Andrea Long and Dartanion Reed, in Caves,
choreographed by Henning Rübsam
Photo: Joseph Schembri

Henning Rübsam’s company,
SENSEDANCE, in Merciless Beauty

Joyce Soho, New York City
October 19–22, 2006

A Review

Henning, as Beverly Blossom has said, is a “class act.”

First the company—three from the Dance Theater of Harlem (Melissa Morrissey, Andrea Long, and Ramon Thielen) and one from the American Ballet Theater (Dartanion Reed)—are exquisite, each capable, not only in his/her home technique but in the various movements outside the mainstream of ballet vocabulary that Henning has designed for them. That one of dancers made me uncomfortable with occasional self-promotion did not distract me from appreciating his versatile, clear performance.

There is no denying that Henning is inventive in the modern ballet genre. Not once did he rely on familiar formula (show-stopper turning, a hundred jumps, etc.) to “fill” the work. Each ballet has a distinction of its own, a motion premise that gives it its own sense. His costuming (although for the ladies, tutu-based) reflects a feel for color and innovative design. However, he did not develop at least two of his strong, unique images—his angular posture against a strong, designed white cyclorama, and a center-stage pile of “heads.” The first would have been an enhancing gestalt for his solo, Goettingen, and the second a great group interlude.

Lighting design by Stephen Petrilli opened the performance beautifully, although occasionally the dance was lost in too much overhead light, a problem that intimate theaters frequently present. The music was an interesting mix of nouveau-romantic genre.

It was a good evening for me. Lynn Needle, who chauffeured me, remarked, “I wonder how the performance would have altered if they danced in bare feet?” Me, too.

—Ruth Grauert, October 21, 2006

See also A Choreographer’s Love-Hate Relationship With Ballet, by By Claudia La Rocco, October 25, 2006, The New York Times.

Ruth Grauert comments:

If Claudia La Rocco wants “pure” ballet, she should view only that. That she chose to publish the thought-provoking image of heads means to me that this is what stays in her head, and she doesn't even know it. (She would probably have poo-pooed Balanchine's excursions also.) I think you need to reach further into your vision, not retreat. I do agree that the transition from the cyclorama image to the heads is not fulfilled. However, that is no reason to retreat to port de bras and battements. You had an idea; you just didn't let us in on it.