Of human desire: Adrian Danchig-Waring at Lake Tahoe Dance Festival

Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, Tahoe City, July 27, 2023
Photo: Erin Baiano

It is a danced solo for a great dancer of our time, Adrian Danchig-Waring. The muscular yet faultlessly precise twenty-year principal of New York City Ballet ascended the stage in the guise of a 19th century poet: handsome in grey trousers and a ruffled, vee-necked shirt. And there, vivified by his expressive, sculpted face, he unveiled a dramatic dance-work custom-tailored to his gifts by choreographer Lar Lubovitch.

Lubovitch, for more than fifty years a font of sumptuously lyrical, musically engaged works of deep humanity — at last count, more than 110 of them — is a rare modern master of choreography for large groups. So it is special to see his foray into a very personal vehicle for Danchig-Waring.

The work, provocatively named Desire, is a new commission by the Guggenheim Museum’s esteemed “Works and Process” series (New York will have a look at it in the 2023-24 season). But it had its world premiere at the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival in a mystical setting — a forested glen at the northern end of the massive lake astride the Nevada/California border. The art songs were by Venezuelan-born French composer Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947). The lighting came direct from the setting sun, as it dappled yellow through pine trees.

We asked Lubovitch what inspired this work. In an email, he shared,

Desire delves into the Buddhist concept which proposes that desire is a source of all suffering that cannot be satisfied, as opposed to a marvelous longing for something that in reality or imagination can be attained. The dance begins by expressing the enchantment and sensuality of desire and ends by descending to the depth of suffering that it inevitably becomes.”  

Danchig-Waring, a self-described “dance demon,” pulled every eye to the stage as he tore, impassioned, into Desire‘s three distinctive sections. He swirled through Lubovitch’s signature circular movements. He balanced and leapt, lifting his balletic limbs to extra heights. He twisted like a pretzel into postures of human suffering.

“ADW is a choreographer’s dancer,” explained Lar Lubovitch.

“By that, I mean that he is able to transcend his formidable technique and use movement as a poet uses words; to describe music with his body and convey complex emotional conditions that call for arabesques and pirouettes to tell a human story beyond merely shapes and spins. That is the rarest kind of dancer.”  

Writing for Lake Tahoe Dance Festival is dance critic Debra Levine, the founder/publisher/editor of arts●meme. Photography is by Erin Baiano, for Lake Tahoe Dance Festival.

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