BWW Review: Juilliard Spring Dances 2018, as Superb as Ever Following Larry Rhodes' Retirement
Back in December of 2017, I wrote a glowing review for BWW DanceWorld of Juilliard's New Dances Celebrating the Legacy of Lawrence Rhodes in honor of his retirement after 15 years as artistic director. I am delighted to report that since then, Taryn Kaschock Russell as acting director of Juilliard Dance has kept the program's excellence alive and even nudged it a notch upward in terms of superb dancing and choreography. This was evidenced on the afternoon of Saturday, March 24th 2018 during an almost completely satisfying performance of "Spring Dances" at Juilliard's Peter Jay Sharp Theater.
The opener was Merce Cunningham's Sounddance, set to Untitled 1975/1994 by the electronic composer David Tudor and performed on a computer in the orchestra pit by Trevor Burngerner. The work was staged by Jean Freebury. According to the Juilliard Dance website, she "danced for the Merce Cunningham Company (1992-2003) and has taught Cunningham's technique and repertory since 1996". The piece is plotless and technically very demanding. In Merce's own words: "I'm not expressing anything. I'm presenting people moving." And move they most certainly did. There was barely a misstep in spite of the need to synchronize the steps and patterns without the customary crutch of counting traditional music. I, for one, was amazed at how clean and precise the execution was. The only glitch came at the very end when the male dancer who was left alone on the stage did a series of chaine turns upstage and missed the opening in the backdrop curtain through which he was supposed to exit. The techies quickly went to blackout, but the effect of the dancer's error was disappointing nonetheless after such a magnificent performance by one and all.
Up next was Crystal Pite's Grace Engine, set to music by Owen Belton and staged by Alexandra Damiani. As always, the dancers were terrific, but the piece didn't captivate me. The movement meandered and the lighting by Jim French was unnecessarily dark.
The closer was the evening's best offering: Deuce Coupe by the legendary Twyla Tharp, set to music by the Beach Boys and staged by Richard Colton. My attention never flagged during this witty work that juxtaposed ballet dancers on pointe with modern dancers. A special tip of the hat to Katerina Eng, who has danced with San Francisco Ballet, Australian Ballet Theatre, and American Ballet Theatre. Tall and lithe, she has enviable technique and just the right engaging stage presence.
Additional Event in the Juilliard 2017-18 Dance Season:
Senior Dance Production
Friday, April 20, at 8pm
Saturday, April 21, at 2:30 and 8pm
Sunday, April 22, at 2:30 and 8pm
Juilliard's Rosemary and Meredith Willson Theater
Senior Dance Production is the culmination of a yearlong creative and educational process focused on launching seniors into the professional world. Juilliard dancers work in close collaboration with lighting design teams, costume designers, and composers as they create their original works. Don't miss this chance to see the next generation of professional dancers as they are launched!
Photo by Rosalie O'Connor