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    Julie Cunningham and Daniel Madoff, from Merce Cunningham's Xover in Fall for Dance 2010
    Photo by Kawakahi Amina
    Julie Cunningham and Daniel Madoff, from Merce Cunningham's Xover

    Four Corners of the Dance World

    Fall for Dance opening night 2010


    Something old, something new, something gold, something blue. The opening night of Fall for Dance 2010 put four corners of dance onto the stage at City Center and squared things well.

    City Center
    September 28-October 10,2010

    The Merce Cunningham Dance Company made an excellent case for extending their existence further than the year remaining on their board-brokered endgame. John Cage music and Merce Cunningham choreography vied for attention for the first two-thirds of Xover, with Joan La Barbara giving "Aria" a subtle and astounding reading that generated quite a bit of audience laughter. Crisp dancing held few surprises or prominent moments early on, though the amount of movement done with face skyward is impressive and probably far more difficult than the dancers make it seem. Only when Jamie Scott appeared in a quartet near the end did the dancing take our full attention, with first her and then Emma Desjardins somehow giving the Cunningham style that extra edge that it really requires and that not every Cunningham dancer, however good, is able to bring. By the end, the early part of the piece felt like a necessary buildup to bring the whole to a very good place.

    One then two violently shaking boys, their footlit shadows dancing even bigger behind them on the back wall, open I Can See Myself in Your Pupil by Gallim Dance. As they process slowly along the wall, shaking all the while, others join this odd chours line, until the back wall is full and dancers are scooting back around to keep this crazy caterpillar crawl going. It is a blast-of-energy opening, and it is only the beginning. Already in this superfast, grooving opening, there are some of the juxtapositions that keep Gallim interesting — stop-freezes that break up the convulsing, fast running offsetting the slow procession. Choreographer Andrea Miller constantly plays with comedy and bodily control: rigid men deal with ragdoll women, or vice versa; dancers clown momentarily in the middle of "serious" dance; smiles and grimaces pop up from nowhere and sometimes become contagious. Gallim seems the lovechild of Batsheva and Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak, the wild child of gaga and commedia dell'arte. Whatever its lineage, the onslaught of fun and weirdness is highly entertaining. Bits that stick are Troy Ogilvie flopping about on her ankles until she remembers how to use her feet, happy lip-synching to something Hebrew/Hindi-sounding and swirling hordes stomping around in flying wide squats.

    Gallim Dance in Fall for Dance 2010
    Photo by Chris Randle
    Gallim Dance

    "Taketa, taketa, takatakatataketa." I had always wondered where this rhythmic singing came from, and now I know. Madhavi Mudgal brings an entire musical group onstage with herself and four other dancers and shows us why Odissi dance matters. The same rhythms that inspired Robert Battle to choreograph a complex and vivid solo serve here to power five dancers into waves of motion. Odissi is a classical dance form of India, and it must subsume the lives of its practitioners every bit as much as ballet does here; it is obvious that this form takes years to master. The rhythmic and bodily precision of these dancers are amazing and inspiring, and the complexities of the onstage Indian music are the perfect accompaniment, not surprisingly. All the performers, both musicians and dancers, are part of a seamless whole. Even without knowing any of the classical storylines or meanings, watching Vistaar is an immersive experience that keeps us swimming further in. The percussive vocal and the subtle waves that travel through the pelvis, chest, head, arms and hands of Mudgal and the other dancers are fascinating.

    And leave it to Fall for Dance to remind everyone why Twyla Tharp matters, too. The Miami City Ballet did an excellent job with The Golden Section, capturing all the floppy virtuosity and flinging sizzle of this 1983 piece, with David Byrne music driving the dancing. Byrne and Tharp are at the top of their games here, and the music/dance mix is a good one, with edge-of-control speed, inventive movement that is both explosive and flowing, and unique partnerings that have, for instance, a six-foot-plus man diving across the stage onto the shoulders of six others. This is sheer spectacle and sheer fun, and it is a beautiful thing. Even golden hightop jazz shoes and silly airboxing fit in and feel right. It's not clear where the title comes from other than the shoes and the clothes, but I'll give the choreography, and the Dancing, gold.

    OCTOBER 4, 2010

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