New York dance fans welcomed City Center’s 11th Fall for Dance Festival with enthusiasm more typically reserved for mainstream pop icons. The Festival's 'Program Four' brings together – for two nights only – four companies from around the world. It’s rather common for mixed programs to include excerpts from longer works due to time constraints. This program, however, benefits from featuring four complete short pieces.

Brian Brookes' <i>Torrent</i> © Rosalie O'Connor
Brian Brookes' Torrent
© Rosalie O'Connor
The NY based Brian Brooks Moving Company’s opens the show, with Torrent , which lived up to it’s title. Twenty-six dancers ( the Brian Brooks Moving Company is joined on stage by Julliard dancers for the occasion) poured in from the wings to form a single line across the front of the stage setting identifiable motifs that are then repeated throughout the piece. The line reemerges, cutting the stage in different places each time. Solos then duets and trios break off before the stage is plunged into chaos and the dancers disperse, moving with a hive mentality reminiscent of nature – like a flock of birds or fish schooling. These brief moments of order and relative stillness are more beautiful for being unexpected.

The Australian Ballet's Ostinato, a work for two men and one woman, choreographed by Tim Harbour then follows (It's performance here at Fall for Dance is <em>Ostinato</em>'s world première).

Robin Hendricks, of The Australian Ballet © Georges Antoni
Robin Hendricks, of The Australian Ballet
© Georges Antoni
The choreography is classic and abstract, and we are treated to live music with Brian Cousins on piano in the orchestral. Ostinato refers to a recurring musical pattern within a soundscape, and the score for this piece makes for a fine example of such variation. While the dancers’ movement remains light and airy, as is the melody, it doesn’t revert back to a pattern established earlier in the piece. 

Benjamin Millepied's Closer, danced by Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal’s Céline Cassone and Alexander Hille comes third. After the neutral tones of the lighting and costuming of the first two pieces,the stage is here bathed in blue, the space flooded in brilliant aqua. At the center, the couple is under a white spotlight. The staging makes the two seem more inseparable, for it gives the illusion of them being apart from the rest of the world. Céline Cassone is the jewel at the center of this piece lunging and spinning against Hille. The latter mastered his role, which ironically made him invisible for much of the time, while the focus was on Cassone’s infinite extensions. During one especially long sequence of lifts it was as though Hille appeared under her in various positions, rather than as the grounded force elevating her into them. Another live piano performance (here by pianist Brigitte Poulin, of Philip Glass's Mad Rush) added to the lush sensual atmosphere of <em>Closer</em>

Céline Cassone and Alexander Hille in Benjamin Millepied's <i>Closer</i> © Leda & St Jacques
Céline Cassone and Alexander Hille in Benjamin Millepied's Closer
© Leda & St Jacques

Rennie Harris Puremovement’s <em>Students of the Asphalt Jungle</em> closed the program with a testosterone fueled frenzy that started on a high only to end higher. Nine male dancers draw the audience into a survey of African and African American dance tradition. The choreography, danced in unison, pulled from traditional African technique, with rounded, cyclical and repetitive movement. Interspersed with house footwork to match the house music, Rennie Harris showed how his contemporary company is still connected to old traditions. If the audience didn’t obviously catch those nuances in the choreography itself, the dancers made it clear by slapping the ground with their open hands to punctuate the end of key phrases. It’s an unmistakable symbol of respect and in this case, pride. Each dancer also had a solo moment showing off his unique style and presenting contrasting elements of hip hop dance; from floorwork to acrobatics. The audience couldn’t resist the energy and excitement radiating from the stage.

Best of all, this program whetted fans' appetites for more choreography from these four companies.