Joshua Beamish/Move: The Company
The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
August 4, 2015
by Leigh Witchel
copyright © 2015 by Leigh Witchel
Joshua Beamish’s “Move: The Company” led off The Joyce’s two-week long Ballet Festival. Any new choreography venture is worth sup-porting, but here, the whole was less than the sum of the parts. Beam- ish, a Canadian choreo- grapher who founded his company a decade ago, has recently done work for Wendy Whelan on her “Rest-less Creature” project. Within this festival, he also created a work for Ashley Bouder’s group. For this concert, he hooked up with dancers at American Ballet Theatre.
Joshua Beamish. Photo © by David Cooper
He led off the performance; dancing a solo, “Little Eye,” with music by David Lang. Beamish, clad in gray tights and a silkscreened red top, has a compact, muscular body built for sharp movement and well-placed turns rather than legato phrasing. His solo was made of discrete movements with little flow: squat low; stretch, tight insectile gesture near the face, stand still, quarter turn.
That wasn’t a great theme, but unfortunately the three duets that followed were variations. Sterling Baca and Luciana Paris did whatever they could with “Pierced,” also to music by Lang. In this study of a stuck relationship, the best moments where when they don’t move and Beamish used the vulnerable innocence Baca brings to his roles at ABT. Baca lifted Paris up to drop her to the floor repeatedly. They faced off, silently. Confronted by Paris’ stares, Baca’s composure crumbled to a point near frustrated tears.
But three duets in a row of unhappy couples quickly became formulaic. There wasn’t a lot of love in the first half of the show, nor a lot of movement that went beyond the tight, choppy vocabulary Beamish stated in his solo. The men had no shirts. The women had no tights. Everyone was miserable. The clotted phrasing, twisting and untwisting, was an analog for the characters’ woes, but once stated and restated, never gained shading.
“Stay,” for Stephanie Williams and Dmitri Kleioris, was more of the same, only in gray. Even when varied by using two men, things remained much the same. “Burrow” was supposed to be danced by The Royal Ballet’s Nicol Edmonds and Matthew Ball, but a cast change was announced of ABT’s Jose Sebastian and Tharp dancer Matthew Dibble. Sebastian’s body is plastic in a way that Beamish’s isn’t; Sebastian instinctively linked the movement and his fluidity helped the work.
After an intermission Beamish offered an ambitious larger work, “Surface Properties.” Ten dancers from ABT strutted about with nervous chic in black and mint costumes designed by Janie Taylor. Three recorded scores by Michael Gordon, Filippo Del Corno and Mark Mellits, all with tight ostinatos, mirrored Beamish’s style. Witty animations by Aaron Anderson had the same driven quality.
“Surface Properties,” like the rest of the evening, didn’t show Beamish as a ballet choreographer. His dance training was eclectic and he used ballet steps without any expressive weight, rather as utilitarian filler in between the gesticulating arms and the torso rolls. The opening of “Surface Properties” deployed five women like a marching band: walk, walk, walk, pose. The men paced and watched.
Casting Isadora Loyola and Roman Zhurbin for a pas de deux didn’t pan out. Zhurbin, a soloist at ABT, is a good dancer and gifted dance actor but his muscular torso wasn’t flattered by the tight isolations in the choreography. As with Beamish's choreography for Whelan, he seemed to expect the dancers to adapt to the movement style he set forth rather than tailoring movement to suit them.
The brightest exception to the clotted phrasing was an expansive pas de deux for Baca and Cassandra Trenary that wound round the stage. A male quartet after that also opened out the movement. Beamish’s work doesn’t always look like this; his work for Bouder was more fluid. The problem seemed to be the uneasy fusion of contemporary and classical vocabulary. Without transitions, the evening jerked along like a car with a maladjusted carburetor.
copyright © 2015 by Leigh Witchel