Photo by Matthew Murphy, of Avi Scher & Dancers when they performed recently up at Jacob’s Pillow. Choreographer and artistic director Scher is at the front of the group. All photos are taken by Matt Murphy and used with his permission. See more of his photos of Avi’s company here and here.
On Sunday, I went to Studio 5 in City Center to see the first full program by young choreographer Avichai Scher. I’d seen Scher’s work before, at one of the 92 Street Y’s Friday dance hours, and was very impressed, so I was excited to attend this program in the intimate Studio 5 space. I love the small space — you’re so close to the dancers, you can really see every little detail. I was also excited because Scher, who studied at the School of American Ballet (the school associated with New York City Ballet), uses a lot of NYCB dancers, and I’m still kind of missing them from the season ending two weeks ago!
I really loved the program. There were five pieces, four of which were choreographed by Scher, who I think is a very talented up and coming choreographer. His work is playful, humorous, lyrical, touching, and always meaningful and evocative.
First on the program was Last Dance, a ballet he choreographed in memory of Jenn Jansma, a 21-year-old ballerina with the Carolina Ballet who passed away of cancer. So horribly sad. The dance was really beautiful, very lyrical, with lots of wispy, flying, birdlike movements. There were eight dancers altogether here but Abi Stafford danced the lead, who I imagined to be Jansma, young and innocent, at the end, heavenbound. Abi, is, if you don’t know, a principal dancer with NYCB, and she gave such a touching performance. She is really such a compelling dancer, especially when you see her up close like this. She makes everything so real and personal.
I mean, you feel like you’re going through everything with her, if that makes sense. She is really starting to impress me lately. I’ve always noticed her superior dance ability, but I think she is beginning to come into her own artistically as well. There was also a really sweet duet between her and David Prottas in this piece. He is also a standout dancer with NYCB.
Second on the program was Aquilarco, a duet from 1999, choreographed by Val Caniparoli, danced by Scher himself and Racheal Prince. Originally danced by San Francisco Ballet, this was a really cute piece — like a balletic Flamenco, very flirty and playful with lots of original movement and intricate partnering.
Next was a fun piece, just recently created by Scher, called Our Love’s Defense. It’s a duet, performed by Melissa Hough (a new principal at Boston Ballet) and NYCB’s Christian Tworzyanski. The music, by Jason Mraz, reminded me of ragtime, and the dance was about two lovers fighting and making up. They wore wrist supports that kind of resembled wrestling gloves and the movement in places looked a bit boxing-like, but playfully so. Toward the end, the dance became seductive, and they eventually ripped off their outer clothing, stripping down to their underwear, before embracing. Very sweet dance!
Next was a world premiere, No Matter What, for six dancers. The music, by Aphex Twin and Adam Lewis, was kind of new-agey and reminiscient of waves, as was the movement. It was interesting — it looked at times like the dancers were inside of invisible boxes, trying to work their way out. But the movement was more fluid than robot-like. At times, the dancers looked like creatures, with very fluid, waving limbs. This was the only dance that wasn’t on pointe. There were lots of interesting, Balanchine-like pattern changes among the dancers; at the end, they all stood in a huddle, looking up toward the light, as if they’d finally found their way out of whatever might have been imprisoning them.
Finally, we saw Mirrors, a work still in progress. It was my favorite! It involved seven dancers, and they were all mesmerizing. They would by turns, dance freely, playfully, then look as if they were catching themselves in a mirror, checking themselves, sometimes pleased but often not. Dena Abergel from NYCB did a tremendous acting job with this. She really blew me away. As did Abi again. At the end, it seems like the two are two sides of the same person. They turn in a circle, each her back toward the other, one seemingly content, the other not, one with her hands to her face, covering her eyes, the other her arms spread out.
My favorite part of this piece though was a gorgeous duet between NYCB principal Jared Angle and the wonderfully willowy, rather bewitching at times, Alexsandra Meijer, a principal with San Jose Ballet. There were some lovely lifts, beautiful partnering, and one movement theme was his repeatedly covering her eyes with his hands, preventing her from looking, presumably at herself in a mirror. She reminded me a bit of Janie Taylor, really mesmerizing with loose, sometimes spidery limbs. And Jared is so gallant and such the perfect male partner, and such an excellent dancer. You can really see that up close. You can tell why he’s a principal; everything he does is perfection.
Anyway, I can’t wait to see more of this dance; I can’t wait until it’s finished. And I can’t wait to see more of Avi’s work in general.