Friday, October 28, 2016

"Eclipse": Forces of Nature celebrates 35th Anniversary

Above and below:
Scenes from Eclipse: Visions of the Crescent and the Cross
by Abdel R. Salaam for Forces of Nature
(photos: Erin Baiano)

For its 35th anniversary season, Forces of Nature has gone all out with Eclipse: Visions of the Crescent and the Cross, choreographed and designed by the company's visionary artistic director, Abdel R. Salaam. Presented last evening at Aaron Davis Hall, this bustling ensemble work traces a narrative of interaction and intermingling between people of Christian and Islamic faiths from the Crusades through the Civil Rights/Black Nationalist years and up to the present day. Even that other visionary, Nostradamus, makes an appearance.

That sounds like a lot, I'm sure, and it is. But Salaam balances his fertile imagination with a strict editor's eye. And any didacticism keeps its proper place--in the program notes--as two hours of dance theater simply breeze by.

Were it not for its provocative subject matter, Eclipse, in excerpts or as a whole, would be absolutely Broadway-ready. Salaam has it all--abstract, stylistic battle scenes crafted like cut crystal; idyllic, lyrical entwinement between once shy, now rapturous lovers; energetic villagers breaking out their best Celtic, Mediterranean or West African moves and much, much more. Each scene, with further development, could work as a standalone piece or a self-contained number ready to be neatly, helpfully dropped into someone else's musical. There's old-school entertainment throughout for any audience that wants it, and Salaam's opening night audience digged it the most. Eclipse is best approached with a relaxed attitude of anything goes/what's next?/bring it!

Salaam is a man for every season, every mood and every dance technique--from modern to ballet, from step dance to flamenco to hip hop--with an equally eclectic, and quite wonderful, ear for music. He meets each opportunity to create characters and tell stories with panache--for instance, turning the competition between "The Cross" (Jeffrey Freeze) and "The Crescent" (Nathan Trice) into a boxing match that, ultimately, neither wins, though, from the look of Trice's stance and form, I'd give him the clear advantage in any rematch.

A work this demanding and ambitious calls for a lot from its dancers, and Salaam is blessed with a disciplined and ardent ensemble with notable work from Trice, Petra Duskova (as a Crusader's widow) and Jason Herbert (as her Muslim suitor).

See the repeat of Eclipse tonight at 7pm. For Program B, tomorrow evening at 7pm, the company presents classic repertory--Terrestrial Wombs, Fallen Idols, B’Flowin B’Smoove, The Word Made Flesh and Lamban Plus!

Get information and tickets for Forces of Nature here.

Aaron Davis Hall
on campus of The City College of New York
between West 133 and 135 Streets, Convent Avenue, Manhattan
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