shapes: CND2 at Jacobs Pillow.
Mae G. Banner
Nacional de Dañza 2 (CND2: Dances by Nacho Duato)
Pillow Dance Festival, July 27
Remember, in grade-school science, how they taught us that
hybrids are stronger? Well, Nacho Duato’s choreography for
CND2 provides convincing evidence of that rule.
The troupe, formed in 1999 in Spain, is the touring arm of
the somewhat older and larger main group, Compania Nacional
de Danza. The 14 dancers, aged 17 to 23 years, made their
U.S. debut last week at Jacob’s Pillow, performing three dances
by the prolific Duato, who also has choreographed for an international
range of companies, including American Ballet Theatre and
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
Hybrid vigor ran through all three dances. Whatever the mood
or music, each was a blend of balletic lifts and leaps tempered
with gravity-bound honesty. Movements were fluid, often sensuous.
Stage composition favored action in unexpected corners, or
patterns that segued from duets to trios to full ensemble
Torsos were flexible rather than rigid, as they are in classical
ballet. Two or three dancers might link up briefly to create
sculptural shapes for our contemplation. Dancers related to
each other as part of a group, giving individuals or couples
their moments to star, but always reabsorbing them into the
Floresta, a dance for five women and five men to music
by Heitor Villa-Lobos and Wagner Tiso, was a mix of angles
and curves. The men in light brown T-shirts and pants (no
men in tights here) and the women in simple dresses in garden
colors of purple, rose and green, moved to sounds of the rain
forest and Portuguese songs in a rich contralto voice.
A man might drop and pivot on one hand, then spring to his
feet in one fluid move. A woman might roll on the ground before
a frame made by three linked dancers. A harsh male-male duet
was marked by fast jumps and jetes, grappling hands and even
a leapfrog. A man slid a woman along the ground, then lifted
her. She rose as if she were being blown by a hot wind.
Duato’s work is full of inventive shapes that flow one into
the next. Two men lift a woman facing front between them.
She extends her legs in a wide inverted V, then sinks to lie
across both the men’s bent backs, beautifully calm.
If Na Floresta was the lovely dance, Coming Together
was the scary one. It’s set to a repetitive and partly improvised
electronic score by Frederic Rzewski that overrides a spoken
text—a letter written by a prisoner killed in the 1971 Attica
The words are delivered like blows, not connected to each
other. Words and music are randomly repeated in unpredictable
order as bodies create sharply angled shapes, drop and roll,
or do seesaw kicks.
A dancer runs over the rolling body of another. Three women
dance with their hands locked behind their backs, their bodies
moving like whirlwinds in this demanding, troubling dance
that draws you in even as it repels you.
Duato’s choreography shows a great sense of cadence and composition.
He is precise in the timing and placing of his blows. His
dancers are tireless, powerful in their expressiveness, which
moves the ballet-based vocabulary to a new dimension.
The program ended with Duende, a suite of five dances
to Debussy’s music for flute, harp, viola and strings. Here,
Duato shows an affinity with Nijinsky’s two-dimensional images
in Afternoon of a Faun. The dancers made me think of
a surrealist movie I saw recently, in which statues of nymphs
and fauns came to life and sprang from their pedestals at
midnight to revel in a forested garden.
The choreography plays with pairs of dancers in mirror images
and with provocative shapes, such as a woman resting on one
bent knee, while the other leg flares up and out behind her.
Speed is paramount as couples and threesomes gambol, then
pose in broken arabesques and odd angles. A man and woman
approach each other across an open stage to the sound of Debussy’s
insinuating flute in Syrinx. Will they meet? Yes, but
at the side of the stage, and so actively that their sexy
coupling seems feral, not romantic.
The meetings and partings of these eager young dancers were
perfectly matched to the mood of the music in Duende,
which was the fullest, most satisfying dance of the three.
These dances, all made in 1990 or 1991, were first performed
by the Nederlands Dans Theater in the Hague, where Duato was
resident choreographer for many years, or by CND2’s parent
company in Madrid. CND2 first performed them in various Spanish
cities over the years between 2000 and 2003.
Like Paul Taylor’s Taylor 2 or Alvin Ailey’s junior company,
CND2 is organized to teach young dancers the repertory of
the parent company and to tour its works to smaller and more
far-flung cities. It’s a win-win idea from which dancers and
Fairchild Is This?
