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Dance Review | ‘Rite of Spring’

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For its centennial season, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is attracting new audiences with non-traditional performances and talented guest artists. This weekend, Garth Fagan Dance offers viewers a modern Fagan-style take on “Rite of Spring,” performing alongside the orchestra.

The performance is the second half of a three-part show which, in addition to Garth Fagan Dance, features guest artists Juliana Athayde and David Cossin in “Ricochet (Ping Pong Concerto).”

Ahead of the dance piece, Thursday night’s audiences were treated to an unexpected experience, during which ping pong balls were physically hit onto a bass drum and into the crowd. The non-traditional art form of table tennis gave the evening an element of excitement one may not normally associate with classical music.

Guest musicians Juliana Athayde and David Cossin were featured in “Ricochet (Ping Pong Concerto)," the second half of a three-part show between RPO and Garth Fagan Dance. - PROVIDED PHOTO.
  • PROVIDED PHOTO.
  • Guest musicians Juliana Athayde and David Cossin were featured in “Ricochet (Ping Pong Concerto)," the second half of a three-part show between RPO and Garth Fagan Dance.

Garth Fagan Dance continued the theme of breaking the norm with Norwood Pennewell’s choreography of “Rite of Spring.” Igor Stravinsky’s composition, which garnered an extreme and infamous audience reaction in its premiere in 1913, was originally created for and performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s dance company.

With ritualistic movement, the principal dancer of the Firebird compelled other characters to dance so frantically and passionately that they collapsed from exhaustion. Garth Fagan Dance presented their own interpretation, which though similar to the original in elements of quick footing and enchanting movements, was otherwise entirely its own creation.

Garth Fagan Dance presents their interpretation of 'Rite of Spring,' which was created for and performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s dance company in 1913. - PROVIDED PHOTO.
  • PROVIDED PHOTO.
  • Garth Fagan Dance presents their interpretation of 'Rite of Spring,' which was created for and performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s dance company in 1913.

The piece opened with a trio of dancers moving to a haunting bassoon solo. Both the music and choreography in this section shifted from smooth to choppy and back again, immersing the audience in a sense of extremes. While the female dancers performed this opening with confidence and poise, the standout performer of the sequence, and the dancer who continued to captivate throughout the evening, was John Crim.



Crim, who is in his third season with the company, had an impeccable sense of control and an ease with rhythmic movement. His long limbs emphasized his technique, while impossibly high leaps and groovy, grounded movements proved he was a master of both the sky and stage.


In contrast to the upbeat and almost anxiety-provoking feeling of the opening, the next piece gave audiences a moment to breathe. Bathed in soft yellow light, long-time company members — and “Bessie” award winners — Steve Humphrey and Natalie Rogers-Cropper performed a mesmerizing duet. They stayed in contact with one another constantly, leaning on the other, breathing together, and sharing a sense of assurance. This piece felt like an ode to the history of the company, acknowledging the ways in which the company members have supported and lifted one another, and continue to do so.

The remaining sections featured the newer members of the company. Though the ensemble occasionally felt out of sync with one another, the potential and strength of the dancers shone. This present version of Garth Fagan Dance, which both respects the past and molds to the demands of the future, is a promising vision of athleticism, talent, and intention.

"Rite of Spring" will be performed again at 8 p.m. in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre on Saturday, January 13. More info and tickets here.

Sydney Burrows is a freelance contributor to CITY. Feedback about this article can be directed to [email protected].

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