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Some of a Thousand Words by Wendy Whalen #Artsideas16

WendyAs this year’s Festival of Arts and Ideas heads into the home-stretch, we enjoyed the world premiere of ballerina Wendy Whalen’s new modern dance performance, “Some of a Thousand Words,” done in collaboration with choreographer Brian Brooks and music by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Once again, I’m at a loss for vocabulary.

Whalen is the former principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, and Brooks is a modern choreographer with whom she’s been working since 2012. Their Philip Glass-accompanied piece “Fall Falls” debuted in Vail in 2013; the show in New Haven contains that piece and four others, including a stunning silent dance.

I don’t have words for the gorgeous abstraction of the dances, the impossible length and reach of the dancers’ arms and legs, or the clever playfulness of especially the dance that involved two chairs, off of which each dancer would slouch and impinge upon the other’s space.

I’ll remember two moments especially. The first is Whalen repeatedly and gently falling onto Brooks’s back during “Fall Falls,” with her body remaining perfectly still until he caught her weight on his shoulders. For a moment she remained perfectly straight, as if weightless. Isn’t weightlessness — flight — the dream of dance?

The other moment I’ll remember was watching her walk slowly across the stage, after an astounding series of solo moves and turns. She’d taught the audience to expect miracles, but she was now just walking across the stage, not flying or turning or jumping. Not yet.

Just two more days of Festival 2016!

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