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The Art of Isadora – Lori Belilove and The Isadora Duncan Dance Company, with guest artist Sara Mearns, at The Joyce Theater

by Robert Abrams
June 19, 2017
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
For more about the Isadora Duncan Dance Company, go to isadoraduncan.org
Tonight’s show proved that the Duncan style is more than maidens frolicking languidly in a spring meadow. It is, but tonight, given the evidence before the audience and the current cultural moment, the maidens might have been Amazons dancing in a spring meadow responding to, and maybe generating, a stiff wind.

The dancers had a fast tempo and forward energy I haven’t seen in Duncan before, yet it was still elemental Duncan. Just when I thought this was another example of choreography as an extended moment in time, however fine that moment, Ms. Belilove set the younger dancers in context with a stately, upward energy. (It turned out, by the end of the show, that Ms. Belilove was setting up expectations only to shatter them: she danced with forward energy too when the choreography needed it.)

At one point the choreography presented rending anguish, with claws one might imagine dripping blood. And yet still it was Duncan.

Previous to tonight, I have mostly seen Duncan on smaller stages. Tonight the dancers occupied the whole Joyce stage. They consistently danced with full out attack, and poise held at the end of their extensions.

Special guest artist Sara Mearns, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, danced Duncan for the first time tonight. Her dance had both quiet and power. It concentrated the variety found in the show in one number. Should Ms. Mearns find herself at, say, the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London, and the airline has lost her dance shoes, she will have a long and acclaimed dance career regardless.

While the show showcased the wide range of the Duncan style, it did omit one step: Tango. Next time.

The other thing Ms. Belilove needs to add is a matinee, no longer than an hour, followed by cupcakes. Ms. Belilove and her lineage provide a great service to the growth of the dance community by teaching kids with firm, gentle, creative guidance. Those kids need a show that is designed for them, and for parents who want to share dance with them, without watering down the artistry.

The heavens opened up a few hours before the show. Despite this, The Joyce was full for this special one night only performance. I would argue that Ms. Belilove and her company, including Ms. Mearns, channeled the raw power of the storm into their dance.
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