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BWW Reviews: The Joyce Theater Opens Its Ballet Festival with Joshua Beamish

On Tuesday, August 4, 2015, the Joyce Theater opened its Ballet Festival with MOVE: the company. Joshua Beamish , Choreographer and Artistic Director, has been touring extensively with his company since its founding in 2005; and has been collaborating with notable companies, schools, and principal dancers ever since. This performance was especially inviting, as many of his dancers perform with American Ballet Theatre and other top companies. It was fun to see soloists and corps de ballet members having the opportunity to shine, dancing contemporary ballet works using their technical prowess and, in some cases, expressiveness.

My favorite pieces of the evening came halfway through the first half of the performance. The first, Burrow, is a duo for 2 men, performed at this performance by British dancer Matthew Dibble, who currently dances with, and sets works for. Twyla Tharp; and Jose Sebastian, a member of ABT. Dibble is an experienced, secure dancer, with brilliant focus, who is exciting to watch. Sebastian did very well in this soloist role, an interesting pairing with Dibble and a good contrast of different types of dancers. I would like to see Sebastian use his flexibility with a matter-of-fact grace and class, instead of pushing his ability to get his legs up to the forefront of his approach. He should pay attention to his artistic expression, allowing his legs to go up, which they will. This piece, to the Piano Quintet in G minor: Prelude, Scherzo, Intermezzo of Shostakovich, performed by the Borodin Quartet, was especially welcome after the two previous pieces: Little Eye, a solo danced by Beamish, and Pierced, danced by beautiful ABT dancers, Luciana Paris and Sterling Baca, to the music of David Lang. Lang's music seemed to be in tune with today's technology. Perhaps it was for this reason that all three dancers seemed to be without rapport with the music, or with each other.

Stay, to the music of Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, is a fluid pas de deux performed by the lovely ABT dancer Stephanie Williams and performance artist Dimitri Kleioris, both of Australia. The dancers were in sync with each other and with the music, mesmerizing the audience, while pleasing my appetite for quality ballet delivered by superior dancers.

The final choreography, Surface Properties, to music composed by Michael Gordon, Filippo Del Como, and Mark Mellits, was another work with a nod to technology. Matt Keegan created the backdrop, consisting of ever changing geometric shapes. This ballet, for 10 ABT dancers, opened with a single black line emerging from the center-right side of the backdrop, slowly moving to the left, becoming a solid line, then breaking into other designs. It became more and more distracting, forcing the audience to work to concentrate on the dancing, lest they be carried away by animated bouncing Ping-Pong balls and other animated shapes. The choreography showcased ABT dancers, not often given similar opportunities in their large ballet company. It was good to see Zhong Jing Fang featured towards the end of the piece, letting her hair down and showing another side to her personality. It was surprising to see such accomplished dancers, however, who needed a hand to push off the floor, when the movement asked them to stand from sitting or kneeling positions.

The Joyce Theater's Ballet Festival will continue through August 16th, bringing five more groups representing a range of ballet styles, from neo-classical to contemporary.

Photo credit: Jade Young

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