Saturday night marked an auspicious moment in the young and wondrous life of LehrerDance, the Buffalo-based dance company whose national reputation has been on a steady climb for the past six years.
The company – fueled by the exuberant and innovative choreography of founder Jon Lehrer – earned itself a coveted spot on the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts' prestigious M&T Dance Series. The series, known for presenting the world's top dance companies, invited LehrerDance to be the first local company in its 15-year history,
And Saturday night, before a large and ecstatic crowd in the CFA's Mainstage Theatre, Lehrer and the nine nimble and remarkably athletic dancers who make up his powerful company proved that the spot was well-deserved.
The program began with "The Alliance," a spellbinding and technically polished spectacle of precise movements that seemed – sometimes literally – to evoke the relentless passage of time and the preordained movements we are all meant to perform. The company premiered the piece a year ago, and it has lost none of its visceral impact.
Next, Lehrer presented the world premiere of "Murmur," a graceful quartet filled with balletic movement that explored the constant tension between the individual and the group. The piece featured Kurt Adametz, Rachael Humphrey, Immanuel Naylor and Colleen Walsh.
"Bridge and Tunnel," Lehrer's colorful, crowd-pleasing comedy set to the music of Paul Simon, closed out the first half of the show in fine style.
The second half began with "Like 100 Men," a new quartet for the company's four male dancers, Adametz, Naylor, Theodore Krzykowski and Phil Wackerfuss. In white shirts, black skinny ties and dress pants that made them look as if they just stepped out of a Robert Longo drawing, they delivered a compact punch of coordinated swagger. In one particularly memorable motif, the dancers spread their arms and swayed like boxers resting on the ropes before going in for the kill. The piece eventually resolved itself, as Lehrer's work often does, into something more soulful and organic.
"Skeleton," LehrerDance's first full-company comedy, shows Lehrer in full tongue-in-cheek mode. He gives us two girls going at each other with baseball bats set to "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," what appears to be an epic love triangle taking place over the course of an elevator ride and a bizarre duet with, shall we say, homoerotic and political overtones. The crowd ate it up.
As is typical for the company, the concert concluded with a performance of "A Ritual Dynamic," a breathless and irresistible exhibition of Lehrer's peculiar style and his dancers' technical skill. It's difficult to pin down the precise appeal of Lehrer's choreography, though it has something to do with the way he keeps mechanized movements in perfect counterpoint with organic ones. But it's all in this piece, as it is in "The Alliance."
"Today is a great day for us at LehrerDance, but also the Buffalo dance community as a whole," Lehrer said after the applause for the premiere of "Murmur" died down. "I wanted to be part of the engine that makes dance soar."
If Saturday night's inspired performance is any indication, Lehrer can consider that mission accomplished.
Saturday evening in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts on the North Campus, Amherst.