Review – Goldberg – The Brandstrup/Rojo project – Linbury Theater

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Tonight J and I went to the Linbury to see the much-hyped Tamara Rojo/Brandstrup “Goldberg Project.” I was attracted by the idea of 1) world-class dancers on the 2) intimate (chamber-sized) Linbury stage, with the 3) complete Goldberg variations performed live. It seemed like an opportunity for a lot to go right and, on the whole, it did. There was a sort of through-line – 6 dancers coming into a studio, watching a little TV (I imagined them watching a video of a piece they were going to be performing, as they always played recorded Goldberg during these bits), then dancing, mostly as couples but sometime doing solos or performing as larger groups. The three “characters” were Rojo, who appeared to have fallen out of a relationship with character two, the muscular blond dancer, and was admired from afar by Steve McRae as Mr. Unrequited Page Turner. It could be said either that we were watching a series of rehearsals or the same one repeated over and over again – I voted for the first, my husband for the second interpretation.

While I loved the muscular energy of the male breakdancer (Tommy Franzen) and the kittenish fun of the Rojo/Clara Barbera duet, the dancing between Rojo and Thomas Whitehead told a tale of an almost painful desire to control combined with genuine disdain. Unfortunately, while the Rojo/Whitehead duets had plenty of story and emotion attached, I didn’t find myself so caught up in the choreography. By comparison, McRae’s spare set of solos absolutely blistered (he moves so fast my eyes can’t track him when he spins) and electrified the stage, creating rather an unfortunate contrast with Rojo’s nearly uninterrupted melancholic dancing, which showed technique without creating focus. Blame for this must be laid at the choreographer’s feet; this show needed more flavors and just the zippy backspins of Franzen didn’t do it.

Though I usually say little about sets and lighting (due to space), props to LD Paule Constable for providing the first non-offensive use of animation in a dance production. It started out defining the space of the set (mostly a ladder, a door, a window, and bench seating all on one giant wall), then later served as some extra shadows beside a still man on ladder, returning as rain sliding down a window while cars drove behind, and finally a diagram of what Sad Woman and Unrequited Man ought to do to give the story a happy ending, the two white lines of the moving arrows twining together at the very last. My husband and I gave a sigh; now that was a nice bit of work.

So I hoped for good music, an opportunity to watch some great dancers, and excellent choreography for this evening, and I got two out of three. Overall, I’d say this was a good evening and a fun warmup for the fall season. Next stop: Mayerling!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009. Goldberg – The Brandstrup/Rojo project continues through Saturday.)

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3 Responses to “Review – Goldberg – The Brandstrup/Rojo project – Linbury Theater”

  1. Emilia Says:

    Steven McRae’s character reminded me of Matt Damon’s in Good Will Hunting, secretly showing off his abilities when he thinks no one is watching…

    L. & I shall be at the same Mayerling performance as you I think, let’s try to meet up at long last!

  2. Review – Scottish Ballet’s 40th Anniversary Mixed Rep (Balanchine, Forsythe, Pastor) – Sadlers’ Wells « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] Krzysztof Pastor’s “In Light and Shadow,” rather interesting to see so soon after the Brandstrup/Rojo project two weeks ago. My thought was: “Bach! The composer against which choreographers throw […]

  3. 2010 Olivier Awards – did they deserve it? « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] The Brandstrup-Rojo project’s GOLDBERG: Best New Dance Production I disagree with this. The production was nice but the output sterile. I’m sure there was something better out there that was overlooked. Did Birmingham Royal Ballet’s E=MC2 just not count? They did it in London, too … […]

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