Garth Fagan Dance to Return to Joyce Theater, 11/12-17
Garth Fagan's love of strong women is front and center in "No Evidence of Failure," which receives its world premiere when Garth Fagan Dance returns to The Joyce Theater, November 12-17. The two-program season also features the world premiere of "Gin," marking Norwood Pennewell's third work for the company. The season's revivals include Fagan's 1983 classic "Easter Freeway Processional" and "Senku," whose music will be played live by concert pianist William Chapman Nyaho. Also slated for Fagan's New York season are sections from last year's hit "Lighthouse/Lightning Rod," as well as Fagan's perennial opener "Prelude: Discipline is Freedom"
Performed by veteran Fagan dancer Natalie Rogers, 51, and 31 year old Vitolio Jeune, "No Evidence of Failure" opens with a stunning solo by Rogers. Her virtuosic and rapidly changing movement suggests the nuanced complexity of a contemporary woman negotiating the roles between loving nurturer and determined leader. In the concluding duet with Rogers, Jeune's ebullient athleticism is tamed and educated by their evolving relationship- a union that proves to be challenging, tender, and gently erotic. "No Evidence of Failure" celebrates the variations, changing contours and depth of love possible between a man and a woman. The dance is performed to music by Monty Alexander's Harlem-Kingston Express.
The title of Pennewell's premiere, "Gin," refers to a distillation process, more specifically that of cotton gin, which separates seeds from cotton in order to craft fabric. The dance, performed by a cast of nine, includes four focal points threaded throughout the piece, each of which distills and embodies the section preceding it. Section one uses music by Alarm Will Sound; section two is a remix by Douala of Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile; section three is by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson; and section four is by Felix Laband.
The season further features selections from "Lighthouse/Lightning Rod," which premiered as part of BAM's 2012 Next Wave Festival. Set to an original score by Wynton Marsalis and Scenic Design by Alison Saar, the dance, teetering between danger and security, is rich with inventive choreography that disarms with its unexpected and wildly original moves.
In "Easter Freeway Processional," Fagan takes a Phillip Glass score to surprising places: mysterious and poetic emotions quietly erupt beneath Fagan's formal surface. The dancers' sculpted movements define their unique personalities and suggest dramatic undercurrents.
The 2006 "Senku, " a Ghanaian word for keyboard, uses an eclectic mix of music from Nigeria, Jamaica, the United States and Britain to meld African melodies and rhythms with Western classical structures.
Garth Fagan, a 1998 Tony Award-winner for his choreography for the Broadway hit "The Lion King," began his career in dance by touring Latin America with Ivy Baxter and her Jamaican National Dance Company. In addition to studying with Baxter, Fagan trained with Caribbean dance teachers Lavinia Williams and Pearl Primus, as well as with Martha Graham, Mary Hinkson, Alvin Ailey and José Limón.
A graduate of Wayne State University, the Jamaican-born choreographer served as director of Detroit's All-City Dance Company and was a principal soloist and choreographer for the Dance Theatre of Detroit and the Detroit Contemporary Dance Company. In 1970, he moved to Rochester, NY, where he founded Garth Fagan Dance. The company has since appeared in many major venues and arts festivals throughout the United States, as well as internationally in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies.
Fagan has also received commissions from a number of leading companies, including his first work on pointe, "Footprints Dressed in Red", for Dance Theatre of Harlem; a solo for Judith Jamison, "Scene Seen", for the debut of the Jamison Project; "Jukebox" for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; "Never No Lament" for the José Limon Company; and "Ellington Elation", part of a triad of pieces commissioned by New York City Ballet in honor of Duke Ellington's centenary, and New York City Ballet's 50th anniversary.
For his path-breaking choreography for Walt Disney's "The Lion King", Fagan was awarded the prestigious 2000 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Choreography. He also received the 1998 Tony Award, the 1998 Drama Desk Award, 1998 Outer Critics Circle Award, 1998 Astaire Award, 2001 Ovation Award, and the 2004 Helpmann Award for his work on the Broadway musical, which opened in fall 1997 to extraordinary critical praise. In 2001, he received the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award; and that same year was the recipient of the Golden Plate Award, inducted into the American Academy of Achievement, and presented with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander by the Jamaican government. Fagan also won the 2004 Helpmann Award. Throughout the history of the Garth Fagan Dance Company, five members have received New York Dance and Performance Awards ("Bessies"): Garth Fagan, Norwood Pennewell, Steve Humphrey, Natalie Rogers and Sharon Skepple.
In 2012, Garth Fagan was selected as an "Irreplaceable Dance Treasure" by The Dance Heritage Coalition. The Irreplaceable Dance Treasure Award is given to a dance artist who has made a significant impact on dance as an art form, demonstrated artistic excellence, enriched the nation's cultural heritage, demonstrated the potential to enhance the lives of future generations, and shown themselves worthy of national and international recognition.