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Feb. 29-March 2 at 7:30 PM
Chelsea Factory, 547 W. 26th St.
Reviewed by J. Cohen March 1, 2024

For its latest outing Jacqulyn Buglisi's Buglisi Dance Theater (BDT) presented three pieces at Chelsea Factory. The program featured re-imaginings of iconic company repertoire, including Buglisi’s “Frida”  (1998), “Caravaggio Meets Hopper” (2007) and Buglisi’s world premiere “A Walk Through Fire."

Frida Dance: Christine Dakin, PeiJu Chien-Pott, Terese Capucilli Photo by Kristin Lodoen

"Frida," a multi-media work that celebrates the heroic life of artist Frida Kahlo, was the evening's highlight. Portraying the artist at three different times in her life, it was exquisitely danced, or rather lived by Terese Capucilli, Christine Dakin and Peiju Chien-Pott. The depth of physicality and emotion they conveyed was palpable. Backed by a wall of Kahlo's writings and paintings, which Clifton Taylor's moody lighting grew organically out of, and costumed elegantly by A. Christina Giannini, the three women soared.

A Walk Through Fire. Photo by Lisa Meloni Ragus.

"A Walk Through Fire," beautifully danced by an ensemble of five and set to the tribal music of the Australian band Dead Can Dance, brought to mind ancient civilizations yet felt eerily prescient. One moment both men and women lifted one another up, literally and figuratively, the next they engaged in combat, and then back again. Jack Mehler's lighting magically made the brick wall behind them feel like we were in both an underground cave, light pouring through its crevices, and a ruined temple from centuries ago. The final image of each dancer raising their cupped arms above their heads, like blades of grass struggling to break through dry ground, left us with a feeling of hope.

Caravaggio To Hopper. Photo Kristin Lodoen.

The final piece "Caravaggio To Hopper" had me longing for the authentic emotions expressed in the first two pieces. The word Theatre is in the company's name but its use of props such as contemporary newspapers and wooden 3-D type face masks felt gimmicky. The piece was largely interpreted by BDT's younger corp dancers and their inexperience in creating individual characterizations for a story with such mature themes showed.

Despite this misstep it is clear that Buglisi Dance Theatre has a lot on its mind and in its heart.


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