“One,” “Déjà vu,” “Rhapsody Fantaisie,” “L'effleuré,” “Both,” “Change Me”
Jacoby & Pronk
Doris Duke Theater
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2010
Becket, MA. July 22, 2010
By Martha Sherman
Copyright © 2010 by Martha Sherman
This season’s Jacob’s Pillow poster image is a good proxy for the Drew & Jacoby program at the Doris Duke Theater. That picture shows Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk in a dramatic, muscular pose, crisply linked and looking directly at the viewer. They don’t smile, and they don’t waver.
The program was a galloping hour, packed with six dance pieces (including three world premieres) by five choreographers, along with four film excerpts. It boasted five international dancers of stature, including the latest addition to the cast, American Ballet Theatre principal David Hallberg. Because of the frantic pace and the wide mix of work, it was as hard for us to catch our breath as it probably was for the dancers to catch their own.
Jacoby and Pronk are a beautifully matched pair of serious dancers, both elegantly tall with powerful muscles that are set off by costumes that cover as little as possible. In their only duet of the evening, an excerpt from Christopher Wheeldon’s “Rhapsody Fantaisie,” they stepped out in bold red costumes, connected at the edges of their bodies like a pair of regal praying mantises, vaguely menacing in their power over each other. The deliberateness of the movement was soft yet relentless. Their muscles rippled as they pushed their bodies; both have leg extensions that go well beyond 180 degrees-- more like 210 – and demonstrate an ease that is other-worldly. They matched each other flawlessly; of the evening’s pairings, this signature duo was the standout.
Expectations ran high with the addition of Hallberg to the last two pieces of the evening. It was his grace that called our attention. The choreography of his duet with Jacoby, the world premiere of Lauri Stallings’s “Both,” was entirely different from what had come before. To Bach’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano,” Hallberg appeared alone, staggering onto the stage, his back to the audience. This duet highlighted the separation of the partners with the shifting geometry of their bodies. Hallberg and Jacoby were newly positioned each time the lights came up, as if no connection would last.
The opening dance, “One,” was the world premiere of a quartet by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, first choreographed as a duet for Jacoby and Pronk. The original electronic score by Jacob Ter Veldhuis and high contrast lighting by Mary Louise Geiger matched the crisp, edgy choreography. Filling in the quartet were Spanish dancer Victor Mateos Arellano and Shirley Esseboom of the Netherlands, Like Jacoby and Pronk, they danced with precision and power, evidence of their training and discipline. This foursome moved in clear parallel, the sharp edges of four bodies entirely in synch. When dancing as an interlinked quartet or a pair of duets, the movement seemed more like filler in a piece that was much more interested in “One.”
Mateos and Esseboom also performed Hans van Manen’s duet, “Déjà vu.” The dancers started low, but when they rose, Arellano towered over Esseboom. In one of few tender moments, he cradled her neck softly, a moment of relationship and connection not often seen during the rest of the evening. The first half of the program was rounded out with a powerful solo, “L’Effleuré,” by Pronk, with his fingers curled in a Spanish motion that matched the red rose he clutched in his teeth.
It was only in the final work of the evening that the dancers challenged gravity, in the world premiere of “Change Me,” choreographed by Leo Mujic, also one of its dancers. The dancers lifted one another, not in duets, but in trios. Pronk and Mujic, having wrested Jacoby from Hallberg early in the piece, were competitors and partners first in duet with each other, then moving and lifting Jacoby. Hallberg, who opened the piece briefly in solo and partnered with Jacoby, spent the remainder of the piece downstage watching the trio’s proceedings, prone and propped up on his elbows. In the close, as Jacoby leaned toward him in her other partners’ embrace, Hallberg pushed her away giving the trio backward momentum. He walked off stage followed by the other men. As the lights fell on a wobbling solitary Jacoby, I wondered why Hallberg’s talents had been so wasted.
Punctuating the evening were four short excerpts of Alvin Booth’s film of Jacoby and Pronk, “Le Beau Est Toujours Bizarre.” Kaleidoscope shots of Jacoby’s limbs and face were yet another take on the geometric precision of this movement, and was wittily reminiscent of Esther Williams. The best addition the films offered was a close up view of the dancers’ faces; their playfulness was humanizing and sexy.
The audience left this evening energized but spinning. The whirlwind of musical styles, of choreographic styles, of dance to film and back was entertaining but had the whiff of frenzy. We missed the development of relationship that less scope and more focus might have offered and would happily have spent the evening with Jacoby and Pronk, or any of their collaborators, all on their own.
Photos by Lisa Voll
Top: Rubinald Pronk, Drew Jacoby in "Rhapsody Fantaisie
Bottom: Drew Jacoby, David Hallberg in "Both"
copyright © 2010 by Martha Sherman