It's been several years now since I last was able to attend a performance of the Ice Theatre of New York, but this year I was able to make a quick trip to the city and catch the final performance of their season home show at the Chelsea Piers rink.
This year's show differed from the ones I've attended in the past in not including any guest soloists. It was therefore quite a short show, only about an hour long. The regular cast also seemed unusually small this year with only 8 skaters total. Perhaps they didn't have the budget this year to bring in more skaters. At least the Saturday night show was well-attended.
The first piece on the program was "Heart", for a quartet of two men and two women, dressed in black with red vests. While the program describes this as "a stunning example of modern movement on the ice", I think I've seen this piece twice before in previous shows, and it's never really done anything for me. The four skaters mostly do stuff in unison in a square formation; starting out with a lot of arm-waving, then cross strokes forward down the rink and backward in the other direction, etc. They split up into pairs and do a cartwheel lift and a mini-rotational lift, transition into a circle and back into the square formation to end up sliding on the ice. Eh. Perhaps they keep performing it all the time because there's so little complexity in it that it's easy for the skaters to learn and perform.
Next we had "2:1", described in the program as "the relationship between what one imagines if there were two." The performers for this one were Alyssa Stith with a chair, and Elisa Angeli and Tyrrell Gene skating with each other; all dressed in white, and Alyssa had a sweater on. It started with an extended section with no music during which Alyssa and the pair took turns skating; she lies on the ice for a bit and takes off her sweater, and then the other two fight over it while she's off skating with the chair. Then the music starts -- it's a vocal version of Bach's Air on the G String -- and Elisa and Tyrrell skate around using the sweater as a prop between them. Mostly the trio skated in 2:1 counterpoint (as the title of the piece suggests) but there was at least one section where the three skaters were performing in unison, and all three of them were rolling around on the ice at one point. After the music stopped, there was another choreographed section in which Alyssa picked up her sweater and skated off with it. Here I thought the most creative and technically difficult skating was what Alyssa was doing with the chair; that must have taken a lot of practice to learn how to control it as well as she did. In terms of skating choreography, I noted a lot of two-foot pivoting and swizzles, while Alyssa had a repeated motif of doing a sharp one-foot skid stop.
"Meditation" was another piece for a quartet, choreographed by Doug Webster to music by Phillip Glass. The two girls were wearing grey pants and tank tops, while the boys were wearing grey shirts over black pants. It started with the quartet looking sideways and the boys and girls working in counterpoint with fluid arm motions. My notes say outside mohawks, swing roll, alternating back inside edges, pivots, spirals, swing rolls, back cross strokes, pivots; transition from square formation to circle into a line and back to square, changing places, reaching gestures, turns, moving out and then together. The choreography as a whole gave the sense of wavelike pulsing motions. I enjoyed this piece.
Next came "Mi Andalucia", a piece in 3 sections choreographed by Peter DiFalco, who'd previously done the "Tango Images" number I'd enjoyed a lot at a previous show. For some reason, the sections were performed in a different order than that listed in the program.
The first one we saw was "Gitano", a solo for David Liu. Dressed in black pants and red shirt, he started out with some angsty flamenco stomping more or less in place, and then he was off in a burst of speed to do a double salchow before stopping to do another fit of stomping. A lunge into back cross strokes, a spin and another lunge, a lovely camel/sit spin into an upright twist position and back spin; back edges on two feet, lunge, double flip, three turns into a butterfly back spin. Then more stomping, a spread eagle outside to inside, some steps that actually covered ice, and another butterfly back spin to end. Liu has fabulous basic skating skills and really interprets this music, so I enjoyed this a lot, but I thought it was a weakness of the choreography that the flamenco steps were not better integrated with the skating movements.
The second section was "Jaleo", for a quartet of four women dressed in long ruffled flamenco dresses. They started in a square formation where they did a lot of waving their skirts around and not much real skating. They did back cross strokes into quick twisty turns and then upright spins in unison. Suzanne McDonald had a step-out solo where she did a layback spin.
Finally, "Ole Manolete", according to the program, is supposed to represent "a bull fighter's intense fears". It's a duet that was performed by Elisa Angeli and Jiri Prochazka. He had a very large cape which they used as a prop throughout the number; either both holding it between them, one or the other waving it around, or winding and unwinding each other in it. They did tango-like steps and waltz-like steps and several dance lifts, and at the end it seemed that he died.
The next piece on the program was "Once Again", a duet performed by Alyssa Stith and Tyrrell Gene. I'd seen this piece performed at a previous show as well; the program notes say it's about "male-female dominance and dependence". I found the choreography kind of creepy, with a lot of pushing against each other; at one point she's in a low position leaning back while he supports her head, and he abruptly pushes her away and she keeps coming back for more. Ick.
After this, it was time for "After All", David Liu's revival of the piece Twyla Tharp originally choreographed for John Curry. As in the Curry video that's making the rounds on the net, Liu was dressed in a simple white outfit, including boot covers. The choreography was as in the Curry video, I think adjusted only for the fact that Liu both jumps and spins clockwise. Liu seemed to me to lack some of Curry's lightness in the steps, and he stumbled a bit in the series of one-foot axels in alternating directions (I'm sure that's really deceptively difficult), but how many skaters are there who could perform this choreography at all? It kind of boggles my mind that this program was choreographed by a non-skater to begin with, with all the movements derivative of skating compulsory figures and building on the basic edges and turns into free skating movements. Liu, BTW, has the distinction of being the last man to skate a compulsory figure at the World Championships.
The final piece on the program, "Pull", was choreographed by Liu himself, for an ensemble of three men and three women. Mismatched costumes looked rather like they came from the Salvation Army store, and the music had a rather happy/folksly feel to it. In terms of choreography, the repeated motif was that the three women either covered their eyes or their partners held a hand over their eyes while guiding them around the ice in a side-by-side dance hold. I'm clueless as to what that was about. Most of the time they skated as three couples, but there were some sections where they broke out into two mixed-gender groups of three. I noted speed skater stroking, gliding poses into dance spins, the girls crouch while boys kick over them, and rotational lifts.
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