The Guggenheim’s Works & Process series has evolved into a commissioning entity producing some fascinating new work. Until recent years, it was more akin to a lecture/demo format, with a casual atmosphere where the dancers wore rehearsal clothes. It often featured excerpts of works that would be seen elsewhere, on a larger stage; some events still follow this format. But as the fall season’s inaugural show featuring choreography by Peter Quanz and Larry Keigwin demonstrated, it is capable of producing some inspired new choreographic work.
The program last weekend, Steve Reich Interpreted, featured dances set to the same Reich composition, Double Sextet (2007). Peter Quanz, of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, created the ballet In Tandem that seemed to stretch the physical limits of the distinctive, if oddball, theater at the Guggenheim, which is all circles, and quite small at that. A dancer in the orchestra pit caught a swan-diving woman by the pelvis. The dancers utilized an upper mezzanine and walked through the house on the carpeted catwalk. Quanz varied dynamics throughout, from a statue-like starting pose, crisp ballet phrases, and moments of stillness. With moderator Nancy Dalva, he discussed being inspired by the music to incorporate pendulum and falling motifs. The women were dressed in sharp graph check swimsuit-style leotards and pointe shoes, and the men in simple black, by Anne Armit.
I thought Quanz was pretty radical in his use of the whole theater, but then came Keigwin’s dance, Sidewalk. After several stage crossings in a distinctive “side walk,” arms swinging rigidly, the dancers turned the entire auditorium into their own playhouse. They sprinted in laps around the catwalk aisle. The women descended into the pit only to be hauled onto the stage by partners. They sprawled on the steps leading up to the mezzanine, or leaned near us at the back of the house, resting between sections. Jon Can Coskunses’ business attire costumes underscored the city sidewalk imagery so skillfully conjured up by Keigwin’s frenetic phrases.
These works were the first of this series, in my experience, that so thoroughly integrated the entirety of the Peter B. Lewis Theater, perhaps because the choreographers had ample advance time to develop it with the space in mind, and were able to spend time working in the theater. They definitely enlivened the space and gave the performance a special feel.
Another very promising dance commission will be performed on Sep 23 & 25 at Columbia’s Miller Theatre: Kandinsky in Performance, in conjunction with the artist’s major exhibition in the museum. Karole Armitage’s Armitage Gone! Dance will perform to a section of Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet, performed by the Brentano String Quartet, and other music from Kandinsky’s era will accompany light projections inspired by the artist. Two additional dance events are scheduled: ABT with The Art of Adaptation on Oct 11 & 12, addressing performing in non-traditional venues (they perform at Avery Fisher Hall this fall); and Shen Wei Dance Arts on Oct 24 & 25, which celebrates its tenth anniversary. There are additional Works & Process events in the genres of music and theater; check the website for information.