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The artistic director Tom Mossbrucker is adventurous in his choice of choreographers and a programme with Jorma Elo, Twyla Tharp and the not-so-well-known Nicolo Fonte proves it, with his sleek compact troupe on its third visit to New York showing off the works.
Yet having seen several of Elo’s ballets for big companies I have yet to experience one I find particularly stirring. His trademark port de bras, windmilling arms and sideways crouches, with one leg extended, crop up in every work. The choreographic vocabulary and lifts can be inventive but there’s a lack of light and shade.
This was particularly true of Pointeoff, danced off-pointe in unblocked shoes. Four women and two men work out gymnastically to souped-up Bach-Busoni. They curve their arms up and down like playful dolphins and get into push-and-pull duets and trios. Except for one slow solo that came as a welcome breather from the breakneck pace, the rest looked uniform indeed.
A sunny look pervaded Twyla Tarp’s 1996 Sweet Fields, a rarely seen piece set to William Billings’ hymns and The Sacred Harp, sung a cappella. Costumed in white tops and tights, with gauzy coats for the women, it is redolent of springtime. Everyone frolics folksily: some skip, others fall and roll and are jumped over. A dancer is borne in stiff as a corpse but soon the four bearers are doing face-abouts, taking turns to be lofted high. Little jazzy steps spurt the action along. Towards the end, Luke Willis, an outstanding dancer throughout, steps forward and kneels, shaking out his arms as if throwing joy to the audience.
Nicolo Fonte’s It’s Not About the Numbers to Steve Reich had James Surls’s metal sculpture resembling a steely bouquet of coreopsis casting a dramatic shadow. The piece isn’t really about anything, but is well put together, particularly one slow-motion duet and an imaginative solo danced by Eric Chase that shows real invention, the sculpture shadow interplaying with the dancer. Fonte’s fluid choreography includes fleeting pointe work and is easy to look at. One would welcome a chance to see more.
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