Uh oh, . . . the economy is not the only thing suffering right now. Eliot Feld’s Ballet Tech opened their season Wednesday night, with the “Mandance Project” at The Joyce Theatre in New York. The opening night gala consisted of three solos, two of which were premieres, the premiere of Spaghetti Ballet, as well as a student performed Ballet Tech School Demonstration. Except for the Ballet Tech School Demonstration, I can't begin to tell you how long, boring, and ridiculous Wednesday night's Gala was. In fact it was such an event, that my friend that accompanied me made me promise I would never bring him to another dance concert.
The opening solo, Radiance, totally had promise. Let me set the scene for you: a long diagonal corridor of light from upstage right to downstage left, a tall and beautifully sculpted diva stands in her light in a form fitting purple dress with her long hair flowing down her back.... sounds pretty good right? Well, five minutes later, she's still improvising all these random floating arm gestures. She was literally bouncing around on stage like she was high and alone in her room. It ended up going nowhere; there was no development, no real consistent connection with the music, and even with her fierce penché, the piece was still a total disappointment.
On to the next solo, which took an exorbitant amount of time to set up, switching backdrops and such, Proverb, choreographed in 2004, starts with an equal amount of promise. A soloist, Wu-Kang Chen sits in his dance belt, in the dark, wearing a pair of gloves with 2 little flashlights in each palm. It’s dark, slow and mysterious; I am instantly drawn in. He begins to play with the idea of light, form, shadows and focus. It’s beautiful. The ideas of light he's exploring are so intriguing, and then he explores them again... and again... and again.... and yes... again. The piece would have been much more effective if it had left me wanting more.
Next, as I mentioned earlier, was the Ballet Tech School Demonstration. ADORABLE!! By far the most redeeming moment of the evening. The audience was giggling and enjoying themselves. They students were just great. That really says something that I would rather watch 8 year olds hop out of single pirouettes then watch the professionals doing... well the choreography they were given.
A welcomed intermission. . . .Thank God, I was sooooo starving.
The Spaghetti Ballet premiere was next on our plate. It’s too bad the piece made me hate pasta, western movies, and "1930's themed" spy games. This particular ballet (and I'm not sure what even makes it a ballet) was a dish topped with nonsense, onstage costume changes, no real dancing or choreography to speak of, and just random "ole" music, and oh ya, one more thing, AWFUL jokes spoken into a microphone that included audience participation. Ballet YECH!
I will say though, there were two moments that were pretty cool. There was this part where the lead character (who was a blind little girl in this particular section) dove into a bowl of spaghetti sitting on a little checkered table cloth, and kept diving in until all you saw were her little feet sticking out, clever and funny. The next scene I enjoyed was this section where the same lead character (who was now a sighted fabulous cosmopolitan woman in a cute little dress and heels) was visiting her lover on death row, thus beginning a beautiful pas de deux on a flexible rolling prison bar thingy. Unfortunately, after the lover got electrocuted in the chair, there's another on-stage costume change, the repetition of the first "cowboy walks into a bar joke," and the opening scene is recreated. I can't believe I made it through unscathed; I thought my friend was going to kill me!
Another 20 minute intermission. It is now past 10:15pm, and I am now past my patience threshold while they set up for the final solo, Dust. Now let me see how I can explain this so you get the full pic.... Do you remember the movie Mad Max and the ThunderDome ala Tina Turner and Mel Gibson? Well, the stage is turned into a huge screened-in cube. I'm thinking WWF. I mean at this point who knows. Well, during the set up, the tech crew painstakingly spread all this shredded paper that lines the floor of the cube. Fine. Lights. Fans. Go. Not so much. Soloist Wu enters the cube and takes twice as long just to gather all the paper back into the same pile the tech crew just spread out. If Feld was going for a build of anticipation, I would think the first 2 1/2 hours of the concert had that already. Fine. Soloist, pile, light and fan change. MAGIC. The papers go flying and it absolutely takes my breath away! It is amazing, but once again 10 minutes later, the soloist is rolling around, stopping, and laying over here, getting up taking the paper and throwing it over there, over and over again. Dust loses its effect because it just doesn’t go anywhere. Merciful blackout.
Now after reading all the material they give the press and after seeing the show, I am still unsure of what the "Mandance Project" is and what it’s relationship is to Ballet Tech and this evening’s performance. So to wrap this puppy up, I would have liked to see a better development of the individual pieces, in a shorter amount of time, a better paced program, and some actual dancing. I wanted to enjoy the evening but just could not get into the mindset behind any of the work; thus, I was left feeling a little angry and a little bored.
Photography by Lois Greenfield
iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Dante Puleio
Performance: Ballet Tech, Mandance Project
Choreographer: Eliot Feld
Venue: The Joyce Theatre, New York City
Date: March 25, 2009