Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet
"Where Are You My Love", "In C", "Ex Machina"
June 17, 2003 -- Peacock Theatre/ London
The Los Angeles based Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet is appearing here for the first time and consequently I approached them without any preconceptions about the company or its style. First and foremost I have to say that this is a company that looks very good. The technical abilities of the individual dancers is very high indeed with all of them having impressive C.V.’s. On the choreographic side Mr Rogers produces attractive works that are involving though without breaking any new ground.
The first ballet of the evening "Where are you My Love" is inspired by film noir murder mysteries of the 1940’s according to the programme. It opens to a soundtrack of a woman’s footsteps hurrying along a pavement in the rain, but the theme of danger isn’t maintained and instead we seem to be transported to a film studio where the dancers follow one another with mobile lights and later encircle one another with torches. The music is wonderful: Charlie Haden and Quartet West producing some real smoochy late-night jazz that sounded fabulous behind the central sinuous pas de deux. Rather an oddity was a male solo where the dancer had as a prop a kind of space hopper affair in bight green. The ballet finishes as it stars with the sound of footsteps in the rain.
"IN C" is an abstract work that totally reflects Terry Riley’s minimalist score. There are many fast entrances and exits with different combinations of dancers and I felt that this work and the next ballet "Ex Machina" are exercises to display the outstanding abilities of the dancers to their fullest extent. "Ex Machina" was accompanied by an electric cello, a new instrument to me, but I wasn't keen.
The final work of the evening rejoiced in the title of "Cabin Fever (Part 2)" and is inspired by the dark side of “Beverley Hills bathing Beauties”. Certainly the entire cast is dressed for the beach with the men in their swimming trunks and the ladies in some wonderfully chic costumes by Chanel. In fact they look rather like an up market version of Bay watch without implants. Although the entire company of twelve is on stage for this, the highlight for me was a pas de deux in which the woman is lifted while curled up in a ball and then draped, totally limp, across her partners left shoulder, later with arms and legs outstretched she is manipulated like a giant star fish. Not sure what the choreographer was saying there, but it was fascinating to watch.
To sum up, this is a company that stresses the virtuosity of its dancers. The choreography is at times more classical than you might expect, with beautiful supported penchee arabesques and fast multi directional chainee turns, but above all the company looks good and dances even better.
Edited by Stuart Sweeney
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