Above photos of Footsteps in the Snow by Phil Echo.
TAKE Dance Company began its season at Dance Theater Workshop on Thursday night. There were four dances on the program — all choreographed by artistic director Takehiro Ueyama: two pieces from last year (the upbeat Linked, and Love Stories, a haunting duet about three stages in the life of a relationship that was inspired by a Magritte painting); the New York premiere of Shabon; and the world premiere of Footsteps in the Snow, both rather abstract pieces that I found a bit unsettling.
Nana Tsuda and Kile Hotchkiss in Love Stories, photo by Angele.
Nana Tsuda and Francisco Gracinao in Shabon, photo by Phil Echo.
Shabon, set to Steve Reich music, is bookended by a solitary woman walking across the stage blowing bubbles. Bubbles are blown onstage throughout the dance, by bubble machines, which would seem to make the mood of the piece playful. But there’s a lot of intense partnering and the dancers seem to be characters who struggle somewhat with each other. During the climax of the piece, a small woman walks atop the shoulders of the other dancers, who together make a kind of human pyramid. She does this twice, then falls backward, hoping the others will catch her, which they do. But it still made me jump, because it doesn’t seem like she’s really trusting them so much as that she doesn’t care about her own well-being any more, like she’s given up. Then, in the end, when the solitary woman is walking across stage blowing her bubbles again, it’s like she’s in her own world. To me, it was about the solitariness of human existence or the fragility of connection.
The last piece, Footsteps, seemed to echo those themes as well as hint at the impermanence of human existence. Set to the rain-drop-like music of Arvo Part (the same used by Christopher Wheeldon in his famous After the Rain pas de deux), the stage was covered with fake snow (confetti) and there were some “snow-blowing” machines used from time to time to cover the dancers’ tracks, which made me think of the way it’s impossible to leave a lasting footprint in the snow. The dancers danced by turns in solo, in pairs, and in ensemble, the mood shifting between violent, tender and pensive. In one part, Francisco Gracinao (who regularly dances with Paul Taylor and was guesting with TAKE) throws himself violently to the floor, ending in a balance on the side of his neck, his legs in the air. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone throw himself down that way and then basically land on his neck. It made me jump. In other places, the men dangle the women upside down. In one moment — my favorite – -a man and woman, both crawling on the floor, find each other, and rub necks, entwining them and kind of locking them into place, fitting together perfectly like the pieces of a puzzle. It’s a beautiful image and at first I was hoping the piece would end there, but no, the pause in the music and the dimmed lights were only a pause; there was another, more disconcerting section that followed. I guess, thinking it over, I’m glad it didn’t end there — it would probably have been too pat, too happy, and I don’t think Take does happy endings!
I really like TAKE’s dancers. Ueyama has a good, diverse group — about half of them are kind of “all American” in a Paul Taylorish way (Ueyema danced with Paul Taylor before forming his own group) — kind of carefree and sunny and spacious in their use of the floor, and then the other half are these really intense Asian women who captivate you with the depth of their gaze and the small details in their movement. They’re kind of opposites in a way but both are equally compelling and together I think make for a really unique company.