The Fall Harvest: Fall for Dance’s Offerings Were Bountiful but Uneven

Hometown companies underwhelming, but troupes from Russia, Hawaii and Sumatra offered varying pleasures

The group of artists called Nan Jombang from Padang, Sumatra, produced an extremely sophisticated drama decked out in Sumatra-wear which featured chanting and wailing, intoning and yelping, hair-tossing, hand-clapping, swaying, swinging, shouting, screaming, drumming and yet more drumming in a work called Tarian Malam (Night Dances) that announces itself as a “contemporary narrative about the earthquake that struck the region in 2009.” The group is supported by an impressive number of important international cultural organizations, and is as far from unmediated ethnic dance as you can get—this piece is orchestrated and polished to within an inch of its life. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Even so, at two-thirds its length it would have been twice as impressive.

From Hawaii came Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka Lā with the world premiere of Hula Kane: The Ancient Art of Hawaiian Male Dance. Eleven near-naked smashing-looking guys—green garlands on their brows, green necklaces at their throats, green really skimpy thongs at their not-very-private privates—leaped and bounded and brandished sticks and percussion instruments for a very long time. In one section they looked like a group of nine male strippers shaking gourds. But it was all good-natured fun, if this kind of thing is your idea of fun.

The high point of the entire season was the return to New York after many years of the glorious Moiseyev Dance Company, which knocked our socks off when they first turned up here in 1958. My socks were knocked off all over again at the City Center last week as their galvanizing dancers filled the stage with dazzling energy, dazzling footwork, dazzling teamwork, dazzling costumes and dazzlingly beautiful women. They did four of the company’s classics, created between 1938 and 1959, featuring Kalmyk dances, Tartar dances, Bessarabian Gypsy dances and Moldavian dances. It was all tumultuous, sexy (relentlessly heterosexy) and alive with the joy of performing and the radiance of good will. Please, somebody, get them back here in full force for a season of their own!

A promise: If anything major takes place at the fifth and last of this year’s programs, you’ll hear about it here.

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