My feelings ranged from gripping and comforting to disturbing as I witnessed closing night of the Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater’s beautifully danced Primavera. With its eclectic mix of performance styles and moods I was amazed at the wide range of human emotions expressed so artistically.
Performing April 17 and 18 at the stunning new Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, a welcome addition to the cultural life of our city, the troupe’s spring series Primavera included two world premieres and four dances from the treasury of the company’s classics.
“Liebes Tanz” (Love Dance) was first performed in 1992. Lucia Campoy, Marcos Emmanuel de Jesus, Juan Ignacio Echazarreta, and Heather Panikkar danced beautifully in this Germanic, dynamic piece. It featured unexpected interactions, with humor – and high lifts.
The two solos premiered were “In Transit,” performed behind a translucent cloth set by sculptor James Cobb with piano music by Mexican composer Luis Montes Jauregui, and “Passages,” by guest choreographer Maxine Steinman to music composed and played by Matthew Ferry.
I chatted with Luis following the performance and was stuck by both his great perception and his modesty. I also enjoyed speaking with Juan who, apart from being an excellent dancer, holds a Masters degree from NYU in non-profit management.
“In Transit” was danced brilliantly by the company’s founder, Annabella Gonzalez. In this piece she reacted to the world with emotions that ranged from derision to despair.
I found the contortions expressed in the very modern “Passages” uncomfortable, as I looked deep into the mirror of my own frailty and immortality. The suffering expressed was riveting and superbly presented.
“Flecha” (Arrow), from 1997, was completely different. Smooth, soft, warm, mellow – and comforting. The dichotomy of human emotions, danced by Lucia, Juan and Marcos, was complete. This highly stylistic piece featured piano and cello music by the Spanish composer Elisenda de Fabregas.
The performance ended with “Red,” a passionate quartet with dancers in varied shades of red set to a quartet by Beethoven.
Now in its 33rd year, the Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater has an original repertoire of more than 60 dances. AGDT is the leading modern dance company in New York City headed by a Mexican-born American.
Primavera is distinguished by its originality. There is an aesthetic feeling, a special freshness, and superb dancing. What struck me was the synthesis of classical dance and modern dance, with both serious and humorous elements.
Annabella is known for having an eye for movement that conveys the essence of emotional situations. This shines through in “Primavera,” with its sense of humor, a choreographic theater of the absurd.
Sometimes humorous, sometimes sensual, Primavera offered a feast of movement, color and sound which I found electrifying. Her work in Primavera intrigued the mind as well as the eye.
Distinguished guests in the packed audience included New York State Council Member Gayle Brewer and the composer Luis who graciously came from Mexico to see Primavera.
Past AGDT appearances have included the Joseph Papp’s Latin Festival, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors.
An excellent and informative orientation on the dance company may be viewed on YouTube.
The spring series was made possible in part with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts, and administered by The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Additional support was provided by the Harkness Foundation for Dance and Mayab Happy Tacos.