New York City Ballet
Performing Arts Center, July 22-26
Two big events in the final week gave the New York City Ballet
season at SPAC an unexpected jolt.
First, Megan Fairchild made a major debut in Coppelia,
the pastoral-comical 19th-century story ballet that George
Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova brought back to life in
1974 especially for SPAC’s outdoor stage.
Fairchild, only 19 and a member of the ballet corps for one
year, was scheduled to dance the leading role of Swanilda/Coppelia
for two matinee performances. As it turned out, principal
dancer Alexandra Ansanelli was injured, and Fairchild ended
up doing all four performances of this demanding role, including
two in one day on Thursday.
Crisp and petite with stamina to burn, she held the stage
all week and never faltered. In fact, by the Saturday matinee,
her dancing was freer, more full of character. A backstage
source pronounced her “hard as nails.”
By turns, Fairchild could be demure in delicately placed steps
on point, or she could be quite the soubrette, flicking a
disdainful leg behind her to dismiss her fickle fiancé for
pining over Coppelia, the silent beauty who sits reading on
the upstairs balcony of the old dollmaker, Dr. Coppelius.
Later, impersonating the doll, she arches her back and tilts
her chin at Coppelius, which flabbergasts him. His creation
has come to life and is showing a saucy temper.
This Pygmalion-type story ends with Coppelius bested and young
Swanilda and Frantz celebrating their wedding in the midst
of a villagewide pageant to dedicate a new bell. There is
dancing galore, including passages by a pink-clad corps of
24 children, one for each hour in the day.
In the culminating duet, Fairchild, in white lace, fairly
flies up to perch lightly on her partner’s shoulder and does
a daring fish-dive from behind to rest along his back. In
the evening shows, Damian Woetzel was her now-solicitous Frantz.
The chemistry was stronger, though, in the matinees, when
Fairchild was paired with speedy Benjamin Millepied.
Dr. Coppelius strikes me as a distant cousin to Shakespeare’s
Shylock—an outsider and therefore reviled. So, I preferred
Adam Hendrickson’s shaded portrayal of the largely pantomime
role to Robert La Fosse’s more broadly comic turn.
drew sizeable audiences of about 3,000 to the amphitheater,
but the attraction of John Lithgow in Carnival of the Animals
nearly filled the 5,100-seat house.
The new ballet, a self-declared bit of whimsy by resident
choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, is more theatrical spectacle
than dance, but even Balanchine, who was a skilled amateur
cook, knew that a hearty meal requires a light dessert.
set to the music of Saint-Saëns, stars Lithgow, who wrote
the rhymed libretto. He is the onstage narrator and does lightning-quick
costume changes to reappear as Mabel Buntz, a humongous lady
elephant in gray tulle with pink trim. Big-bosomed and full-skirted,
Lithgow’s elephant is a true descendant of The Nutcracker’s
Supported by four hard-working mice, Lithgow does a credible
ballet turn, including a prima ballerina curtain call that
is quite funny.
The sillier animals—all in the guise of schoolmates and teachers
of the 11-year-old hero, who has fallen asleep overnight in
the Museum of Natural History—include Charles Askegard as
a ruddy-maned lion, Arch Higgins as a stern baboon piano teacher,
and Yvonne Borree as a mermaid who leads a corps of spangly
synchronized swimmers in Marilyn Monroe wigs.
Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette are touching as the boy’s
worried parents, and ballet mistress Christine Redpath, returning
to the stage after 17 years, is a serene swan in a bare-back
dress and long white gloves. Their work leavened the foolishness
with some truly balletic moments.
Wheeldon’s sensibility in Carnival comes from Winnie-the-Pooh.
His comedy is a pale shadow of ideas from Jerome Robbins’
The Concert, which is a serious joke about human flaws
People came by the thousands to see Lithgow, not ballet. Still,
as Wheeldon said in a pre-performance talk, “Anything that
brings people in is good. They’ll see Carnival and
maybe they’ll like something else, too.”
The uproarious response to Wednesday’s knife-edged performance
of Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements with Wendy
Whelan and Jock Soto in the central duet may prove Wheeldon’s
point. Audiences do know a good thing when they see it.