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About the Change

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company,
Limon Dance Company

Lubovitch: ‘Love Stories’, ‘Little Rhapsodies’, ‘Dvorak Serenade’
Limon: ‘Recordare’

April 2007
New York, Skirball Center

by Rachel Straus

© Nan Melville

'Love Stories' reviews

'Little Rhapsodies' reviews

'Dvorak Serenade' reviews

recent Lar Lubovitch reviews

'Recordare' reviews

recent Limon Dance reviews

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Lar Lubovitch choreographs seamlessly woven dance phrases and has done so for more than 100 companies, the ice skating world and Broadway. Last weekend Lubovitch’s 13-member pickup troupe performed his supremely confident movement at the Skirball Center for its 39th New York season. With world premieres Little Rhapsodies and Dvorak Serenade, the dancers had the daunting task of making textbook perfect choreography appear alive with possibilities.

In Little Rhapsodies, performed to Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Rasta Thomas did just that. When he entered the stage in a downcast reverie near a baby grand piano being played formidably by Pedja Muzijevic, he took Lubovitch’s non-stop, low-lying jumps and sweeping arms and used them to describe an inner life. He paused (a rare thing in this concert) and opened his fisted hands into a fountain of widely spread fingers. “I have a passion,” he seemed to say, “but I don’t know if I can communicate it.” Then his legs playfully looped around one another in mid air like a child at cat’s cradle. He turned slow then fast then slow, like an adolescent disc jockey controlling the speed of a turntable with his fingertips. During two interspersed solos, Thomas’ approach matured, revealing tentative and dark moments, which changed hue with the jut of his jaw or an extended moment in attitude relevé. In the finale, Thomas flashed the audience with jocular, come-hither looks. When he took his second bow, he raised his hands over his head like a man who knows he’s good.

There were two other men intermittently sharing the stage in Little Rhapsodies. Unfortunately, Jay Franke and Sean Stewart, both talented dancers, were dwarfed by Thomas’s volcanic stage presence. As Rasta Thomas’s resume attests. He is a solo artist who has worked for as many companies in a decade as is humanly possible. This spring this ballet competition winning 26-year-old will guest with American Ballet Theater and appear in the title role of Lubovitch’s revival of Othello.

Jay Franke, Sean Stewart and Rasta Thomas in Little Rhapsodies
© Nan Melville

As the lights came up in Lubovitch’s second premiere, Dvorak Serenade, the 10-member corps moved diagonally downstage like slow-cresting seagulls, heading for the horizon. With their heads tucked into their chests and their arms alternating in concave arcs, Wendy Winter’s diaphanous white shifts enhanced their creaturely mystery on the silent-filled stage. Then Dvorak’s brawny orchestral work, Serenade in E Major, pierced the air and all of Lubovitch’s evocative simplicity vanished. Moments later the company parted for soloists Drew Jacoby and Scott Rink, both of who appeared two heads taller than the other dancers. The dance’s structure, extended adagios for this couple interspersed with wide-ranging lassoing movement for the corps, made null the bird creature theme and the question of why the soloists were so tall and the corps so much shorter. This dance became a movement piece: abstract and musically driven.

But musicality for Lubovitch doesn’t mean listening to sound. As Jacoby’s steel-strength legs endlessly unfolded, Dvorak’s hearty, aggressive melodies made her serenely placed extensions seem out of place. Lubovitch’s canons and counterpoint phrases for his corps dancers had an internal lighter sensibility, which also stood apart from the driving music. Perhaps the whole dance might have worked better in silence. In the end, when Rink stood behind Jacoby and they opened their arms together, they looked like birds moving skyward. In this silence, the dance possessed immense grandeur.

The evening’s final dances, both made in 2005, were Recordare and Love’s Stories. Lubovitch’s musical inspiration for the latter came from Kurt Elling, who sounds like a cross between Chet Baker and Tony Bennet. The young singer-song writer’s crooning set a mellow once-upon-a-time in America mood. L. Isaac’s costumes also spoke of a post World War II nonchalance with the talented young dancers dipping and skipping in taupe-toned sweater vests and loose-fitting khakis. The effect was lulling and sweet. It was never messy or tormented, which was surprising since Lubovitch’s subject concerned love. Of the three duets, one couple loved calmly, the other loved less calmly (then parted) and the third loved hot—but not too hot. Their heat reached an unremarkable boiling point when the Marty Lawson pulled aside Kate Skarpetwoska’s shirt to smooch her neck.

Lubovitch increased the variety of his program by inviting the Limon Dance Company to open the evening with Recordare. The dance, stated the program notes, pays homage to Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Through a dozen vignettes, it delivered a cartoon world peopled by skeletons and stock figures gone a-muck: a man is murdered with a hatchet in his marriage bed by an obscenely smiling skeleton, a big-bellied, red caped devil runs the local peasants ragged; a lame man miraculously learns to walk and then run and then leap. Lubovitch used music as diverse as drunken ballads and funerary songs. Ken Foy’s set, a miniature stage topped by a cross and a skeleton’s head, also lent a pre-revolutionary period authenticity. But the movement was more mugging and mime than what the Limon dancers like to do: portray human beings. Fortunately, they briefly got their chance in the second to the last scene. Using the whole stage, instead of the area around the set piece, Lubovitch set the dancers into patterns that ebbed and flowed and paused in tableaus a Renaissance perspective painter would admire. The dancers, at this moment, looked like humans again. And during these beautifully constructed and performed moments, they glowed.

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