I last saw Malpaso at the Ferst Center in 2015 and enjoyed it quite a bit. That time around, I particularly enjoyed company member’s Osnel Delgado Wambrug’s piece in the program. There were also works by Ronald K. Brown, which I also really liked, and one by Trey McIntyre, which I could have lived without. I was disappointed that there was more McIntyre this time around there was more but, fortunately, there was also some more Delgado Wambrug to make up for it, along with a piece by Azure Barton.
Tonight’s program began with Barton’s “Indomitable Waltz.” I caught her company, Aszure Barton and Artists, at the Ferst back in 2011 and thought that she was incredibly clever. Her choreography impressed me this time, as well. The piece was set to a series of pieces in 3/4 time, the first few of which were by Alexander Bălănescu: “Waltz,” “The Young Conscript and the Moon,” and “Love Scene.” These were followed by one by Michael Nyman, String Quartet No. 2 Mvt. 2, and then a couple by Nils Frahm, “Circling” and “04:33.” The choreography took its character from the music: ranging in tone from melancholic to joyously fun to romantic, the works themselves didn’t quite just bring the music to the stage, but the music was never left completely in the background. There was a feeling of a program to the choreography for each part but I never got the sense of a concrete narrative of any kind. There was always a sort of delight in grotesqueness to the movements. Of the three pieces on the program, this was the only one with novel stagecraft, taking the form of a series of five, bright, LED lights clipped to the black, back curtain spaced equally along the horizontal axis but staggered randomly vertically. These lights all came on in (I think) the third segment and then slowly went off during a solo, with only one light remaining. Each subsequent segment had a different, single light lit. I think that they could have stood to have been a tad more diffuse, but they were a nice touch. The way that they came on so far into the work, however, made them feel like an afterthought more than an integral part of the staging. They contributed to a sense that I had by the end that, although each individual segment felt fully realized, the overall piece was still a work in progress. Regardless, I enjoyed it a good deal and I’d love it if Barton’s company made another visit to the area.
The second work was McIntyre’s “Bad Winter,” which was originally choreographed for McIntyre’s company, the Trey McIntyre Project. McIntyre no longer has a company, but one of the dancers upon whom he originally choreographed part of the work, Chanel DaSilva, was brought in as a guest dancer to dance the opening solo. Set to Arthur Tracy’s recording of “Pennies from Heaven,” DaSilva performed in workout shorts and a tank with a white jacket with tails over it. This was followed by a duet set to a couple of pieces by the Cinematic Orchestra, “That Home” and “To Build a Home.” I wasn’t fond of the music the last time that I saw Malpaso perform a piece by McIntyre and I can’t say that I was particularly happy to have to hear the Cinematic Orchestra this time around. The choreography for both sections of the piece drew more from the music than it did last time. As with last time, there was nothing about the choreography that was bad or particularly outmoded but it wasn’t to my tastes. McIntyre’s work, it seems, just doesn’t come from a world that I’m interested in.
The program concluded with Delgado Wambrug’s “24 Hours and a Dog Suite.” In five parts, it began with a literal overture: a jazz piece that kind of sounded a bit like some very clever variations on three blind mice. As the music stopped, the first dancer came on stage and began performing in silence. The movements through the entire work were influenced by those of a dog but were not just a collection of comically adapted doggie-traits or pantomime. Movements were amazingly smooth, not just here but through the entire work. The music came back in and things progressed. In the second movement was the dog character being taken for a walk, which seemed to be through a crowd that loved dancing together. Some of the choreography in this section pulled a little from ballroom dance as the dog moved around people out and about, seeming to really enjoy their time together.
Some tension arose in the third movement, “Chased by a Dog.” Here we saw what seemed to be a pack of dogs being defensive and on high alert. Another pack challenges them and two “dogs” compete for dominance. This was followed by a dreamy duet, entitled “Daydream,” that seemed like two dogs who were really good friends out in a meadow enjoying themselves. The work concluded with “G Street,” a fun ensemble work set to Piazzola’s “Tanguano.” The final choreography was a reprise of a segment of the opening solo with the entire ensemble.
Once again, I liked Delgado Wambrug’s work the most. The theme was simple and fun but had really clever choreography and enough variety in it to make watching it a rich experience. The performance of the work was incredibly slick and natural, too; I was really impressed. In fact, the whole program was performed very well and I was incredibly glad to have had the opportunity to see this company again. I wouldn’t mind if Atlanta became a regular stop for them.
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