Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Zhukov Dance Theatre @YBC

Zhukov Dance Theatre
“M&W” and “Passing”
Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
August 8, 2008

Yuri Zhukov, a former ballet dancer turned teacher and choreographer, introduced his new company to the Bay Area last weekend at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ newly named Novellus Theater as part of the Bay Area Now series. The evening, aptly titled “Product 01,” focused on two new works, but neither really defined who Zhukov or his dancers are. Maybe that’ll be “Product 02”?

“Passing” seemed to be the evening’s more mature production. With the dancers dressed in muted grays, the six dancers flitted through group work and solos with cool calm. Zhukov created a movement vocabulary and built upon it, something that wasn’t very evident in the opening piece, “M&W.” Yet when Vladimir Martynov’s “Come In!” poured through the speakers, the soaring strings many times overtook the dance onstage. Sometimes, though, simple is the right way to go, and “Passing,” while tackling issues of death, longing, and separation, didn’t call for a lot of bells and whistles to catch my interest, and that’s to be commended.

Zhukov, though, got muddled in “M&W,” overusing unison to the point where I cringed. Unison works well to drive home a point, but one, it needs to be done well. And two, too much of it, especially combined with uninspiring and disjointed choreography, brings the attention to my least favorite choreography crutch (but a delicious ice cream flavor): everything but the kitchen sink. The stage filled with excess choreography, bodies, and lighting. There was, though, one point where everything came together with clarity, as the men poked their heads about under the upstage lighting while Marcos Vedoveto mesmerized me, gyrating and flapping his legs about while slinking his shoulders downstage, resembling both a peacock and a lion all at once.

Perhaps “Passing” and “M&W” reflect Zhukov’s spectrum as a choreographer: pure, mishmashed, understated, and puzzlement. With “Passing” showing promise, here’s hoping Zhukov resolves his identity crisis soon.