DEMO is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Produced by Damian Woetzel of New York City Ballet fame (and newly-appointed president of The Julliard School), DEMO is a Kennedy Center theatre experience where neither the performers nor the audience know exactly what to expect. And that’s part of the charm of the series, now in its fourth year. The title of this fall’s performance pays homage to Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering as it fosters the community that is so vital to the arts.
This evening’s performance highlights some of the best in the performing arts industry and although this review focuses on the dance pieces, it is not to suggest that the others are of less significant. In fact, it is the quartet Brooklyn Rider‘s gorgeous interpretation of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 2, “Company” that ties the rest of the acts together. It is brilliant to break the piece up into its four movements interspersed throughout the show, each one coming to a sudden halt with musicians frozen mid-stroke; this is gloriously fitting for the chilling, haunting composition. Also, the thought-provoking poetry by Sarah Kay is spoken by the author herself, her powerful carriage and expression at times accompanied by composer and musician Caroline Shaw. It is a lovely collaboration as is the entire presentation, all artists always present on the stage while their esteemed colleagues are in the spotlight. To witness their admiration and appreciation for one another is almost as entertaining as the works themselves. The positive energy that embraces the Terrace Theater is a welcoming refuge filled with hope, happiness, and harmony.
On the dance front, we see four distinct pieces ranging from a work-in-process to an established crowd favorite as well as two works commissioned by the Vail Dance Festival (of which Woetzel is the Artistic Director) in 2018. After the first movement of “Company” is 3Body, a creation by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener who are also the two dancers alongside New York City Ballet’s Lauren Lovette. The trio continuously check-in with each other, their faces our portal into their fun conversation. There is a sense that we are along for the ride as they experiment with movements, discovering what designs they can create with their bodies both individually and as a team. Their group hug and smiles during the bows is telling of the joy they feel working together.
After the second movement of “Company” we are treated to A Suite of Dances. If only Jerome Robbins had choreographed to all of the movements to all of Bach’s Six Suites for Cello, the audience could have seen Herman Cornejo dance even more. But alas, there are only four in A Suite of Dances. Brooklyn Rider cellist Michael Nicolas and Cornejo delight us in their playful partnership, the dancer bravely responding to the musician’s challenges to continue; Cornejo incredibly balances the choreography’s virtuosic steps with the casual, pedestrian movements. He follows a remarkable lineage of influential male ballet dancers in this ballet – DEMO’s very own Woetzel danced this role in its New York City Ballet revival of the original work created for Mikhail Baryshnikov.