The combination of these three great artists is more than the sum of its parts and the only thing I wanted from it was for it to go on longer. I wish that every dancer could learn how to turn a pas de deux into an act of profound communication the way Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo did. Their partnership is as full of rapture and poetry as that legendary pairing of Fonteyn and Nureyev. For his part, pianist Bruce Levingston was the perfect third to bring in and elevate this into a true concert and dance performance. The show consists of a solo each for Ferri and Cornejo with four pas de deux by contemporary choreographers. Interspersed was an outstanding piano recital delivered by Levingston who accompanied the dancing throughout. I’m used to my ears being abused by amplified music at the Joyce so it was a pleasure to discover that the theater has very good acoustics and the piano sounded great from the stage. Levingston’s playing was sublime throughout and fully matched the artistic level set by the dancers.

© Roberto Ricci
© Roberto Ricci
Having recently seen the spectacular Sylvie Guillem on her retirement tour, I had every expectation that Ferri could still rule the stage. I was not disappointed. She can turn walking into an event of importance, as she did when the light came up behind her in Fang-Yi Sheu’s Senza Tempo. She slowly walked to the front of the stage and was mesmerizing. Just walking. This is not a nostalgia tour. She has pulled back a bit and isn’t doing any of the old warhorse pas de deux but believe me when I tell you that you don’t want that from her. She has that rare ability to invest every small gesture with poetry. There were so many wonderful moments that it’s hard to know where to start. Russell Maliphant’s Entwine pas de deux seems as good a place as any. My impression of this piece was overwhelmingly one of Ferri and Cornejo flowing together to the soaring arpeggios of Philip Glass’s Metamorphosis Two. When they came together Ferri joined with Cornejo and then rolled over his back like a waterfall. They did this in several permutations but the effect was always pure, liquid beauty. It was electric synchronicity. Everything about it made me wish I saw partnering like this more often.

Other great moments included the opening of Demis Volpi’s Flair, which marked the beginning of the dancing, where Ferri and Cornejo stood side by side doing port de bras. They drew beautiful shapes in the air around them, describing the music and easing into a program of lyric dancing. Cornejo choreographed his own solo, Momentum, and that provided all of the evening’s pyrotechnics. He is always great fun to watch. Stanton Welch’s Pavane was more outstanding partnering. Every lift, every taking of hands, every turn and release, happened with such relaxed ease that you would think they had been dancing together for decades. Surprisingly this is the first time they have ever danced together. With the exception of the closing pas de deux, each of these was created on Ferri and Cornejo and they fit like kid gloves.

Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri in an excerpt from Preljocaj's <i>Le Parc</i> © Roberto Ricci
Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri in an excerpt from Preljocaj's Le Parc
© Roberto Ricci
The evening’s best moment was the kiss in Angelin Preljocaj’s pas de deux from Le Parc which closed the show. It began with Ferri throwing her arms around Cornejo’s neck and kissing him on the lips. He began to slowly turn with his arms at his side, their lips locked together. As he gained velocity, Ferri’s floor-skimming feet curled up and she began to fly... and then soar. Cornejo gradually raised his arms and finally they were swirling in a passionate rhapsody, lips still together. It was an euphoric moment in an evening that full of them.

There was nothing terribly flashy in any of the choreography except for Cornejo’s solo. The same is true of the piano solos; all perfectly modulated, sensitive, romantic and ultimately transcendent. That may be why this show was so great. In order to really take you somewhere a performance has to open a window to another, higher plane of existence. If it’s too showy then you’re overcome with technical bombast and too entertained to be transported. This production is focused on the simple beauty of three mature artists and you can lose yourself in their sublime gift of sharing and communicating. It was richly conceived, thoughtfully prepared and generously delivered. Bravi.

*****