To celebrate its four decades, two world premieres – one by the master himself, and the other by Fagan’s protégé and longtime principal dancer, Norwood Pennewell – are on the boards for Garth Fagan Dance’s Joyce Theater season, November 9-14. The week of shows also features Fagan classics such as “Passion Distanced” dating back to 1987.
Fagan’s premiere, aptly entitled “Thanks Forty,” a celebration of his company’s four decades, is set to cello music by Shostakovitch, a melodic percussion score by Angolian composer Bonga Kwenda and Gerald Albright’s music for tenor, alto and baritone sax. The dance opens with a solo for Nicolette Depass, an homage to the toughness, strength and femininity of women. The physical virtuosity and sensual power of men is celebrated in an all-male quartet, while the third section, a lyrical and rhythmically complex quartet for women, brims with tender generosity. The fourth section unites the nine performers, with Fagan veterans Norwood Pennewell and Steve Humphrey making cameo appearances.
A work for 11 performers, Norwood Pennewell’s contribution to the season, “Hylozoic,” marks the 52 year-old virtuosic dancer’s first foray into choreography. While calling on Fagan’s polyrhythmic use of the body, the work also gives a nod to post modern dance. Shot through with Pennewell’s whimsical wit and optimism, the lyrical, abstract work includes partnering that adds an emotional dimension to the dance.
The season also features last year’s hit, “Mudan 175/39,” set to selections from “Dim Sum,” the Ying Quartet’s Telarc recording of classical and contemporary Chinese music. In response to the music’s unique complexity, Fagan created a series of interconnected solos, duets, trios and group pieces sharpened by unexpected dynamic changes and eruptions of fiendish rhythms that demand a change-on-a-dime precision from the performers.
Set to music by “The Lion King” composer Lebo M, “Woza,” which premiered in 1999 and means come and also come celebrate in Zulu, suggests a voyage whose initial mystery culminates with a sense of arrival and celebration. Performed to music by Wynton Marsalis, “Spring Yaounde,” is a passionate and sensual duet from Fagan’s full-evening classic “Griot New York.” The dance was premiered as part of BAM’s 1991 Next Wave Festival. Excerpts from Fagan’s 2006 “Senku” and 2003 “DANCECOLLAGEFORROMIE” will also be showcased.
And finally, select evenings will open with “Prelude: Discipline is Freedom,” a classic introduction to Fagan’s singular style distinguished by its complex polyrhythmic demands on the dancers and its fusion of ballet, modern and Afro-Caribbean dance. Created in 1983, the dance is set to music by Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) and Max Roach.
Following its Joyce season, Garth Fagan Dance will perform in Rochester, NY (November 30-December 5); Denton, TX (February 1); Baton Rouge, LA (February 4); Grand Rapids, MI (February 19); Charlotte, NC (March 29-April 3); and Conway, SC (April 5).