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Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009

Turtle Island Quartet, Luna Negra Dazzle at Wilson Center

Dance Review

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In a move of programming both bold and innovative, the Turtle Island Quartet came to the Wilson Center for the Arts for two nights last weekend. The sold-out performances kept audiences spellbound, whether the quartet played solo or in collaboration with Luna Negra Dance Theater and jazz clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera.

Friday’s tour de force performance featured the quartet’s Grammy-award winning classical string translation of the John Coltrane jazz masterpiece, A Love Supreme. With two violins, a cello and viola, the multitalented quartet demonstrated the timelessness of the seminal 1965 work that fused bebop with free jazz stylings.

Saturday was just as groundbreaking, as the Chicago-based Luna Negra Dance Theater performed three works, building to a triumphant crescendo for the evening’s finale. In the 22-minute opener Nube Blanco (White Cloud),choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa added a twist to the traditional Spanish footwork of flamenco dancing by including modern flair and humor. In one section, dancers comically wore one red shoe while incorporating classic ballet moves.

Sugar in the Raw (Azucar Cruda) mesmerized in its undulating sensuality as the dancers writhed and intertwined with one another underneath separate overhead spotlights, pairing up and separating to evoke the raw nature of the human form and its inner emotions.

In the final piece, Luna Negra founder Eduardo Vilaro took the 2002 Turtle Island/Paquito D’Rivera recording, Danzón (named after the classic Cuban dance), and celebrated its culture while reviving its joyous spirit. Like a pied piper to an enchanted child, jazz clarinet virtuoso D’Rivera moved about the stage and effortlessly ran scales as a male dancer playfully responded to the music. The evening was a delight for all the senses.