There seems to have been more movement than usual among top dancers in many of the city’s dance companies. One of the lucky recipients of this instability, as seen in two programs at the Baryshnikov Arts Center from November 9-20, is the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. The company’s dancers always impress; Lubovitch’s choreography seeps into his dancers’ bodies and souls, and we feel that. But this season’s additions include Clifton Brown, an Ailey perennial and perhaps one of that company’s biggest stars in the past decade, who now holds the title at Ailey of “Guest Artist”; Elisa Clark, late of Mark Morris Dance Group; and Carlos Lopez, until recently an ABT soloist.
Lubovitch has been taken for granted in recent years perhaps in part because of his constant quiet presence and his durability; his company performs seasons regularly, although a change in venue seems to be perennial. The totality of his choreographic skill and craft is unsurpassed. It can be stupendously beautiful—the flowing curves, seamless organic shapes, tableaux of breathtaking gorgeousness, and the essential connecting movement. But lest you think he’s incapable of doing anything else, see Crisis Variations, his recent premiere. Given Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s powerful dramatic skills, you can understand how he was coaxed to address crisis. She seemed in a constant state of collapse, her joints folding mercilessly, giving in to gravity’s pull. Helpless in the face of catastrophe, she was eventually subsumed by the group.
Mens’ Stories, Lubovitch’s signature work in recent years, is a readymade vehicle for individual stars to elaborate on the anecdotes and mythologies spun by its original cast. As opposed to City Center’s distant stage, up close Clifton Brown looks alarmingly dramatic; his huge soft eyes and endless arms become tools with which to move us. Elisa Clark tempers her projection just right, and the clarity and musicality she honed at Morris serve her handsomely in Lubovitch’s work. The happiest surprise was Carlos Lopez, somewhat buried in ABT’s ranks and repertory; at BAC we were near enough to read his plentiful charisma and verve.
Two other recent large company ex-pats, Michele Wiles (ABT) and Charles Askegard (NYCB), formed Ballet Next and took over the Joyce on November 21. They enjoined stars, many from their respective companies, in a mixed program split halvesies—classical and contemporary, replete with live chamber music. Wiles reminded us of what an intriguing Odette she can be, her delicate features that could be erased on the Met stage now more legible. The dynamic Maria Kochetkova paired perfectly with Joaquin de Luz, New York’s journeyman ballet rock star. And Misty Copeland, coming off of a stellar ABT season, handily commanded the spotlight. It’s early to say where the company is headed, but with this cast, they have the chops to do what they want. But will it meaningfully change the balletscape in ways that, say, Morphoses has tried but thus far stalled in its efforts? Must it? Maybe they could commission Lubovitch in the meantime…
p.s. – Speaking of company maneuvers, even though David Hallberg is returning from the Bolshoi to ABT soon for a Nutcracker or two, I just really miss the idea of him being in New York. Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder.