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Deep emotion: CND2’s Rassemblement.

Youthful Power


By Mae G. Banner



Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, Mass., June 23


Jacob’s Pillow eased into their 74th summer with dances that poured like honey, thick and gleaming, performed by CND2, back for their third outing at this fresh-air festival.

CND2, formed in 1999, is the touring company of Nacho Duato’s Madrid-based Compania Nacional de Danza. These 14 fluid dancers aged 17-23 are not afraid to bend their balletic bodies low, to kneel and even to pivot on their shapely bottoms when Duato’s choreography calls for such un-classical moves.

The program of three ensemble dances—two for dance’s sake and one with a political thrust—opened with Duato’s Remansos, to piano music of Enrique Granados. Originally made for the American Ballet Theatre, this skein of duets, expanded for CND2, was premiered by them in 2006. The three couples—Gabriela Gomez with Joaquin Crespo, Anjara Ballesteros with Kenji Matsuyama, and Kayoko Everhart with Jon Vellejo—flowed or sprang through the vivid passages, enlarging the legato or staccato qualities of the music.

Their were allusions to court dance, but within an acrobatic frame filled with surprising shapes and fast changes. In one duet, Ballesteros lies on her back and Matsuyama peddles her legs like a wheel. In another, Everhart slants away from a rock-steady Vallejo and he pulls her back smoothly in a partnership of muted tension.

Clever passages for three women and three men slide into a finale featuring a long-stemmed red rose and a back-screen that changes from white to deep red. In the final image, Vallejo, the rose in his teeth, is splayed upside down against the screen, the other two men anchoring him there.

Violon d’Ingres (2005) is not about the painter. Rather, it is a French expression for a pastime or hobby. Not a serious hobby, judging from the throwaway choreography of Tony Fabre, who is co-artistic director of CND2. Fabre has stitched together bits of music by Bach, Paganini, Grieg, Farina, Vivaldi and Saint-Säens for a dance of quick sketches with scarcely a beat between them.

These are light-hearted bits, almost like doodling with a pastel crayon. They are set against a surreal prop that I finally figured out represented the neck of a giant violin laid on the ground. With flippy steps, a woman tapped a man on the shoulder, awakening him to twisty moves as he grinned like a gargoyle. And so, the fun began.

Violon was a dance of moments marked by quick shifts, curling bodies, and gymnastic turns all for the pleasure of moving. The most sustained part was a giddy passage for three couples to Grieg’s Anitra’s Dance, punctuated by nice lifts and feet that seemed to giggle.

Much of Duato’s work is in an expressive European tradition that acknowledges the power of dance to speak without words. CND2’s final dance, Rassemblement, a 1990 work which they first danced in 2005, had something to say.

Set to Haitian French songs by Toto Bissainthe, it told of deep emotions and deep troubles. Five women and five men moved like living murals on a damp wall. They took wide stances, traveled the ground with bent backs, did heavy two-footed jumps. Their movements, sweeping, muscular, earthy, spoke of labor, love, and worship, and of fear and stony persistence in the face of oppression.

Vallejo, a tall, rangy dancer, lay curled on the ground at stage right while three women knelt at what seemed to be the water’s edge, perhaps working, perhaps mourning the fallen man. When the women exited, the man raised his body and moved stealthily sideways—a man in hiding and in pain. Two soldiers suddenly appeared and jerked Vallejo to a second death, to be mourned again by the sound of wailing women.

Three women with big squares of red cloth entered in slow unison, and, together, they raised their arms and made a red curtain to shield the downed man. He rose (but, with a bent back) and danced a slow, sensuous duet with one of the women, lifting her with stiff arms that didn’t really hold her.

The music and the dance gained in power as the dancers traveled on their knees, sweating and striving, yet with rough lyricism. Simplicity and intensity built to a compelling climax and the cry of “liberte!”


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