One of the reasons I love going to see dance in small theatres is because I get the chance to watch the dancers up close, and really analyze their performance. This was the case on Thursday, when I went to see Dances Patrelle and Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance at Symphony Space. I sat very close to the stage, and enjoyed picking out the details. What impressed me most, though, was the dancers’ commitment to connecting with the audience and each other, which is sometimes hard to feel in a huge theatre or opera house.
“3Four1”, a plotless ballet for three women and one man by Cherylyn Lavagnino, led off the program and was a great example of the dancers’ communication skills. The upbeat and playful piece consisted of a seamless procession of duets, solos, and group sections, and this variety of combinations gave the dancers the chance to draw the audience in by either dancing for us, or by showcasing how well they danced with each other. No one seemed to be onstage to show off—this piece was about the relationships between the dancers. The pleasure they took in dancing together, and they way in which they always made eye contact and interacted with each other left no doubt or confusion on that score. The technical strength of all the dancers and solid pointework of the ladies (Selina Chau, Ramona Kelley, and Jackie McConnell) gave them the security to share their joy with us.
“Double Martini”, by Francis Patrelle, was the other piece on the program that reminded me how clearly dancers can communicate with the audience by committing to their interactions with each other. This piece featured the story of a young ingénue (Marisa Paull) who comes to audition for a rich producer (John-Mark Owen), unseating his current leading lady (Ilona Wall) and her own boyfriend (Jhonatan Mendez) in the process. The dancers played their parts with a clear understanding of who they were, without overdoing it to the point of becoming caricatures, and had a fine grasp of how the relationships between them were supposed to deteriorate or evolve over the course of the ballet. Add to that Paull’s sparkling performance as the young woman that comes ready to impress (by doing tap steps on pointe, no less!), and Wall’s perfectly haughty established diva in white satin, and you’ve got a well-rounded combination of dance and drama that left me wishing it were an evening-length piece.