Duncan Lyle Dance Review: Kaatsbaan 2020 Fall Residency
December 8, 2020 | Kaatsbaan Cultural Park – Tivoli, NY, USA
Granted the 2020 fall residency at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park (familiarly known as simply Kaatsbaan), American Ballet Theatre dancer Duncan Lyle’s company Duncan Lyle Dance worked with eight dancers over the course of two weeks to produce a performance showcasing five of his ballets. Tucked away in Tivoli, NY and artistically directed by former ABT principal Stella Abrera, Kaatsbaan is renowned in the cultural community as a peaceful haven to nurture the performing arts.
For this program which was performed live in November and available to stream in December, Jonatan Lujan joined seven of Lyle’s ABT colleagues – Anabel Katsnelson, Isadora Loyola, Betsy McBride, Luciana Paris, Patrick Frenette, Carlos Gonzalez, and Javier Rivet – as well as pianist Michael Scales to create the ballet bubble.
The selections from his portfolio make it clear that Lyle is a great storyteller, a choreographer that is in touch with both the human and ethereal characteristics of ballet. The diversity of the works also leads one to believe that he does not desire to be pigeonholed although even from just one viewing I am able to pick up on some tendencies.
The program opens with Twelve Waltzes, a pas de deux danced by Katsnelson and Gonzalez. It starts with a sweeping energy quite reminiscent of Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie followed by a series of solos and duets set to Johannes Brahms’ Sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39. The couple is lovely, both together and as individuals, extending energy to the very ends of their feet and through their fingertips. They appropriately project to a distant audience and withdraw in the more intimate, tender moments. There is stylistic epaulment, port de bras, and footwork from traditional Mazurka intermingled with the waltz which at times feels just right and at others a bit forced. Scales’ fine piano playing takes me back to days in the studio – any viewer who was at one time a ballet student will recognize the music from class. In fact, throughout the piece I find myself day dreaming about how nice it would be to dance it.
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Anabel Katsnelson and Carlos Gonzalez in Dunca Lyle’s Twelve Waltzes.
Next up is McBride and Frenette in Night and Day, a work that would classify as one of those sneaker ballets that I don’t tend to be a fan of. And this one does not change my mind. Something about it feels a little too trendy and not enough substantial. The dancers are dressed in white t-shirts, jeans, and white sneakers moving to the lyrics of an independent musician as if they just happened to break out into improv in the middle of the street.
Impromptu No. 1 is a romantic solo that has potential (and is the second time we see traditional folk styling used in the upper body). Portraying what seems to be a woman who is drawn into the memories provoked by the bracelet adorning her right wrist, Loyola is mostly convincing of the emotions stirred by this ghost of her past but at times there is a disconnect between the steps executed and the feelings expressed. Whether this is due to dancer or choreographer is left for further discussion.
As does the other more pedestrian-costumed Night and Day, The Acquisition begins in silence. The congruence of Dave Brubeck’s jazzy music, Lyle’s inclusion of jive steps, and the men’s guayaberas perfectly suggests summertime in 1950s Havana. Paris, Lujan, and Rivet are spectacular artists, a wonderful luxury Lyle has to work with. He successfully tells a complete story full of details using symbolic gestures and choreographic motifs. Not wanting to spoil for anyone, I won’t go into any more details. Just know that this jewel of a ballet is alone worth the cost of a ticket.
The only time we see the entire company together is in the last piece. Traceries has the cast all dressed the same in blue-to-white ombre short tunics and consists of a constant flux of entering and exiting to transition through sections. Just when I think it’s been going on for too long, there is a still moment when Rivet is on center stage. The sequence that follows embodies one of Lyle’s fortes – creating an emotional bridge between the dancers and audience – and is the ideal note on which to end the show.
Featured Photo for Duncan Lyle Dance Review: Kaatsbaan 2020 Fall Residency Performance of Anabel Katsnelson & Carlos Gonzalez in Duncan Lyle’s Twelve Waltzes © Patrick Frenette