Monday, March 12, 2007

Dance dance dance

Last weekend it was film. This weekend it was dance.

First, the Compania Nacional de Danza 2 from Spain performed at the Annenberg Centre on Friday evening. The company danced three pieces, the first two of which (Remansos and Coming Together) were interesting without being spectacular. Some really interesting stage-craft - superb lighting, fascinating use of sets - coupled with brisk, high energy dancing. Good vibrant stuff.

The highlight of the show, though, was the third piece. Called Rassemblement, it featured some exquisite dancing set to the haunting songs of Toto Bissainthe. Nacho Duato's sublime choreography captured perfectly the sense of soulful yearning in Bissainthe's songs, creating a mood of oppression and heartbreak, before finally erupting into a powerful, earthy celebration at the end of the piece. An evocative and beautiful piece.

On the theory that one good dance deserves another, I followed Friday's performance up by attending a double feature by the Pennsylvania Ballet Company Saturday afternoon. The program began with Tchaikovsky's Serenade - a Balanchine classic that struck me as being more an amusing exploration of geometric forms (how many different ways can you arrange 16 dancers on stage?) than a particularly moving dance.

Serenade was followed by a performance of Orff's Carmina Burana choreographed by PA Ballet's own Matthew Neenan. Orff's song cycle (with its opening chorus forever redolent of Old Spice) is an old favourite, and the Company's adaptation of it was spectacular. Neenan's dramatization places the music in a sensual, almost surrealistic landscape - a land of passion and energy where secret desires are danced out. What I particularly enjoyed were the parts where the tenor / soprano / baritone would walk out onto the stage. There he / she would be - a flat-footed, graceless figure in black formals, singing his / heart out, while behind him / her figures in bronze or red would leap and pirouette. Matisse would have approved.

Finally, to top it all off, I spent Sunday watching two squirrels gambol and dance out in the park. After a month of bitterly cold weather, that was the most heartwarming performance of all.

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