BWW Review: AMERICAN DANCE PLATFORM at The Joyce Thrills
The fourth annual "American Dance Platform" is now on stage at The Joyce from January 3-7 2019. The performances feature six of our nation's captivating companies in three inspired, shared programs. Curated this year by Amy Lam, the Artistic Programmer of Boston's Celebrity Series, the companies being featured include Stephen Petronio Company, Martha Graham Dance Company, BalletX, Raphael Xavier; Ephrat Asherie Dance, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE with Arturo O'Farrill & Resist.
We had the pleasure of attending the opening performance of American Dance Platform on Thursday, January 3 that showcased the talents of the Stephen Petronio Company and Martha Graham Dance Company. There was a full house of dance enthusiasts that were wowed by both of the companies.
The show opened with Stephen Petronio Company's "Excerpt from Goldberg Variations" choreographed by Steve Paxton and performed by Nicholas Sciscione. This mesmerizing solo began with Sciscione applying a bit of face makeup to convey a sense of theatrics. With each variation of the music, his dance took on a different tone but continued to highlight his outstanding grace and athleticism.
The program continued with "Hardness 10," brilliantly choreographed by Stephen Petronio with music by Nico Mulhy. It commences with five dancers, both male and female moving in perfect unison. As the piece progresses, each dancer breaks away from the collective with an individual choreography. With two more dancers entering the scene, the troupe's expressive, angular movements focus on the fortitude of women. The unitard costumes by Patricia Field of ARTFASHION were hand painted with meaningful phrases and words by Iris Bonner/These Pink Lips. The lighting is by Ken Tabachnik. "Hardness 10" is performed by Bria Bacon, Ernesto Breton, Jaqlin Medlock, Tess Montoya, Nicholas Sciscione, Mac Twining, and Megan Wright.
After a brief intermission, the Martha Graham Company performed the second portion of the evening's program. Those of us who are avid fans of the company were not disappointed. They opened with "Woodland" choreographed by Pontus Lidberg with music by Irving Fine. The charming blend of reality and fantasy in this dance and its choreography honors the Graham style. It is a playful, yet thoughtful piece that evokes the beauty of nature. The costumes are by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung with clever animal Mask Patterns by Wintercroft Designs. The lighting is by Nick Hung. "Woodland" was co-commissioned by the Verna and Irving Fine Fund in the Library of Congress and the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, Inc. It premiered in April of 2016 at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The dancers include Marzia Memoli, Laurel Dalley Smith, Lloyd Knight, Charlotte Landreau, Lloyd Mayor, Anne O'Donnell, Lorenzo Pagano, Ben Schultz, and Leslie Andrea Williams.
Janet Eiber, the Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Company, spoke briefly to the audience to explain that the company embraces a new vision in programming that includes beloved masterpieces by Graham alongside exciting, newly commissioned work by contemporary artists. It is clear that the depth and vision of the Company is truly endless.
The evening concluded with two excerpts from "Chronicle". "Steps in he Street" and "Prelude to Action" are treasured, iconic pieces that feature choreography and costumes by Martha Graham and music by Wallingford Riegger. The original lighting is by Jean Rosenthal. Lighting for reconstruction for "Steps in the Street" is by David Finley and for "Prelude to Action" is by Steven L. Shelley. These poignant anti-war statements first premiered in December of 1936 at the Guild Theatre in New York City. They are timeless dances that are performed by only the female members of the company.
"Steps in the Street" emphasizes the despair that is caused by conflict. The dancers, clad in black dresses, performed this dramatic, expressive piece beautifully. It is danced by So Young An, Alyssa Cebulski, Laurel Dalley Smith, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker, Charlotte Landreau, Cara McManus, Marzia Memoli, Anne O'Donnell, and Leslie Andrea Williams.
The final performance of the evening, Graham's "Prelude to Action", is a whirlwind of a dance that exemplifies the precision and grace of the company. It conveys a sense of strength, unity and hope for the future, sentiments that are very welcome in our times. The piece will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wonder how the company's talented dancers seem to defy gravity. It is danced by Xin Ying, Anne Souder, So Young An, Alyssa Cebulski, Laurel Dalley Smith, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker, Charlotte Landreau, Cara McManus, Marzia Memoli, Anne O'Donnell, and Leslie Andrea Williams.
We applaud The Joyce for the success of American Dance Platform. It is an important contribution to the arts community. Contemporary Dance delivers not only provides enthralling entertainment that stimulates the imagination, but context and meaning to the issues we face.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stephen Petronio Company & Martha Graham Dance Company