Marking a Company Anniversary With Layers of Style and Sound
A scene from 'Pentimento' at Washington Square United Methodist Church. (Richard Termine for The New York Times)
A scene from "Pentimento" at Washington Square United Methodist Church. (Richard Termine for The New York Times)
by Anna Kisselgoff
The New York Times

Lar Lubovitch played himself as an internationally known choreographer in "The Company," Robert Altman's recent film inspired by the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. At home in major ballet companies, on Broadway and with his modern-dance troupe in unconventional performing spaces, he is now pouring whirlpools and waves of passionate movement into his new "Pentimento."

Mr. Lubovitch transformed the altar and pew area of Washington Square United Methodist Church (135 West Fourth Street, Greenwich Village) into a divided stage for the premiere of "Pentimento" on Tuesday night. The main dancing ground was a low platform (later removed) behind a transparent scrim. Dancers also performed on a strip between that scrim and another one in front. The overlapping dance images reflected the idea of pentimento, a process through which a picture's initial images become visible under fading layers of paint. Mr. Lubovitch has said that since the engagement (through May 22) is part of his company's 35th anniversary, "Pentimento" incorporates past and present elements of his style but without quotations from specific works.

Aptly, Richard Woodbury's eclectic score is not the usual collage. Its layers of sound seep in and recede, revealing snatches of classical composers, popular songs, dissonance and, in one passage, "Songs of the Auvergne."

The choreography comes as a relief in the post-postmodern scene, where few share Mr. Lubovitch's belief that dancers should always be on the move. This is texture-rich choreography derived from mainstream modern dance. Movement courses through the Lubovitch dancer's entire body. He or she does not move from position to position or in sharply defined steps.

"Pentimento" has no obvious theme, but its emotional resonance and structure suggest a cycle of birth and death.

There is also a combative duet brilliantly danced by Jason McDole and Ryan Lawrence that has a Cain and Abel tinge. Scott Rink, a veteran, stands out in two mesmerizing solos evoking a speck of a man in the large universe.

On another level, "Pentimento" is a compositional exercise that plays not only with overlapping images but also with a formal use of movement motifs. In one example, Rachel Tess is walked up a man's back with the aid of a partner. When Banning Roberts does the same twice, the repeated phrase recalls the image embedded earlier in the work: the immediate past.

There is also a recurring Lubovitch signature: a dancer twists a torso in ballet's fourth position, arm to brow. It is not an expressive gesture but a signature for energy, which the dancers provide with style and astonishing stamina.

The cast flows in and out of curved sculptural groupings in "Dance One," the first section. Wearing gray leotards by Ann Hould-Ward, the dancers move in circular patterns behind the second scrim, which is filled with Jack Mehler's dappled lighting.

Ms. Roberts and Mr. Lawrence whirl into each other's arms for a love duet. A duet for Adam Hougland and Ms. Tess has a superb moment: she perches on one of his biceps and slides down his arm! Mr. Rink's major solo evokes a braying horse in a continuum of head rotations.

Jennifer Howard is lifted by Roger C. Jeffrey, Mr. McDole and Mr. Rink within a slithering mass that dissolves in "Dance Two." Here Mr. McDole and Mr. Lawrence perform their intense mirror duet on two sides of a scrim before they come into close contact and Ms. Tess appears as a white angel.

The dividing lines are erased in "Dance Three," which has a flat stage with only one scrim. It is inaugurated by Mr. Jeffrey's exuberant dancing and a second solo for Mr. Rink. But here it is the effect of mass movement that is most striking as the group recedes into darkness.

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Lubovitch Celebrates 35 Years of Dance
by Claudia La Rocco
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Lar Lubovitch has choreographed everywhere from Broadway to Carnegie Hall to Olympic skating rinks. For his 35th anniversary, he's chosen a church.

"Pentimento" opened this week at the intimate Washington Square United Methodist Church, using sheer black scrims to make several spaces out of one. As suggested by the title, which describes a process in which previous paintings show through a canvas' present image, Lubovitch's dance plays with time and memory to create a layered effect, as when echoes overlap.

This sense is heightened by Jack Mehler's textured lighting and Richard Woodbury's score, which samples various musical genres to form a bank of dense sound. Strains of popular ballads and dissonance filter through but never overwhelm the whole.

Performed in three sections, "Pentimento" opens with all eight dancers slowly unfolding from an arranged tableau. Their bodies, clad in Ann Hould-Ward's gray leotards, surge in upward thrusts and circular floor patterns. Seemingly jarring moments, as when a supported Rachel Tess walks lightly up a fellow dancer's arched back, are pulled into the greater flow of movement.

The mood in "Dance One" is receptive, with torsos curving up to meet the ceiling and arms opening out as if to embrace the air. In one lovely duet between Banning Roberts and Ryan Lawrence, performed just behind the front scrim as the company remains behind the second, Lawrence swings Roberts around in a descending spiral that brings to mind ice dancing.

When the lights rise on "Dance Two," the audience finds itself staring into its reflection, with a mock audience assembled across the stage. Separated by the middle scrim, Lawrence and Jason McDole mirror each other. Graceful phrases compete with petulant thrusts and twists as each man tries to accept the other's presence.

The uneasy coexistence does not last, and the two engage in a wonderfully choreographed fight, complete with jumping kicks and a mutual, impotent choke hold. A ghostly Tess in diaphanous white shift distracts the brawlers before grievous injury occurs.

The middle scrims disappears for "Dance Three" and the harmonious present reigns -- or so it first appears.

Increasingly, "Pentimento" subverts itself, reincorporating previous movements within a subtly altered context, so that what was spiritual becomes muddied with sensual, even silly overtones. Lubovitch has chosen his dancers well for this exploitation, with McDole and Scott Rink proving particularly adept at interpreting the choreographer's witty rewriting of the past.

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company performs at the Washington Square United Methodist Church through May 22.
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Don't miss this extraordinary dance performance of "Pentimento" by Lar Lubovitch Dance Company.

Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times says that Lubovitch "[pours] whirlpools and waves of passionate movement into his new "Pentimento."

through May 22

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