With program B, Garth Fagan and his dancers brought contrasting works to The Joyce.

Guy Thorne and Vitolio Jeune in Norwood Pennewell’s <i>Wecoo Duende</i> © Rosalie O'Connor
Guy Thorne and Vitolio Jeune in Norwood Pennewell’s Wecoo Duende
© Rosalie O'Connor

The choreography in Norwood Pennewell’s A Moderate Cease effectively explores the spaces between two people. When Pennewell engages with duos, he has the dancers move around each other in interesting patterns. They come together, spread apart and look into each other’s eyes; they circle each other alternately face to face and back to back. In those moments we become aware of the importance of the give and take between the audience and the performers and between the dancers themselves. I enjoyed that aspect of this ballet but for me, the choreography didn’t suit William Walton’s Cello Concerto. I didn’t feel the music in the dance very much. Third in the program was Pennewell’s Wecoo Duende, a piece in which everything came together. Set to drumming music by Doudou N’Diaye Rose Orchestra and Seckou Kelto, this was a delight. Natalie Rogers, whenever she was on stage, seemed to amp up the other dancers and as before, Pennewell’s knack for duets made Sarah Herbert and Andrew David’s dance a high point. I could do with seeing this ballet again.

No Evidence of Failure was a showcase for Natalie Rogers. This was one of those pieces where you feel fortunate to see it performed by a dancer with Rogers’ level of experience. Never mind “for her age”, Rogers is a great dancer for any age. She has the ability to always seem to be doing exactly the right thing, with a compelling inner quietness.

Natalie Rogers and Vitolio Jeune of Garth Fagan Dance in Fagan’s <i>No Evidence of Failure</i> © Rosalie O'Connor
Natalie Rogers and Vitolio Jeune of Garth Fagan Dance in Fagan’s No Evidence of Failure
© Rosalie O'Connor

She’s perfectly focused. Going back and forth between Fagan’s quick steps and the occasional freezes that require complete stillness, Rogers elevated her solo from good to great. Paired with Vitolio Jeune in the following duet to a jazz piano rendition of No Woman, No Cry, they were alternately sweet, playful and irresistible.

Estrogen/Genius is a puzzling dance by Fagan that was apparently intended to celebrate women but it somehow went off course. Natalie Rogers gave it her best but I wondered why this dance about estrogen was accompanied by a man singing about how he was going to fix her. How does that celebrate women? And why did she keep placing a hand over her crotch? It was repeated by the other women and it bothered me each time I saw it. That was not a move that seemed designed to celebrate women. Still, the section where the four women, Adriene Hodge, Sarah Herbert, Nina Price and Rishell Maxwell, stood together and had a girlfriends’ chat was one of the most enjoyable parts of the evening.

Finally, Fagan’s Translation Transition closed the show with a bundle of fun. It had the whole company onstage in a celebration of dance. Pennewell, with his fantastical long arms, reached out and grabbed space and gathered it to himself with a voracious appetite. When he stopped and raised his sculpturally large hands, he commanded my attention. He retains his full power as a performer. Sarah Herbert and Adriene Hodge danced together, brimming with joy. Steve Humphrey took the stage and astonished everyone with the vitality of his dancing. Age is no barrier in this company. Translation Transition is a perfect closing number for this troupe as it encapsulates everything that makes the company great.

There’s a radiance that emanates from the Garth Fagan Dance company, a generosity of spirit that enfolds everyone. Fagan embraces multiple generations of dancers and they reward the audience with the richness and depth of their experience. I can’t express enough how wonderful it was to see Natalie Rogers, Steve Humphrey and Norwood Pennewell showing the power of the older dancer. They resonate with their charisma, their confidence and their awareness. It made me feel a little sad that classical ballet is still struggling to find a way to embrace its older dancers except in non-dancing character roles. Bravo, one and all.