What goes around comes around, and Elisa Monte Dance,
which was briefly known as Monte/Brown, is back to its original name and its
core repertory. David Brown's works won't be part of the company's Joyce
season, which runs through Sunday and includes lots of new faces.
Whatever the impact of the Monte / Brown split on the individuals involved,
the changes don't seem to have affected either the quality of the performance
or the power of the choreography. Tuesday's gala was a persuasive display of
top-notch, utterly committed dancing and choreographic invention that spans
more than two decades.
The earliest work on the program was Monte's first piece, "Treading,"
created in 1979. A mesmerizing, acrobatic duet set to Steve Reich's "Eighteen
Musicians," it turns the merging limbs and torsos of Natalie Turner and Kevin
Goodwine into a single, surreal apparition. Wearing smudged bodysuits designed
by Marisol, the dancers surge over and around each other, rolling, balancing,
clinging in fantastic combinations.
"Treading" proved an instructive contrast to the duet that opens "Amor
Fati," the 1999 work that was also on Tuesday's bill. "Treading" is virtuosic
but essentially abstract; in "Amor Fati," the rolling, balancing, clinging
couple is enmeshed in a fraught, complicated relationship that colors every
movement. Turner and Ted Thomas were the central characters in Monte's
rendering of "the family that is a dance company," surrounded by Goodwine,
Po-Chieh Chen, Nicole Corea, Bafana Solomon Matea, Dawn Pignuola and Bradley
Shelver, all in floaty white costumes.
Floaty white costumes were, in fact, the evening's theme. They appeared in
the dramatically whipsawing "Audentity," a 1987 ensemble piece that featured
dazzling dancing by Po-Chieh Chen, and also in the night's premiere, "Light
Lies." The program note explains that the new piece is an homage to the
German-American modernist painter and theorist Josef Albers. Although there are
a few splashes of colored light, the art subtext is explored mostly by
opposing sections of stillness with bursts of explosive movement. The celestial
score is by Michael Gordon and Bang on a Can's David Lang and Julia Wolfe.
Those white costumes, by the way, almost become a hazard. The women's tops
end in long strips of cloth about two inches wide. On Tuesday, when the men
hoisted the women in the work's many ecstatic lifts, the strips often dangled
in front of their eyes; they seemed to be carrying the women while unable to
see. Some might find this an apt metaphor for something, but everyone would be
so much safer if the designer, Karen Young, eliminated those strips.
ELISA MONTE DANCE. Elisa Monte, artistic director. Program A of
choreography by Monte: "Amor Fati" (1999), music by Balanescu Quartet;
"Audentity" (1987), music by Klaus Schulze; "Treading" (1979), music by Steve
Reich; and "Light Lies" (New York premiere), music by Michael Gordon and Bang
on a Can's David Lang and Julia Wolfe. Seen Tuesday at the Joyce Theater, 175
Eighth Ave. at 19th Street, Manhattan. Alternating repertory through Sunday.