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BWW Review: DUSAN TYNEK Casts Magic at New York Live Arts

Alexandra Berger and Ned Sturgis in "Logbook"
Choreographed by Dušan Týnek
Photo: Jeff Janowski
Courtesy of UNC Wilmington; Julieta Cervantes

Lines of light illuminate the pathway of a woman in flight. Her focus is razor sharp as she surveys men soaring around her in configurations that fluctuate between the flight patterns of birds and planes. Eventually these men hoist and entangle her in a never-ending series of lifts that keep her suspended as she writes on the air with her body. Skillfully made "dancing for the sake of dancing" is a special treat to drink in especially when it stars a captivating wellspring of power like Alexandra Berger. For Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre's July 7th opening night concert at New York Live Arts, the radiance that Ms. Berger beamed in this opening piece proved hypnotic. It is to be expected; as a founding member of Mr. Týnek's company it is clear that she "gets" his aesthetic in a way that her fellow comrades have yet to grasp. This is no slur against them; talented as they all are, next to Ms. Berger's cool approach they frequently looked as if they were flailing to stay afloat.

Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre in "Logbook"
Choreographed by Dušan Týnek
Photo: Jeff Janowski
Courtesy of UNC Wilmington; Julieta Cervantes

Mr. Týnek stands as the spiritual successor to Merce Cunningham. If Cunningham is his artistic father then Lucinda Childs is his mother. Mr. Týnek takes judiciously from both to achieve his own ends; the distinction is in his fascination with humans and their interactions as well as in his crafting of phrases that evolve in response to each other. With Cunningham you see an obsession with ideas over humanity; with Childs you see a love for repetitive patterns; with Mr. Týnek you see the causality of movement blooming. And bloom it certainly did in the NYC premiere of "Logbook". Set to Aleksandra Vrebalov's mesmerizing score of Morse code like beeps - one and two and three. Hold. One. Two. Three. - interspersed with ambient chords and flight correspondent chatter, this suite of bodies in flight revolved around Ms. Berger who led the entire company in tracing invisible lines across the sky. Was she Amelia Earhart in search of the new frontier or the goddess Selene steering the moon over the horizon? We'll never know, though this much is clear: Ms. Berger's dancing brought out the soul in the machine of her fellow dancers. Where "Logbook" faltered was in its dual line of intermingling bodies that crashed to form a single line before spreading out again. There was nothing wrong with this simple idea; the danger was that the level of invention inherent to Mr. Týnek's pattern-making for this piece overwhelmed these brief respites of calm. What blossomed out of these transitions was a connection between Ms. Berger and Timothy Ward that seemed less about romance than about passing the flame. The piece ended with Mr. Ward in a series of turns led by his legs as they whipped and arced around his body. Who was he? Endymion? A successor? Happily, the mystery mattered more than the potential answers.

Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre in "Romanesco Suite"
Choreographed by Dušan Týnek
Photo: Jeff Janowski
Courtesy of UNC Wilmington; Julieta Cervantes

"Romanesco Suite", with its allusion to children at play in summer camp, was a fine second act piece. If only its music - a sound design composed by Dave Ruder with effects by Kirsten Munro and Dwayne Linville - had supported the daring athleticism and fantastic movement phrases. Men and women jumped onto one another, spun, and then balanced on single legs before flipping into new sequences while Joseph Hernandez watched from the downstage corner. With the "found noise" effect of the music, these dancers might as well have been moving in a void. In that regard "Suite" resembled Jerome Robbins' "Moves", which while impressive - how did these dancers manage to stay together with music that bore no demarcations? - felt hollow without the jaunty score that might have accompanied it. Interestingly enough, the work almost created music of its own as the dancers blazed across the stage. "Suite" concluded with Mr. Hernandez running, flipping, and jumping through an obstacle course of his fellow dancers; they were arranged in pairs that fell apart in Mr. Hernandez's wake and then trailed after him in a wave of bodies that crested before petering out. It was a frustrating ending that never ascended to the triumphant exclamation point that one expected. Perhaps there was something off in the staging; this piece was originally choreographed and staged for the Brooklyn Academy Of Music's Fisher Theater.

The evening concluded with the world premiere of "Tethered Light". Lights attached to moving bodies - wondrous costume design by Anna-Alisa Belous with LED technology by Aron Deyo - painted a fascinating landscape; we saw by the light cast from the dancers until suddenly the entire stage opened up with stars. I must pause to sing praise of lighting designer Roderick Murray. He is this generation's Jennifer Tipton, though I would argue that he is greater. The lighting for this entire concert proved edifying and essential, though never so much so as in this piece. Mr. Murray used flashlights, stage lights, LED attachments, and an upstage lamp to create brilliant effects and portals for the dancers to dance through in a manner that still boggles my mind; fantastic. A solid standout in the piece was Nicole Restani whose dancing found an amplitude and verve that proved sparkling and refreshing. I won't say anything else about "Tethered Light" besides: "Go buy a ticket now"! It is one of the top five dance events - paired with Nimbus Dance Works in Dharshan Singh Bhuller's "Mapping", ABT in Alexei Ratmansky's "Serenade after Plato's Symposium", Alessandra Ferri's return to "Romeo and Juliet", and New Chamber Ballet in Miro Magloire's "Djazz" - for this year.

Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre continues its run at New York Live Arts through July 9th, 2016.

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