1983 New York Times


Published: Sunday, March 20, 1983 

The annual Juilliard Dance Ensemble concerts offer a wide-ranging selection of dances choreographed or staged by faculty members over the years and performed by advanced and promising students in the Dance Division of the Juilliard School. The program performed on Thursday at the Juilliard Theater lived up to that tradition.

The program opened with ”Celebration of Lully,” a suite of dances choreographed by such noted baroque dance makers as Louis P├ęcour and Raoul Auger Feuillet set to the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully. Wendy Hilton, who reconstructed and directed the dances, contributed additional period choreography.

This was the handsome-looking, instructive dance, typical of Miss Hilton’s work, though a little less lively than previous pieces. The looping tracks along which these dances were set looked like ornate square-dance patterns, but the stiffly upright torsos and ornamented footwork and gestures of the forearms, like the dancers’ courtly manners, are of another age. A standout in the good cast was Thomas Halstead, whose Harlequin was a vivid character portrayal in pure movement.

With his airborne jump and eager artistry, Mr. Halstead was also notable in the excerpts presented from Antony Tudor’s ”A Choreographer Comments,” set to Schubert and reconstructed by Airi Hynninen. This is Mr. Tudor at his most wickedly funny, running through such ”comments” as 224 jetes, 597 beats, 65 poses and 185 turns, ending with his feline version of a ”Swan Lake” snippet, all delivered by the Juilliard cast with a feel for line and phrasing. Coming as it did after ”Celebration of Lully,” with its view of the roots of classical ballet, the Tudor piece came full circle in a wonderfully witty way.

If the ballet seemed a teasing technical primer, Anna Sokolow’s new ”Four Preludes” looked as if it had been designed to teach the proper weight of nonliteral emotive gesture in dance. The cast of four men and four women, costumed in what looked like shepherds’ outfits and 1950’s dresses, surged through its diagonal runs and reflective clusters with impressive commitment. But this was minor Sokolow, as declamatory as its Rachmaninoff score.

Daniel Lewis’s ”Moments” was a poignant tribute to Jose Limon, with whom Mr. Lewis performed. A dance of flowing images with handsomely juxtaposed groups, ”Moments” catches Mr. Limon’s penchant for the heroic as its lone wanderer, danced by the expressive Michael Schumacher, who has just joined the Feld Ballet, interacts with 20 dancers who represent the body of the dance. Mr. Lewis has skillfully woven in the many Limon works. But the brooding malaise of Edgar Grana’s score seemed at odds with the work’s abstract dance quality.

The program closed with a splendid performance of Paul Taylor’s master work ”Esplanade.” The Juilliard dancers brought a new touch of innocence to it, as they sailed through its quick mood changes and hair-raising acrobatics with exhilarating candor. Diane Butler gave it a slippery, slightly manic edge that was pure Taylor, and the good cast also included Carole Amend, Robbin Ford, Barrie Raffel, Megan Williams, Felice Wolfzahn, Robert Garland, Jonathan Leinbach and Ted McKnight.

The Juilliard Chamber Ensemble accompanied the dances with JoAnn Falletta and Fabio Mecchetti conducting. The soloists were Elisenda Fabregas on the piano and the violinists Robin Mayforth and Philip Pan. Chenault Spence was the resident lighting designer.

A version of this review appeared in print on Sunday, March 20, 1983, on section 1 page 55 of the New York edition.