For the third year running, Buffalo’s LehrerDance opened the M&T Bank Dance Series in University at Buffalo Center for the Arts. The internationally touring professional dance company presented six works by artistic director/choreographer Jon Lehrer, including two world premieres Saturday night on the Mainstage Theatre.
The vibrant program opened with “Fused by 8” (2009), a work in which its dancers seemed to be carried along by momentum; shuffling, skipping and bounding into spinning turns, all to hip-hop-ized classical music from the group Black Violin. The work switched gears midway with a tempered body-sculpture duet performed by dancers Immanuel Naylor and Collen Walsh, in which Walsh – balled up and perched atop Naylor’s feet and outstretched legs as he lay on the stage floor – looked like the bud of a flower. She then unfolded like petals reaching to the sky. The powerful work was an indicator of the bright, punchy choreography and splendid dancing to come in the remainder of the program.
Next, Naylor and dancer Rachel Humphrey performed the forceful and delicate duet, “Here in this Eden” (2013). The work had an offertory feel to it as the pair looked to the heavens while affirming a loving relationship between them that was revealed in heartfelt embraces and close-quartered partnering.
The program’s first half concluded with the world premiere of “Cash or Check.” Decked out in Roaring ’20s-inspired costumes, four men and four women looked to find romantic liaisons within a nightclub atmosphere whose music and dance styles seemed to hop around different decades. Lehrer’s well-crafted and stylized choreography began with a tango-esque feel to it as the men and women moved from partner to partner, seeking the right connection. The work’s second part, set to a B.B. King tune, had a 1950s jazz feel to it. The work, tinged with humor, was in parts reminiscent of the carefree acrobatic dancing in an old Gene Kelly movie.
The second of the program’s premieres, “Femeie De Lume” (Romanian for “Woman of the World”) was atmospheric work that revealed the emotional blossoming of a female into womanhood. Walsh, a vision of muscular grace and beauty in white, emerged from a cluster of four male dancers in black like a butterfly from a cocoon.
For the first half of the work she stepped on their backs and was lifted and passed around from man to man, never touching the ground. When her feet did finally touch ground, she moved like a queen, with the male dancers attending her every step.
She exulted in the attention and her new found burgeoning and sensuality. The work was a highlight of the solidly programmed evening.
After the often-performed “SuperZeros” (2010), a comedic work about a dysfunctional family of not-so-super heroes, the program concluded with one of LehrerDance’s newer signature works “Pantheon Rising” (2013).
Aggressive, hard-driving group choreography blew across the stage like a gale-force wind carrying with it truly heroic figures with the single-minded determination and drive the marvelous company of dancers brings to every work and performance.