Lar Lubovitch’s Dvorak Serenade, photo by Steven Schreiber
I like to approach dance performances with some knowledge of the choreographer’s background and the pieces on the program, as it usually enhances my viewing experience and places the program into a broader context. But once in a while, like last night when I saw Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in its 40th anniversary season at City Center, it’s refreshing to enter a performance with little or no background at all, eliminating any expectations or preconceived notions. Although I saw ABT perform Mr. Lubovitch’s Meadow a few years ago, last night was my first time seeing his choreography on his own company. It was absolutely marvelous. The balanced program included two older works and two recent ones, all united by sweeping movement, pure lines, and a spiritual quality.
Large ensemble works that were structurally similar and conveyed a sense of community opened and closed the program. Concerto Six Twenty-Two (1986), set to Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, began with twelve dancers moving in a circle while sweeping their arms in circular patterns overhead. Pockets of playfulness appeared as the dancers – all dressed in white – seamlessly changed formations and danced in duets, trios, and quartets. The first section was bright and airy, while a thoughtful duet for Jay Franke and George Smallwood showed the two men’s independence along with their reliance on one another for support. Dvorak Serenade (2007) featured a principal couple (Mucuy Bolles and Scott Rink), framed by a swirling, flowing corps that moved around them with precision and delicacy. Under golden lighting, the two dancers circled their arms in varying patterns while fluidly moving their torsos and interweaving their legs. The piece ended blissfully as they raised their arms and faces to the ceiling at the piece’s close.
Lar Lubovitch’s Concerto Six Twenty-Two, photo by Chris Duggan
The other recent work on the program, Little Rhapsodies (2007), showed a series of dances for three men set to Robert Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes for piano. Lubovitch’s choreography provided ample opportunities for the dancers – Jay Franke, Attila Joey Csiki, and guest artist Rasta Thomas, all excellent – to emphasize subtleties in the music. Their artistry and solid technique made the dancing look effortless as they engaged the audience, occasionally being cheeky or quirky with character dancing. But deeper emotions were also evident, especially in a solo for Rasta Thomas where he ended by lowering his head and placing his hand – with fingers spread – over his chest. His whole body seemed to tense up as he slowly closed his fingers into a fist and crinkled his gray shirt.
Lar Lubovitch’s Little Rhapsodies, photo by Nan Melville
North Star (1978), featuring graduating students from The Juilliard School, was the darkest piece on the program, set to a score by Philip Glass of the same title. Dressed in navy blue and lit with a silvery evening sky, a large cluster of dancers gracefully expanded and shrunk while rarely losing contact with one another. A quartet of dancers performed similar movements, but was even more effective. They seamlessly morphed into different shapes, sometimes unfolding into a straight line while at other times looking more like a human knot. This was followed by an intense solo under a spotlight, performed by Kendra Samson, where she twitched and jerked her limbs for several minutes before easing her way into flowing movement. The opera vocals in the Glass score enhanced the mysteriousness of this piece, and although the setting felt otherworldly, the movement itself was tangible.
The four pieces, spanning across nearly thirty years, show a range of musical choices while remaining consistent in movement style: lush, sweeping motion that is remarkably precise, fluent, and grounded. Lubovitch’s older works look just as fresh as the ones from 2007, suggesting the timeless quality of his dances. It’s unfortunate that the Saturday and Sunday matinees were cancelled due to poor ticket sales. The company deserves a full house. There are still seats available for tonight and Saturday at 8 PM.