BWW Reviews: FJK Dance
I glanced at the program photograph as I was sitting down for the Fadi J. Khoury Dance concert on July 24 at New York Live Arts. I suppose it's me-or an over stimulated brain-because the photo screamed, yelled, and hollered "beefcake evening." Nothing wrong with that-there are worse things one can encounter in life.
And while there was plenty of that, the program offered the vision of an intelligent, can I use the word promising, choreographer who could offer a distinctive voice in a somewhat overcrowded dance field.
Fadi J. Khoury, the founder and principal dancer of the 7 member group, knows how to make a dance swerve, by which I mean the choreography turns on its own peculiar axis, producing unique images that are totally unexpected. Fadi, who was originally born in Iraq but later moved to Beirut when he was 13, has a solid background in ballet, modern and ballroom dancing. According to the program notes, he doesn't feel at home in any of them, hence his desire to create his own company which is a reflection of Fadi's mix of experience-familiar to him, and as a result, completely distinct from anything else." In simpler terms, it has its own brand of distinction--with a few miscalculations here and there.
The biggest misstep of the evening was Khoury's Tango Unframed, which I found unexciting, even if the audience went wildly ecstatic. While the piece offered Khoury's physique and sensuality, not to mention that mysterious sense his persona suggests, and the voluptuous Sevin Ceviker (who reminds me of photographs I've seen of New York City Ballet's Diana Adams and Yvonne Mounsey), the choice of imagery and steps, did not complement them. They played against the music, almost oozing it, while trying to create a mood that was impossible to capture. This tends to be the bane of many emerging choreographers-where do the steps meet the music and what will it produce.
Khoury also tended to be cute. The small scene where the women try to gain the attention of the men, only to find the men are interested in each other, has already become an old worn cliché. I would suggest that Mr. Khoury try something else.
It was with Arabesque, set to to music by Mercan Dede, Samer Ali and Said Mrad, that the choreography caught my eye. What exactly was I seeing? The program told us that this dance "...creates(s) the concept of a mirage in the open desert and the mystic presence of man,"-which sounds pretentious and simplistic, but I gave the choreographer the benefit of the doubt, The imaginative use of bodies, the response to music and the mysticism that pervaded the piece were highly commendable. Khoury's goal is to never attempt to tell a story, rather make you feel it. Sounds like Balanchine, doesn't it. But if that is what makes a choreographer communicate a personal and unique vision, I say go for it.
While Khoury and Ceviker were the highlights of the dance, the use of three couples, reminding me at times of the three themes in Balanchine's Four Temperaments, marked an original mind at work. Nothing related a story, only the one that was in your mind. So you had the luxury of watching dance in its purest form, unencumbered by anything but the music and the patterns that are there to interpret what is being heard.
This is what impressed me the most. It emerges in a word all its own, self-contained and without a need to define itself, except in the mind of the spectator, who can then take it from there. If I could define 21st century dance at the moment, I would definitely include Arabesque as a prime example.
That said, I am still left wondering where this will all lead. Khoury's relationship to music is still tenuous. I also think he should experiment with music on a broader scale. There is a great deal that he can say. Does he have those tools? It's hard to say right now. I'm going to wait and see.
Photograph: Nir Arieli