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An Evening of Brahms

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Reviewed by Phyllis Goldman

Presented by Janie Brendel and friends at Danspace at St. Marks Church in the Bowery, 131 E. 10 St., NYC, Sept. 28-Oct. 1.

Oddly, the star of this evening of dance dedicated to exploring the music of Brahms turned out to be the pianist, John Gavalchin, who opened the program by playing a serene rendition of "Romanze in F Major, Opus 118, No. 5." He gave to the Brahms music a worthy interpretation, poetic and sure, and much more graceful than the pieces of choreography showcased by program artistic director Janie Brendel.

It was an odd evening. The pieces (almost all of them) seemed loose and vacant, meandering around in a semi-structureless form. Certainly, with such glorious accompaniment as the Brahms music, more lush and compelling choreography could have been created. One would expect this from Zvi Gotheiner, a meticulous craftsman, but even his "Andante ma moderato" sorely needed fixing. His lines and planes of movement seemed totally unrelated—like a hodge-podge of lusterless arms and legs thrown together with a "let's get it over with" attitude. This is not Gotheiner's way with composition.

Perhaps the dancers, Janie Brendel, Suzanne Gardner, and Gerald Casel were the weak links, making every movement look predictable and bland. True, one sits close in St. Marks church, and the sparse elegance of the space tends to reveal every flaw, every quirk, and every expression gone awry. Nevertheless, Roxanne D'Orleans Juste showed no uneasiness in Ze'eva Cohen's "Two Songs" as she milked every nuance, holding her stately presence aloft while her riveting persona commanded complete attention to the somewhat unfulfilling choreography.

Stefan Zawerucha needs to go back to the drawing board. His "White Ginger" was no more than phrase upon phrase of swinging arms—repetitions run rampant. Brendel is so slight of frame that she brings no power to the music ("Piano Trio in C Major, Opus 87"). The dance went on endlessly.

"The Volpe Sisters," lifted from the program because of injury to Peggy Baker, was replaced by another piano interlude by Galvinchin, greatly appreciated for its tranquility. In fact, the musicians that were heard on this program are to be commended for their fine professional sound. It is unfortunate that the dance collaboration did not carry its weight in what seemed a fine idea.

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