skybetter and associates at Joyce SoHo, photo by Ramon Estevanell
Shortly after the conclusion of skybetter and associates’ program at Joyce SoHo on Saturday evening, a man in the audience said, “What a smart, efficient program.” He was right. At just under an hour long, the company – founded by Sydney Skybetter in 2008 – packed a great deal of flowing movement and sophisticated music into its program. The pieces were short in length but endlessly poetic, often exploring themes such as community and loneliness. Skybetter has that rare, admirable ability to create choreography that is soft-spoken yet powerful, deeply personal yet universally accessible.
The most striking example of this was Cold House You Kept, which illustrated the unstoppable unraveling of a community as the seven dancers gradually decreased to one. Gorecki’s string quartet in “Quasi una Fantasia” created a sense of urgency as the movement increasingly featured push-pull tension among the dancers. As the group decreased in size, one dancer clung sadly to another, while others rocked from side to side on the floor with their hands pressed to their hearts. The loneliness felt by the lone dancer on stage at the piece’s end was palpable.
Fugue State and Potemkin Piece also showed communities: the former was upbeat and carefree to the scherzo from Shoshtakovich’s “Piano Quintet” while the latter was more brooding, observant, and somber to a string quartet by Dvorak. Musicality shined through in both, particularly as the dancers emphasized nuances in Potemkin Piece when they plunged to the floor and then suddenly rose and circled their arms.
Dancers in The Laws of Falling Bodies, photo by Ramon Estevanell
All of the works featured highly physical partnering and striking spatial formations, but The Laws of Falling Bodies, making its New York premiere, stood out for so effortlessly doing so. This otherworldly piece tested gravity’s limitations as the dancers created lifts and balances that were delicately airborne before often tumbling to the floor. Bathed in golden light and situated in a spare, eerie atmosphere, the dancers repeatedly returned to a simple, one-legged balance with the other leg hovering above the floor, eager to launch into another haunting round of gravity-defying movement.
Woven throughout the program were three solos from The Personal, performed by Kristen Arnold, Bergen Wheeler, and Skybetter. To Schumann’s Dichterliebe or Schubert’s Schwanengesang, each dancer created spiraling, circling movement under a pool of light. Movement patterns were similar, but each dancer uniquely shared a quiet meditation with the audience. Their inclusion in the program created a nice balance between the ensemble and solo works, both of which highlighted the emotional depth, lyricism, and musicality of Skybetter’s choreography.