Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dance: Juilliard's Composers and Choeographers Plus

You probably don't know about this ill-publicized free event; I wouldn't have known about it either, if Juilliard hadn't sent me a letter about tickets to another event, and mentioned this one. Apparently, at the end of term, the dance division, which offers a choreography/composition course pairing third year dance students with master's and doctoral musicians, puts on a show at the not-to-be-sneezed-at Peter Jay Sharpe Theater, where the students showcase their work: created by students, and performed by students (read: live music, not just live dancing). This is such an awesome thing. As a whole, the work is far more creative, innovative, interesting, and new than what you'll see at, say, Juilliard's December Dance Creations (review to soon follow), or at a lot of professional dance venues. But, the execution is a lot more precise and professional than what you'll see from younger, edgier choreographers, who probably have trouble finding and funding their dancers. And, since the showcase included six short pieces before the intermission, and eight shorter pieces afterward (the second half of the show comes strictly from choreography classes, with recorded music instead of live, new compositions), there is enough variety that, should you not like one piece, you won't be bogged in it for long.

The drawback, of course, when showing fourteen pieces in one evening, is that the audience won't remember them all. I took some notes, but I will only touch on the ones that made the strongest impressions. Nada, from choreographer Yara Travieso, threatened to frustrate me via whimsy (it did make the audience laugh, and I positively loathe dance that makes the audience laugh) and a gimmick: half of the dancers were dressed in scuba suits, including flippers, masks, and snorkels. The other half of the dancers wore business suits (a trend I've noticed of late, which I don't love) with fire-engine red socks. All of this was a set-up for something dreadful, but the choreography turned out to be actually quite good, and the piece would have been equally as interesting if the dancers had all been wearing unitards. Me m ry, choreographed by Charlotte Byrdwell, was a beautiful and poignant dance, for its cloying title. Four spotlights marked "beds" on the floor, each in which a couple, dressed in white gowns and drawers, writhed and curled and twisted and embraced on the ground, occasionally switching to another bed, so that at one moment there may be three to one bed and one person left alone. The music, from Edward Aaron Goldman, was a bit on the cloying side as well (three sopranos screeching to an accompanying pianist), but suited the piece fairly, I suppose. Clearing, choreographed by Evan Teitelbaum and composed by Cristina Spinei, was clearly the crown jewel of the evening, with an all-percussion accompaniment to a group of primitivist dancers wearing perfect costumes and dancing their guts out. Juilliard could use a little more of this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dahlhaus,
I'm the composer of Clearing and I just came across your comments about Juilliard's choreocomp. What you said about the dances was extremely insightful and accurate. I wish that the Juilliard performances had more "guts" to them and I'm trying hard to bring that feeling to the contemporary music scene. Thanks for coming to the performance!