Sometimes less really is more

Configuration Dance Theatre
Center for the Arts – University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY
May 3, 2009
Reviewed by Steve Sucato

In the final performance of their latest production, Configuration Dance Theatre showed, they have the goods to warrant continued national attention. They also showed they are still very much a young dance troupe struggling with the recent switch from being a pick-up company made up of mostly seasoned ballet professionals, to now a full-time contemporary dance company made up of younger dancers.

Choreographically, the program suffered similar ills. There were several knock-your-sox-off moments and just as many that were far from stellar.

The program opened with LehrerDance director/choreographer Jon Lehrer’s Fusion for 6. Set to a hip-hop/classical music amalgam by Black Violin, Lehrer’s work exploded from the outset in a fury of contemporary ballet movement executed by 6 dancers who pitched and rocked their torsos forwards and back into straight legged extensions that rapidly flowed into quick turns and pirouettes. Signature Lehrer in its power and intense physicality, Configuration’s younger dancers had trouble keeping up with the work’s rapid pace and non-stop changes in body position. Despite the company’s somewhat erratic performance of it, choreographically Fusion for 6 was a solid and engaging work.

In the second pas de deux former American Ballet Theatre star Susan Jaffe has choreographed for Configuration, Jaffe, somewhat new to choreographing, showed she has the potential to perhaps shine as a choreographer as brightly as she did as a dancer. Her pas de deux Royenne, set to music by Bach, was world-class. Its elegant and sharp ballet movements were delivered adroitly by dancers Erica De LA O and Raul Peinado.

Where Jaffe’s pas de deux soared, Configuration resident choreographer Michael Shannon’s latest work Been There, Done That, barely left the ground. The overly ambitious ballet spanning a human life cycle, packed into it slapstick humor, cliché, and an up and down level of choreographic skill that ranged from genius to that of a recital.

Within the ballet (which if it were farce throughout might have worked better) were two dances that were utterly superb and could have stood on their own. The opening trio of the section “Girls Will Be Girls and Boys Will Be Boys” was one. After a slight wardrobe mishap, dancers Youngsil Kim, Kristen Prescott and Kontono Yamazaki sailed through Shannon’s well-crafted European-influenced choreography marked with clever gesture and phrasing. The other notable moment came in “What Happened to Us”, a ravishing pas de deux performed with passion by Kim and Peinado.

The program closed with artistic director Joseph Cipolla’s Breathless. Like Shannon’s ballet, Breathless suffered from an identity crisis. The work tried to be too many things from a contemporary salon work to a Latin-infused jazz dance, and a ballet work. Each independently worked to varying degrees; together not so much. The work’s lone gem was a crisp and clean ballet pas de deux performed skillfully by De LA O and Peinado.

This review appeared in a shortened version May 5, 2009 in The Buffalo News.

All Photos Courtesy of Configuration Dance Theatre
Photo 1 – dancer Lauren Fischer
Photo 2 – dancers Misty Copeland and Raul Peinado

For more information on Configuration Dance Theatre visit

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