Manhattan Movement & Arts Center

248 West 60th Street, New York, NY

November 5, 6, 7th 2011

Review by Sue Salko

New York Theater Buying Guide                                                                                                                                                                                                        

BOTTOM LINE:   Our highest recommendation! 

Seldom has the past, present, and future been so clearly evoked as it was in this performance by Henning Rübsam’s dynamic company SENSEDANCE, which he created in 1991 “in the hope that through the senses for a moment, we can all meet”. Trained in ballet from an early age, Rübsam been called a fusion choreographer, mixing contemporary dance with ballet, jazz, and strong elements of imaginative, sensory, and pure movement form.  This program was a memorable tribute to the breadth and depth of his oeuvre.

The evening’s repertoire of dances, eight pieces in total, all choreographed by Rübsam, offered the audience the chance to kinetically experience the broad range of his innovative vocabulary as well as to spotlight his dancers’ extraordinary and impassioned performance capabilities. They are amazingly talented, with drive, energy and a strong sense of artistic commitment. 

Several standout pieces won our hearts, as did the clean lines, elegant technique, and virtuosity of Temple Kemezis, who was partnered by the fluidly athletic Max van der Sterre in the opening piece Amaranthine Road, (2008). In this rendering, the nymph and faun-like sensual presentation of tender connection and subtle pairing evoked the feeling of first love in its purity of both mood and movement. The music by Beata Moon beautifully augmented the intensity of their tender pas de deux.

One cannot help but think more keenly about past and present than when viewing two strikingly beautiful pieces, Göttingen, (2006) and Ständchen (1991).

Göttingen, a solo originally created by and for Rübsam, was danced with effortless energy by the very youthful Paul Monaghan, a gamin-like, free-spirited dancer (perhaps a version of an earlier Rübsam?).   With music and lyrics by Barbara, it is pure joy in motion. Scheduled to be danced in another performance by Rübsam himself, we deeply regret that we will not be able to be there to fully enjoy this iteration.

Ständchen, a solo performed by Rübsam to music by Franz Schubert and lyrics by Ludwig Rellstab, is taken from Schubert: Lieder, a larger piece that was first performed at SENSEDANCE’s first New York City season at the Cunningham Studio in February, 1992. Our audience was offered the wonderful opportunity to take in the majesty of Rübsam’s unabashed love of, and connection to, the art and history of the dance form; his strong, clean movement lines were simple, unembellished, unadorned, yet totally elegant and pure.  We joined delighted audience members in our heartfelt thanks for this masterful artist’s gift of performance virtuosity and integrity.

Several other pieces were outstanding, as were the dancers, Uthman Ebrahim, long, lean and powerful, and the shimmering and sinewy Jacqueline Stewart (listed as only an apprentice in the program!) in Petit Pas (2003) a powerful piece, it is set to music by Laibach, D.A.F. and eerily sounding voices of Neil Armstrong (…one small step for man, one large step for humanity…) and Gloria Steinem, who declares: “We are talking about ‘humanism’”, a strong theme in Rübsam’s far- reaching universe.

In Nonet (a premier) with the full company including Rübsam, our eyes continued to be drawn to the mesmerizing physical prowess of Ramon Thielen, a compelling dancer who is featured as well in Tenancy (also a premier). This dancer’s finely-honed body offered a satisfying opportunity to experience impeccable dance technique. Rübsam notes that this piece, in which he, as well as the excellent dancers Maria Phegan and Jacqueline Stewart appear, was inspired by the poetry of James Merrill. There is a feeling of pain and loss that is woven into this compelling piece.

In Innocence (2007) Rübsam draws heavily on the Alwin Nikolais legacy. With music by Ron Mazurek, the sole performer, Erin Ginn, presents a luminous vision and magnetic presence of an- other world creature. Stark lighting focuses on her one-piece, shiny black leotard with open back that dramatizes each move of her muscular body to full advantage.

In Half-Life (premier), with music by Laibach, we are bombarded with the jarring sounds of a helicopter and the staccato overtones of what seems to be fierce combat, mixed with frantic, breathtaking dance movements which fight and shout for the need to be present, remain whole; alas, the struggle is lost, as evidenced by one lone arm upraised by the last survivor, if one could be called that. A most dramatic close to an exhilarating evening!

Rübsam is currently the resident choreographer for the Hartford City Ballet, on the faculty at the Juilliard School and SUNY Purchase College Conservatory of Dance, and a visiting guest artist at the Texas Academy of Ballet. He also works for theater and opera as both choreographer and director.

Among his many citations and honors, Rübsam and his company, SENSEDANCE, represented the United States at the prestigious Danza Nueva Festival in Lima, Peru in 2010.

It is apparent that Mr. Rübsam has imbued his dancers with all of the beauty and passion of his imaginative genius. To which we say, Thank you! Henning Rübsam, and Bravo!, SENSEDANCE.

SENSEDANCE  credits:

Henning Rübsam, Director, Choreographer

Yuriy Nayer, Lighting Designer

Brian-Paul Mendoza, Stage Manager



                                                            Henning Rübsam & Ramon Thielen

                                                  in “Tenancy” (photo by Jan La Salle)