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BWW Review: Celebrating 15 Years & 2 Farewells with New Chamber Ballet

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BWW Review: Celebrating 15 Years & 2 Farewells with New Chamber Ballet
Elizabeth Brown and Sarah Atkins
ttltrack; photographer

Fifteen years, two goodbyes, and a reunion of dancers: that's how Miro Magloire celebrated the 15th season of New Chamber Ballet at City Center Studios on November 22nd & 23rd. Those departing included founding member Elizabeth Brown and ten year veteran Sarah Atkins, both of whom have blessed the company with virtuosity and spiritual purity in their dancing. In his closing remarks for this season's big premiere, Magloire commented that what drew dancers to the company was their love of music and the community that it fostered. The same could be said for the sold-out audience, which saluted the evening with an eight-minute-long ovation.

The concert began with Klavierstücke, which was set to Karlheinz Stockhausen's Klavierstücke IX. In his opening remarks about the piece, Magloire explained that he went from corresponding with Stockhausen as a fan to writing him as an adult for permission to choreograph to his work. This ballet about the art of listening opened with Atkins and Brown framing Melody Faber as she pounded the same chord until it became a meditative hum. One after the other, the two dancers bowed to this percussive chant with Brown descending to the floor as Atkins rose to stand beside the piano. Mirroring the tension between silence and Klavierstücke's vibrating chords, the two danced under and around the grand piano in counterpoint before progressing to reflect jagged phrases of a darting cat-and-mouse chase towards each other. Though the entire exchange felt austere, there was under-girding quality of playfulness to the choreography, as if a noted intellectual were conversing with a former student, now an acknowledged equal. A highlight of this reworked revival was that it took place with the piano center stage so that we saw the choreographed exchange from one perspective, and its response from a completely different view.

BWW Review: Celebrating 15 Years & 2 Farewells with New Chamber Ballet
Sarah Atkins
ttltrack; photographer

For Another Day celebrated Atkins' singing arabesque, sailing balances, and sensual grace as she sauntered through memories, while rising every so often to dispatch phrases of lovely legato. The solo captured her essence as a powerful dancer blessed with solid technique that allows her to float endlessly en pointe, even as her cherubic face sparkles with the wit of a soubrette. Atkins has always been a compelling mix of attributes that do not belong to each other. Her va-va-voom frame, Amazonian stature, bewitching manner, and powerhouse virtuosity make it difficult to place her according to the rules of emploi. For her goodbye, Magloire combined that impeccable sweep, extension, and lyricism into a mélange of space devouring folk steps, petit yet hovering jumps, sharp footwork, smooth turns, and silent landings. New York's loss is Nashville's gain, and we hope that Atkins will continue to perform in her new home.

Phantom showed Magloire's penchant for female partnering, counterbalancing, and phrases that bob in out of each other, barely missing collision at the last moment. Its most memorable image featured Rachele Perla gliding imperiously across a field strewn with the bodies of her colleagues as if she were Myrtha, beckoning them to rise in her wake. This was an excerpt that made one long to witness the ballet in its full glory.

BWW Review: Celebrating 15 Years & 2 Farewells with New Chamber Ballet
Elizabeth Brown
ttltrack; photographer

Nureyev once said of Elisabeth Maurin that, "She reminds me of Ulanova." Halfway through Elizabeth Brown's farewell solo, MORNING SONG, I finally grasped the entirety of what he meant. Rather than dominate an audience with impossible feats, Brown draws the eye through her dedication to the simple gesture. Her refusing affectation is not a lack of effect; rather it is a purity that highlights the unadorned beauty of her every step. It's a unique style, neither glamorous nor punchy, but obsessed with how movement blends and folds into itself from sequence to sequence. Because nothing is wasted, it is easy to forget how fully present Brown is at all moments. Some dancers exclaim how great they are--Elizabeth Brown let you decide for yourself.

The evening closed with a piece d'occasion that framed the company's four veteran dancers intermingling with one another. There were duos of inner and outer concentric circles that swapped lines as the music--Dvorak's Romance, magnificently played by Doorni Na on violin and Melody Fader on piano--crested and swelled. The message was sweet and simple though the choreographic effect was immense: 'though our time together has passed, we will always share these memories' manifested as four lines wove together to form a perfect circle, or a friendship bracelet.

In Japan, it is not uncommon for girls to have crushes on each other. The basis for these crushes is not a traditional romance; instead, it is founded on deep admiration for what one friend gives to another. So it was with As One, which grew into an even larger circle made up of former members with New Chamber Ballet who took the stage to dance for the now seated quartet. Such displays of loving admiration are challenging to sit through with a dry eye. The audience dismissed their tears by giving standing ovations as Atkins and Brown received numerous bouquets. Bravo to Magloire and his dancers for arranging this incredible tribute and season closing. Three cheers for another 15 years.

New Chamber Ballet returns next season with an evening of dances to Ursula Mamlok's music at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. For more information, visit: newchamberballet.com


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