Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance in repertory season at NYU Tisch

Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance
(photo courtesy of CLD)
Ramona Kelley and Daniel Matei in Summer Evening
(photo: Charles Roussel)

Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance
June 27-28
Jack Crystal Theater
NYU Tisch School of the Arts

The new, two-evening season of Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance presents four works from repertory and live music played on the kora, a stringed instrument from West Africa. That traditional music is lovingly rendered by Kane Mathis, a Brooklyn-based performer and composer who has long studied with master musicians of The Gambia.

When Mathis, a white man, brought out a kora for an interlude in the midst of a program of contemporary ballet, it took me a moment to grasp the meaning of this juxtaposition. Then Matthis began to pluck the strings, with deep concentration and delicate touch and timing. Tinkling sounds brushed past our ears like cool, sweet breezes. Lavagnino included him, clearly, because his dedication to traditions--he also learned the oud from master teachers--parallels her own.

I doubt you'll ever find disruptive, radical experimentation at a Lavagnino show. She's old school with a distinct reverence not only for classical ballet--her works often engage pointe work and fluid lifts,  emphasize well-sculpted, grounded structure and line--but also classic modern dance with its concern for human interest. If you crave dance theater with musicality, romance, universal themes and relateable emotions, you'll be comfortable with Lavagnino.

The loveliest work on hand this season might be RU (2014), which takes inspiration from an autobiographical novel by Canadian writer Kim Thúy, a Vietnamese refugee. It largely skirts specifics to embrace sensuous gesture, partner interaction and atmosphere, though it might be a bit jarring--again, these juxtapositions--to see predominantly white dancers wafting about in áo dài tunics and trousers. But, beyond that, Lavagnino captures the gentleness and flow implied by the work's title ("lullaby" or "stream"). Dancers here are Chad Balen, Jesse Campbell, Dervla Carey-Jones, Justin Faircloth, Gwendolyn Gussman, Corinne Hart, Emma Pajewski, Lila Simmons and Claire Westby. Also, look for Ramona Kelley's snappy performance with Daniel Mantei sweeping her off her feet in Summer Evening (2017), set to the Janis Joplin’s version of "Summertime." Kelley, who has danced with Twyla Tharp and Sidra Bell, has got spunk of the "Mary Richards" variety and delivers energy to the work.

Costume design: Christopher Metzger
Lighting design: Kathy Kaufmann

Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance concludes tonight with a performance at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Jack Crystal Theater
NYU Tisch School of the Arts
111 Second Avenue, Manhattan

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