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Alan Danielson echoes Limón tradition but transcends technique

From the poetic, swirling, and emotional opus of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s vibrant “Rain” at BAM; to the Wonder Woman-esque 80s stoic irony of Sam Kim’s “Placid Baby,” presented by Dixon Place at PS 122; to a shared program at WAX where Sara Juli’s character in “How to forgive yourself in bed” had us laughing nervously and then drew us warmly into her heart, this was one of the most gratifying, diverse, and memorable weeks of dance in New York in recent memory.

And that’s only about half of what was going on. Still, none of these things were so surprising, given the makers and their deserved reputations. But there is nothing like discovering something new on familiar territory where expectations are muted, as was the case with Alan Danielson’s concert November 13 through 16 at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church.

The Limón tradition was evident in Mr. Danielson’s work, but his performers and the dances themselves had an energy that transcended technique, and indeed, seemed to light up the space from within. “trans/form,” a quintet in two parts for Alyssa Alpine, Kathryn Alter, Geraldine Cardiel, Jennifer Chin, and Jennifer Weddel, began with a lovely ebb and flow of movement into and away from center to music by Holger Naust. In part two, the group moved more as a unit, to Dred Scott’s accompaniment, with slow, deliberate accumulation, balancing, falling, and presenting the theme of conflict versus harmony. The dancers, in Patti Gilstrap’s complementary costumes, were always aware of each other.

“Are we there yet?,” a duet for Limón company alum greats Jim May and Clay Taliaferro, was a lovely character-driven dance to music by Erik Satie, which used the duo’s differences to splendid and humorous effect. May who is short and white, was timid and almost jesterlike, while Taliaferro, who is tall and black, seemed regal and serious. The dramatic poses and almost vaudevillian costumes by Timberlake, coupled with the music, gave the piece a sense of irony; but these seasoned performers treated the work with nuance and care, and ultimately presented a touching portrait of deep friendship.

“Cave,” performed by Geraldine Cardiel and Robert Regala provided the most sensational choreography of the evening. To traditional vocals from Okinawa and Tibet, Regala is set into motion by Cardiel, as she sits still beside him, watching him rock, lunge, spin, jump, and move as if being moved by spirits. On occasion, she joins him for a gesture, and to set him into motion again. Eventually, she becomes impatient, and intervenes again, trying to speed up or break the cycle. She circles him, undresses him, and they roll over each other. Then she sets him into plié. Finally, she pounces on him, trying to stop his motion. The piece ends with her sitting on his prone body, as he tries to rise. Takako Yamanka’s costumes moved beautifully in this work.

The final work, here, was a duet for Mr. Danielson and Roxane D’Orleans Juste, to music by Margarita Lecuona. It begins with the two wearing headphones from which music can be heard. The piece has the feeling of a casual rehearsal between longtime associates, the action carefree and energetic. The movement is replete with quirky flourishes and lots of little accents. In concert titled “places I’ve been,” the piece is unassuming but celebrates Mr. Danielson’s own personal triumph over physical adversity, referred to gently in the program with a special thanks to the staff of the Cardiac Transplant Center of CPMC.

Bookending and in between the dances were animation sequences, featuring either single still images of Danielson in nature in black and white by Francisco Kochen, or video footage of him standing in a stream. These made for lovely transitions from one work to the next. The evening ended as Danielson ran towards an image of himself facing away from the audience in the thick of a forest.

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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