Versatility characterized New York Theatre Ballet’s most recent Uptown/Downtown/Dance series presentation as a part of the 92Y Harkness Dance Festival last weekend. The evening’s program featured choreography from the late Antony Tudor and his one-time student at Juilliard, Martha Clarke. The small but powerful company proved it could tackle a broad repertoire with strong technical dominance and thick emotion.
The show began with Tudor’s “Soiree Musicale.” Although it started as a group piece, it eventually became a pas de deux and later a pas de trois in a collection of amusing folkish dances performed with classical technique. The dancers traversed the stage with composure and grace despite it being too small for their lengthy movements.
Also featured was a coupled version of Tudor’s modernist “Romeo and Juliet,” which beautifully exhibited an abstract loving exchange between the two characters. The performance was unexaggerated, portraying the fatality of the Shakespearean love affair through geometrical architecture of movement. Honesty and simplicity ruled the performance.
Less rewarding was “Les Mains Gauches,” which presented two characters who receive omens of love and death. The conceptual, somber and cartoonish piece did not allow much personal interpretation.
Tudor’s work was contrasted with two of Martha Clarke’s poignant, dramatic pieces, both of which were brilliantly executed by the company. “Nocturne” depicted an aging ballerina in mourning of her professional career. The ballerina, a masked character dressed in a nude leotard and white Romantic tutu, portrayed emotional turmoil until she faded out as she accepted her fate. Vulnerable like a dying swan and erratic in a world of ghosts, the ballerina’s performance powerfully compounded her sense of desperation over an unwanted, melancholic end.
The other Clarke piece of the evening, “The Garden of Villandry,” showcased a love triangle between a woman and two men of the Victorian era. The work was one of space dynamics, fluid partnering and magnetic precision which conveyed a simultaneously neutral and intense sentimental palette.
The sleekness and professionality of New York Theatre Ballet was especially remarkable given the troupe’s financial limitations. After the performance, the theater’s artistic director Diana Byer spoke publicly about the present threat of budget cuts for their main supporter, the Federal Endowment of the Arts and of the Humanities.
The Uptown/Downtown/Dance Series will continue with a program at New York Live Arts on March 1-4, featuring choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, Pam Tanowitz, Frederick Ashton and Antonia Franceschi.
Student tickets are $15 and can be purchased via the New York Live Arts website.
Email Maria Jose Lavandera at [email protected]