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Review: Black Grace Dances Out a Different Kind of Buzz

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I expected an energy boost. But Black Grace, a well-known New Zealand company known for their dazzlingly fast dances, like the Lorde song “Royals” quoted in the first dance of the night, was “a different kind of topic”. I’m back at the Joyce Theater. Was it meditative? were you intimate? In any event, for much of the program, modern dance struggled to compete with traditional movements drawn from the South Pacific. and vice versa.

Led by affable artistic director and founder Neil Ilemia, who spoke from the stage, ensemble Formed in 1995, it is celebrated for its fusion of traditional and contemporary dance. But Yeremiah, who was born in Wellington and of Samoan descent, is undoubtedly a fan of the modern dance classic Paul Taylor’s Esplanade. From whimsical crawls to breathtaking leaps, Iremia dances.

This was especially true with the New York premiere of “O Le Olaga — Life,” inspired by aging parents and featuring traditional performers. Among them were the heavy stomping of her dance of Maori haka and scenes of poi, strings attached to white balls (used by Krateua), and taiaha (used by Edmund his Elamiha). Still, traditional performers were alive with their down-to-earth presence, which included Twain Nurse’s Tamarua Roberty and Jasmine Leota, whose presence was more lyrical. It didn’t match or contrast dramatically with the typical contemporary section. At least for me, they remained separate worlds.

But the biggest problem with “Life” as set in Vivaldi’s cantata “Gloria” is that it had more false endings than real beginnings.

The score included ‘Malu A’E Le Afiafi’ by Five Stars. At the beginning, the dynamic Aisea Ratu sang wistfully softly as she gently waved her arms. Every now and then he would stop and start again. He dragged the dancers off the wings and set them up one by one to form a kind of diorama. he pointed at him. He put a smile on his face. They froze on the spot like an audience trapped in his floating body.

After an explosive and fun section paired with Vivaldi, the structure had dancers move along predictable diagonals. But in the end, “Life” felt pieced together rather than sewn into something new.

For another New York premiere, “Fatu,” Yeremiah, his friend, Samoan visual artist Fatu Akeley Fuu, who gifted a painting to a choreographer during the Covid lockdown. (“Fatu” is the artist’s first name and means heart in Samoan.) Yeremiah spoke about how it’s not like Fuuuinstead of his typical grid pattern, it featured three wavy lines of gold, red and white.

In this piece, three dancers, dressed accordingly, move to the live drumming of Icitro Aresana. (The singer also appears in the second half) The golden Demi Jo Manalo is delicate yet ferocious. She flew across the stage like a feather soaring in the wind, soaring into the air and spinning to the floor with seemingly invisible momentum and landing. James Wasmer and Rodney Tyrell joined her to delve into the vocabulary of common types of slippery, push-and-pull movements, turning them into dance ribbons, but nothing more. .

The opening dance “Hand Game” was the oldest and most powerful dance released in 1995. A section of his one of Yeremiah’s early works, this piece is based on a story he read about a boy being beaten by his father for attending a school dance against his will. Here, his seven male bodies, seated on equally spaced chairs, echo the abuse of rhythmic thigh-, chest-, and even face-slapping. Inside this sasa, or seated dance, there is an orchestra of traditional faataupati, or Samoan slap dance, loosely incorporated into the body-his percussion orchestra.

This is where Lorde, the New Zealand singer-songwriter, came into being. Specifically, her song “Royals,” which was played while the dancer first hammered the rhythm into her body and then sang her lyrics. .

Another beat filled the stage before the performance ended. It’s the percussive opening of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’. I didn’t hear the words “I got mud in my face, I’m so embarrassed/Kicking cans here and there”, but they somehow commented on the pain of the dancers. It was unforgettable.

black grace

Until August 7th at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan. joyce.org.

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