Give props to Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s strenuous creation, Killer Pig, the extremely intense work set to pulsing electronic music (Ori Lichtik) that opened this Fall for Dance program (V). It sometimes came across as a highly structured modern dance rave, but one with emotional seriousness. My first thought was that it must be a transporting experience to perform this piece. The dancers put out an incredible amount of energy and there is a great deal of interplay between them. They came together into a huddle and then split apart with pairs forming and reforming, over and over again. The patterns were complex and repeated with many variations. Dancers took turns giving each other the verbal cues to begin the next sequence of movement. This fairly oozed with mutual reliance, intimacy and a powerful style of movement with its own vocabulary that ranged from the balletic to the grotesque. They were constantly moving, changing partners, alternately leading and following. By the time it was over, the cumulative energy left me exhilarated but emotionally drained.

LEV, <i>Killer Pig</i> © Gil Shani
LEV, Killer Pig
© Gil Shani

Tiler Peck (New York City Ballet) and Bill Irwin were tailor made for each other in Time it Was/116, a slapstick comedy of opposites. The performers’ mutual affection and regard was spilling out all over the place in this joyous little dance. Beginning with a metronome for accompaniment, Irwin came out and capered across the stage in a loosey-goosey dance. Irwin, of course, is known as a clown and an actor but he is also a terrific dancer with a gift for mimicry. As he left the stage the first time, Tiler Peck came on to do her ballerina thing. Of course Peck is a great dancer and while it’s essential to the piece it’s also beside the point. She did great turns and held long balances but it was all in service of setting up the next bit where Irwin came out and tried to copy her but then gave it up as a bad job. They took turns on stage, overlapping each other and poking fun at each other with gentle mockery and gradually it was revealed that Peck too is a great mimic while Irwin is a much better dancer than he let on initially. There’s a terrifically fun tap dancing sequence that made everyone giggle. As to which of these two great artists was the happier, I could not guess. They took their bows with ear-splitting grins and looked as though they both would have gladly done the whole thing all over again.

Tiler Peck and Bill Irving © Julieta Cervantes
Tiler Peck and Bill Irving
© Julieta Cervantes

Not to be confused with the 1845 work of the same name by Jules Perrot, this Pas de Quatreset to musical excerpts from Bellini’s Norma, was choreographed by Leonid Yakobson in 1971 and staged for Boston Ballet by Vera Solovyeva and Nikolay Levitsky. Yakobson’s Pas de Quatre, like Perrot's, also celebrates the Romantic era of classical ballet with the ornate rococo hands, stylized poses with tilted heads, light footwork and ethereally soft beauty. Boston Ballet cast a quartet of fine dancers in Maria Baranova, Erica Cornejo, Ashley Ellis and Misa Kuranaga. Each of the women danced so well that it was a pure pleasure to watch. Baranova is tall, fluid and lyric with a buoyant sense of musicality. Cornejo was so quick and had an aura of irresistible sweetness. Ellis was all softness, moving with such feathery lightness that she might have floated away if she’d had wings. Kuranaga could do nothing wrong with her speed and ability to change direction on a dime. Her control in her balances was outstanding and she was the strongest ballerina of the four. Boston Ballet’s dancers do a lot of things well and this foray into old school classicism was no exception.

Jesus Carmona © Julia Cervantes
Jesus Carmona
© Julia Cervantes
Given the prime closing spot on the program, Carmona grabbed the spotlight and thrilled the audience with his personal vision of flamenco. He’s a riveting performer with the powerfully resounding zapateado of traditional flamenco but a contemporary vision of his own. Beginning with traditional music, two singers, two guitars and a violin, the piece ended with something that sounded like gypsy jazz. His arms are not traditional, tightly held braceo either. Here he demonstrated an extended ability to gather and release tension by stretching his hands far away from his body to release and then pulled back again to draw the energy back into himself. The push/pull gave greater body length to his compact frame and created a sculptural aspect when extended. He also included frequent multiple turns, up to five and six at a time, but always remained within the music. Carmona was easily the most passionate performer of the night and he brought the audience to its feet in appreciation.

The concept of City Center's Fall for Dance Festival is copied all over now. but it remains the best venue to see a wide variety of dance styles in a short time and in one place. It serves as a showcase for choreographers and performers who can’t afford to put on shows of larger scales. It appeals doubly to casual dance goers who can’t afford to go to a lot of shows and thus appreciate seeing a greater selection of dance companies in one program. There was something for everyone on this fifth program of City Center’s 12th annual festival, and the audience was abundantly enthusiastic.

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