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10/6/11
New York Live Arts—Dancer Crush
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Holley Farmer. Photo by Ian Douglas.

Holley Farmer. Photo by Ian Douglas.

There are so many talented dancers in New York City that, sadly, it’s easy to take even the finest ones for granted. New York Live Arts speaks to this in a program called Dancer Crush, a showcase of some of the artists whose repeated appearances on New York stages over the years have made an indelible impression. Some of them dance the work of the big name choreographers to whose companies they belonged; others perform their own pieces. NYLA’s Carla Peterson and Annie-B Parsons of Big Dance Theater curated this amazing slate (through Oct 8).

The most powerful piece, for me, was Brandi Norton performing Trisha Brown’s Accumulation (1971). Maybe it’s the music (Grateful Dead’s Uncle John’s Band), maybe it’s Norton’s velvety, hypnotic style, maybe it’s that Brown is receiving a 2011 Bessie for Lifetime Achievement… it all came together in a gorgeous little dance bomblet. Another dynamo work was Merce Cunningham’s Solo Event with Loops (1971-2009) done by Holley Farmer. Never mind that her return to the stage in his choreography held its own sentimental strength, the simplicity and inventiveness of this solo (with chair) resonated in Farmer’s clear, human delivery.

The new executive artistic director at the venue, some guy you may have heard of named Bill T. Jones, created Floating the Tongue (1978), performed by Leah Cox, who performed a phrase once, again with painstaking narration, again with general descriptions for each move, and again with stream-of-consciousness associations, followed by the same procedure for several other phrases. It revealed how smart the body has to be in tandem with the brain, how smart Cox is. And Heather Olson has performed in so many companies that the Wall Street Journal did a feature about it. She is the face of Tere O’Connor’s work as much as anyone,  artfully executing the scatalogical, gesture and funny-face-laden phrases.

Some veterans performed their own stuff. Jodi Melnick danced an excerpt from Suedehead, exhibiting her usual lush delicacy dotted with quirky bird clucks.  In Eyes, Mouth, and All the Rest: Surrendering to the Desire of Others, Ishmael Houston-Jones took direction from others onstage, a sort of remote control improv, which he interspersed with often minute observations. David Neumann’s Tough, the Tough (Redux) reprised themes familiar in his work—the suited salaryman representing mankind, his obliviousness a secret gift that allows him to be open to anything old thing that floats by. A newer old face, Arturo Vidich, was prompted by a seated Yvonne Meier, whose expressions always tell a thousand words, and who gave Vidich his improv script, which ended in an imagined self-evisceration. Steven Reker opened the program with Microphones’ Dance – Shoe that included his band, People Get Ready (my date recently saw them at Bowery Ballroom). Reker and Luke Fasano swung in circles live mics that narrowly missed, ratcheting up tension until colliding. The performance of the song contrasted with the artificial construct of the opening; neither showed Reker’s dance roots, but it was a burst of energy to kick off the intriguing affair.

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.