BWW Review: BUGLISI DANCE THEATRE Celebrates Women of Distinction
Like sand through the hourglass, so is the choreography of Jacqulyn Buglisi. No one can argue that Ms. Buglisi knows how to craft beautifully lush movement. Her dances are ephemeral yet timeless, like a conjured dream held in stasis. But in the wrong hands, this ravishing quality becomes smothering. Luckily Ms. Buglisi formed her original company with Terese Capucilli, Christine Dakin, and Donlin Foreman. At the time they were filling a void left in the wake of Martha Graham's death. More than this, they were four of the most talented dancers on the planet coming into their own as creators while using their own incomparable bodies as tools of deliverance; how could the results be anything less than spectacular? Though one wonders, was it the work or the performers? We found out on June 7th, 2016 at The Ailey Citigroup Theatre during the gala performance of Buglisi Dance Theatre's 23rd Season.
Ms. Buglisi took the stage to welcome the audience and to lament the passing of a time that fostered her vision. Ms. Buglisi had the keys to "Martha's House" - the hallowed Graham Townhouse and Studios - where she and her fellow dancers would gather after hours to rehearse and create. This was a simpler time where one could still live, breathe, and eat dance despite the struggle. Decades later, Ms. Buglisi acknowledged, we live in very different times.
It was a curious way to open a celebration. Ultimately it served as foreshadowing for what was to come: a beautiful film tribute - produced by Bill Randolph - to Ms. Capucilli. Even as the film played for eight minutes longer than it should have, I felt enraptured by what I was seeing. In fact, I could have watched hours of footage displaying Ms. Capucilli, even if it only showed her drinking from a glass of water. "Vissi d'Arte". Does anyone else live for art these days as this woman clearly did? Perhaps, though the tragedy is that lesser mortals cannot compete with even the memory of this extraordinary creature. Though they danced excellently the current company of Buglisi Dance had to do exactly that. They didn't stand a chance. Next to this film, as well as Guest Artists Christine Dakin and Blakeley White-McGuire and company member Ari Mayzik, everyone else looked to the manor adopted. It wasn't exactly fair comparison.
Ms. Dakin delivered Graham's signature solo "Lamentation" in a radical interpretation that electrified the audience - she's had decades to perfect this piece. She could properly perform it in her sleep better than anyone else. Ms. White-McGuire is the greatest female Graham dancer of this age - her transitions were seamless. Truly, if you want to know how the Graham Technique should be danced, watch this woman. She performed "Deep Song" which was reconstructed by Graham herself for Ms. Capucilli. Meanwhile, Mr. Mayzik was a former child prodigy of the Graham technique who worked extensively with Pearl Lang - he also happens to be the greatest male Graham dancer of this age. Why isn't he a Principal of that company? He has the beautiful beefcake body, the technique and power, as well as the physical range of an Ailey dancer. His performance of "Prelude" served as a worthy successor to its creator, Mr. Foreman. Better that this film and these guest performances had been saved for the end. It would have successfully defied the rule of diminishing returns.
Thank goodness then for the three long serving company members Stephanie Van Dooren-Eshkenazi, Lauren Jaeger, and So Young An. Ms. Van Dooren-Eshkenazi reminds one of a fragile bird that suddenly takes flight to cross an ocean. Ms. Jaeger knows when to go big and that she doesn't have to. Ms. Young is effortlessly commanding and glamorously dramatic. While these three pillars of Buglisi Dance were not quite at the level of Ms. White-McGuire or Ms. Dakin, they are well on their way. One wonders if what they have is innate. There is a mystical quality to Ms. Buglisi's work that defies ego. For instance, company member Anne O'Donnell is a fine dancer - and she made sure that we knew that she knew it - but this work uses physical effect to reveal meaning that is deeper than height of a leg or the force of a thrown dress. It's a fine distinction; one that the newer company members have yet to master.
Buglisi Dance Theatre remains crucial viewing for any serious lover of the arts. Though I come away with no great love for Ms. Buglisi's latest work - "In the Spirit of Enheduanna", which looked like gesticulations of four women from four different Grecian urns brought to life, second viewings of "Sand", "Requiem", and "Sopiri" - sadly without Virginie Mécène, though with the great Kevin Predmore who must be approaching 50 while moving with the vigor of a 25 year old stud - prove that Ms. Buglisi's voice is essential. Really, what this concert proves more than anything is that she should be choreographing for The Martha Graham Dance Company. Why does The Ailey Company have one of her works in repertory while Graham has none? Given the fact that more than half of her company dances for Graham as well, it rather seems like a no brainer. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see one of the most successful and celebrated members of The Graham Family return home to create a new work? There's food for thought.
Until then, Buglisi Dance Theatre continues its run at The Ailey Citigroup Theatre through June 9th, 2016. The remaining nights do not contain the guest performances, which is probably for the best; excellent as they were, they unbalanced the evening.
"In the Spirit of Enheduanna" Photo Credit: Darial Sneed