This was a strangely plodding performance of five short pieces. With an interval between each, the vignettes were invested with a gravitas they did not necessarily merit. That is not to bash all five with the same pointe shoe, there were some nice moments throughout, but although the dance was skilfully executed and often exciting and engaging to watch, this felt like a performance that had been cobbled together rather than arranged, and was curiously dissatisfying despite the technical excellence of the dancers.
However, the first piece, ‘Blue Roses’, was beautiful, moving, and visually impressive. Danced to the prologue and final scene of Tennessee Williams’ ‘Glass Menagerie’, the piece captured the poignancy of the play, although it teetered on the same precipice of sentimentality that hampers the play. The dancers moved to the word without music, which was surprisingly effective, apart from an odd choreographic tendency to insist on a movement for every syllable. This worked for the jerky style of the physically disabled and painfully shy Laura (Anita Hitchins), but for eloquent Tom (Dane Hurst) and charming Jim (Franklyn Lee), it often felt too busy – the movement distracted and detracted from the words. I am well aware that a dance piece that transcends the music/words could be a good thing, but my literary bias baulks at an over-shadowing of the words. The two dancers playing Amanda were generally superb, and the concept of having two dancers represent the same character - to emphasise her contradictory nature – was clever and well done. However, as with the whole evening, there were small discrepancies that drew the eye and spoiled the overall effect: the two weren’t quite together some of the time, which suggested being under-rehearsed.
This feeling of being not quite ready to perform was pervasive, and surprising given that all of the pieces had been performed before. The third piece ‘The Moor’s Pavane’, was rather dull and overblown, and did not seem sure of itself, despite being billed as José Limón’s masterwork. The programme notes claimed that the intension wasn’t to retell the story of Othello, but in fact it did just that with some rather feeble mime and a heavily symbolic handkerchief. The choreography was plain and uninspired, and the dancers seemed bored with what they were doing. This was by far the weakest of the five pieces, and could have been improved by a more abstract representation of the Othello story rather than a literal re-telling.
A witty solo, ‘Harmonica Breakdown’, finished the evening, and was a charming send-off. Anita Hutchins is a fine dancer, and had the charisma to carry off Jane Dudley’s simple choreography without looking unskilled. I would suggest that it is verging on pretension to dance a pas de deux with a suitcase, as in ‘cervaNtes’, and although Dane Hurst and Ana Lujan Sanchez danced with aplomb, the nudity was gratuitous and detracted from the delicate relationship the dancers were trying to portray. This was Sanchez’s own choreography, and on the evidence of this performance, perhaps she should stick to dancing.
It was difficult to settle into any kind of rhythm with these performances, as they were abruptly broken up by the breaks, and the different styles did not necessarily do a great company of dancers justice. Limón is over fond of the arabesque en attitude to the point where one wondered whether the dancers physically could straighten their legs, particularly during Dane Hurst’s otherwise hugely impressive solo, ‘Chaconne’.