(left to right: Ashley Bouder, Antonio Carmena, Russell Janzen)
All photos of Ashley Bouder, Antonio Carmena and Russell Janzen by Matthew Murphy.
Review by Michael Northrop
Avi Scher & Dancers debuted the dynamic new piece “Touch” at the 2009 Contemporary Dance Festival at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center Saturday. The music, Aphex Twin’s “Blue Calx” performed by Alarm Will Sound, fit right in on a mixed bill that ranged from quieter balletic moments from the host company, Thang Dao Dance, to some entertaining, Pilobol-esque body-stacking from Phoenix Project Dance Theater.
That was it for fitting in, though. Everything else about “Touch” stood out, starting with the dancers. New York City Ballet corps member Russell Janzen, soloist Antonio Carmena, and principal Ashley Bouder were tremendous, and the choreography made the most of the trio’s athleticism. This was not a timid exploration of the stage. Whenever there was a question (a half step, a reach), the answer was yes (continue, embrace).
Janzen and Carmena came out shirtless in bike shorts. Aesthetically, this highlighted the physicality of the piece, which included some exceptional lifts. (Psychologically, it just made every guy in the audience feel like a toneless dumpazoid—or perhaps I project? In either case, it was a big hit with the row of teen girls behind me.)
Bouder, dressed in black, was marvelous. She reminded me of that great line, that great scene, from Geoffrey Rush’s Oscar-winning 1996 movie Shine: “Boldness of attack.” In the movie, Rush, as a brilliant pianist, has to be prodded to it. On Saturday, Bouder was committed to it from the start. Her pointework was precise but bristling with power.
Anyone who saw Scher’s work at the City Center Studios in June or the Ailey Citigroup Theater in September knows that he has a real flair for physical, crowd-pleasing pieces set to contemporary music. This fierce, fresh piece manages to both fit right in with that and, again, stand out.