Ménage, a serene and sensual nocturne from 2009, establishes the Lavagnino look: dancers with ravishing, expressive arms and torsos firmly anchored below, the women in pointes that, deployed sparingly, turn them into classical sheroes rather than classical sprites. Lavagnino shows us women's strength even in the midst of beautiful, musical imagery and romantic rapture. Partnering ideas run to the eccentric, resembling nothing you've seen before, except, perhaps, a forest's tangle of fallen limbs. Bit by bit, tints and washes of character and story flow through the space--not so distinct as to be distracting, just romantic impressions. But we meet these impressions with a rush of human feeling equal to their own. The choreographer and performers (coached in acting by Kay Cummings) build up this sensation of individual lives and narratives with fine attention to detail and remarkable technique. Somehow, they manage to transform a performance space into a THEATER, with all the heightened magic implied, and chief among them in this witchery is Laura Mead.
The recent Deax en Peu duet finds an attentive Joshua Palmer under the sway of a noirish glamour puss (Selina Chau) whose clockwork-like approach to the musical cues (Schubert's Andante con moto, Trio in E Flat Major) gives this piece real bite. I hope I was reading something of Chau's character, not the dancer herself, in her sealed-off manner, because I thought the duet was missing the chemistry that's so clear in most of the interactions in Ménage. But that might be a deliberate move. Matters end with Palmer (wonderful in all of Lavagnino's work as elsewhere) kneeling close by as Chau settles into her final preening pose. He turns his head slightly to cast a dazed glance in a different direction, as if thinking, "What was THAT all about?"
ABOVE: Trailer for Ménage
BELOW: Duet from Triptych performed by Laura Mead and Justin Flores
In accord with the scrumptious live music and countertenor singing in Triptych, the world premiere, Lavagnino's dancers breathe life and authenticity into every movement and interaction. The work's choral work, costuming and decor (the last, by artist Betsy Weis, evoking hazy, rural graces) seem, to me, a subtle homage to the ancestral era of modern dance. I think you will find this new work intriguing and satisfying.
With dancing by Sarah Bek, Michael G. Cameron, Selina Chau, Justin Flores, Giovanna Gamna, Christine McMillan, Laura Mead, Joshua Palmer, Samuel Swanton, Claire Westby and Eric Williams
Live musical ensemble for Triptych includes Jane Chung (baroque violin), Kenneth Hamrick (musical director; organ, harpsicord), Paula Rand (baroque bassoon), Motomi Igarashi-de Jong (viola da gamba), Andrew Trombley (basse de violon) Eric S. Brenner (counter tenor) and Nicholas Tamagna (counter tenor)
Lighting by Kathy Kauffman
Lavagnino's show continues tonight and Saturday at 8pm. For information, click here. Purchase tickets here or by calling 866-811-4111. Bring your hand fan. In hot weather, it can get slightly steamy inside St. Marks.
St. Mark's Church
131 East 10th Street (2nd Avenue), Manhattan