Hassan Blandford and Andrea Long in rehearsal,
Amaranthine Road, choreographed by Henning Rübsam
Photo: Natalie Piwen Chan

Henning Rübsam’s SENSEDANCE

Ailey Citigroup Theater, New York City
November 4–11, 2008

A Review

Henning Rübsam shows me in this concert that, as a choreographer, he is growing in his ability to edit and enhance his work.. He is willing to cast aside precious visions that have not worked, to find new avenues that do. His Suite from Merciless Beuaty (2006), which opened this program, is a case in point. He has retained his strong images, refined his sequences, and made, as always, great use of his strong dancers.

Henning's ballet choreography is direct rather than expressive and has a clarity that I appreciate. However, he needs to be willing to “invent”—to allow the flow of the motion to invent for him. His dancers are so skilled that I feel that they could jump in any manner that the choreography of the movement dictates.

Despite the fact that I find no flaw in the technique of his dancers (their execution never makes me cringe), I do, in some instances, fault their performance and feel that this fault is not that of their ballet training, but rather of their directors (not just of Henning but of all whom they have danced under). For example, in The Secret, which premiered in this performance, Alice Stock and Heidi Green entered the stage with a sweeping walk, every foot and arm in proper place but without any acknowledgement of their environs, without taking command. Herein is the difference between competence and greatness. I shut my eyes and see great ballerinas entering—“This space and time belongs to ME.”

Two solos in a modern idiom (Innocense and Final Bell) were danced immaculately by Christine Reisner. While the first seems fully realized, I felt that the latter was “short” in that it did not complete the motional vision it presented.

Amaranthine Road, premiered here, was nicely danced by Rachel Hamick and Dartanion Reed and interestingly choreographed by Rübsam. The lighting design of the floor (Steven Petrilli) needed to be carried into the cyclorama. However, I acknowledge that facility and time may have dictated the decision not to design it. This is a small gem of a duet and deserves the best setting one can give it.

Cloudforest, a premiere, left me completely baffled. The sky (the cyclorama) presented a totally white vision with a faint dirty smudge, which did, however, grow into a larger smudge as the long dance progressed. The ladies of the cast were costumed in organza-like capes and were choreographed somewhat in the manner of expressive dancing, but not quite—ballet steps intruded, or was it the other way around? I know it got somewhere, but I don't know where. Every once in a while I was awakened by unique motion, but then it evaporated. I know this is a project dear to Henning's heart, and I would love it if he fixed it. How? (1) That #@&*% sky! It is not what he intended, I am sure. (2) Motion: Recognize what is unique and follow its flow. Make decisions not only with the brain but also with the senses. Art is something like arithmetic: 2 follows 1 and 2 and 2 make 4. However, art is also like touching a hot stove. If you don't pull away, you get burned.

—Ruth Grauert, November 2008