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BWW Review: 2016 Fall For Dance is Underway at New York City Center

This year's Fall for Dance Festival includes twenty different dance companies and groups performing a potpourri of different styles of dance, four groups per performance, each performing on two consecutive nights. On Wednesday, September 28, 2016 I saw the first of two nights of four presentations.

First on the program was an old style modern Dance Company from Great Britten, the Richard Alston Dance Company with the Montclair State University Vocal Accord, beautifully singing the music of Benjamin Britten on stage, in Alston's Rejoice In The Lamb. This is the telling of the story of Christopher Smart who is confined to an asylum because of his exaggerated religious fervor. His cat, Jeoffry is with him. The corps dancers wore pretty spring dresses (female dancers) and knickers with puffy sleeved shirts (male dancers). The movement, however, was not as inspiring as the music, as indicated by the appreciation of the audience.

After a pause, we were treated to a hypnotic performance of AWAA (adapted for Fall for Dance), by Canadian born contemporary choreographer Aszure Barton and her international group, Aszure Barton & Artists. Awaa translates to "one who is a mother" in the language of the Haida, an aboriginal people living on the west coast of Canada. The piece opens with a large, glowing red ball in the dark at the back of the stage, center, with the talented William Briscoe dancing silhouetted in front of it to mesmerizing music by Curtis MacDonald and Lev "Liova" Zhurbin. When the glow of the ball faded out of sight, I missed it, but not for long, as the brilliant cast and choreography carried me forward, along with an appreciative audience. The dancers performed the musical work with aplomb and deserve mention. Along with Briscoe were Jonathan Emanuell Alsberry, Lara Barclay (the only female in the cast), Tobin Del Cuore, Thomas House, Jeremy Raia, and Oscar Ramos. I have previously seen and enjoyed some of Barton's works. AWAA is my favorite, to date, making my Fall for Dance experience worthwhile; so I am looking forward to seeing more of Aszure Barton & Artists in the future, a fascinating use of contemporary dance.

Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson performed The Ballad of Mack and Ginny (US Premiere), choreographed and directed by Arthur Pita, to music of Kurt Weill, Tango Ballad from The Threepenny Opera. The curtain opened on a stage without backdrop. Against the white brick wall, at the back, were the marvelous musicians: Frank Moon, Bev Lee Harling, Stephen Little, Aiden O'Donnell, and Stefan Vasnier. The tango-inspired "dance drama" explores the violent, doomed love affair of Mack the Knife and Ginny Jenny, two characters from Weill and Bertold Brecht's 1028 musical, The Threepenny Opera. This was a mature and sexy performance. Whelan, a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, demonstrated that she is still a special performer with plenty to share with her audience. It is not only that her great legs go on and on, but it is largely her dramatic expression, which demands our attention. Her impeccable partner, Watson, is a principal dancer of The Royal Ballet, London. The pair thrilled my balletomane essence, sealing my delight at having attended this evening's performance, leaving me hungry to see each of them and both of them again and again. I would have been satisfied to leave the theater at the close of this piece.

The final performance was by renowned Brazilian Dance Company, Grupo Corpo, under the artistic direction of Paulo Pederneiras, bringing Suite Branca, in its NY premiere. They danced to music of Samuel Rosa, Suite Branca. I had seen them perform a number of years ago and remembered the performance as extraordinary. This choreography, by Cassi Abranches, did not live up to my memory. The simple, white costumes did not do the dancers a good turn, showing up their technical deficiencies. I was so surprised by this performance that I looked for their older performances on YouTube. It made me happy to see several exceptional performances by Grupo Corpo from years gone by.

That is the beauty of Fall for Dance, which runs through October 8, 2016. Each performance may include some you love, some you like, and possibly, others that underwhelm. With two of the four pieces that I loved, I enjoyed it more than other years when I was not so fortunate.

Photo credit: Andrej Uspenski

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