BWW Dance Review: Juilliard Spring Dances, March 27, 2019.
How sad it was that the same night I attended the opening of the Juilliard School's Spring Dances 2019, Lawrence Rhodes, the previous director of Juilliard's Dance Division, former head of NYU's Tisch School of Dance, and a damned good dancer himself, passed away. What does one say? It's sad, but knowing the Division is now in the hands of the excellent Alicia Graf Mack and that the performance was of such high caliber-we should all be grateful for the work he did and the legacy he's passed on.
I can't imagine him wishing for anything else.
Alejandro Cerrudo's "Little Mortal Jump" is one of the most touching dances I have seen in a long time. Unlike so many where you leave the theatre cold, this one ever so slightly touches you on the shoulder; you realize that something is different in the air now-this is the mark of an expert and passionate choreographer. I have been hearing so much about Mr. Cerrudo for the past few years, but never had the chance to see any of his work. This is a signal to me: go see his choreography!
What Mr. Cerrudo presents can be seen as childish, but then it grows more mature, more restless. The dancers start out embodying simple motions, but they are soon in the midst of adulthood. They keep shifting their ways. The black boxes on stage are always moved around, perhaps signifying that these people are also on the move, going somewhere into a future over which they have no control, especially in the finale, when the boxes went spinning wildly, madly. The dancers disappear behind them. Then there was nothing.
Bill T. Jones "D-Man in the Waters (Part 1)" was a joyful, loving work set to Mendelssohn's Octet. I say loving, because the work was born out of great pain: it was first choreographers in 1989 at the height of the Aids epidemic, one of his favorite dancers, Demian Acquavella already had the disease and died the following year, and Arnie Zane, Mr. Jones's partner, had died the previous year.
You would never guess it from watching the performance. Following the lovely music, the dancers are rapid and quick. The music is all there for them. The choreography sets down youthful buoyancy, and it comes across clearly. It's as if there is a joy to be had-there is a lilt and a breeze to the choreography. It's youth at its height-maturity may be a ways off. But this is a celebration of those spirits that were still around to celebrate in 1989. Death was in the air, but there were times when we all could cut loose.
Martha Graham's "The Rite of Spring." was Graham at her riveting best. I saw the original production and came away very shaken, almost spooked by what I had seen. I have not seen it since that performance, but individual images do remain: the Shaman's mysticism, the chosen one who is frightened into death, the ensemble of earthy priests and maidens. And there is no ancient air about this-it takes place in the landscape of Graham's American southwest, that vast wilderness of dry air, languid spirits, and ghostly mythology.
Luckily, the Juilliard orchestra was there, under the direction of Jeffrey Milarsky, and they delivered a truly thrilling performance. If there were any mishaps, I could not detect any, so, I just sat back and was swept up in the sheer majesty, the eruption of spirits and lives, of the dance. I hope to see it again, and soon.
To all the dancers: I wish you the best of luck in your careers. You were all extraordinary.
Photo: Rosalie O'Connor.