Review: A choreographer asks an independent question

As you take your seat for “It Starts Now” by Alejandro Cerrudo, the stage is already set, half covered with a partially unrolled carpet....


As you take your seat for “It Starts Now” by Alejandro Cerrudo, the stage is already set, half covered with a partially unrolled carpet. The show, which debuted at the Joyce Theater on Tuesday, begins with the carpet unrolling to reveal a hidden dancer. It ends, about an hour later, with this dancer coiled up again, as if we’re back to the beginning and the performers are ready to welcome another crowd.

The split is cut into many small sections, accompanied by a mix of electronic, ambient and film music tracks, including the sound of a purring cat and the last speech of “The Great Dictator” by Charlie Chaplin. There are many power cuts, many dark episodes with lights in hand, many hats, many dancers being dragged by other dancers, many times when a dancer’s clothes are smoky, like if they brooded.

But these are empty calories. By the time “It Starts Now” looks like it’s about to start over, that is, when it’s over, you might feel like nothing really started, or you could have stayed away. home and just watch her sizzle coil.

Part of the title is an ad. This is the first independent show by Cerrudo, who has long been the resident choreographer of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and has performed that role for the Pacific Northwest Ballet since 2020. For this show, produced by him and Joyce, he has assembled a pickup company. of eight agile and skilled independent dancers.

Her default style is a rippling, serpentine flow, and her comfort zone seems to be the kind of duet where two people get tangled up in a knot that never ends tightening. There are a lot of these duets in “It Starts Now”, and they are the best parts, inventive and tender if also a little sappy and soporific.

But Cerrudo is clearly trying to say something about time and “the now” – how it can contract and stretch, how live dancing can make us feel the evanescent preciousness of the present. And the theme escapes him or sounds unflattering. Some of the lighting and theatrical effects (by Michael Korsch) are striking (especially the steaming costumes), but only briefly. They appear as weaker reflections of ideas better executed in the work of Crystal Pite, among others.

Cerrudo’s sensibility is much warmer than Pite’s, and Chaplin’s speech (with his anti-fascist exhortation in favor of universal kindness and brotherhood) could be the heart of “It Starts Now”. Yet what dancer Daniel Rae Srivastava performs has little to do with words.

The next section, with Srivastava in his underwear, dimly lit by more manual lights, could represent a rebirth, a new man. Still, the rest of the work comes down to more tangled duets, hats, trails, broods, and the sound of the cat. Before I go back to the beginning, it just gets worse and worse.

It starts now

Until Sunday at the Joyce Theater, Manhattan; joyce.org.

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