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Lori Belilove
The Isadora Duncan Dance Company

 

Lori Belilove
The Isadora Duncan Dance Company

 

By R. Pikser

 

Isadora Duncan was a dancer at the beginning of the 20th century who was, in many ways, part of the turmoil of the time. †World War I, a struggle for domination among the European powers and which of them was going to be preeminent in the colonial world, was about to affect everyone, or already had done so.† Russia was about to have her revolution, redistributing the wealth of Tsarist Russia to the masses.† Mexico was also in revolt, also trying to change the old political order and, concurrently experimenting with new forms of art. It was a time for bold thinking and for reimagining how life should be.† In the art world, van Gogh and his friends the Impressionists had revolted against the old academic forms of painting in the years before Duncanís birth.† In the world of dance, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn were bringing Eastern dance to the West and preparing the way for 20th century modern dance.† Nijinsky, though a classical dancer, was experimenting with new forms in his choreography.†

 

Isadora Duncan was in tune with her times.† She revolted against the strictures of ballet and sought to develop, or to return to, a way of dancing that partook of the natural and the ecstatic.† She danced barefoot and in the flimsiest of shifts at a time when women were still wearing corsets. †She took her inspiration from the dances depicted on Greek vases, as can be seen from the movement.† Ms. Belilove, in her commentary that serves as small intermissions for the evening, speaks of the dancing as being Dionysian.† Dionysus was the Greek, later the Roman, god of wine, of ecstasy, and of the uncontrolled passions - of holy madness - and we can see, in the old photographs of Duncan and her students in the office space of the Isadora Duncan Dance Company where the performance takes place, that they had, indeed, surrendered themselves to his, or their, passion.† These modern disciples of Ms. Duncan approach the same surrender. †Their movements do not pretend or indicate;† They really do approach the ecstatic.

 

Lori Belilove trained with the first generation of Duncan dancers and has done well in training her group and in presenting the choreography.† Duncanís movements tend to be repetitious:† skips, a few leaps, much lifting of the chest with the head towards heaven.† The search for passion, not complex choreography, was Duncanís forte.† Ms. Belilove has wisely restaged some of Duncanís solos as group pieces, which lends more variety for the modern audience to look at.†

 

These young dancers, though in a studio space, still manage to suggest the open air and the fields which presumably would be a more ideal setting for this type of dance, though Duncan herself did dance on stage.† They also look at and respond to each other, allowing the audience to see real people, though performing, relating to each other.† In fact, the moments in which the dancers relate are some of the most endearing moments of the evening.† Relating to another person is not part of passion, which is between oneself and the god, so to speak, but it certainly is an important part of the natural world.† And because we see the dancers relating to each other in such an intimate space, we, too, become part of that world and are gently invited into the possibility of passion.†

 

The program follows the historic development of Duncan, along with her choice of music.† We start with Schubert, progress to Chopin, then Brahms, and with the dramatic pieces we come to Scriabin, ending with Chopinís military Polonaise and it revolutionary feeling. †Using the Duncan movements for dramatic ends offers some difficulties, but one piece that stands out is Death and the Maiden, (to Chopin, not Schubert), as performed by Nikki Poulos, aided by the most able coaching of Evelyn Shepard and offering changes in dynamics, texture, and intention that are not easy to bring to much of the other choreography.†

 

Everything about this evening was welcoming.† The studio space with its two rows of chairs was orderly and spacious.† The photographs of heads from Botticelliís La Primavera and Venus Arising from the Sea, placed around the studio, were perfect reminders of nature and the desire to surrender to it.† The lighting by John Link was gently helpful in bringing us into the to the feelings inspired by the dancers, and the interpretations of the accompaniment by Cameron Grant, pianist with the New York City Ballet Orchestra, were all that one could wish.†

 

Lori Belilove

The Isadora Duncan Dance Company

March 28th and 29th, 7:30 p.m.; March 31st, 3:00 p.m.

Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation Studio

141 West 26th Street, 3rd Floor

New York, NY 10001

212 691 5040