November 10, 2005
Dance Review | 'Elemental Brubeck'
A Leaping Man in Red, Propelled by Classic Brubeck
By ROSLYN SULCAS
Breezy, fluid and engaging, Lar Lubovitch's "Elemental Brubeck" received its American premiere Tuesday night at the Skirball Center at New York University. It was also the dance's first performance by the choreographer's own company. Mr. Lubovitch made the work - set to extracts from Dave Brubeck's 1963 jazz suite "Time Changes" - for the San Francisco Ballet's visit to Paris in July, and its clean, lucid lines are clearly tailored to classically trained dancers.
"Elemental Brubeck" opens with a long and exciting solo for a man (Rasta Thomas) dressed simply in red, whipping over the stage with huge jumps that are punctuated by jazzy twists of the torso and swiveling hips. Mr. Lubovitch uses Mr. Brubeck's melodic score to play with jazz dance conventions, but the bent knees, circling wrists and final dramatic backbend all look, rather charmingly, as if they are between quotation marks rather than truly intended for Broadway. This has much to do with the innate good taste and nuanced phrasing that informs Mr. Thomas's spectacular, crystal-clear performance. Without this, the solo might run the risk of tackiness; here, it looks like pure fun.
Mr. Lubovitch follows with a duo, danced by Griff Braun and Rebecca Rigert, that makes full use of the lush piano and saxophone musings of Mr. Brubeck's "Theme From Elementals." Ms. Rigert, dressed in full-skirted orange, revolves continually around Mr. Braun - at one point, held aloft to magical, floating effect. The romance is in the dance rather than between the performers, who seem enchanted with the easy invention of their movement rather than with each other.
In the third section - which, like the others, opens in silence - three couples move in swirling, circular formations to a more percussive, dramatic beat. Mr. Lubovitch skillfully composes series of sequential lifts and creates echoes of movements or phrases between the pairs as the men repeatedly swing the women around their bodies, their legs and arms swooping in broad arcs. Brief duos, all vividly danced, intermittently interrupt the group, but toward the end all return, only to melt away and leave the stage to Mr. Thomas for the final, big-jumping moments.
"Elemental Brubeck" isn't ground-breaking or an ambitious work; it's simply a nicely made, easy-on-the-eye dance that gently evokes old-fashioned movie musicals and teenage socials. But creating such a piece is, in fact, no mean feat; that Mr. Lubovitch can make it look so effortless says much.
The second half of the program featured the choreographer's deservedly much-praised "Men's Stories," in which nine outstanding dancers offer up their autobiographies in physical form. All were wonderful, but Scott Rink, Michael Leon Thomas and Patrick Corbin especially so.
The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company continues through Saturday night at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 La Guardia Place, Greenwich Village, (212) 992-8484.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company
Mission: The Lubovitch company was created to realize the artistic vision of Lar Lubovitch, one of the foremost contemporary choreographers in the United States. The company exists: (1) to create new work; (2) to perform those works (and facilitate the performance of those works by others) both in our home base of New York City and around the world; and (3) to teach people of all ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, in order to increase awareness and appreciation of dance.
History: Over the past 37 years, the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company has gained a reputation as one of the world's leading modern dance companies and has performed in virtually every state of the US and in more than 30 foreign countries. Lar Lubovitch has been cited by The New York Times as "one of the ten best choreographers in the world," and the company has been called a "national treasure" by Variety. For the past ten years, the company has focused on the creation of new dances, sometimes created through unique collaborations with other top companies including American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet.
Contact: The Lubovitch company is located at 229 West 42nd Street, New York NY 10036. You can reach us at (212) 221-7909 or Lubovitch@aol.com. Or visit our website at www.lubovitch.org.
Support: Programs of the Lar Lubovtich Dance Company are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as by Altria, Atlantic Philanthropies, US Trust Company of NY, Irene Diamond Fund, Brooke Garber & Daniel Neidich Fund, Harkness Foundation for Dance, Carl Jacobs Fund, McMullan Family Foundation, Rodgers Family Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, A. Woodner Fund and numerous additional generous individuals, corporations and foundations.
Memberships: The Lubovitch company is a member of Dance/USA, Dance/NYC, ART/NY and the Arts & Business Council.