SENSEDANCE To the Pointe
City Center Studio 5, New York City, May 23, 2004
A Review by Bella Rehnquist
The first time I had seen Henning Rubsam, artistic director of New York City-based ensemble SENSEDANCE, was in solo work to songs by Brahms at a performance by former members of Alwin Nikolais' company at Hunter College in the fall of 2003. Taken by the elegance and fluidity of this musical dancer I was curious to see what Rubsam would devise for a ballet on pointe to jazz music by Django Reinhardt.
Rubsam introduced the evening as an "open rehearsal" - the first actual run-through of the work DJANGO with a Question & Answer session to follow. He gave a brief background on composer/jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, who is widely regarded as the father of European jazz and introduced his dancers to the capacity-filled inviting studio space at City Center. The dancers wore streamlined practice clothes which showed their well-trained bodies to the best advantage.
Selections of Reinhardt's original compositions recorded throughout the 1930s and 40s served as spirited accompaniment to the dancing. A slow solo for Shizu Yasuda, Echoes of Spain, reflected the inherent pride of a Spanish dancer. Clearly making use of the breadth of the classical vocabulary the choreographer presented the dancer with challenges that were masterfully executed. A lively trio for one man partnering two women and a very brief but poignant solo (with an imaginary partner) by Rubsam segued into a romantic pas de deux for Zulema Quintans and Raymell Jamison. Inventive lifts and holds paired with a flair of the grand old movie musicals made this section despite the occasional insecurity in partnering enchanting rather than just sweet.
A second solo for Ms.Yasuda, Rhytme Futur, was the highlight of the evening. Clarity of line, sharp attack of movement, breakneck speed, technical prowess (a quadruple pique turn!), and a devilish sense of humor made the audience cheer. The good mood continued with three guys (Rubsam with Jamison and Sean Stewart) cavorting, striking poses from Scheherazade and doing the soft shoe, which gave way to a cabaret-style duet for Yasuda and Kathryn Sydell.
Stewart got to display his stellar dancing in Dinette. A former favorite dancer with American Ballet Theatre, he has finally found his choreographer. As if a gangster with both wit and esprit he strut through the movement vocabulary quoting and reverting Balanchine and Ashton moves inside out. Was this Rubsam's ingenious bow to these choreographers' centennials? Stewart never looked better.
The piece closed with a mishap. The CD jumped ahead and left the dancers without music. The end of the final section for the whole ensemble was danced in silence, the dancers continuing on in true professional manner, the audience being reminded that an open rehearsal leaves room for improvement.
If this rehearsal is any indication of what Rubsam is capable of, it is safe to say that he will soon choreograph for major ballet companies around the world. The actual premiere of DJANGO will be an event to look forward to with eager anticipation.