Spectrum's triumphant 'Love' is all you need
Donald Byrd's "Love," performed by Seattle's Spectrum Dance Theater and cellist Denise Djokic, soars purely on music and moves. It runs through June 30, 2012.
Seattle Times arts writer
Spectrum Dance Theater: 'Love'8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and June 28-30, Daniels Recital Hall, 811 Fifth Ave., Seattle; $5-$25 (206-325-4161 or www.spectrumdance.org). Note: "Love" includes live accompaniment of Britten's three cello suites by Denise Djokic through Saturday, and by Wendy Sutter June 28-30.
DANCE REVIEW |
The staging, while spare, is striking. The score, Benjamin Britten's three cello suites played live, is kaleidoscopic in its detail yet direct in its effect. And the dancers couldn't be more rigorously dazzling.
In short, Donald Byrd's "Love," the culmination of Spectrum Dance Theater's 2011-12 season, is magnificent. Unfolding on two juxtaposed stages (one slightly higher than the other), this world premiere is an ever-shifting tableau of connections, dissolutions, stirrings, recognitions, yearnings and submissions. It's also so athletically demanding of its performers that it sometimes shades into acrobatic spectacle.
The difference is that Byrd isn't just serving up circuslike feats of derring-do but a whole exploration of the human heart's vagaries, rendered into movement as precise as any language.
It's tempting to single out Vincent Michael Lopez as the piece's star performer, because he's the initial figure seen in the first suite and the one who has the final word in the closing bars of the last. You watch him — and he is the music.
But almost all the dancers have stellar moments. One instant, their moves are so bold and clean, they cut the air. The next, they're more teasing, questioning, dropping hints of particular moments in private histories, yet bringing no explicit narrative into play.
Strength and grace are perfectly matched throughout, with the flow of action punctuated by some indelible images: a forehead-to-forehead "kiss" undone by a backward somersault; a cartwheel that torques sideways to become a gymnast's airborne landing on two feet.
Dancers are limber to the point where you never quite know what's going to end up where. In one case, Ty Alexander Cheng and Shadou Mintrone step into a classic ballroom-dance pose. Only by the time they complete it, it isn't an arm-in-arm embrace but, on one side, an arm-on-upraised-leg caress.
Some passages involve (literal) flying leaps of faith. In the third suite, the degree of trust — a mix of abandon and utter self-control — that Jade Solomon Curtis displays in her fellow dancers is awing. With their help, she's caught, propelled, flung, inverted and sent soaring, occupying the air as if it's her natural element. Jeroboam Bozeman, with both Curtis and Lopez, never lets the remarkable strength he commands compromise his elegance as he gives them the lift they need.
Then there's cellist Denise Djokic, who has recorded the suites (originally composed for Mstislav Rostropovich) and made them her own. Her performance alone, lightly amplified to catch every subtlety in the score, is reason enough to go to "Love."
But there are no weak links in this production. Byrd, after a series of big politically-minded productions where he mixed every medium to the max, has pared things down here to the purest possible match of movement with music. The result is a work of stunning beauty.
(Note: Djokic plays Friday-Saturday only. Former Seattleite Wendy Sutter — known for her collaborations with Philip Glass — assumes cello duty June 28-30.)
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com