Dance Review: Fagan collaboration with Marsalis debuts with fanfare

Garth Fagan and Wynton Marsalis joined forces for their second collaboration, premiering a new work and revitalizing excerpts from a famed repertory piece at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Thursday night to a packed audience that included Brooklyn Nets players and composer Philip Glass.

The concert celebrated a number of milestones: BAM’s 150th anniversary year, its Next Wave Festival’s 30th anniversary and the end of Garth Fagan Dance’s 40th anniverary celebration. The company will bring the concert to Rochester from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2 at Nazareth College Arts Center (although the Wynton Marsalis Septet’s music will be a recording).

The night brought Griot New York, the first work Fagan and Marsalis collaborated on in 1991, and also Lighthouse/Lightning Rod, their new work that allowed the abstract representation of those elements.

Griot is one of Garth Fagan Dance’s most celebrated works for its abstract portrayal of the black experience in New York in the early 1990s. Marsalis’ score swings and wails, staying true to its swing and New Orleans roots in all its originality. Fagan, too, takes cues in his movement from the swing-era. Loose, swinging limbs, cross-body footwork, and even Charleston-style kicks take on new life when combined with Fagan’s gravity-defying poses and sensuously tangled duets.

The company’s longtime members danced with a relaxed precision: Norwood Penewell and Nicolette Depass executed the “Spring Yaounde” duet with breathtaking intimacy. Also standing out was Natalie Rogers, returning to the company this year after directing Fagan’s dance school for many years.

What’s often forgotten in the collective memory of the work is how the stage design and costumes set the moods of intimacy and celebration and boosts Fagan’s choreography.

As Griot New York reflects the early ’90s period in which it was created, Lighthouse/Lightning Rod is fresh and contemporary. Marsalis’ score and Fagan’s choreography were created separately for the new work, coming together during rehearsals in Rochester two weeks ago, so it would be expected that the movement and music wouldn’t always be in exact agreement. And indeed that was true at points, but the dancers were able to find the accents within Marsalis’ bop-inspired score within their patterns because Fagan’s choreography gave them freedom for bodily accentuation.

Source: Democrat and Chronicle

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