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BWW Reviews: FALL FOR DANCE 2014 - Program One

The Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center has been a cultural staple for New York City for eleven years, giving audiences the opportunity to witness excellence found in the worldwide field of dance (and at an affordable price, too!). This year's festival opened up with four distinct works, including two NY premieres, one US premiere, and one world premiere by Mark Morris Dance Group, much to the delight of the audience.

The evening began with two highly exciting pieces that fused traditional Samoan dance styles with western contemporary styles. Both were choreographed by Neil Ieremia, Artistic Director of New Zealand-based company Black Grace. Minoi, which is styled off of Fa'ataupati (or slap dance), exploded with energy. The male dancers showed incredible strength, agility, stamina, and even a sense of fraternity as they sang the traditional chants harmoniously and synchronized their claps, slaps, and snaps perfectly. It was simply flawless. While containing elements of contemporary modern dance, Pati Pati was rooted in Samoan tradition. The ensemble piece featured the same synchronization of claps, slaps, and athletic feats, delivered at such a high intensity and level of aggression that it was simply contagious. But as the dancers fed off each other's energy and grew stronger in their collective attack, the audience was not so much as threatened as they were in awe of such a spectacle.

The audience's attention was then brought to quiet stillness by the San Francisco Ballet's Variations for Two Couples, choreographed by Hans Van Manen. The piece featured two completely different yet captivating couples with both undeniable chemistry to their partners and to each other. The ballet was beautiful yet infused with fun as the piece was sprinkled with quirky little idiosyncrasies such as flexed feet and head shimmies. But these little elements did not set out to make the piece any less serious but rather to give ballet an unexpected personality.

The next piece was Two x Two, a Russell Maliphant piece commissioned by Sadler's Wells London with lighting design by Michael Hulls. Two dancers moved in unison within their respective spaces, two rectangular spotlights on opposite sides off the stage. At first, the simple and sensual movements, which captured the musical accents of the minimalistic score, appeared eerie. However, as the music picked up so do the movements. The dancers twirled in whirling-dervish-like fashion; their arms fanning out against the dim lighting of their confined spaces created these astounding three-dimensional kaleidoscopic illusions. Their long limbs were strong and defined in movement yet passed through space in free-flowing grace. This piece was absolutely mesmerizing and left audiences holding their breath in wonder.

The final piece of the evening was a Fall for Dance commissioned piece choreographed by Mark Morris for Mark Morris Dance Group. Words was incredibly playful and colorful, both in costuming by Maile Okamura and choreography. It was charming and cute, reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons except with a touch of technical expertise in movement and music, played live on piano and violin. The influence of pedestrian gestures and playground games paired with the experimentation and exploration of symmetric travelling patterns created a visual treat for the audience, and the impeccable sense of musicality and comedic timing of the dancers added an embellished flare to the piece, making it an enjoyable piece for all.

One can readily see why Fall for Dance has become such a standout and vital piece to the cultural growth of the city of New York and why it consistently sells out show after show, year after year. It is because the far-reaching corners of this city have this rare and unique opportunity to meet the far-reaching corners of this world, and its introducing agent is so fittingly perfect. Dance, a communicative art-form that transcends beauty, grace, richness, wonder, and awe, brings these two together.

Photo Credits: Black Grace/Scott Venning; Mark Morris Dance Group/Ani Collier

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