Kaye Playhouse, New York, NY.
March 25, 2023.
American Repertory Ballet, under direction of Ethan Stiefel, held a one-night-only performance in Manhattan in late March 2023, reviving a previous show called Movin’ and Groovin’. The triple bill premiered in spring of 2022, in New Jersey, making this performance the first available to NYC audiences.
The value in having only one performance was reflected by the fact that the audience was nearly filled, there was a palpable buzz in the air, and a lot of happy greetings and hugs shared between audience members. That joy and excitement in the house continued throughout the evening once the dancing began, each piece delivering its own version of what it means to enjoy dance.
The title of the show didn’t quite align with the performances in terms of tone – the term “groovin” conjures a sense of movement that differs from the contemporary ballet presented onstage. Nonetheless, the performance was solid, the choreography interesting, and the engagement between the dancers and the audience obvious.
The first piece entitled Moving to Bach was very much an engaged work. Congruity with the music prevailed, but in a subtle and nuanced manner. The simple green costumes allowed the dancing to reign supreme, while adding an element of regality to the work. Choreographer Ja’ Malik, artistic director of Madison Ballet, used quirky elements on top of recognizable steps to further illuminate the musical connection within the dancing, to great delight.
In Circadia, the four-part episodic work by Caili Quan, dancers explore the ways in which we are all affected by sleep and how the mind decides which memories to keep and which to release. The eclectic variations between the four sections in both the music and movement evoke the oddness of dreams and how they interact with our waking reality.
Lastly, Claire Davison’s Time Within A Time, set to the lesser known tunes of the great Fleetwood Mac, speaks to the ideas of what it means to return to something after an absence. Choreographed at a time when dance was returning from pandemic shut-down, the joy of this work is visible both in the more classical ballet tone and the folk-rock sounds of the music.
Definitely Movin’ – and maybe Groovin’ (depending on your definition) – this was a treat to watch, and it will be exciting to see what else the company has in store as the new direction for the company takes hold and develops.
By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa.