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Review: CND2 at Jacob’s Pillow

In his final visual feast before stepping down as artistic director of the Madrid-based CND2 (Compañía Nacional de Danza 2), Nacho Duato has cooked up a tasty three-course meal at Jacob’s Pillow, though there seems to be a bit of confusion in the order of the courses. On Friday night, the dances were performed differently than how they are presented in the program, and it seems as if Duato switched the dessert for the main course. Well, you know – those crazy-creative Spanish chefs…

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Photos: Fernando Marcos

That misplaced dessert is a delightful confection concocted by Duato’s co-artistic director, Tony Fabre, called Insected, a U.S. premiere. Even without the titular guidepost we can see this is a buggy piece as soon as the lights come up, albeit at a low levels. One dancer is in a bent-arm/bent-leg handstand, back to the audience, supported by a vertical structure, on which another dancer perches, with only her head in view, topped with a comical/conical white headdress. Across the stage another dancer emerges—crawling haltingly—from a low structure that suggests a matchbox or a Roach Motel. Throughout the piece dancers scuttle and skitter, pairing up in stop & go groupings, and swarming onto the stage between passages as the light fades and scattering off just as quickly—scurrying belly-down on dollies, propelling themselves across the floor with heads low, elbows high. The itch/twitchy choreography works its magic by enabling the dancers to become bugs without mimicking them, through jerky movements; the staccato, seemingly cicada-inspired score furthers the sensation. The interactions among the dancers remind us that insects, too, have complex societies, including individualism, relationships, and conflict.

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Conflict is on Duato’s mind in Kol Nidre, a self-described reflection on the impact of war on children, which is less successful for its literalness, including its score, which begins in a mournful vein and incorporates the sound of gunshots late in the dance. On a stage set with a pile of sandbags opposite gauzy, wide column, we see the dancers engaged in child’s play that becomes more desperate and violent as the piece goes on and the music speeds up; as it reaches its climax the backdrop begins to glow red behind the sandbags —which connote a bunker as dancers periodically pile up on them. The dance ends with one figure trapped in the gauzy cyclone as the others peer into the red glow.

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In lesser hands the piece would be dismissible, but Dauto’s inventive, accessible choreography goes far toward redeeming it, with engaging tableaux that stick in the viewer’s mind.  These are also prominent in Gnawa, the 2005 piece that opened the evening, inspired by mystic Muslim brotherhoods in the Mahgreb, and perfectly set to percussion-heavy North African music. Women in long dresses pair with shirtless men in fluid partnering and ensemble work. Dauto relies on the score to set a Middle Eastern mood, eschewing cliché moves and costumes, intread suggesting a cultural context through the dancers’ hands – fingers flat together, wrists flexed at a 90-degree angle – and their occasional hieroglyphic stances. It’s a gorgeous work that rides the ebb and flow of music while creating a sense of ritual – in one magical sequence dancers emerge holding terra-cotta bowls, illuminated with candle-light, deposit them at the edge of the stage, then withdraw to the back for a sensual duet between a man and a woman, whose earthy solidity and flesh-toned unitard lend her the essence of some sort of dryad. 

Gnawa is a statisfying dance that shares with the two other pieces on the menu a complete integration of visual design, evocative score, and compelling choreography, as well as flawless, committed dancing. And with Fabre as Duato’s successor, audience should rest assured that CND2 retains a top chef cooking up new choreography.

CND2 performs through Sunday, July 31
Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA


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Posted by Bess Hochstein on 07/31/10 at 08:31 AM • Permalink