BAAND Together Dance Festival
Program 2 featuring Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre
New York, Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center
18 Aug 2021, running until 21 Aug 2021
Late Summer Revelations
The line to get into the second evening of the BAAND Together Dance Festival at Lincoln Center wrapped around the block and reached all the way to the corner of 65th street. The festival, which brings together five of the city’s best dance companies, has clearly hit a chord in this performance-starved city. Heavy clouds loomed overhead but thankfully, no downpour came.
Tonight’s performance included dancers from four of the five companies – New York City Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – in a mix of excerpts and short pieces. Normally excerpts are unsatisfying, but tonight’s selection worked well, particularly the finale, drawn from Alvin Ailey’s great classic, Revelations. No-one looked bored to be dancing “Wade in the Water” or “Rocka My Soul,” as they sometimes have in the “before-times.” The perseverance and joy that are the underlying subject of this great work are appropriate in any setting, but feel especially so now.
The surprise was the selection from Alexei Ratmansky’s Songs of Bukovina, from 2017. One wouldn’t expect this quiet, at times sorrowful dance to read in the setting of an outdoor festival. But Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal of American Ballet Theatre danced the folk-tinged choreography with great poetry, giving life to every nuance in the music, a set of piano pieces by the Ukrainian-born composer Leonid Desyatnikov (played by Jacek Mysinski, offstage). The music riffs on the traditional music of the Bukovina region, now divided between Romania and Ukraine. The dissonances and uneven rhythms suggest stories, turbulence, uneasiness. The solos and duets, too, tell stories, expressed through the dancers’ deeply bending backs, outstretched arms, and searching eyes. This is dancing that reminds us how expressive the human body can be.
From Justin Peck, for New York City Ballet, there was In Creases, one of his earliest works. Like so many of Peck’s ballets, it is a study in geometries and formations, in contrasts between fast and slow, round and sharp. The ensemble, subdivided into smaller subsets, creates one frieze after another, wedges and lines and portals, while soloists, like Gonzalo García, burst out in quick, crisp sequences of turns or jumps. It’s a clever piece, set to Philip Glass’s “Four Movements for Two Pianos,” but perhaps a tad cerebral for this setting. The City Ballet Dancers emanated that cool, stylish energy that is the company specialty, right at home within the cool, modernist architecture of Lincoln Center.
Their coolness was contrasted by the playfulness and expansiveness of the Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers, who performed New Bach, Robert Garland’s jazzy riff on the neo-classicism of Balanchine ballets like Concerto Barocco and Square Dance. Lindsey Donnell and Anthony Santos were the lead couple in this work that combines the long, lean lines and clean, fast footwork of neoclassical technique with torero poses, high kicks, sexy walks on pointe, and shimmies. Donnell and Santos shared an easy rapport, sharing the limelight like two sophisticates on a night out.
The audience ate it up. This festival has turned out to be the surprise pick-me-up we all needed.