Founded by Jacqulyn Buglisi and Donlin Foreman, former principal dancers with the Martha Graham Dance Company, the 18-member troupe tours extensively in the United States and abroad and is scheduled perform at the Chautauqua (N.Y.) Festival and Jacob's Ladder Dance Festival in Beckett, Mass., next summer. Both artistic directors spent a creative period in Shanghai last year working with Chinese artists to evolve "Sacred Current."
Inspired by legends of the Silk Route, the dance number choreographed by Buglisi features Dou Dou Huang, artistic director of the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble, as guest star. The work integrates Chinese dance movements, music in the form of Academy Award-winning Chinese composer Tan Dun's "Crouching Tiger Concerto," and landscape settings in the style of Chinese scroll painting projected onto a screen.
The choreography, often acrobatic in the tradition of Chinese classical dance, is at all times engaging, especially the complex footwork assigned to a chorus of four dancers, Jennifer Emerson, I-Fang Huang, Helen Hansen, and Mucuy Bolles. The action involves two sets of lovers, Miki Orihara and Stephen Pier and Virginia Mecene and Kevin Predmore.
The duets given these dancers, all former Graham company members, reflect the influence of Graham's dancing style, especially the contracting and releasing of the torso, on most dance number created by Buglisi, although she is developing her own individual idiom. Particularly effective is the arrival of the women onstage on the shoulders of their partners, a device used by Graham in her Tibetan ballet, "Plain of Prayer."
The company offered two dance programs at the Joyce including three other world premieres -- "Here on the Cliffs of the Heart" and "And Courage Has Grown So Weary," both choreographed by Foreman, and "Blue Cathedral," a strangely neurotic work with Buddhist overtones with an all-female cast who whispered while they danced to an exultant score by Jennifer Higdon..
Other attractions were Martine van Hamel, former prima ballerina of the American Ballet Theater, dancing in Foreman's "Suite; Arms Around Me," a work inspired by the Sumerian Gilgamesh Epic but including some ballroom dance patterns, and actress Claire Bloom reading the Walt Whitman narration for Foreman's "From Pent-up, Aching Rivers" featuring passionate lovers danced by Miki Orihara and Stephen Pier to music by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Much of the dancing is done barefoot, as in the case of the single solo work, "And Courage Has Grown So Weary," a work based on the Odysseus legend choreographed and danced by Foreman, a handsome man with a powerful physique. He performs before an ocular aperture revealing the roiling sea, his agonized movements reflecting doubt and weariness but rising at last to elegiac heroism.
One of the few works danced in soft dance shoes was Foreman's "Mean Ole' World," a stylish jazz sashay to a score by Lisa DeSain performed by the Catfish Corner musical group. Costumed in red except for one blue dress, 10 dancers evoke the loneliness of rural America of another era expressed in a poem by Tom Waits reading "I lived on nothin'/but dreams and train smoke/Somehow my watch and chain got lost."
A profoundly moving work dedicated to all those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, is Buglisi's "Requiem," first performed by the company last season.
Five women dancers rage against the fate of loved ones and mourn them at the same time, a familiar journey that the choreographer delineates through bodily movement and swirls of fabric. The atmospheric set design, suffusing the stage with beams of light, was designed by Debora Mache, an artist who worked on a mural at the World Trade Center's Ground Zero.
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