It’s hard to tell since we’re in the middle of it, but while the current dance scene may not be regarded as “golden,” it is undeniably rich. Part of the impressiveness of it all is the dazzling variety of styles and approaches. In a given week—say, this one—you can choose from a tango musical (Tanguera), a dance/theater interpretation of a film (Big Dance Theater), big ballet with work by contemporary choreographers (ABT), and large-scale heady stuff from Europe (Forsythe Company). Another company, Lucinda Childs, is performing restaged older work at the Joyce Theater. The main piece on the program, DANCE, is from 1979, permitting a glimpse of history in a vehicle that seems as fresh as anything out there, even if as a result of not having seen it for awhile.
Childs was one of the major figures in New York’s dance boom that took place in the 70s and 80s. She formed a company in 1973 which performed her rigorous, dense, graceful dances. She notably choreographed and performed in Einstein on the Beach, the opera/dreamscape by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass that stands as a great achievement for all of its collaborators. In recent years, she has worked primarily in the field of opera, but every so often some of her concert dance is remounted, but not often enough.
The three-part DANCE, (clip below) first presented at BAM, combines Childs’ repeating phrases with Glass’ music, and a film by Sol LeWitt in which the early company performs the piece on his graph-etched stage. As the film is projected on a scrim, ghost images of the flesh-and-blood dancers, in white long-sleeve tops and sailor pants, shadow them and provide a respite from the hypnotic visual and aural rhythms. The phrases of balletic fundamentals done with verve and little explosions of energy repeat and repeat, with some moves added in, or directions shifted from the regular cross-stage or diagonal. It matches perfectly with Glass’ adrenalized score. Caitlin Scranton, a taller, more fluid Childs look-alike, performed the central solo.
The handsome Concerto (1993) begins the program. Set to Gorecki, the pivoting and leaping dancers wear flowing black silk shirts that ripple as they fly. Childs performed Largo (2001). Her rather tight upper carriage seemed a consequence of her relative age, until she appeared in DANCE (on film) and I remembered that she had always moved a little stiffly. It was a graceful acknowledgement of her important contributions to dance, even if I had wished, in a fleeting moment, to be seeing it done by her younger doppelganger.