On Tuesday night, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company opened its season at New York University's Skirball Center with three premieres: one for the company and two for the world.
This evening was the company's first performance of Love's Stories, a work choreographed by Lubovitch in 2005 for a soloist and ensemble of three couples set to the music of Kurt Elling. The content of the work is exactly what the title suggests-five vignettes of adoration and charm. The role of the soloist, danced with breathtaking fluidity by Sean Stewart, is that of the man unlucky in love, contrasted by the three couples who weave on and offstage, each of their duets representing the conventional dynamics of stereotypical relationships.
In "The More I Have You," Jay Franke and Charlaine Mei Katsuyoshi dance with carefree countenances and gestures, whereas in the much slower "Prelude to a Kiss," Marty Lawson and Kate Skarpetowska move through a series of Agon-esque acrobatics. The more emotional "Everytime We Say Goodbye" was both shallow and overly dramatic but was saved by Charlie Neshyba-Hodges, whose limbs stirred the air like fireflies in the dark, leaving an illuminated energy in their wake.
The most stunning aspect of this piece was the choreographer's use of space. With passages of floor work countered by sweeping gestures and high, soaring lifts, Lubovitch successfully utilizes all possible areas of motion. This use of the loftier and lower spaces of the stage added a colorful dimensionality to the work, which was also peppered with moments of the sense of humor that was more prevalent in Little Rhapsodies, which followed Love's Stories.
Lubovitch's heart was in the right place when he invested in live musical accompaniment for Little Rhapsodies, in which pianist Pedja Muzijevic plays a grand Yamaha piano in the upstage left corner while Rasta Thomas, Franke, and Stewart dance in the foreground. But when hiring a musician to perform live in such close proximity to the dancers, one must remember to hire a good musician. Although Muzijevic began Schumann's "Symphonic Etudes" strongly, as the performance progressed he seemed increasingly unnerved by the dancers' presence. First, a few missed notes, then blaringly awkward chords, then stumbles and slip-ups that eventually and ever so slightly threw the dancers off their counts.
Luckily, the performers pulled through. Thomas dominated the stage with his impassioned solos, while Franke and Stewart interrupted as a sort of divertissement act. Dressed in bright blue and purple pants and shoes, the two danced playfully enough to pull Thomas out of his mood and into their lighthearted, folkish dancing. One of Thomas' entrances, in particular, stands out-he leapt onstage with a tour jete so high that his waist actually hovered over the heads of the other two dancers.
The world premiere of Dvorák Serenade concluded the program. Using his full ensemble of dancers, Lubovitch here exhibited his ability to manipulate larger groups of dancers onstage, imitating the sweeping quality of the movement in the framework of the choreography. This piece featured the dancing of Drew Jacoby, a freelance artist with gorgeous, floating arms and feet that pointed like daggers but stepped as though on moss, and her partner, Scott Rink, who followed her as loyally and clumsily as a puppy dog. The piece, like all the others on the program, was more accessible than beautiful. The dancing was athletic and impressive, but what little emotional content the choreography held seemed forced, the relationships between the dancers vapid. Sure, it was pleasant to watch, but there was something missing-something genuine, something real, something to latch onto and take home.