Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Confirming Adams: Attacca and The Francesca Harper Project

John Adams "Confirmed" Dances
Attacca Quartet
l-r: Luke Fleming, Amy Schroeder, Keiko Tokunaga and Andrew Yee
(photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)

Limor TomerMetropolitan Museum of Art's Curator of Performance, was admittedly starstruck to be onstage with composer John Adams last evening at the museum's auditorium. For his part, Adams playfully disputed her description of his work--"I don't really think of Bach when I think of myself...I'm more inspired by country fiddling and R. Crumb comics"--while praising Attacca Quartet, there to present John Adams "Confirmed" Dances, selections from his chamber works for strings

Mentioning past collaborations with Shen Wei and Trisha Brown, Tomer noted the museum's intent to work more often with dance artists. And, indeed, in this concert, Attacca's music would be paired with The Francesca Harper Project and guests from Dance Theater of Harlem and Howard University.

Marred only by a technical glitch that briefly interrupted the performance of John's Book of Alleged Dances (1994), the concert proved why the young musicians--Luke Fleming (viola), Amy Schroeder (violin), Keiko Tokunaga (violin) and Andrew Yee (cello)--have won multiple awards. Their needle-fine sensitivity, clear, distinct polyrhythmic layers and blistering speed--this last, especially in the driven, early moments of String Quartet, a piece from 2008--more than live up to Adams's word for Attacca: "jaw-dropping."

In John's Book of Alleged Dances, the dances Adams had in mind were, yes, just in mind--"alleged," he has said, because "the steps for them had yet to be invented." Enter Francesca Harper with her background spanning Forsythe, Broadway and DTH to "confirm" them. She opened with a restless solo Bradley Shelver made for her, set to Adams's "Judah to Ocean." Her charismatic presence--a tall, pliant woman in a tomato red dress--flared through across the stage, taking command. But her approach to Alleged Dances for the dazzling, superheroic Eriko Iisaku and her dancers went much further and was more intriguing. Show-off images that, mindful of Adams, never take themselves too seriously; lush, gleaming beauty prone to being off-kilter, even bizarre; an elastic, athletic, aggressive rush that, coming from a troupe of mostly women, can look...well, jaw-dropping. I much prefered this disruptive Harper to the more conventional sculptor of String Quartet, danced by the guests from DTH and Howard. She posed hard challenges to her own dancers in Alleged, and they confirmed that they are up to the task.

Seven Words

Hear Attacca Quartet perform a string quartet arrangement of Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross with video by Ofri Cnaani at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on Thursday, April 2, 7pm.

For information and tickets, click here.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue (street entrance at East 83rd Street), Manhattan

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