Donald Byrd’s “Septet” & Spectrum Dance Theater at City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage…

August 22, 2014

Donald Byrd’s latest work Septet, constructed around and through Charles Wuorinen’s modernist string quartet, is a work for a quartet and trio. Homage to past masters of dance such as George Balanchine and Merce Cunningham are woven into Mr. Byrd’s tapestry of movement. Nothing overt or obvious but as if Mr. Byrd’s intention is to acknowledge their mastery, to give the viewer a visual nudge or gentle reminder of their undeniable genius.

Mr. Byrd has been labeled the next George Balanchine and known for how he integrates black vernacular dancing with ballet. He applies construction and deconstruction, order and disorder like colors on a canvas. They are masterful applied like layers, establishing structure that is supported by the score’s complex melody and rhythm. The choreographer is not opposed to going against the grain of the music; he may use stillness to highlight a complex phrase or create phrases of movement that are rapid and repetitive to juxtapose moments of quiet reflection.

In Septet the choreography shifts from simple to complex instantly and then back again. Mr. Byrd’s work has been labeled post-classical for his use of the body in space, its application to musical phrasing and for the ways he un-expectantly bleeds/blends/merges abstraction into his movement.

The seven dancers shine on stage, each remarkable and exquisitely trained, each committed and expressive. Enough can be said for Jade Solomon Curtis, she dances with a silky lyricism and an internal calm that is marvelous to watch. When she is on stage you cannot take your eyes off her. Alex Crozier is a master technician but he is so much more than that. Emotion flows through his dancing, each movement, each gesture seems laced with meaning.

As stated, Septet is a work for a quartet and trio. The two groups are like satellites caught in the gravity of the same star. The trio maintains a protagonist role and create moments that seem a dialogue that combines movement and emotion with seamless application

The quartet of dancers, all in black, follows the trio on stage. They are reminiscent of a Greek chorus, observing and commenting of the trio. Their movement is expressive and angular.

In both groups the body in space is fully explored, you see the hyper extended limbs, swiveling hips and rolling shoulder, the dancers occasionally slapping their bodies. In the duets who is control, whether it is the man or the woman becomes a blurry line.

Donald Byrd and his work were brilliant in the 90’s, I remember being blown away by such works as Life Situations: Daydreams on ‘Giselle’, The Beast: The Domestic Violence Project, Harlem Nutcracker and of course the Minstrel Show. Now with Donald Byrd’s Septet, there exists the undeniable evidence that Mr. Byrd has entered into the realm of genius…

Donald Byrd became Artistic Director of Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater in December 2002. From 1978 –2002, he was Artistic Director of Donald Byrd/The Group, a critically acclaimed contemporary dance company, founded in Los Angeles and later based in New York. He has created over 80 modern dance works for his own groups as well as the Alvin Ailey Company, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco) as well as for classical companies, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet and Aterballetto.

His most recent works for Spectrum include a cycle of three evening-length works called Beyond Dance: Promoting
Awareness and Mutual Understanding (PAMU), which featured World Premieres of A Chekhovian Resolution, created with Israeli choreographers Nir Ben Gal and Liat Dror; Farewell: A Fantastical Contemplation on America’s Relationship with China; and most recently, The Mother of Us All, a complex meditation on contemporary Africa.