If there’s one thing that the dance scene should embrace more of, it should be dance on film. In Passing, the second feature on the Ashley Bouder Project program at the Joyce, is a dance film choreographed by Andrea Schermoly and filmed by Kevin Schlanser. It was a dreamscape with fairly standard visuals: the bedroom, a tunnel, the theater, the studio, a desert. Two couples went through all the possible permutations of pairing up in and out of the bed, without being in any way vulgar. Amar Ramasar, who rarely partners Bouder at New York City Ballet, looks great with her in the film and you’re left wishing you could see more of them together with City Ballet. His strong presence makes for good balance with Bouder’s own dominating charisma. She is so powerful on stage – and that translates onto film as well - that weaker men get lost. In Passing wasn’t groundbreaking but it wcas a nice film and I would love to see more of this kind of work programmed in venues like the Joyce. Film is woefully overlooked as a potential source of creativity and revenue and there are curiously few dance films being made considering how much cheaper it is to produce them with digital media. 

© Alexis Ziemsk
© Alexis Ziemsk

The opening piece, Unsaid, paired Bouder with Preston Chamblee in a duet choreographed by Adriana Pierce. There was a lot of emoting here as a couple engages in an intense struggle. I’m not a big fan of this kind of work as it presents a whole lot of angst without context. It would be more powerful if more were left unsaid. Unusual for the Joyce Theater which has no orchestra pit, this show featured an excellent string quartet led by cellist Elad Kabilio. I didn’t enjoy having my view partially obscured by the players but the live music was a nice addition to the experience.

The strongest work of the night was Joshua Beamish’s Rouge et Noir. Against a backdrop reminiscent of Matisse, there were attitudes and suggestions of emotion from the dancers but it was never so much that you wished for some restraint. Bouder and Ramasar really shone here with a physicality that highlighted how far Ramasar has come as a performer. With each passing year he becomes deeper and more magnetic to the point where he balances dancers like Bouder with ease. She, of course, was her usual self - fiery, fast and fun. She remains an artist at the peak of her ability and could sell tickets just to watch her in ballet class. Indiana Woodward and Alexa Maxwell had fun supporting roles of no great depth. Woodward especially radiated a mischievous level of flirting that kept it all from getting too serious. She was kind of like the girl everyone wants to sit next to at a party.

Historically a dead month for the dance world, August is heating up as these mini-festivals become more commonplace. Leading dancers who have strong box office appeal are leveraging into doing their own projects while on summer hiatus. Ashley Bouder shows admirable restraint and not thrown an ego party. The show was well put together, briskly paced and it left everyone smiling. Professionally, she put her money where her mouth is by giving two women the opportunity to choreograph new works a contemporary feat that’s important to the future of dance. Opportunities to work with top-notch talent are hard to come by, especially for female choreographers and it is programs like this that let them develop their craft and become more familiar to the dance-going public. It is only by being seen that further opportunities open up for emerging choreographers. I wish I’d been able to see more of the Joyce’s summer dance festival.

***11