“In Tandem,” “Delicate Balance,” ”Luminous,” ”Embellish”
Gotham Dance Festival
The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
June 3, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
The joint program of works by freelance choreographers Peter Quanz and Jodie Gates, presented under the umbrella of the Gotham Dance Festival, served a dual purpose. It reminded New Yorkers, who haven’t quite given up on their town as the dance capital of the world, that there is life—and dance—outside the five boroughs. It also provided an opportunity for three smaller companies, Quanz’s own Q Dance based in Winnipeg, BalletX from Philadelphia and Colorado Ballet, to perform before a new, large audience without shouldering the full cost of a solo season.
Neither choreographer is unknown to local audiences. Quanz created “Kaleidoscope” for American Ballet Theatre in 2005. Gates danced with the Joffrey Ballet before it became the Joffrey Ballet Chicago. She also danced with the Frankfurt and Pennsylvania Ballets. Now based in Irvine, California she is not as well-known as a choreographer in her old stomping grounds. Yet both were treated with scrupulous equality on the program. Quanz’ works, “In Tandem” and” Luminous,” opened each half, with Gates’ “Delicate Balance” and ”Embellish” following. Each lasted about twenty minutes. Casts ranged from six to twelve dancers, with Gates using the greater number, due to predilection or opportunity. All the music was taped. “Kaleidoscope” indicated that Quanz could dig into a score and knit music and movement into a symbiotic whole, but expectations exist to be upended.
Both of his dances caught the ebb and flow of crowds. Each was cool in tone, distant enough to be out of reach of the audience. With its ice blue cyclorama and inward focus, “In Tandem” was a geometry lesson on a glacier. “Luminous” examined attraction and repulsion among the inhabitants of a metallic disco jungle. In both the mood sprang not from the steps, but from the costumes, leotards printed in black, gray and white squares or unitards constructed of serpentine swathes of silver lamé. The leitmotiv of “Luminous” was bodies undulating like marsh reeds in the breeze. The big moment in “In Tandem,” when the cast women are pitched against the flies at a forty-five degree angle like beams in a stave church, didn’t come off; a partner’s hands, all too visible, gave the game away. Neither Steve Reich’s “Double Sextet” nor “Affairs of the Heart” by Marjan Mozetich inspired Quanz to do more than skate alongside his chosen accompaniment.
“Delicate Balance,” choreographed for BalletX earlier this year, may have benefitted from being wedged between those two works. Set to selections by several twentieth-century composers, including the ubiquitous Arvo Pärt, it is an exploration of the duet form for five couples. No partner functions independently of the other, but this is the result of interconnected, mutual exploration rather than unilateral manipulation. When a breeze strikes one component of a Calder mobile, each piece responds; so it was here. “Delicate Balance” ends with a single duet, danced with unshakable concentration by William Cannon and Chole Felesina, a distillation of all that has come before and a study in tenderness.
The program closed with “Embellish,” also created this year but for the Colorado Ballet, and set to instrumental and vocal selections by Mozart. It should have been called “Overembellished.” The costumes, by Christine Darch, in shades of purple, teal and orange, set the work at some festival deep in a forest at night. But they also, courtesy of tutus with (removable) trains for the women and orange veining on the men’s trousers, obscured the choreography and stifled the dancers. Gates can show dancers to better advantage; “Delicate Balance” proved it.