"Elemental," "Suite Francais," Mozart Variations," "Tango Fantaisie"
Tom Gold Dance
Florence Gould Hall
New York, NY
February 27, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
Watching this performance by Tom Gold Dance was like picking through a jewel box full of portrait miniatures. Like any good miniaturist, director and choreographer Tom Gold has made a virtue of necessity, a skill honed in the company’s beginnings as an off-season touring company during his days as a soloist at the New York City Ballet. Using only eleven dancers (most on loan from NYCB) and three musicians, he presented four works in an hour.
"Elemental" began with three women facing a blood red backdrop, raising and lowering their arms like raptors’ wings, then bending forward and once upright moving out in space with carefully placed tendus. (If there was any doubt about Gold’s heritage, those tendus told you all you needed to know.) The lights came up and the dance took off, a series of entrées, trios and duets bubbling forth from eight-member ensemble. The music by Alexandre Desplat, who scored "The Queen," "The King’s Speech," and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2," might be called bluegrass meets Orientalism. The nod to the Far East was repeated in women’s red, black and white tops, strongly indebted Chinese tunics. Sara Mearns and Jared Angle danced the short adagio while Abi Stafford and Robert Fairchild shared the stage for a quick, zippy duet during which Amanda Hankes, Lauren King and Kristen Segin wove in and out, often seeming to comment on the action with Russell Janzen to partner them as needed. "Elemental" was a good introduction to the dancers and the company. Gold’s commitment to the classical vocabulary came across loud and clear, including his ease with pointe work, integral to the dancing rather than used as a quick ornament. Perhaps that’s why, throughout the evening, his writing for women looked stronger than that for men.
"Suite Francais" found Gold exploring the opposite register. It is one long supported adagio in three sections. Simone Messmer’s chiffon dress is mauve as is Tyler Angle’s cummerbund. The music by Satie, Poulenc and Ravel played by Kurt Nikkanen, violin, and Susan Walters, piano, would sound right at home in an Edwardian salon full of overstuffed chairs, the scent of candied violets hanging in the air. The duet depicted facets of, or the evolution of, a couple from the dewy-eyed wonder of initial attraction to the contentious moments once familiarity sets in to mutual acceptance. But its payoff was seeing Simone Messmer dancing grand and unfettered. I’ve usually seen her in character parts under yards of costuming (the client in "Merry Widow", Prudence in "Camelias"). Gold gave her the chance to move unencumbered and she grabbed it.
Like "Elemental," "Mozart Variations" puts its cast (of six) through its paces as variations cascade forth in response to an unnamed Mozart work for piano four hands. (The hands belong to Susan Walters and Jeffrey Moore.) Dressed in rococo turquoise knee-length tutus, it is Gold’s Valentine to the classical vocabulary, and at nine minutes, short and sweet but not cloying.
The program ended with "Tango Fantaisie," at twenty-one minutes and with a cast of nine, the evening’s largest and most ambitious work. Presumably intended to send ‘em home happy, the ballet strained its choreographer and audience to their limits. The women aimed for sultry, the men for macho and neither delivered. Did they not have it in them, or couldn’t Gold draw it out? It didn’t help that the men were decked out in red satin shirts that could double as bike reflectors, or that the score shared two selections with—and brought immediately to mind—Paul Taylor’s "Piazzolla Caldera," a work that is anything but tango lite. Gold is still learning his way around large groups and finales which often looked crowded enough to cause collisions. Never a porteur during his performing days, he seemed, throughout all four ballets, more comfortable making solos than supported adagios, and most comfortable choreographing for someone like himself. Abi Stafford, short, compact and possessed of a rock solid technique shone most brightly. Gold chose danceable music (played live), knows how to create a well-rounded program, and not wear out his welcome. But his choreography didn’t ignite that magical alchemy between the rhythms of dance and music that keep both in the mind and muscles long after the curtain has come down, so this performance was only a pleasant and evanescent hour.