You recognize the man: so handsome that everybody is after him, although he’s bewitched solely by his personal reflection. We name that character sort narcissistic, after the parable of Narcissus. The character nonetheless offers a reputation to one thing we acknowledge.
However what about Echo? In the identical fantasy, Echo falls for Narcissus and, rejected, wastes away till she is just a voice that repeats. Her identify endures, too, labeling the sound, however with the remainder of her tragic story submerged in Narcissus’s higher fame.
Christopher Williams’s new hourlong dance is named “Narcissus,” however the work, which had its premiere at New York Dwell Arts on Thursday, is equally about Echo. The shift in focus and an altered ending are a part of Williams’s modern queer reimagining of the story.
The take is modern, but Williams can be an artist in love with old things. One other impetus for his “Narcissus” is to mud off a uncared for rating, “Narcisse et Echo,” which Nikolai Tcherepnin composed in 1911 for “Narcisse,” a Ballets Russes work choreographed by Michel Fokine, with Nijinsky within the title position.
The primary salient distinction between what one may think of that misplaced ballet and Williams’s work is the costuming. In historic Boeotia, we meet a small tribe of what this system calls “mountain nymphs.” Their ears are like these of jackals, their buttocks are uncovered and their penises are encased in lengthy, curly packages that resemble root greens.
In his usually realized program word, Williams identifies these phallocrypts, or penis sheaths, as koteka, from New Guinean tribes, and connects the follow to the sexual show of flowers, just like the one which Narcissus turns into within the fantasy. It’s a potent concept, which Williams’s longtime costume designer, Andrew Jordan, has realized masterfully. (All of the costumes are a delight.)
Echo (Mac Twining), a mountain nymph newcomer, is provided with a phallic sheath, and in addition with breasts. In Williams’s conception, Echo is intersex, cruelly rejected by the opposite nymphs, who received’t let poor Echo play in any mountain-nymph video games. The tribe spits and hisses in what sounded to me like sinister gibberish, however, understanding Williams, could possibly be an historic tongue.
Hope arrives within the attractive type of Narcissus, performed by the New York Metropolis Ballet star Taylor Stanley, whose bodily articulateness successfully units him aside. Echo and Narcissus fall right into a mirroring dance of affection, wherein Echo promenades and lifts Narcissus like a ballerina. However when Narcissus’s reflection (the equally stunning Cemiyon Barber) exhibits up, Echo is once more shut out, no match for the attraction of sameness.
All of that is skillfully keyed to the rating, which sounds someplace between Tchaikovsky and Ravel in orchestral shade however doesn’t have a lot drive. Considerably like Mark Morris, Williams marks each celesta scale or timpani growth with a gesture that is perhaps balletic or Fosse-esque. The impact is usually cute however seldom greater than cute.
The constancy to the rating ties “Narcissus” to the narrative faults of the music, which is extra ornamental than dramatic. And for all of its modern queerness, the work feels a bit stodgy; its choreographic conservativeness made me want the form of radical swerve that Nijinsky took, within the years proper after “Narcisse,” with “L’Apres-midi d’un Faune” and “The Ceremony of Spring.”
Nonetheless, this “Narcissus” registers as a type of uncloseted model of early Ballets Russes, and its handsomeness harbors a critique of a homoeroticism that excludes the likes of Echo. That message hits, regardless that a brand new, much less pathetic ending for Echo isn’t fairly dramatically persuasive.
However the ultimate picture is each humorous and profound. It’s no spoiler to say that when Narcissus reveals his items, what we see is a flower.
By Saturday at New York Dwell Arts, Manhattan; newyorklivearts.org.