Elisa Monte Dance at Ailey Citicorp Theater

By Walter Rutledge

EMD Gala Lonely Planet by Pascal Sonnet 2 Elisa Monte Dance presented a three-day season at the Ailey Citicorp Theater Thursday, May 15 through Saturday, May 17. The company offered four works by company member Joe Celej, Associate Artistic Director Tiffany Rea-Fisher and Artistic Director Elisa Monte. The concert was a focused and consistent testament to the company’s 33-year modern dance legacy.


 their roots rest in infinity by Joe Celej is a stylish trio danced by Justin Lynch, Alrick Thomas and Thomas Varvaro. The work had a strong organic sense of oneness, a male camaraderie that relied heavily on group unity, but thankfully veered away for overt unison. The symbiotic nature of the work was its strength as the trio moved through, around and on top of each other creating a circular continuum. The work also created an architectural sensuality that was more concerned with the plastique of movement, then that rendered purely through sculptural imagery.

EMD Gala Persona Umbra by Pascal Sonnet

In contrast, Tiffany Rea-Fisher’s Persona Umbra was a much more competitive duet for Maria Ambrose and Minday Lai. The two women moved with an aggressive combativeness, which provided visual counterpoint to Pavel Zustiak’s score. The crisp unrelenting attack produced an appreciated female kinetic excitement.

Both Celej and Rea-Fisher have presented in multiple company seasons and the new works show their growth as dance makers. Monte’s continued nurturing of these emerging choreographers is part of the modern dance tradition recalling Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham. A tradition deeply rooted in Monte’s own choreographic development and aesthetic.


Elisa Monte presented two works spanning 27 years. Audentity choreographed in 1987 was described as a visual interpretation of the music through movement.  Monte constructed a well-crafted full company work with a strong use of the extremities. Full and developed port de bra and supple yet articulate legs worked together to form an organic and natural flowing dance. The choreography effortlessly developed and varied patterns and movement in an unpredictable and total satisfying way.


Lonely Planet (2014) was Monte’s newest work. It was the culmination to a four-year investigation of issues that impact the planet and its inhabitants.  Environmental instability, economic instability, and the lack of social interaction created by the impersonal nature of our new high tech world were address in this work. Monte used elaborate video projections by Paul Lieber, which took us from a “big bang” to circling the planet earth. The opening choreography created a “floating” feeling of weightlessness.

The middle section moved with a driving rhythm that displayed Monte’s structural prowess. The work played multiple patterns and stage grouping against each other, while maintaining the visual focal point. In the climax of this section the ensemble moved in a tribal undulating unison, before returning to an ethereal final statement. The work ended with a wonderful human cylindrical carousel of suspended bodies.

Elisa Monte Dance continues to raise the bar through thoughtful and cleanly crafted performances. Monte is a master craftsman who has the ability to conceive a movement concept and turn it into a complete choreographic statement. The company has been able to maintain a high level of artistry while remaining fresh and prevalent.

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