BWW Review: HAGOROMO Meditates on the Contrasts Between Heaven and Earth
Rich in history and antiquated opulence, the BAM Harvey served as the ideal theater for David Michalek's imaginative Hagoromo, the world premiere of a multi-medium artistic portrait of self-proclaimed "Sky, Earth, World, Flesh". A venue rooted to its past with an aesthetic that looks toward the future, Hagoromo served the space by exploring the physical and tonal differences between Heaven and Earth.
A minimal wooden stage, dimly lit, began to pulsate with trance-like energy in Part One - The Heavens, as ICE's syncopated drumming and tranquil percussion permeated the room with a vibrational hum (capably conducted by Nicholas DeMaison). Filled in with the haunting voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, it was then that the audience got the first glimpse of The Angel, former NYCB principal dancer, Wendy Whelan. Her sculpted frame, emerging first as a solitary shadow, moved with deliberate agility, showcasing her otherworldly ability to carve through space with unparalleled lightness and buoyancy. A pas de deux began with The Angel and a sacred mantle, the Hagoromo, which imbued her with distinct, mystical power. As two celestial beings entered the stage (via the puppeteers), the mantle flew away and fell to The Earth, where we first met The Fisherman, Hakuryo, danced by ballet tour-de-force Jock Soto.
Characterized by a firm suppleness and inherent calm, Soto's poise easily enhanced his grounded movement, which played with staccato rotations and earth-bound glances. The angular precision of David Neumann's choreography served Soto's stature in a most natural way, and this reached new heights when The Angel and The Fisherman finally meet. Anchored by the pair's undeniable chemistry from their longstanding, renowned stage partnership, Whelan and Soto approached one another with palpable tentativeness, mirroring the prolonged cadence of the show. Deliberately extended pauses in motion and intense eye contact served to showcase the differences between these two beings; one celestial and lissome; one earth-bound and solid.
Whelan and Soto's interaction is the climax of the piece; a moment of bated breath that ultimately, should have been expanded upon further. Reuniting one of ballet's most fortified partnerships, expectations were at an all-time high. When the duo finally did interact, it felt seamless and inherently melodic with each lift and assisted promenade; it was magnetic. But these moments felt lacking in content and in such a pivotal point in the show, the pacing plateaued. Only when The Angel performed the final Dance of the Moons and "unfolded like a flower" to ascend back into The Heavens did the partnership between spirit and humanity solidify, and the choreography reflected more realized spheres of separates.
It is a testament to the sheer excellence of Whelan and Soto's capacity for movement that this piece took flight, existing between the realities of metaphysical realms.
Photo Credit: David Michalek