Jukly 15, 2015 performance reviewed by Iler McGrath.
Eric Gauthier, former soloist with Stuttgart ballet and current artistic director of Gauthier Dance, brought his company to Jacob’s Pillow for their first performance in the United States. This troupe is filled with versatile and charismatic dancers, and the program they brought to the Doris Duke Theater was inventive, humorous, and fresh, and was executed with technical precision. The majority of the program was made up of duets and solos, highlighting the power of the troupes members to hold the stage and the attention of the audience without mass numbers. The middle of the program is subject to change, introducing themes of fluidity and impermanence before the performance has even begun.
The show opens with Gauthier’s work Ballet 101 a humorous and lighthearted spoof in which the soloist is guided by voice-over through the “100 positions of ballet” which are then rearranged, resulting in a hectic and fun to watch variation as the poor man scrambles to keep up with the steps. This piece is entertaining and easy to understand, serving at once as a crash course in contemporary ballet composition and the deconstruction of classicism as well as dispelling any preconceptions of over-seriousness or pretentiousness. It is a strong and clever opening that sets the tone for the rest of the show.
Now and Now, Two Become Three, and Floating Flowers, choreographed by Johan Inger, Alexander Ekman, and Po-Cheng Tsai respectively, were the three duets featured in the evening. Inger’s piece was serious and emotional while avoiding melodrama, and satisfying despite (or because) of its abstraction. The duet by Ekman, who is known for his freshness of approach and humor, lived up to his reputation, provoking bouts of laughter from the audience. Floating Flowers by Po-Cheng Tsai played in a middle ground between humor and expression, presenting a quirky and undefinable world in which two dancers merge and split.
PACOPEPEPLUTO by Alejandro Cerrudo celebrates male power and virtuosity while remaining aware of the constant background of insecurity experienced by the performer. Three soloists explode, scamper, and twist across the stage to the familiar sounds of Dean Martin and Joe Scalissi, raising questions about what it means to be masculine onstage and the vulnerability of the individual. I Found a Fox is a solo in the same vein, choreographed by Marco Goecke and set to music by Kate Bush. Compressed movement gives way to complex and intricate phrase work, conveying internal struggle and the tension between the desire to be seen and the complications of achieving this goal.
The evening closed with Malasangre (“Bad Blood”), a high-powered work for eight dancers by Spanish Choreographer Cayetano Soto. An homage to the Cuban singer La Lupe, this piece finds driving energy in the salsa beats and throaty vocals of her music. The stage is strewn with green scraps of cloth, perhaps dollar bills or shredded military fatigues, while the dancers writhe flawlessly and contort their faces toward the audience. This piece could be seen as both commentary on La Lupe’s career, while she enjoyed fame in her lifetime she died penniless, and as a celebration of her charisma and talent.
Overall this company presents a varied and engaging program of contemporary dance. The repertory and thematic elements are both subversive to the over-seriousness and drama the genre has become known for in the U.S. while holding true to a strong core of movement ideas executed with superb precision by the dancers. At risk of falling into a trap of jadedness, Gauthier avoids this pitfall by staying true to the art form with verve and passion.
Jacob’s Pillow tickets and directions
- Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
- 358 George Carter Road
- Becket, MA 01223
- Phone: 413.243.9919
- Web: jacobspillow.org