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Where’s There’s Smoke – 2004

Music and Dance Intertwine and Produce “Smoke”

In September, 2004, four dancers converged under the direction of Jonathan Hollander, led throughout by Francis Poulenc’s magnificent score in four distinct movements. Poulenc treats the pianos in turn as the percussion instruments they are, pounding out chords that could be interpreted as the tolling of catherdral bells. At other times, he coaxes the pianos and renders them tools of the finest lyricism, weaving silken phrasing and spare, delicate melodies. Poulenc was a member of the 20th Century group of composers based in Paris known as Les Six, a trend-setting group, avant garde, yet popular in early to mid-Century. Poulenc is known for his musical translations of the witty boulevard culture of Paris, its cafe society, night clubs, romance and humor in his works for piano and chamber instruments. In this Sonata, such moments are present, but always tempered by a dark undercurrent. More prominent as a thematic and stylistic core is a religious, spiritual quality referencing Poulenc’s feelings for the Church and matters unknowable and veiled in mystery. It is this quality which has inspired the title Hollander and the dancers have given to the dance — Where There’s Smoke — and which has served as inspiration for the choreography (by Jonathan Hollander), costumes (by Sole Salvo) and lighting (by Barry Steele). Temporal and spiritual; on the floor, in the air; falling and rising; stylish and primitive — these are the scaffoldings on which the dance is constructed.

The mood and style changed significantly with “Where There’s Smoke” danced to the strains of Poulenc’s gorgeous “Sonata for Two Pianos.” The work has undertones of ritual and spirituality, but is also veiled in mystery. In this sense it reminded me a great deal of the feeling one gets watching Balanchine’s “Serenade.” Indeed, the work draws greatly on the classical ballet for its movement. Even more-Balanchine like was the way Hollander regularly used his four dancers in sculptural poses; one couldn’t help sitting there thinking “Apollo.”

– David Mead, Ballet-Dance Magazine