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Dance in America: Lar Lubovitch's "Othello" from San Francisco Ballet banner
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Lar Lubovitch


"My idea was to choreograph for the Harkness, because they had many fine dancers and many bad works," he told Gruen. But the Harkness was not receptive. Lubovitch took a leave of absence to do a concert of his own works at the YMHA in New York City in October, 1968. The following year, with support of the Paul LePercq Foundation, he assembled a troupe of 20 dancers for two concerts at the YMHA that were enthusiastically received, and he was on his way as a choreographer.

Some of his noteworthy early efforts included "Ecstasy," a plotless, lyrical piece to music of Olivier Messiaen; "Some of the Reactions of Some of the People Some of the Time Upon Hearing the Reports of the Coming of the Messiah," to excerpts from George Fredric Handel's "Messiah"; "The Time Before the Time After (After the Time Before)," set to music of Igor Stravinsky; and "Whirligogs," a study of alienation set to Luciano Berio's "Sinfonia." The latter was originally commissioned for Israel's Bat-Dor Company, for which Lubovitch was visiting choreographer in 1971.

Lubovitch's career has been marked with intermissions during which he withdrew from dance to examine and refocus his art. He did this in the early 1970s and again in the early 1980s, dissolving and then reforming his company. Re-emerging in 1975, his choreography took a turn toward formalist structure reflected in his pieces to the minimalist composers Steve Reich ("Marimba," 1976 and "Cavalcade," 1980) and Philip Glass ("North Star," 1978). Fueled in part by the popularity of these dances and by the excellence of his dancers, his company was among the busiest attractions on the international touring circuit in the early 1980s.

After his early 1980s sabbatical, when he retired to upstate New York with self-described "choreographer's block," he seemed to have displaced his formal, minimalist period with a more romantic approach closer akin to his earlier works. In a 1995 review of the company's 25th anniversary season, Anna Kisselgoff wrote in the NEW YORK TIMES that Lubovitch's "Brahms Symphony" (1985) "signaled Mr. Lubovitch's move away from Minimalist music and a return to the Romantic and Classical scores that led to the outpouring of emotional power in his finest works."

Another significant work of the 1980s -- and one that brought him a great deal of publicity -- was "Concerto Six Twenty-Two," to Mozart's "Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, K. 622." A hit at its American premiere at Carnegie Hall in 1986 (it had been created for the Centre National de Danse Contemporain in Angers, France, a year earlier), its chivalrous central duet for two men became a regular feature at AIDS benefits after it was performed at the Dancing for Life benefit at Lincoln Center in 1987. Mikhail Baryshnikov with his White Oak Dance Project also toured with it.

"Concerto Six Twenty-Two" provides just one example of the divided press Lubovitch has received. Kisselgoff extolled it for suggesting "depth of feeling through spatial design and subtle timing," and declared, "That 'Concerto Six Twenty-Two' is a major work is not in doubt." Meanwhile, the NEW YORKER's Arlene Croce argued that "Lubovitch's images develop no cohesive meaning ... "Concerto Six Twenty-Two" does not add up to the work it has been acclaimed as being."


Top banner photos: Desmond Richardson as Othello; the leads Desmond Richardson and Yuan Yuan Tan, who dances the role of Desdemona.

Yuan Yuan Tan, Gonzalo Garcia, Desmond Richardson, and Parrish Maynard

Iago (Parrish Maynard) sows the seed of jealousy in the mind of Othello (Desmond Richardson).

Katita Waldo as Emilia

Katita Waldo as Emilia, Desdemona's lady-in-waiting and Iago's wife.

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