Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Lands in New York to a Soundtrack of Pounding Techno and Minimalist Bliss

The contemporary dance festival has become a vital part of the city's cultural fabric and is a sweeping selection of styles.

Room with a View 2022 © Thomas Amouroux. Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels. 

Last week the annual Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels kicked off in New York. It’s only the second year the festival has touched down in the city, but it’s already a vital part of the cultural fabric. Part of its power is the forward-thinking programming, covering the full scope of contemporary dance. This was on display even on the first few days with three choreographic productions that ranged from uplifting and elegiac to challenging, with soundtracks that veered from Phillip Glass bliss to banging techno.

Dance Reflections runs until December 14 and encompasses 11 staggeringly diverse shows at multiple venues across the city. The festival kicked off with the 1979 tour de force Dance, a collaboration between Lucinda Childs and Glass. Seventeen dancers from the Lyon Opera Ballet translated Childs’s choreography and the minimal composer’s progressively shifting hypnotic score with glissadessauts, and pirouettes. Sol Lewitt’s accompanying films commissioned for the original benchmark BAM production were projected onstage, layering the original version with today’s. The result was vital and compelling.  

Dance by Lucinda Childs © Jaime Roque de la Cruz

Dance by Lucinda Childs © Jaime Roque de la Cruz. Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

The harmonious placidity of Dance was contrasted with the underground turmoil channeled in Room with a View, a collaboration by buzzy French collective (LA)Horde and the French electronic musician Rone, who is present onstage throughout mixing the entrancing soundtrack live. It’s a cross between a nightlife crawl and a descent into purgatory, set in a quarry that also looks like the Ridgewood, Queens techno club Basement. 20,000 people saw the Marseille production in July, and it has it all: falling rocks, raining fish, and booming beats. Eruptions of violence and sexual vignettes are woven throughout as the world crumbles around the dancers.

The (LA)Horde trio formed in 2013, originally meeting in the Paris club scene. They collaborated with Madonna on her current tour, have worked with Spike Jonze and Sam Smith, and are the artistic directors of the Ballet de Marseille. Following the October 20th stateside debut of Room with a View, (LA)Horde member Marine Brutti briefly discussed the show’s themes outside of the NYU Skirball Center.

Room With A View 2022 © Thomas Amouroux

Room with a View 2022 © Thomas Amouroux. Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

“We wanted to talk about the environmental crisis,” she explained. “What is the dynamic of climate change? It’s collapse. But the movement of collapse, is it always bad? Or does it bring something that is more uplifting? There’s also the collapse of stuff we hate like patriarchy, brutality, violence, and inequality.” Brutti sees the show as a throwback to the electronic scene’s roots. “What the core of techno was in the beginning: queer, liberated, anarchist, and outside of traditional zones.”

Julie Shanahan in L’Etang by Giselle Vienne. © Estelle Hania. Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Last year, Gisèle Vienne drew attention for the pounding techno dark star of Dance Relfections with the stunning Crowd at BAM. This year, the artist and choreographer explored more intimate themes with the eerie and complex performance L’Étang. It’s a dialogue-heavy adaptation of Swiss writer Robert Walser’s tale of a child faking his suicide to awaken the love of his harsh mother. It’s a heady and complex work with two performers portraying multiple roles. In particular, dancer Julie Shanahan is a revelation as the mother. Witheringly cruel and glacially chic, she has a gift for delivering caustic verbal volleys as well as graceful, gestural movement. And Vienne is a true auteur, whether it comes to pitch-perfect costuming and set design or her ability to tap into darkness and unleash the profound.

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