It is disconcerting to be bored by an official masterpiece, especially when the creators really are masters. The 1994 Necessary Weather – which the National Endowment for the Arts recently added to its American masterpieces list, making it eligible for resuscitation funds – brings together the acclaimed lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, the sublime Sara Rudner, who figured largely in Twyla Tharp’s formative decades of dancemaking, and the much-admired minimalist choreographer Dana Reitz, who conceived this hour-long piece along the lines of previous work, where lighting, not music, set the tone.
Typically, Tipton’s lighting – for the likes of Paul Taylor, Trisha Brown, Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon – suffuses a dance without calling attention to itself. It shapes the work while seeming merely to reflect it, like weather might do for a person’s mood. But Necessary Weather does not simply use light, it is also about light. It requires something entirely alien of this unobtrusive artist: to convert atmosphere into character.
She still manages beautiful bare-bones effects. The Baryshnikov centre’s new Jerome Robbins black box exposes the lights to view, so we watch green filters turn Reitz and Rudner phosphorescent; the blue create splotches on their flowy white outfits, like sun spots on the retina; and the red endow their silhouettes with a hazy outline, as sunset might. There are also Tipton’s famously lovely spectrum of yellows – the full range of what “light” brings to mind.
The trouble comes with the shapes – for example, the variously sized circles shined on the floor that serve as dancer obstacle course. Reitz and Rudner run the perimeter of a big circle, wave their arms or lie down inside smaller circles, squat over a round fiery blotch the size of a bucket. It is like watching a game of Twister: the dance fractures into a million tiny pieces. Even afterwards – after the choreographers and critics of a certain age (the collaborators’ age, it so happens) have stopped cheering and gone home – I cannot make it cohere. On the other hand, there is Rudner. At once silky and compact, with enormous grave eyes, this dancer – now in her sixties – possesses so strong a centre that she doesn’t walk so much as glide across the floor, emanating light. () Tel +1 212 868 4444