Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Dorrance Dance: The Joyce does it again!

Josette Wiggan-Freund
plays Clara's Mother and Sugar Rum Cherry
in The Nutcracker Suite.
(photo: Matthew Murphy)

Dorrance Dance
The Joyce Theater
December 17-January 5

The Joyce closes out the 20-Teens with another tap triumph--this time, a three-week run by Dorrance Dance, the superb troupe headed by 2015 MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance. Dorrance has been showing three separate programs, each crowned--I can find no better word for it--by the world premiere of The Nutcracker Suite, set to the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn arrangement of Tchaikovsky and designed like you've never seen it before.

The actual title--as rendered in the program notes, if not on the Joyce's website--is as follows:

WE PRESENT TO YOU: THE NUTCRACKER SUITE OR, A RHYTHMATURGICAL EVOCATION OF THE SUPER-LEVIATHONIC ENCHANTMENTS OF DUKE AND BILLY'S SUPREME ADAPTATION OF TCHAIKOVSKY'S MASTERPIECE THAT TELLS A TALE OF A MISUNDERSTOOD GIRL WHO KILLS A KING AND MEETS A QUEEN AND DON'T FORGET OOOO-GONG-CHI-GONG-SH'-GON-MAKE-IT-DADDY AND THAT IT AIN'T SO BAD AFTER ALL

Okay?

But we'll certainly call it The Nutcracker Suite for short.

In the program I saw (B), it followed the cool and spacious Elastic Time, also a world premiere, by the company's Associate Artistic Director, Nicholas Van Young, who is also a drummer, with sections of improvisation by the dancers and wonderful live music. Elastic Time and The Nutcracker Suite are like night and day. The first: abstract, rhythmically complex and transparent so that you marvel at the spare, dynamic architecture of its design and zoom in on its dancers' clean technical abilities, with Warren Craft bringing spunk and playfulness to an exciting tap suite that feels, nevertheless, to avoid the element of swing. The second: all swing all the time, winkingly queer, drenched in and bursting with color (lighting by Kathy Kaufmann, costumes by Andrew Jordan, scenic design by Christopher Marc--all of whom, like Dorrance, should clear a shelf for awards).

Dorrance's jazzy charm offensive starts right off centering a jitterbug couple and proceeds to woo us with a pocket-watch-hypnosis chorus line and a trio of Sugar Rum Blossoms (Elizabeth Burke, Carson Murphy and Maddie Murphy, led by Sugar Rum Cherry Josette Wiggan-Freund) who evoke Harlem showgirls. With its mayhem (seriously brawling rats) and bustling merriment (Russian trepak dance with some b-girl moves from Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie), this Nutcracker is non-stop, over-the-top entertainment giving good value for the price of your ticket.

Dorrance has the skillz. See this show, and you'll see why she could (and should, if desired) follow Camille A. Brown to Broadway. You will love The Nutcracker Suite, and you'll want to see it again and again. May this show become an annual tradition. Make it so, you geniuses at Dorrance Dance and The Joyce. Make it so.

Dorrance Dance continues through Sunday, January 5. For program and schedule information and ticketing, click here.

175 Eighth Avenue at West 19th Street, Manhattan

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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