Buglisi Dance Theatre

Joyce Theater, New York City
February 1520, 2011

A Review

Helen Hansen in Requiem

Photo: Kristin Lodoen Linder

Requiem (2001), which is Act I of this program, is a wondrous gem. The curtain opens on five sarcophagi (five dancers lying on stools) softly lit with shafts of light so that one is instantly transported from the theater seat to an aesthetic realm. While the mounting continued to amplify the statement, there is much that kept moving my bones. The disturbance of small and occasional non-unison movement is genius, and although the genealogy of Graham technique is obvious, one is never burdened by “technique for technique's sake.” The several distinct solos, and short duet bursts, are delicately supported by the corps. The motion of the diaphanous costumes made me fly. The narrative of remembrance is consummated by the return to the opening vision. Requiem makes it clear that artistic director Jacqulyn Buglisi is master of her art.

Act II was the world premiere of Letters of Love on Ripped Paper. When the curtain came down, my first thought was, “She has a lot of work to do.”Letters presents itself asan ambitious work of a mature artist. It combines live music and narrative, changing projected décor, and a “cast of thousands.” The cast, of perhaps twenty-five dancers, seemed to be always milling about; so that I held the impression of a constantly crowded stage (even the stools from Requiem were present). And the duets, prompted by the spoken letters, were performed in an enclave of a world of persons. I came away with a confused mixture of impressions and suggestions.

The letters rambled and seemed to have little or no pertinence to the motion. As far as I can remember, only one author of these letters was credited in the narration, and I had the sufficient opportunity to notice.

Jeanene Winston and Jason Jordan in
Letters of Love on Ripped Paper

Photo: Paul B. Goode
The music did not succeed in making any distinction from one letter to the next. Not only was the narrative indistinct,the dances themselves—mostly duets amid the staging of what I felt to be non-descript milling—had little distinction from one another (although the choreographer made an attempt to do this by changing the motion technique, abandoning her Graham-based style for a bit of ballet in one brief duet and for a bit of hip-hop in another). The projections added nothing to the statement and mostly seemed just a scribbled backdrop to the confusion of the dancing.

A really great theme, Letters of Love, but as yet not consummated. Indeed, Jacqulyn Buglisi has a lot of work to do. However, from what I observed in Requiem, I trust it can develop into a masterwork.

—Ruth Grauert, February 16, 2011