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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Westerby troupe at University Settlement

Last night, Matthew Westerby's company and five-work program at University Settlement's Speyer Hall appeared well-bred if fundamentally conventional in aesthetics and reach. Unfortunately, the warm, stuffy space--filled to capacity with audience and one crying babe--did not help matters.

Westerby goes for casual elegance and buoyant musicality, but A Watershed Moment, a 2009 ensemble piece, looked merely cluttered in the shallow confines. In Stricken (2008), set to a slurpy, gargling soundscape, the most striking images were of several dancers unhappily scraping something off their skin--the fog billowing from the fog machine? Hell Hath No Fury sounds like a perfectly fine title, except that the genial dancing in this piece, clearly made to entertain, renders it inexplicable. And the newest work, Court, shows that Westerby values order and pattern and the hint of drama, but you go away humming the costumes--velvet vests on the men, eggplant-colored bustiers on the women, Elizabethan collars (the stiff ruffly historical kind, not the pet protectors).

If you do go tonight to the second and final performance of this season, look for the quietly, classically beautiful Alessandra Larson (in anything) and in a brief Stricken duet with Dylan Baker. These two sharp dancers seem to be on the verge of taking Westerby's movement out of the realm of something-to-do and into the realm of something-to-live. There's a difference. These performers show a certain capability for more. You watch them and wait for them to go there.

Matthew Westerby Company, tonight at 8pm

Ticket information

Speyer Hall at University Settlement
184 Eldridge Street (near Rivington Street), Manhattan

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