Danish Dance Theatre’s Silent Steps.
Mae G. Banner
Danish Dance Theatre
Pillow, Becket, Mass., July 29
Fresh and bubbly as a sunlit fountain, the dancers of the
Danish Dance Theatre couldn’t stop smiling as they performed
Silent Steps (2005), Tim Rushton’s modern ballet to
J. S. Bach’s cembalo concertos performed on the harpsichord.
This was one of two U.S. premieres, dances made since the
group’s last appearance at Jacob’s Pillow in 2004.
Lanky blond men and sprite-like women danced the flirty choreography
with lithe feet and faces that radiated appreciation at being
in each other’s company. The whole dance conveyed youth, unbounded
energy and humor that spilled over into grins on the faces
of the audience at the Pillow last Saturday.
Even moves like dragging women across the floor—which I tend
to decry on sight—were done in such good spirits that you
had to enjoy them along with the dancers. The women were not
victims, here, but eager players in a light-hearted game.
Held from behind and by the waist, the women slid their feet
flat along the floor or extended their legs in a wide split,
then let their legs flow in and out as they sailed in their
The British-born, ballet-trained Rushton has been director
of the 25-year-old Danish Dance Theatre since 2001. His dancers
are nicely attuned to each other and clearly committed to
the work, which combined passages of formal partnering with
everyday gestures and long, loopy arm-phrases that could be
signals in a private language.
These phrases, sometimes suggesting stitching in the air with
invisible yarn, were passed from one dancer to another in
lovely repeats that were fun for the audience to recognize.
Rushton made Bach’s music visible by sometimes placing a line
of dancers upstage in shadow, where they moved minimally,
like the bass continuo that drones beneath the lilting movement
of the melody, while the leading couple danced with baroque
courtesy, their arms and legs like feathered arrows.
Allusions to court dances, such as just the shadow of formal
bows, were exploded with big, stage-covering runs, an open-hearted
move that Paul Taylor introduced in Esplanade, but
Rushton’s odd arm-phrases and his crashes and rolls were his
If Silent Steps represented the sunny side of the Danish
national character, Kridt (2005) showed the darker,
Hamlet side. Set to a string quartet by the Latvian
composer Peteris Vasks, Kridt (chalk) is the third
part of a trilogy on human loneliness.
Again, the dancers’ faces were an essential part of the choreography.
This time, their expressions were relentlessly grim. Dancers
entered one at a time to write with white chalk on a black
wall or on the floor, inscribing lines from Ecclesiastes in
huge, but spindly letters. What one dancer wrote, the next
would erase by rubbing his or her body over the graffito as
the dancer slid across the space.
A dancer on his back might cover ground by kicking his legs.
Another raised his shoulders in a shudder, then contracted
several times from the gut, bending over as if suffering cramps.
Dancers traced each other’s outlines with their arms from
behind, or, when a dancer seemed pinned to the wall, traced
the outline with chalk, so the stage began to look like a
With willowy Marylise Tanvet-Schmidt in the lead, the men
began to tear at their shirts and the women to strip off their
dresses as they danced a passage of desperation. Arms twittered;
bodies fell heavily. Finally, a man jackknifed his body upright
as a rain of chalk powder poured over him from the ceiling,
whitening his face. The others gathered to him, set him on
the ground and traced their fingers around his fallen body—a
chilling end to a wracked dance.
Yerbabuena Ballet Flamenco
Pillow, Becket, Mass., July 29
Eva Yerbabuena is true to her art. While practitioners of
“flamenco nuevo” tart up the form with snazzy costumes and
glitzy production values, Yerbabuena simply—stunningly—dances.
It is enough.
At Jacob’s Pillow last Saturday, Yerbabuena danced a traditional
suite of Andalusian flamenco that included a flowing Granaina
and a deeply moving Solea. Between these twin apogees,
we heard effortful, close-throated singing from Enrique Soto,
Pepe de Pura, and Rafael de Utrera, and saw spare, unvarnished
unison dancing by Luis Miguel Gonzalez, Eduardo Guerrero and
Mercedes de Cordoba. Music throughout was by guitarists Paco
Jarana and Manuel de la Luz, with percussionist Manuel Jose
“Pajaro” Munoz on conga and cajon.
Yerbabuena, 36, grew up in Granada, Spain. She has been dancing
professionally since she was 15 and premiered Eva,
couched as a memory of her life in flamenco, in 1998. It is
raw, unadorned and timeless.
She danced the Granaina in a dress with tiers of white
ruffles that cascaded into a long train and a white shawl
with two rows of long silky fringe. She would kick the train
into an arc as she moved, so that it seemed alive, a part
of her spiraling body. As she whirled, the fringe was like
a spume of water spraying around her. When she stopped, en
punto, she was a powerful sculpted figure.
The Granaina stabbed with sudden discoveries of the
wrist or hand, and up thrust arms. Only deep into the dance
did Yerbabuena lift her skirt above the ankle to let her heels
work a tattoo while her shoulders rose and fell.
After the white Granaina, the Solea was earthy,
elemental, like digging deep into the soil. Yerbabuena, dressed
in black, entered. As she slowly raised, then lowered her
arms, the other dancers deferred to her, leaving the stage,
one by one.
The dance made me remember an LP from my undergraduate days,
The Joys and Sorrows of Andalusia. When my roommate
heard the guitars, she said, “But, where are the joys?”
Not here. Yerbabuena lifted her chin, snapped her arms up
behind her head, made her fingers into crowns, and began to
prowl the stage, writhing and crouching, first slowly, but
with increasing frenzy, opening her palms, rotating her wrists,
bursting into speedy rhythms with her heels, then deliberately
stopping, walking, and turning away.
As the singers goaded her, she would take a sudden turn, her
body seemingly not under her control. At the very apex of
the dance, she sank into her hips, her body sobbing. She whirled.
A red flower fell from her hair. She strutted, her chin high,
her legs crossing g in front as if bowed. The theater reverberated
as she sped offstage, pursued by invisible demons.