BWW Review: CHERYLYN LAVAGNINO DANCE Explores the Expanse of Artistry at June Showcase
At its best, artistic expression makes us question our humanity. It brings us on a ride of color, light, and rhythm to teach us something new about who we are and how we relate to the world. And on the evening of June 27, 2018, Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance (CLD) captured a piece of that magic at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Jack Crystal Theater.
The first piece of the evening was "Kamila", inspired by the poetry and music of Leoš Janá?ek's The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Reminiscent of a museum exhibit, the dancers displayed great control and sustainability, whirling through repeated rotations and turns to signify The Farmer's (Justin Faircloth) constant yearning for the seductive Gypsy (Claire Westby). Choreographed with a keen sense of romance, the battle of dark vs. light wore on tirelessly. Representing "light" in both purity and innocence, Kamila portrayer Ramona Kelley delighted; her technique was crystal clear and was best represented by Lavagnino's ability to unite dancers in community.
A brief musical interlude followed, entitled "Jarabi", arranged and performed by Kane Mathis. Taking the audience on a dreamy journey, the lightning-fast percussive beat was trancelike, engaging listeners in both something familiar and exotic. In my opinion, it ended too soon.
The third piece of the evening, "Veiled" is a CLD staple, set for a cast of women that are exploring the edges of oppression in an effort to hold onto their inner sanctity. The cast moved and breathed as one unit, constantly negotiating their reality as they held on to each other and their selves for dear life. It is clear that Lavagnino was deeply inspired by the teachings of yoga, as the movement quality was unquestionably methodical and fluid. But here, the female gaze became the most important element, reinforcing dancers' anticipation and action. Gaze was more than eye contact; it was a character differentiator.
After a brief intermission, "Summertime" took the stage, choreographed as a pas de deux between Ramona Kelley and Daniel Mantei. Set to Janis Joplin's haunting rendition of the Gershwin song from Porgy and Bess, the pair danced freely, soaring into gravity-defying inversions and lifts with ease. It was a lovely portrait of freedom; I just wish the dancers had moved with more abandon and spontaneity to echo Joplin's smoky, unpredictable voice.
The final piece of the evening, "Ru", was inspired by Kim Thúy's novel of the same name that tells of a young woman's life as a refugee post-Vietnam War. Defined by more traditional movements, the piece explored a simple question: what does it mean to nurture? Playing with sharp, exciting angles and dancer-on-dancer contact, Lavagnino infuses warmth into everything she does. What was most exciting about this piece was the dynamics of the choreography. Beginning with softer, more ballon movement, "Ru" transitioned to feature sharp in-between steps and explosive leaps. It really proved how versatile these dancers are.
Bravo to the entire cast!
Photo: Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance