Review: Lucinda Childs Presents a Retrospective ‘Portrait’ at the Joyce
By Bethany Hopta, Contributing Writer, December 7, 2016
The Lucinda Childs Dance Company has returned to the Joyce Theater for a two-week residency, with the first week devoted to presenting Lucinda Childs: A Portrait (1963-2016)—a five-decade retrospective of one of America’s greatest modern choreographers. Ms. Childs began her career at the Judson Dance Theater in 1963, and many of her early pieces are reflective of the improvisational spirit so closely associated with that collective of artists. She formed her own company in 1973, disbanded it in 2000, and then reformed the company, all the while continuing to choreograph new dances.
The “portrait” opened with Pastime (1963), a piece for three female dancers, punctuated by discordant sound by Philip Corner. The dancers were confined, sometimes with fabric, and the choreography and soundtrack was sharp and sure. This was followed by Katema (1978), showcasing the rhythmic movement of four female dancers. The piece, without sound, instead featured the effect of feet on the stage in a rhythmic cadence. The women dancing in isolation, but cultivating an energy of communal movement.
The men answered with Radical Courses (1976), a rhythmic piece, again without music or sound accompaniment, utilized the sounds of footsteps marking time. The four dancers were elegant and synchronized as they circled the stage, changing formation, and maintaining the relentless rhythm. Finishing this series of unaccompanied dances, Interior Drama (1977), featured five female dancers; this piece had more interaction, though not touching, but performing the choreography as if in community. The all beige-and-white costumes (designed by Carlos Soto), adding to the beauty of the movement by emphasizing the form but not adding volume, translated beautifully to the audience.
Next up was Concerto (1993), featuring music by Henryk Gorecki, a repetitive “Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings,” combined both women and men moving together, but with little interaction. The costumes (buttoned black blazers) obscured form with a bit of bulk, creating a completely different look.
Lollapalooza (2010), featured a visual explosion with pairs of dancers costumed in bright, rainbow colors. The lighting (designed by John Torres) allowed the colors to pop and shimmer onstage. The music by John Adams helped to underscore the preciseness of the movement.
Rounding out the program, Canto Ostinato (2015) and Into View (2016), demonstrated Ms. Childs’s change in choreographic style. The dancers were partnered in both pieces and the passages were danced precisely. With music by Simeon ten Holt, the piano piece entitled Canto Ostinato, lent the soundtrack to emphasize the sharpness of the choreography. Into View, co-commissioned for the Joyce (as well as receiving its New York premiere), utilized the colorful costumes again, with music by Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld, and featuring a beautiful, haunting violin melody.
Overall the program was a mesmerizing, rhythmic experience showing a range of choreographic structure, with precisely executed movement and steps. It was a unique opportunity to see a program encompassing the work of one choreographer over the span of five decades—and Lucinda Childs was certainly up for the challenge.
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Lucinda Childs Dance Company at the Joyce Theater from November 29 – December 11, 2016. All choreography by Lucinda Childs.
Pastime; music by Philip Corner; dancers: Caitlin Scranton, Katherine Helen Fisher, Anne Lewis.
Katema; dancers: Katie Dorn, Sarah Hillmon, Sharon Milanese, Shakirah Stewart
Radical Courses; dancers: Vincent McCloskey, Patrick John O’Neill, Matt Pardo, Lonnie Poupard Jr.
Interior Drama; dancers: Katie Dorn, Anne Lewis, Sharon Milanese, Caitlin Scranton, Shakirah Stewart
Concerto; music by Henryk Gorecki (Concerto for Harpsicord and Strings); dancers: Sarah Hillman, Anne Lewis, Sharon Milanese, Benny Olk, Lonnie Poupard Jr., Caitlin Scranton, Shakirah Stewart.
Lollapalooza; music by John Adams (Son of Chamber Symphony, 3rd Movement); dancers: Katie Dorn, Katherine Helen Fisher, Sarah Hillmon, Anne Lewis, Vincent McCloskey, Benny Olk, Lonnie Poupard Jr., Shakirah Stewart
Canto Ostinato; music by Simeon ten Holt (Canto Ostinato); dancers: Sharon Milanese, Patrick John O’Neill, Matt Pardo, Caitlin Scranton.
Into View; music by Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld (“The Sun Roars Into View”); dancers: Katie Dorn, Katherine Helen Fisher, Sarah Hillman, Anne Lewis, Vincent McCloskey, Benny Olk, Patrick John O’Neill, Matt Pardo, Lonnie Poupard, Jr., Caitlin Scranton, Shakirah Stewart.
Cover: The Lucinda Childs Dance Company’s Lonnie Poupard Jr., Matt Pardo, Vincent McCloskey, and Patrick John O’Neill in ‘Radial Courses;’ photo by John Sisley.