coalesced into a fascinatingly sensuous ritual.
The dancers skittered about on half-toe, ran into each other and slowly formed larger and larger groups facing the audience as if challenging us to watch them. This challenge was easily met. Dressed in nudie unitards (designed by the choreographic team), their hair slicked back and streaked with white, the dancers were further exposed as sex objects as they hit hip-jutting poses, bumping and grinding almost mindlessly. The effect was both silly and hypnotic.
The first two ballets, “16 + A Room” and “Solo Echo” seemed related, like two halves of the same ballet, the first angular and angst-ridden, the second more lyrical, but still disturbing. The sensation of their being a matching set was helped by both being costumed in black (designed by Kate Burrows for the former work and by Crystal Pite & Joke Visser for the latter).
The first, choreographed by Emily Molnar, the troupe’s artistic director, is a William Forsythe-esque, work, but with far more emotional shadings than in any of Forsythe’s coolly antiseptic works. The score by Dirk P. Haubrich consisted of loud buzzing and other irritating sounds with occasional sections of softer, murmurings. The dancers didn’t seem to be dancing to the music, but within it. The dark neverland world of constant grappling, leanings, lifts and rolls on the floor provided few chances to relate . The dancers, bathed in cool spotlights (by Jordan Tuinman) formed ever changing groups with soloists and duos emerging anonymously. For some reason, a sign with the words, “This is a beginning,” was carried about, feeling more like a gimmick than an organic part of the work. “16 + A Room” was harsh, like Forsythe’s work. The constant bending and lunging and recombining of partners became a portrait of discontent. The use of toe shoes was almost beside the point as the men and the women danced virtually the same steps.
“Solo Echo,” by Crystal Pite, was, by dint of its Brahms cello sonata score, softer-edged than the first work, but still had a feeling of existential loneliness, emphasized by a video of a constant rain or snow shower. Inspired by a sad poem, “Lines for Winter” by Mark Strand (reprinted in the program), “Solo Echo” takes its cue from the suicidal images of the poem.
The lugubrious lighting by Tom Visser, didn’t help, often making the dancers virtually invisible, just shadows racing back and forth in loping running steps, occasionally meeting in soft sculptural arrangement of silhouetted dancers. At the end they formed two lines. The upstage line of dancers moved forward to embrace the downstage line around the waist. One by one, the embraced dancers slipped down and padded softly away, leaving just one lonely dancer on stage, bending backwards in frustration.
Ballet BC is as fine modern ballet troupe that has stayed too long away from the New York dance scene which could profit from seeing these intense, quite individual dancers somehow merging into a single artistic expression.
Ballet BC (June 1-5, 2016)
Joyce Theater 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street New York, NY
For tickets, call 212-242-0800 or visit www.Joyce.org