Pasa Re­views

Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let and Juan Siddi Fla­menco Santa Fe at Ja­cob’s Pil­low in Mas­sachusetts

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - The New York Times. Huma Rojo Re:play, Huma Rojo Silent Ghost, Se­giriya The New York Times

It was a lit­tle “viva Santa Fe” in Western Mas­sachusetts dur­ing the 84th- sea­son open­ing of Ja­cob’s Pil­low Dance Fes­ti­val, from June 22 to June 26, where Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let and its sis­ter com­pany, Juan Siddi Fla­menco Santa Fe, were head­lin­ers. ASFB per­formed on the main­stage, the Ted Shawn The­atre, a big re­mod­eled barn that comes with high-tech the­atri­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but also has a few rus­tic touches as well as well as an al­fresco cross­over space for dancers chang­ing sides back­stage. Siddi’s group ap­peared in the Doris Duke The­atre, a smaller, newer black-box space where the com­pa­nies pre­sented tend to be up-and-com­ing.

Ja­cob’s Pil­low is not far from Tan­gle­wood, the sum­mer home of the Bos­ton Sym­phony Orches­tra, on a for­mer farm on a leafy hill in Becket. The Pil­low has won the Na­tional Medal of Arts, is a Na­tional His­toric Land­mark, and has been called “the dance cen­ter of the na­tion” by Dur­ing the daytime, pre­pro­fes­sional stu­dent dancers learn from mas­ter teach­ers in sev­eral gen­res. There are morn­ing dance classes open to the pub­lic, free per­for­mances ev­ery night on a glassy dance floor over­look­ing woods and a val­ley, a pub­lic read­ing room where one can watch videos and ex­plore a col­lec­tion of dance pi­o­neer Ruth St. De­nis mem­o­ra­bilia. There are lec­tures, tours, and ex­hibits — it’s to­tal im­mer­sion into an art form in a pas­toral set­ting. Au­di­ence mem­bers come early to dine in the open-air restau­rant, bring a pic­nic, or stroll among the barn-board cab­ins, stu­dios, and of­fices — all sur­rounded by ver­dant gar­dens.

ASFB pre­sented the same pro­gram Santa Fe saw in April. It was an op­por­tu­nity to t ake an­other stab at fig­ur­ing out the enig­matic the new Fer­nando Melo piece in which peo­ple walk back and forth, the lights fade on and off a lot, and the mu­sic is rep­e­ti­tious in all the most un­lis­ten­able ways. Sadie Brown, dressed in a dowdy white skirt and blouse, is the cen­ter of this stripped- down uni­verse, with pedes­trian move­ment, rep­e­ti­tion, jump cuts, bod­ies on the ground, and part­ner­ing by the throat. Rap­tur­ous dance it’s not, and yet … the piece is edgy and thought-pro­vok­ing, and the light­ing by Seah John­son is bril­liant.

Cayetano Soto’s is sup­posed to be funny. It has an Xavier Cu­gat- style lounge-mu­sic score, dancers in to­mato-red out­fits, and a chore­o­graphic cookie-cut­ter look to it, as if the wink-wink style of the dance was more im­por­tant to Soto than move­ment in­ven­tion. There were a lot of crossovers and cho­rus lines. Soto as­signed the au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of Joan Rivers to the dancers in prepa­ra­tion for the piece and was in­spired by Pe­dro Almod­ó­var’s film All About My

Silent Ghost

Mother. Campi­ness does make it­self known here. I was drawn to Łukasz Zieba, new to Aspen, who stud­ied at a dance academy in Kraków and at New York’s Alvin Ai­ley school; he per­formed with the Metropoli­tan Opera Bal­let be­fore join­ing AFSB. In

he showed off some of that Ai­ley siz­zle. Pete Leo Walker also en­joyed play­ing the show­man in the Soto piece and strut­ted like a voguer.

In the dancers wear socks for shoes, and slid­ing is es­sen­tial to the move­ment vo­cab­u­lary. Other ex­tended pe­ri­ods for the bal­leri­nas are spent inch-worm­ing along the f loor. AFSB dancers ex­cel in the or­ganic, earthy way of mov­ing that Ale­jan­dro Cer­rudo asks of them. Two quiet duets at the cen­ter of the piece help per­son­al­ize and emo­tion­al­ize the dance. It was the strong­est work on the pro­gram.

The Juan Siddi Fla­menco com­pany ap­peared at the Pil­low in more- in­ti­mate con­fines than at it s new home at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, and the per­form­ers were not as cramped as they used to be on the postage- stamp- sized stage at the María Benítez Cabaret The­atre in Santa Fe. This in-be­tween space of­fered faces and not al­ways feet, as any per­former ven­tur­ing too far down­stage was in­vis­i­ble from the knees down to the front half of the au­di­ence. It was also dis­con­cert­ing that the evening was per­formed on the rub­ber­ized f loor­ing that is per­fect for bal­let and mod­ern com­pa­nies, but hor­ri­ble for tap and f lamenco. A wooden f loor would have al­lowed the rapid-fire strike of the dancers’ shoes to sing out prop­erly.

With 14 per­form­ers on the stage, the eco­nomic ad­van­tage of Siddi’s new re­la­tion­ship with ASFB was hard to miss. It cost a lot to take that num­ber of dancers on the road. Be­yond that, the light­ing, sound de­sign, num­ber of cos­tumes, and even tran­si­tions and “chore­og­ra­phy” for the singers have clearly been in­flu­enced for the bet­ter by the group’s as­so­ci­a­tion with a well-oiled, tour­ing bal­let com­pany.

Siddi him­self may have felt he had some­thing to prove, af­ter a harsh re­view in dur­ing the group’s spring en­gage­ment at the Joyce The­ater in New York. Siddi ap­peared through­out the pro­gram at the Pil­low, seem­ing to re­claim turf.

was daring and strong. Carola Zer­tuche, Siddi’s reg­u­lar guest artist, was on fire. Her solo was a glimpse of the kind of old-fash­ioned pas­sion and in­ten­sity that re­called the artistry of María Benítez.

— Michael Wade Simp­son

Sa­bor Ha­vana

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