Great leap into the unknown

04.15.10
Ailey II
New York Post

By Leigh Witchel

Here's your chance to play talent scout. For the Joyce Theater's 1.2.3. Festival, three of New York's big league companies are showcasing their up-and-coming minor league players. Can you spot the ones who'll break into the majors?

The companies -- Taylor 2, ABT II and Ailey II -- are rotating performances, but at Tuesday night's opening they all shared the stage.

Taylor 2 performed Paul Taylor's perennial "Company B," which uses Andrews Sisters recordings as the soundtrack for America's cheerful and fearful dreams during WWII. The original main company version is for 13 dancers; it's done here by only six.

This cast lays on the darker overtones of wartime a little thickly, but Justin Kahan's energy and humor as a bespectacled nebbish who still gets the girls make him Most Valuable Player.

ABT II brought a new work, "Ballo per Sei" by Edwaard Liang to Vivaldi. Although it looks like a lot of other ballets, it's still pleasant and showy, with demanding choreography that puts the dancers through their paces.

Look for 19-year-old Irlan Silva, whose story was chronicled in the documentary "Only When I Dance." He came from the slums of Rio de Janeiro to become one of the winners at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne competition. He's fleet in performance, tearing through tricky combinations like a jaguar. Stork-like Brittany DeGrofft, also 19, shows off her long legs and lovely feet.

Of all the junior companies, Ailey II looks most like its source namesake. The dancers, age 20 and older, have power and maturity. Judith Jamison's "Divining" uses all 12 Ailey II dancers but showcases the youngest, Ghrai DeVore, whose intensity and feline looks recall a young Eartha Kitt.

Which of these dancers will make it? Like baseball, there are more players than slots, but they all showed they're ready, willing and able to make the team.