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BWW Review: NEW YORK THEATRE BALLET in Works by Antony Tudor and Martha Clarke

New York Theatre Ballet's presentation on February 25, 2017, was a dedication of sorts to Antony Tudor and Martha Clarke. If the evening was less than memorable due to the thinness of the material, it did offer glimpses into the minds of two creative artists who have tried, and often succeeded, in pushing the boundaries of pure dance into a psychological state, where dance is paramount, but the emotions emanating from the movement are just as important.

Tudor's pas de deux from his "Romeo and Juliet" is a rarity. First choreographed for Ballet Theater (now ABT) in 1943, it was a staple in the repertory until the late sixties, when it seemed to vanish, only to be performed from time to time, and now nearly forgotten. It would be good to examine in brief just why this happened, as if it can really be pinpointed.

From what I've read about the ballet, the original settings and original costumes by Eugene Berman were highly ornate and would cost a fortune to replicate today. (I find that hard to believe considering what else has been produced in the past few years.). But why does a ballet rely only on costumes and scenery? Wouldn't it be just as good with modified settings and costumes? I wonder that perhaps the ballet is not as good as they say it was; that it's unrevivable? There are still silent films of the production and a number of dancers who participated are very much alive. It's too bad that Robert Joffrey is no longer with us. He would have revived it and, I'm sure, gloriously.

The pas de deux was like a billowing wave. It was dramatic yet gentle, it was calm, it exuded serenity, but you could feel the passion. But it's out of context, so it could look like any other pas de deux. You leave the theater saying great, but so what. Since Prokofiev's score was unknown in the West at that time, Tudor chose music by Delius, which does not relay the propelling passion and urgency of Prokofiev. Prokofiev is fire, Delius is air, and I imagine this would be reflected in the entire ballet, one of restraint. Perhaps this would not be a ballet to endear itself to a 21st century audience. It's so hard to say.

NYBT also presented two other works by Tudor, ''Soirées Musicale," first choreographed in 1938 to the music of Rossini, and "Les Mains Gauches," to the music of Ibert. Both offer excellent opportunities for young dancers to show off polished technique. The problem is that there's nothing beyond the dancing, no mood, emotion or temperament, the very qualities we associate with Antony Tudor. While this offered an opportunity to view early Tudor, it was very apparent why these works are not revived.

The program concluded with two works by Martha Clarke, Tudor's student at Juilliard. ''The Garden of Villandry,'' which casts a glance at Tudor's "Jardin aux Lilacs," is set in what I imagine is Edwardian times. We encounter two men vying for a woman's attention with eyes, gestures, steps. There were times when I thought the men were flirting with each other. (Perhaps it's just me, but someone else said the same thing.) And in the end, the two men leave the woman. Perhaps there was something that I was missing.

"Nocturne" offered a woman in a tutu, her exposed breast hidden under yards of tulle. The premise is that she is an old ballerina, her agility vanishing until the end, when she pulls out a ribbon and dances with it. The end of an era? Was there a message in this?

Guyonn Auriau did a beautiful job performing this solo work, but I felt she was undermined by an idea that was not well grounded in movement. She was dancing, but for no particular reason. If this was old age, its depiction in dance was not executed well, perhaps for the very reason that it's not possible. Dance is youth, it really does not exist in performance beyond 50. What happens after that is performance, but not art.

Perhaps it is time when we all have to weigh in on our opinions of dance. What is it? Pure, emotion, purposeful, detached. The evening said it all. But was it the right meaning?

Photo: Richard Termine

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From This Author Barnett Serchuk

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