Critic’s Notebook: A Pan-American Dance Sampler at the Joyce


Multiple dance forms of the United States were on view last week at the Joyce Theater. As a rule, this dance theater presents one company a week — but here it featured eight, in four programs, under the aegis of American Dance Platform, an annual fixture and part of the big early-January dance splurge across New York, with presenters coming in from around the country to sample as many troupes as possible.

For New Yorkers, it’s also a valuable opportunity to sample new or unfamiliar dance. It proved a truly American platform, too, with idioms including Hawaiian hula, Irish footwork, Spanish dance, tap, Lindy, ballet and modern.

I saw six of the Platform’s eight companies. Good dancers abounded; good programming was rarer. Every troupe took me somewhere I hadn’t been before, though not all had the secret of making me feel they had more to offer than what they had performed.

Best of all was a dancer-choreographer I’d seen before, Caleb Teicher: His spell keeps growing. Lean and lithe, he’s immediately memorable for the Diaghilev/Susan-Sontag streak of white hair amid his black locks, but his looks soon become less striking than his character. I used to find him sly, but what is far more striking now is his impulsive, elusive eccentricity. He’s engaging, and yet you watch him with perpetual curiosity: Who and what is he?


Nathan Bugh, left, and Mr. Teicher in “Meet Ella.” Credit Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

He’s a tap dancer who is equally at home in other American folk forms — jazz, soft-shoe, the Lindy — and he’s funny, charming, elusive, seeming always to resist categorization. In “Variations,” he and two colleagues, Brittany DeStefano and Gabe Winns Ortiz, bring off marvels to excerpts from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, mostly tying a footfall to every keyboard note and yet always revealing fresh resources of pressure, idiom, physicality. In “Meet Ella,” Nathan Bugh and Mr. Teicher bring a wider lexicon to several of Ella Fitzgerald’s most crazy live improvisations; her inspired lunacy brings out the same in them. The more I see of Mr. Teicher & Company, the more I want to see.

I’d also seen Philadanco before. One of several important troupes in Philadelphia, it has terrific performers, with high energy and marvelous fullness of physical texture. A pity then that the two items the group danced here — Francisco Gella’s “Between the Lines” and Ray Mercer’s “Super B!” — were just formulaic modern soft-shoe ballet.

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