Elisa Monte Dance Company
…persuasive top-notch, uterly committed and choreagraphic invention that spans more than two decades…
…there is a fresh, vital new look to [Monte’s] work…
A gorgeous, sleek collection of movement machines from all reaches of the globe.
Stunning as ever. Exploits the power of superb dancers whose legs shoot high and whose bodies arch until you think they might crack – with each kick, spin, or leap they seem to cry out, ‘Oh my God!’ in ecstasy or desperation.
Your lovely company looks at the top of its form -strong, sensuous, spiritual.
The dancers displayed a crescendo of gestural situations, where the old barriers separating jazz, afro-Cuban, and modern dance are completely obliterated, to make way for a very instinctual and musical method of interpreting choreography.
Physically intense and sensual, the Elisa Monte Dance Company echoes classical styles without ever losing sight of the modern, erotic impulses that are its signature.
Not too many dance companies whose members lay claim to such a diversity of backgrounds… explosive, sultry, balleric, luminous, athletic, vivid, saucy, and dapper.
An exceptional company…a performance of the highest quality. The audience cheered, stomped, and whistled – they loved it!
Ferocious energy…superb dancers. ..a performing tour de force.
Sheer beauty of picture-perfect moments.
Force Field: Eiisa Monte Dance, By Allan Ulrich, Voice of Dance
Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium, Palo Alto, CA March 17, 2008
Monte’s Pigs and Fishes, Run to the Rock, Volkmann Suite, Slope of Enlightenment, Shattered.
She founded her company in 1981 after extended sojourns dancing with Martha Graham, Lar Lubovitch and Pilobolus and all have left their mark without crowding her creatively. This area has seen Monte’s choreography intermittently over the years. Alvin Ailey brought her Treading duet into his repertory and the A!vin Ailey American Dance Theater revived it this season. Ailey commissioned Monte’s 1982 Pigs and Fishes, which briefly entered the San Francisco Ballet’s repertory in 1984. This was the first Monte commission and encountering it again at the head of Friday’s program was a bracing experience. I had never forgotten from decades ago the work’s opening gambit. You can feel the sensation of weight in every flip across the stage. Monte’s capacity for conveying a rootedness seems almost infinite
Monte’s dancers possess a definite look. The men are muscular (and, more often than not, seen bare-chested). The women are sinewy and their costumes accentuate their undraped legs. Monte explores the dancer’s narcissism in the clever Volkmann Suite (1996), an homage to dance photographer Roy Volkmann. We are in a photo studio, in which the three dancers (Joseph Celej, Matthew Fisher, Tiffany Rea), pose, rearrange themselves and pose again, under the scrutiny of harsh, unblinking studio lights, all this to the piquant sound of Michael Nyman’s Quartet No. 3 (heard, like everything else, via recording). Monte’s note alludes to the sculpture of Rodin, but, as the piece makes clear, dancers define themselves by the way in which they move, and the piece explores the permutations of the trio with considerable deftness.
Shattered (2000) arrives with another industrial score (this one, by Michael Gordon) and its format is marked by the opening and closing clusters, with all eight dancers (India Bolds and Maya Taylor join the others) caught in a strobe-lit lightning storm. Monte structures the work with an eye to contrasting solo outings and group forays. The arms curl into fists and they fix themselves to mouth, palms flash and the dancers struggle for order as they leap through space and assemble in straight lines, which soon yield to less organized patterns. The tone is volatile, even explosive; the dancing is never less than stunning.
At 25, a Company Mixes Rigor with Emotion (and Kinetic Virtuosity)
The New York Times, September 21, 2006, John Rockwell
Elisa Monte Dance at the Joyce Theater
Ehsa Monte Dance is celebrating its 25th anniversary, though it was called Monte/Brown for a while, when David Brown shared the artistic directorship. On Tuesday night the company, back under the sole control of Ms. Monte for the last four years, opened the fall season at the Joyce Theater with a run, through Sunday. It was impressive, especially in the second half.
Ms. Monte has an eclectic background, having danced with the Martha Graham company, Lar Lubovitch, Pilobolus and others. She likes formalism and she likes humanistic expression. She evokes rigorous patterns yet leavens them with the theatrical emotionality of earlier modern dance. Above all she loves intricate leaps and lifts and knotty combinations of bodies.
