Nandini Sikand ~ Photo by Alex Beauchesne
Alvin Ailey Dance Theater
405 W 55th St, New York City
March 23 and 24, 2012

A Review

Yes, the title, as above, being in lower case, is an indication of the program’s reaching to be “artistic.” I find it difficult to write a clear account of this program, jointly presented by Dakshia and Sakshi Productions, as I found it long and somewhat tedious, in which small gems were often buried in trivia and pretension.

The very opening of Invocation of Prana (Sakshi) was a slow transit of the cyclorama by a single figure truly invoked time, and I looked forward to a great program. And that is what I remember. This was followed by a duet, Pushpanjali (2011, Singh), which was crisp in performance. Unfortunately, the difference in the size of the dancers was ignored, as was stage placement, so the overall impression was tepid.

Ravana’s Homage (Premiere, Salem and Sikand) was a western version of eastern imagery. This trio introduced the use of film, which sent “flickers” over the stage. The attempt at multimedia, which was drowned by poorly focused and over-bright area lights, so dulled the dancing that all seemed pallid and uninteresting.

Since You’ve Asked (2009, Singh), a duet, quiet and well choreographed, performed by the choreographers, was an elegant, quiet duet for two men, exploring their relationship. The motion, sometimes gesture, sometimes found motion, seemed never to be just an “old dance step” done because they could do it, but rather done because it furthered the presentation of that relationship. For me this was the most satisfying dance on the program. Here, again, the traditional stage lighting was of little help. I know that the Ailey is not the easiest place to mount a work, but I do feel that a competent lighting director could do better.

Beyond Musle, Beyond Bone (2006, Rohman) as a dance by itself is not up to snuff. However, this duet for two women (Garbarino and Rohman) is accompanied by a film made by Sikand and Smith. The film (actually a cinematic version of the same dance and danced by the same two dancers) plays on a full cyclorama and gives us changing aspects of the dance, long distance views, close-ups of faces, etc., as it progresses. Together they, the dance with the film, make for a real dance experience.

In Sleep She Migrates Home (2012, Stanley) was an indulgent ent solo, performed to please the dancer, and is best forgotten.

Stone in Breath (2010, Buddha, Dalem and Sikand) is a trio, a tale of bringing a statue to life, with voice and motion. The speaker’s attempts at movement were not well coordinated with his message. Except for the literary intent, this trio might best have been omitted from the program.

Night of Summer Stars (Premiere, Rohman). This piece never worked for me. I found it confused, poorly lit, a huge endeavor that was absolutely meaningless for me. Live musicians and their tabled array of small percussion instruments occupied stage right and half way across the cyclorama. One of the musician’s lights eyeballed me throughout the presentation (someone’s carelessness). The sound needed amplifying as much of it was inaudible. The motion, a conglomerate of duets, trios, and larger choruses (was there also a solo or two?) seemed to me just so much milling about with little focus on performance. I found it a huge waste of stage time.

Symbiosis (2010, Sikand and Singh), performed by the choreographers, washed away the confusion of the last piece with its quiet delicacy.

Vasanth (2011, Singh) is a story dance of the return of spring. It was fun to watch with its large cast, its diagonal setting (down stage left to up stage right), and its occasional traditional Indian Dance motion was a celebration indeed, I didn’t need to follow the story line as I enjoyed what I was watching.

The program seemed not to have any real relationship to traditional Indian Dance as I had expected, so perhaps a modification of promotional material is in order. There must be difficulty in the technical handling of the Ailey. The lighting problems I saw last night were reminiscent of those I observed in other programs on that stage. Can that be remedied?

—Ruth Grauert, March 24, 2012