Lar Lubovitch Dance Company – North Star and other works – Pittsburgh

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in North Star. © Todd Rosenberg. (Click image for larger version)
Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in North Star. © Todd Rosenberg. (Click image for larger version)

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company
North Star, Little Rhapsodies, Crisis Variations, The Legend of Ten

Pittsburgh, Byham Theater
28 April 2012

Celebrated choreographer Lar Lubovitch is versatile if anything. He has created works for dance companies across the globe as well as for Broadway, film and even ice-skating, but it is his works for his namesake company over the past forty-plus years that have punctuated Lubovitch’s signature style as a choreographer, a style whose free-flowing, cascading and highly musical movement qualities appear as effortless to dance as beautiful.

A sampling of Lubovitch’s signature style was on display at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater as the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company presented four of the master’s works beginning with 1978’s North Star, set to composer Philip Glass’ music of the same name.

The group work began with eight dancers holding hands and moving in a wave. As a single unit, with dancer Clifton Brown acting as a pivot point, the group formed brief huddles and clusters as they snaked around the stage. The choreography, like the minimalist music it was danced to, cycled and repeated in undulating peaks and troughs giving one the impression of a community of individuals, along with an overt sense of the clever use of bodies in space.

A quartet of three men and one woman followed in which the dancers pitched and swayed as they rifled through quick circular motions while kicking up their legs. The dancers’ swirling patterns of movement made it appear as if we were seeing them through a kaleidoscope.

North Star’s shining moments came in two solos. The first featured a tense Elisa Clark ripping through abrupt, definitive and super-fast movements that one would expect to see if she were dancing in strobe light; the fact that she wasn’t made her manic performance all the more mesmerizing and brilliant. The second solo danced by Brown was reminiscent of the male solo from Paul Taylor’s Aureole. Brown’s dancing was smooth, masculine and a delight to watch.

Next the male trio Little Rhapsodies (2007) set to composer Robert Schumann’s “Symphonic Etudes” mixed folk dance steps with ballet and jazz to create a virtuosic, buoyant and carefree dance work. Dancers Attila Joey Csiki, Jonathan E. Alsberry and Reed Luplau bounded about the stage in jumps with beating legs, executed multiple pirouettes and rivoltades (a step where the dancer places one leg in the air and then give the impression of jumping over it with the other leg) showing off their skills as dancers. The trio took turns dancing diverse solos full of attitude and energy. Most impressive was the emotive performance of Csiki in several graceful solos that dripped with heartfelt expression.

The program’s most unique work turned out to be Lubovitch’s latest creation 2011’s Crisis Variations. Set to an original score by Russian-American composer Yevgeniy Sharlat, the piece – which Lubovitch says was inspired by an image he had of people tumbling and spinning out of control as the van they were riding in toppled over a cliff – was a marked departure from the free-flowing movement that dominated much of the program’s other works. It began with seven dancers lying in broken poses on the stage floor. The dancers shifted from one frozen pose of a crumpled body to another in between blackouts, giving the impression of a slide show of photographs of this unfortunate event. The work’s opening appeared to show the final outcome of the crisis these characters experienced, then flashed backward in stages to its genesis.

Sharlat’s sharp and somewhat abrasive music added to the palpable tension in the work. Unfortunately, Lubovitch beat to death those images of distress and anguish over and over. In slow motion dancers repeatedly slumped to the floor, faces grimaced and bodies writhed creating another type of crisis – audience disinterest.

The work was not without a modicum of beauty, though. Amidst its controlled chaos dancers Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Brian McGinnis performed a loving pas de deux (of sorts) as the work’s five other dancers lay prostrate on the floor around them. The pair clung together and flopped and dropped like puppets whose strings kept going slack. Crisis Variations concluded with McGinnis slumped over Skarpetowska and the rest of the dancers lying limp in a pile only to have Skarpetowska pulled from underneath in a surprising and ingenious ending.

The final work on the program was its best. The Legend of Ten (2010), set to music by Johannes Brahms, epitomized the Lubovitch style and is easily one of the choreographer’s finest.

A tide of beauty, joy and grace washed over the stage as nine dancers melted, swayed and were swept along with each other. When the tenth dancer, Clark, arrived onstage she was looked upon admiringly by the others as some kind of hero and the group continued its ebb and flow of gorgeous modern-dance movement while keeping an eye on her. Standouts Clark and partner Brown were memorable in a duet in which Clark sat in Brown’s lap as they tenderly shifted across the stage floor.

Lubovitch’s lush choreography for Legend of Ten melded with Brahms’ music as if they had been forged together and the company’s dancers were breathtaking.

About the author

Steve Sucato

A former dancer turned writer/critic living in the United States, Steve studied ballet and modern dance in Erie, Pennsylvania and at Pennsylvania State University. He has performed in numerous contemporary and classical works sharing the stage with noted dancers Robert LaFosse, Antonia Franceschi, Stacy Caddell, Joseph Duell, Robert Wallace, Sandra Brown, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. His writing credits include articles and reviews on dance and the arts for The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), Erie Times-News (Erie, PA), City Paper (Pittsburgh, PA) as well as Dance Magazine, Dancer, Dance Studio Life, Pointe, Stage Directions, Dance Retailer News,, Balletco and DanceTabs. Steve is also chairman emeritus of the Dance Critics Association; an international association of dance journalists.

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