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Karole Armitage has wandered into the mainstream of dance since her early days when she was considered a wellspring of choreographic ideas. At least that is the impression one gets from her new Ligeti Essays. Known for her collaboration with major artists often before they became major, she continues, thank goodness, to work with them.
As a curtain-raiser we were presented with a snippet called simply Pig, whose main attraction was its Jeff Koons costume, a huge inflatable pig he designed in the 1980s, unused until now. This delightful porker, a cartoon in piggy-bank style propelled on contrastingly slender legs, daintily partnered the eight-month pregnant company member Megumi Eda, who wisely wore a classical, pleated shift instead of the red tutu designed by Christian Lacroix credited in the programme. The pig, light as a Macy’s parade balloon, floated around as Eda gently coaxed it to lift a trotter or two. The audience giggled, the pig and its creator took a bow, then it was on to the next.
Ligeti Essays also featured a distinguished artist, David Salle, but in rather more serious mood. His spare and beautiful white set (lighting by Clifton Taylor) framed the action with narrow light strips placed at stage level. A silvery tree, its branches leafless, stood starkly against a velvety black backdrop. The setting was elegant but Armitage’s choreographic vocabulary, a combination of classical ballet and modern dance skewed to her modernism, looked unadventurous.
The seven-member company with three guest dancers performed a lulling string of solos, duets, trios and other combinations to a variety of Ligeti’s orchestral and vocal works. Mei-Hua Wang and guest dancer Masau Yamagushi were outstanding among even these superb dancers, all of whom brought emotional nuance to their variations. György Ligeti, who died last year, has been an inspiration for several choreographers. If it had not been for Christopher Wheeldon’s memorable use of his music for such pieces as Continuum, Armitage’s dances might not seem so underwhelming.
Although the total effect of the performance, which concluded with a reworked version of her 2004 Time is the Echo of an Axe within a Wood, was pleasing enough, choreographically it was a matter of Armitage Gone, perhaps, in more ways than one.
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