June 27, 2021
Dance is surely on the threshold of something new. How new remains to be seen but the pandemic has changed things. The traditional stage performance will of course remain, but eyes have been opened to new ways of creating, new ways of presenting and watching. Things will never, can never, be the same again. Hence the title of this double-bill by Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, featuring two fine works by Artistic Director Igal Perry and Yin Yue (樂音) that were originally set to premiere on the company in March 2020.
Originally commissioned in 2005 for Joffrey II, Perry has since remade Twilight several times, tweaking it to suit the dancers at hand. In the post-show discussion, he described this version as the contemporary of all of them. That’s as maybe, but it remains a ballet, and a very classically rooted one at that, albeit not on pointe.
A dance for three couples to a selection of Chopin études and nocturnes, Twilight is not a ballet that sets the pulses racing, but then it doesn’t try to and it doesn’t need to. Like Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering, to which it shares similarities in mood, music and structure, it’s a dance to let wash over you. Again like Robbins’ classic, Twilight emphasises human feelings and emotions, although Perry steps back a little more from characterisation, leaving the viewer with more space to make their own minds up as we drop in on moments in relationships. Even so, love, togetherness and rejection are all visible.
Within the flowing, very classically-rooted choreography, Perry slots in any number of small nuances: a look, a touch, a gesture. Film would never be my favourite dance viewing medium, but one of its advantages is its ability to bring out these moments much more.
In eight dances, mostly duets and solos, Perry’s choreography picks up intelligently on the moods and textures of Chopin’s music. No two are ever the same. The first duet for Hannah Newman-Pan and Colin Heininger is fast, the couple swirling as if blow by a wind. The following, for Joslin Vezeau and Jerard Palazo is much more romantic in feel, and full of close (and often inventive) lifts and lingering looks. The best of what is a very pleasing work is a soft and tender duet to the soft and familiar Nocturne No.2 in E Flat, Op. 9, however. The chemistry between the splendid Katie Currier and Craig Dionne was excellent.
Just Above the Surface is another classy work from Shanghai-born and raised but long-time New York-based young choreographer Yin Yue, whose own YY Dance Company is well regarded. Set to music by contemporary composer Michel Banabila, Shifted, Machinefabriek and Metamorphoses, and with costumes Mondo Morales, the work was created in 2019 as part of a Western Michigan University residency program, and explores human connection and the sensations that pull people together or apart.
Although it is possible to read narrative into occasional moments, the essentially abstract choreography communicates primarily through the power of movement. It also often has a slightly dark, moody feel, a sense magnified by Banabila’s experimental, electronic accompaniment.
From its opening of the cast of eight circling tightly around each other (cleverly partly shot from above, and a scene returned to at the end), the imaginative choreography flows with a dynamic energy that always seems to drive it on.
The movement is often powerful. An early female solo has martial arts influences and appears clearly inspired by Yue’s Chinese heritage. When she’s joined by another and then another in fast-paced, ever turning choreography, the unison is outstanding.
That flows seamlessly (as do all the links) into another super duet of great finesse by Currier and Dionne. Although abstract, the dance here does speak emotionally. That it provokes kinaesthetic empathy speaks volumes. Dionne later shines in a beautifully taut solo watched by the others. Like everything else in the often enigmatic Just Above the Surface, it is quite mesmerising.
Threshold is presently available on Peridance Contemporary Dance Company’s YouTube channel.