Fresh Air From the West Coast: The Women Dominated at San Francisco Ballet, With Sofiane Sylve the Standout

Meanwhile, BAM applauded William Forsythe’s drearily pretentious 'Sider'

To prove that I haven’t been sitting at home nights: a quick dash through some other recent events. Bill T. Jones in collaboration with Anne Bogart’s SITI Company couldn’t resist adding a version of The Rite of Spring—called by them A Rite—to the centenary celebrations of its notorious premiere. This pretentious undertaking took place at BAM and involved deconstruction, reconstruction and just plain destruction—of my usually placid and benign take on life. Jones can choreograph persuasively, but here his work was undercut and overwhelmed by concept. With luck, we won’t have to see it again until the bicentenary.

And speaking of BAM, that’s where William Forsythe’s even more pretentious and conceptual Sider was greeted with huzzahs by his ardent admirers and the Brooklyn audience’s unflagging delight in being in on the latest wave. Eighteen performers, some of them in medieval get-up, ran around kicking large slabs of cardboard. That, essentially, was it, for well over an hour. Well, yes, one head-shaven guy spouted a lot of garbled language that, we’re told, was triggered by a Shakespeare tragedy (Hamlet, I believe). There were occasional supertitles: “She is to them as they are to us” and variations thereof. One sheet of cardboard carried the message “In disarray.” The gang cleverly pieced together from the cardboard a tottery structure that I thought was an air-raid shelter (there were plane noises just then), but one of my colleagues thought it was a shantytown shack. Take your pick. To appreciate the full dreariness of all this, you had to have been there, but I’m happy for your sake if you weren’t. The saddest part is that Forsythe, whether you admired him or not, was once a serious choreographer.

We’ve also had the venerable Lar Lubovitch down at the Joyce. He has been doing it for 45 years, and hats off to his persistence. The program I saw (one of two) began with three duets, no doubt designed to display his versatility. Duet from Concerto Six Twenty-Two (that’s Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto, K. 622”) shows us two men in white, inching toward each other, connecting and separating. Vez, a premiere, is a reworking of Lubovitch’s Fandango, with new music by Randall Woolf replacing Ravel’s Bolero (a true mercy). It’s all black and red and flamenco-ish, as Clifton Brown and Nicole Corea do things to each other in that unavoidable Hispanic way, while a guitarist and vocalist strum and moan. Whereas in The Time Before the Time After, Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Reed Luplau do their violent and frustrating modern things to each other accompanied by Stravinsky’s “Concertino for String Quartet”—to not much avail.

The big piece on this program was called Men’s Stories: A Concerto in Ruin to “Audio Collage and Original Music” by Scott Marshall. Now here’s something amazing: Just like Mark Morris’s Beaux, it featured nine male dancers! A coincidence? A conspiracy? The Lubovitch is a free-flowing, expressive piece without much depth that gives the company males both individual opportunities and challenging interactions. The music is a raid on Beethoven’s “Emperor” piano concerto, with shreds of other things flung at it—here a “Chiri Chiri Bim,” there a jazzy “Caro Mio Ben.” For me, the most appealing aspect of the Lubovitch experience was seeing the exemplary Clifton Brown, sprung from Alvin Ailey. As always, he gave his all, and he fitted right in.