"Goddesses & Demonesses"
Blanca Li Productions
New York City Center
New York, New York
March 31, 2017
by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2017 by Mary Cargill
Blanca Li is a Spanish choreo- grapher with modern and flamenco roots, and in 2015 she teamed up with the renowned Bolshoi dancer Maria Alexan- drova to create an exploration of womanhood refracted through various Greek myths. She used their two amazingly strong bodies, imaginative lighting by Caty Olive (who knew Venetian blinds could be so beautiful?), stunning video wizardry by Charles Carcopino, and lots of dresses by high-powered designers (gowns by Azzedine Alaïa, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney, and Sophie Theallet). "I am woman, watch me shop" might have been the subtitle.
Maria Alexandrova and Blanca Li wearing Jean-Paul Gaultier in "Goddesses & Demonesses" Photo © Vincent Pontet.
The other episodes, well-dressed and strikingly lit though they were, seemed more like exercises in style than a vision of the eternal. The performance opened with a leotard-clad Alexandrova silhouetted against the Venetian blinds as she bent and twisted with growing strength, developing quite a relationship with the floor. Alexandrova's smoldering femininity may have been meant to suggest the birth of the world. Li had a stunning solo with yards of red fabric (gown by Alaïa) which she fashioned variously as a matador's cape, a shroud, a mask, and a set of wings that suggested Loie Fuller. There was also an episode with two chairs and a starry sky (the video projections made the night look like someone had spilt crystals over the Milky Way), as the dancers lifted each other in various ways. Alexandrova also got to evoke her past, as she danced on in a bell-shaped white gown (by Alaïa) bourréing in with swan arms which turned to talons now and then.
The dancers' styles complemented each other, with Alexandrova's graceful power contrasting Li's powerful grace; Li's flamenco training was evident in her proud, defiant carriage, which smoldered even when she stood still. Though she was rarely still. The dancers raced, pounded, and whirled their way through the music (by variously Camille Saint-Saëns, Frederic Chopin, Isaac Albeniz, and MAD4STRINGS, plus some breathy untranslated French, all loud and all taped). There were several apparent finales, but the final finale, with the two dancers plus their hair (wigs and hair design by Maison John Nollet Paris) in dresses by Sophie Theallet was a non-stop explosion of energy. Even though it had little do to with Greek mythology and the choreography was overshadowed by the special effects and those wonderful dresses, the work as a whole had a haunting beauty. However, the message that style supersedes substance is probably unintentional
First: Maria Alexandrova and Blanca Li in "Goddesses & Demonesses" © Vincent Pontet.
Second: Blanca Li in "Goddesses & Demonesses" © Patrick Berger.
Third: Blanca Li in "Goddesses & Demonesses" © Patrick Berger.
Fourth: Blanca Li and Maria Alexandrova in "Goddesses & Demonesses" © Laurent Philippe.
Copyright © 2017 by Mary Cargill