Henning Rübsam's Sensedance played its fall season at the Baruch Performing Arts Center Oct. 13-17. One of the most welcome features was the appearance of guest artists from Dance Theatre of Harlem: Melissa Morrissey, Akua Parker, Sonny Robinson, and Ramon Thielen. Since DTH has been missing from our area for too long a time, the presence of the quartet was heartening.
No less so was the opening Rübsam work, "Herman Sherman," three vignettes danced to the music of Woody Herman. Shizu Yasuda immediately set the stage blazing with her solo, "Herman at the Sherman," followed by Michael Pendell in "Blowin' up a storm," wherein he initially seemed subdued by comparison to Yasuda's gyrations, but concluded by knocking himself out to the extent that he ended up in a comic collapse. "At the Woodchopper's Ball," with Akua Parker, Kathryn Sydell, and Sonny Robinson, was also performed explosively to the scintillating Woody Herman score.
An exceptionally difficult adagio, "Chorale," was performed by Melissa Morrissey and Ramon Thielen. Both dancers exhibited flawless form, as well as admirable flexibility and line patterns, and Thielen's partnering was excellent, particularly in constant, swinging overhead lifts. Morrissey seemed a weightless blossom and supernatural spirit as Thielen kept lifting her in successive, peerless, heightening configurations.
When you read the title "Frühlingsglaube" ("Faith in Spring"), you may well imagine an approaching Isadora Duncan dancer garbed in chiffon and supported by the Duncan company, sometimes referred to as "The Isadorables." A real surprise occurred with this solo performed by Rübsam, who portrayed a young man awakening to the promise of spring. Although initially performed by ballerina Eva Evdokimova, the solo works just as potently for a man. Who can possibly fail to be affected by the sentiment contained in the Schubert song? Warm and totally winning best describes the choreographer-dancer's interpretation of his "Frühlingsglaube."
"Petit Pas" opens with Samuel Roberts and Shizu Yasuda on the floor, positioned with arms raised as if in emulation of the act of swimming. Accompanied by snatches of indistinguishable dialogue and a variety of sounds—some harsh, some soothing—frustrations begin to surface. Yasuda is wearing pink toe shoes, but if she hopes to rise on pointe, Roberts quickly divests her of the idea by pulling them off her feet. The duet is full of turmoil and climaxes with the two dancers hurling themselves against a wall. We believe they could climb it, such is their force. This is a dark and moving piece, thanks to the intense performances by the stunning Roberts-Yasuda team.
The two couples who make up "Quartet"—Akua Parker-Samuel Roberts and Sonny Robinson-Kathryn Sydell—maintain the coruscating skills that fill the theatre with luster, even as they break apart. There is abundant variety in the choreography and performances, enough for a carload of dancers.
"Django," an eight-part work inspired by composer Django Reinhardt, who is considered the father of European jazz, was a dazzler in all respects, commencing with the illustrious pair of Morrissey and Thielen in "Echoes of Spain," followed by Robinson and Sydell in "Vette."
In "My Serenade," Rübsam is the outsider dancing by himself while pretending to hold an imaginary partner in his arms. He soon sits down in front of two couples and keenly watches Parker, Robinson, Morrissey, and Thielen, while still remaining a solitary figure. Nevertheless, he gives the illusion of fulfillment in his admiration of the other dancers' efforts.
With "Nuages," Robinson, Rübsam, and Thielen display their penchant for hilarious antics as they satirize familiar balletic shtick, even to partnering one another and generally knocking each other around. Here is a pas de trois full of delicious, thoroughly entertaining wit.
Solos "Rhytme Futur" and "Dinette," performed by Yasuda and Thielen, respectively, and "Belleville," a pas de deux for Sydell and Yasuda, were all in the lustrous category.
The entire ensemble brought "Django" to a conclusion in "Pour Vous," demonstrating convincingly that the mini-company is on a par with a grand one, possessing artists of superb caliber.
With the exception of "Frühlingsglaube" and "Petit Pas," all the creations were premieres.
Battery Dance's Fall Season
Battery Dance Company has announced its upcoming performances at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Oct. 27 and 28. Along with Battery dancers Sean Scantlebury and Lydia Tetzlaff, two new performers join the company this season: John Byrne, a former member of Taylor 2, and Nilaya Sabnis, a dancer trained in both Western and Indian classical techniques.
Jonathan Hollander, BDC's artistic director, will premiere a quartet to Francis Poulenc's "Sonata for Two Pianos." He will also present new solos for each of the four BDC dancers, furthering the Solo Project, an expanding series initiated in 2001 and performed in Scandinavia, North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the United States during the past three seasons.
Venue: Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers St. (between Greenwich and West streets), NYC. Performances: Wed. Oct. 27, at 1 pm, and Thurs., Oct. 28, at 1 and 8 pm. Tickets are $20, $10 for students and seniors with ID, and are available for the Thursday evening show by calling (212) 220-1460 or online at www.tribecapac.org. The two matinees are for students and have been subsidized for NYC public schools; call Battery Dance Company at (212) 219-3910 for student group tickets.