Presented by the CUNY Dance Initiative and John Jay College in collaboration with Dušan Tỳnek Dance Theatre, the World Premiere of “Anna” was showcased at the Gerald Lynch Theatre of John Jay College last Friday and Saturday on Feb. 16 and 17, respectively. The dance, choreographed by Dušan Tỳnek with music by Aleksandra Vrebalov, was an impressionistic and layered exploration of love, infidelity and stifling gender norms inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s canonical Russian novel, “Anna Karenina.”
While the dance-theatre performance didn’t strictly follow the narrative arc of “Anna Karenina,” it still managed to showcase some of the larger themes of the work. Vrebalov’s music coupled with the stage lighting created a great sense of atmosphere for the audience. However, during several segments, the dance was at dissonance with the energy of the music. The movements either lacked drama or saw no stunning climatic rise or end.
While the performers — Alexandra Berger, Gary Champi, Jessica Cipriano, Elizabeth Hepp, Nicole Restani, Ned Sturgis and Timothy Ward — were extremely skilled individually, there were a few minor flaws in their coordination during some segments. The choreography, though neat and well-structured, didn’t unravel in the most astonishing ways. In many ways, it seemed too neatly done and too well laid-out.
Even though the dance performance didn’t promise a strict retelling of Tolstoy’s novel, it was difficult to distinguish between the personas of each dancer. And since the personas themselves were not well-delineated, the themes were not fleshed out with enough conviction either. A significant amount was left veiled and not fully brought to the fore. The more theatrical aspect of the dance didn’t shine through given that the facial expressions of the dancers changed very little throughout the performance.
“Anna” is a neat, well-structured slow dance performance, but as a dance-theater production inspired by “Anna Karenina” it doesn’t do as good of a job. The choreography even becomes predictable after a certain point and every segment doesn’t arrive or leave with any huge promise for what comes next. Vrebalov’s music is lifting and brings freshness with each segment. The performance itself is indubitably a visual treat, but its lack of conviction and inclination to safety dilutes it.
Email Devanshi Khetarpal at [email protected].