Review: Ashley Bouder Project Is ‘Original and Thrilling’ at the Joyce
By Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer, July 5, 2018
Ashley Bouder made a wise decision when she brought in the New York Jazzharmonic and Abdul Latif into her creative arsenal. The Joyce Theater is a wonderfully intimate venue in which to see dance, but often the music is recorded. When the curtain rose, I was happy to see a small orchestra with live musicians, the New York Jazzharmonic; the lighting of Jimmy Lawlor introduced them dramatically.
The evening’s most successful piece, Alas—, featured the orchestra playing a mashup of classical music (Vivaldi and Purcell played on the violin by Kelly Hall-Tompkins) and big-band jazz (think Tommy Dorsey) set against the box-beat vocals of Abdul Latif (who also choreographed). Ron Wasserman, the New York Jazzharmonic’s director, conducted, so that all these different elements felt like one marvelous whole. The choreography was also a mashup — classical ballet technique mixed with bust-out, body-popping moves from today’s street and club dancing. Alas— was amazingly original and thrilling, and it received deserved cheers and applause. It’s the kind of dance that is so rich that it could easily allow for multiple viewings, and I hope that I am able to see it again.
I wish I could report that the rest of the program was equally as exciting, but in general found it just ok.
Lauren Lovette of New York City Ballet created a solo for her sister ballerina/choreographer, Ashley Bouder entitled Red Spotted Purple. Set to a big-band jazz score by Stephanie Ann Boyd that was pretty, Bouder’s sundress costume was pretty, the lighting was pretty, and Bouder’s dancing was pretty. It all came across very pleasant.
Less engaging was Duet, choreographed by Liz Gerring and danced to Odd Numbers, composed by Anna Webber. The music was minimal, and while I’m sure there are those who appreciate this style of music, but to my ears it sounded like simple bleating of horns, one bleat at a time. The choreography was similarly minimal, almost like yoga poses with little flow. The dancers, Damien Johnson and Taylor Stanley, were strong and capable, but it seemed repetitive to me, so not my favorite.
Symbiotic Twin was short. Ashley Bouder and Taylor Stanley, wearing body-hugging leotards, moved in undulating patterns, mostly entwined. The choreography was by Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa with a score, Broken Rosary, by Kate Moore; Ashley Bathgate played the solo cello beautifully.
And finally, there was a piece by Ashley Bouder, In Pursuit of. Danced to the big-band sound composed and conducted by Miho Hazama, it was the most classically balletic of the evening. It was lively, with big moves: high arabesques, grand jetés, and lots of turns. It was clearly built upon Bouder’s training as a classical ballerina, but although it was a perfectly fine presentation and the dancers were excellent, the patterns and the partnering seemed familiar.
I applaud Bouder’s mission and her energy and effort furthering a worthy cause; The Ashley Bouder Project is an arts collaborative dedicated to giving a platform and nurturing women and marginalized artists. Of course, when you commission a piece, the outcome is never assured, so it is always interesting and worthwhile to see what new artists are creating because you never know what you may discover.
Ashley Bouder Dance Project at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, on July 2-5, 2018. Choreography by Lauren Lovette; Liz Gerritt; Abdul Latif; Ashley Bouder; music by Stephanie Ann Boyd; Anna Webber; Abdul Latif; Ron Wasserman; Kate Moore; Miho Hazama; costume design by Milly Designs; Ana Carpo; Mondo Morales; Luis Padilla; lighting design by Jimmy Lawlor. Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin; Ashley Bathgate, cello; New York Jazzharmonic, directed by Ron Wasserman.
Dancers: Devin Alberda, Ashley Bouder, India Bradley, Damien Johnson, Taylor Stanley, Claire Kretzschmar, Olivia MacKinnon, and Roman Mejia.
Cover: Ashley Bouder performing in the world premiere of Liz Gerrings ‘Duet;’ photo: Diana Mino.