Add to that an octet of fine dancers, handsome lighting (mostly by Clifton Taylor) and a strong feeling for alluring new music, and you have the ingredients for a fine evening of dance.
Those ingredients came together most satisfactorily after intermission. In the first half Day’s Residue (2000), to evocative neo-Baroque music by the Slovakian composer Vtadimir Godar and Hardwood, a world promicro to music by John King, were characterized by sculptural groupings and slightly effortful execution. They were appealing but seemed a little workaday and anonymous.
All that changed with “Volkmann Suite” (1996) and Shattered (2001). Three-quarters of the program used the full complement of eight dancers; maybe Ms. Monte feels more comfortable with patterns than with the evocation of individual personality. But Votkmann Suite, inspired by Roy Volkmarm’s dance photography, is for a trio.
I cannot say how effective it was in earlier years, although it was well received, but now it is really stunning. The two principal dancers, Tiffany Rea and Matthew Fisher, joined the company only recently. He is strong, almost stolid, but powerfully so; she is quick, darting, daring. Fabrice Lamego, who filled out the trio, was a vivid presence too, but the dance is really about the main couple.
Making use of some particularly pungent music by Michael Nyman, this is, in the words of the program note, a ” ‘Rodinesque’ ode to dance,” but with no loss of kinetic energy and intensity between the two leads. Whatever its sources, this is not photography and not sculpture, but dance.
Shattered matches the driving, alternately pounding and nervously hushed music of Michael Gordon with a seemingly ceaseless flow of energy. Ms. Monte’s choreography may lack the last degree of nonstop intensity of, say, Twyla Tharp’s, but it comes close enough. And within the restless group dancing of the eight, individuals and couples do emerge, especially the tireless, prominently featured Ms. Rea and Mr. Fisher.
The other five dancers were Joseph Celej, Jon DeMone, Amber Mayberry, Karen More and Maya Taylor.
ARTS AND CULTURE CENTER OF HOLLYWOOD, HOLLYWOOD, FL
Dance Magazine, July 2006, Guillermo Perez
Whether an Elisa Monte dance lurches in fast-forward or lingers on a juncture for precarious poses, it quickens the pulse. The rush seems full of ritualistic purpose, and stationary figures loom with totemic magic. That primal power infused much of the work Monte’s eight-member troupe performed in South Florida.
In the ensemble pieces, Shattered and Dreamtime, the tribal advance and retreat purposeful, if not obsessive prevailed at a clip. The trios, Volkmann Suite and Tears Rolling, simmered with more fragile sensibilities. Yet all compositions revealed raw nerves. Inhabitants of Monte’s world, it seems, can little afford to take it easy or, even less, crack a smile.
In Dreamtime, to David van Teighem’s stabbing music, the group staked out territory, their march having the ebb and flow of an obstinate tide. After a solo, impressive Karen More took over as leader; physically supple and fixated on keeping everyone on a communal path, she passed on her moves like a gift or dictum.
Shattered brought thunder with Michael Gordon’s score. The action, as clusters of dancers spread out and then paired up, could look like stormy discharges: whirls, jittery footwork, big leaps. Clifton Taylor’s lighting, using strobes, flashed for vigorous encounters.
Despite their tramping stride, these dances also depended on gestural details (arms up, palms out, for instance, in a sort of salute in Dreamtime; the fist-to-mouth distress signals in Shattered). And between pulsating lineups of dancers, focus would narrow for milder declarations.
That kind of intimacy blossomed in the three-person pieces, especially as performers coalesced into blissful circles-face to face, joining hands-amid longing or strife. With More, Laneere Costas, and Katherine Horrigan, Team Rolling (to Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, a rich layering of violin and piano) also yielded yearning solos; in Volkmann Suite, to Michael Nyman’s String Quartet No. 3, Tiffany Rea, Matthew Fisher, and Fabrice Lamego often closed in for clinging duets.
The evoked scenarios and turned-up emotions weren’t the only source of interest. Monte is as mindful of structural niceties as of drama. In the balancing of flow and visual density, in the apportionment of energy, her material gained impact.