Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Spellbound Contemporary Dance From Rome

With his choreography for BalletX last week, Rome's Mauro Astolfi's Spellbound Contemporary Dance made its North American debut at Annenberg Center this week.

Spellbound Contemporary Dance From Rome



The North American debut of Rome’s Spellbound Contemporary Dance at Annenberg Center Thursday evening was Dance Celebration’s 30th anniversary gift to its loyal audiences. Aside from troupes like Grupo Corpo Brazilian Dance Theater, a Dance Celebration favorite, few companies can afford to maintain dancers of this caliber. Artistic director Mauro Astolfi manages to keep nine well-matched dancers of such chameleon-like suppleness, they were not only spellbinding, but breathtaking.

With much similarity in tone, lighting and tempo to a work Astolfi mounted on BalletX last week, the Annenberg show began and ended with Lost for Words. That is, the work was broken into two sections. One, which was created in 2011 and the second in 2012.  They acted as prelude and postlude to 2009’s Downshifting.

The three Astolfi works I’ve now seen are characterized by chiaroscuro-style lighting -- the dancers work in and out of shadow -- almost in optical illusion, and an aggressive confrontational style that is body-twisting and mind-bending. As difficult as it is to apprehend any of these works’ arc, it is equally pleasurable to watch his company perform them.

Alessandra Chirulli set a high mark with her opening solo and was matched by other startling leg and torso work by Sofia Barbiero and Marianna Ombrosi whose hip joints seem to allow for 360-degree movement. In turn, the men, Michelangelo Puglisi, Giacomo Todeschi and Mario Latzera, equal them.
Lost for Words sets out to deal with empty promises, and it’s most literal phrase has Puglisi and Todeschi pulling Gaia Mattioli along by her arms as if to break them while another dancer places a hand over her eyes.

In Downshifting, a bluesy section has Puglisi, Mattioli and another male turn away from us and slowly melt into deep plié, resting there for a moment. In a duet, Puglisi rejects Mattioli who turns immediately to the arms of another man. In the final moments, Mattioli throws imploring arms around Puglisi’s neck but he drags her along backwards -- cruelly, without touching her. If this company comes again with more varied material, it too could become a Dance Celebration mainstay.

Nov 17, 2 PM Nov. 17, 8 PM Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St. AnnenbergCenter.org 215.898.3900

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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