Magazine article Dance Magazine

Black Grace

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Black Grace

Article excerpt

BLACK GRACE NEW VICTORY THEATER, NEW YORK, NY SEPTEMBER 16-OCTOBER 9, 2005

There's more going on in New Zealand than jet boating and bungee jumping. Neil Ieremia's all-male troupe, Black Grace, an amalgam of Samoan tribal dance and American modern dance, transcends its beginnings without losing sight of its roots. This is more difficult than it sounds. Given that Ieremia's virile dances are crowd pleasers, the company could easily tour for many seasons without ever testing the choreographer's limits. But he has chosen the more challenging path of creating dances that celebrate the complexities of the present as they honor a traditional past.

In pieces like Traditional Challenge/Hand Game, Fa'a Ulutao, and Minoi, the men, whose taut musculature is suited to highly athletic movement, explode into combative, rhythmic patterns using chants, song, and movement shot through with warlike zeal. It's easy to make the connection between these pieces and the reputedly fierce Maori culture that inspired them. It's also easy to dismiss them, despite their authoritative beauty, as glamorous tourist entertainment gussied up for proscenium stages.

Things get more interesting as Ieremia edges away from traditional dance. Method is--in Taylor-esque tradition--a modern paean to the glory of male athleticism. The men fly out of the wings at full tilt, flinging themselves to the floor and leaping up with rough abandon. An arm is pushed until its owner is forced to turn. A leaping dancer's foot hooks onto another's until the second tips forward into a roll. …

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