WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
From Jerry Hochman, Critical Dance
"Johnson’s piece eliminates overt emotional response to a child’s (or anyone’s) death without disregarding it, and distills the movement to its essence. So simplified, Johnson converts a worthy, but tired, subject into a thing of simple truth and transcendent beauty."
"For Eli is shattering, and one of the finest new dances I’ve seen since the pandemic ended. It’s also genuine; a memorial that lives."
From Marina Harss, dance writer.
Her articles and reviews appear in The New Yorker , The New York Times, Dance Magazine and others.
Posted on June 7, 2019
“What a pleasure to see Craig Hall dance again at last night’s performance by Lydia Johnson Dance (through June 7 at Ailey Citigroup Theater). Here he is with the company’s Laura Di Orio, in Johnson’s “Night and Dreams,” set to 6 of my favorite Schubert songs, including “Du Bist di Ruh” (you are rest and peace). Johnson is adept at capturing the beauty and pathos in music—her musical choices are well-considered, and it’s clear that she really “feels” the emotion contained in the notes. She translates harmony and texture into a narrative of human intimacy and empathy. Her dancers really look at each other and touch each other sincerely. You get the sense they are helping each other along in the effort of getting through life, with grace and gravity. Humanity is the starting point. Hall has always been a quietly intense dancer, with a tendency to lose himself in the music and in the dynamics of partnering. This was a particularly poignant moment.”
From Mary Cargill, Dance View Times
"Her quiet but penetrating choreography uses the music in unexpected ways, and her seamless choreography combines a solid but not flashy ballet technique (her dancers have pristine arabesques) combined with a relaxed, almost casual upper body which creates a conversational feel, as if the dancers were talking with the music.
There are gleams of emotion in many of her dances, and "Clearing" featured three couples, Laura Di Orio and Chazz Fenner-McBride, Katie Martin-Lohiya and Jacob Taylor, and Min Kim and Malik Williams, whose pas de deux illuminated the subtle variations in Glass's music. Johnson used her small corps well to comment on and support the couples. The final movement was stunning, as the women, formerly in white tunics, changed into black leotards and formed silhouetted lines as the movements rippled backwards and forwards through the group, a haunting and memorable picture of a community.
In "Night and Dreams"Johnson used a recording by Ian Bostridge, whose light clear tenor gave the songs a floating, otherworldly quality, a comment on the emotions, not a cry of pain, and Johnson's choreography reflected that timeless, hard won serenity. Craig Hall danced in this work; always an impressive dancer, his quiet and grounded nobility blended well with the company. He was understated but magnetic."
From Philip Gardner, Oberon's Grove
"During Night and Dreams, an extraordinary atmosphere of silent attentiveness filled the hall as the combination of Ian Bostridge's haunting voice, the poetic choreography, and the serene dancing drew us away from the madding world and into Schubert's sanctuary of illusive romance and tenderness. This ballet for me blooms from one particular line in 'Du bust die ruh', the first of the songs: "You are the longing, and what makes it cease." These words stay with me throughout the piece.
Night and Dreams features a principal couple who weave their ongoing pas de deux like a silver thread thru the entire ballet. Impeccably danced by Laura Di Orio and guest artist Craig Hall their recurring duet passages were breathtaking to watch, and the entire audience seemed spellbound by the beauty and tenderness of their partnership.
Laura and Craig established a deep rapport very early in the rehearsal process; responding to the ebb and flow of passion in the Schubert songs - and the evocative colors of the tenor's voice - they savored the ardor and the urgency that Lydia's choreography embodies in this, one of her most moving works.
In Undercurrent the music provides three contrasting dance movements In the first, a feeling of bleakness seems all too well-suited to the current world situation. The music is dark and driven, with strokes of violent chords and an underlying sense of terror. There is a feeling of impending doom.
The second Górecki dance is the setting for some of the most emotional choreography of the evening. The music is pensive, uneasy, eerily mysterious. For all that, there's also a subtle feeling of hope. The dancing here - from the entire Company - was committed and resonant.....in the final section the community revels in the sheer joy of dancing, having shaken off - at least for a now - the prevailing gloom of the times we live in.....Ah, the sheer beauty of it all."
From Barnett Serchuk Broadway World
"Trio Sonata, set to George Frideric Handel, has a very austere look, yet the dancing is anything but. Johnson has seen the music and transferred it to stage terms with formations that delightfully collapse and then pick up, the music always pushing the dancers to take just another gentle step. Nothing is prolonged, everything is set, but dancers are allowed to bring that something extra and unique to their interpretations....
A repeat of Undercurrent from last year's residency brought out all the spikiness and quirkiness of the Henry Górecki music. Just like last year, I put down my paper and pen and enjoyed what I saw. How often does one come away from a performance with a smile on a hot summer night? On this night I did.
I wish others in the dance world would take notice of Johnson's work: she knows her mind-credible because it makes all the sense in the world without touching on any one theme, compelling because it makes you sit up and notice; and enticing, because you just want to see more!"
LYDIA JOHNSON DANCE/ PRESS QUOTES (2018 and earlier)
“Johnson is a craftsman and a poet; her works, which stress the ensemble and attend closely to the music, have an ebb and flow in addition to a strong emotional current. The basis of her technique is ballet, and her dancers are strong. The program at New York Live Arts includes four works, two of them new, set to a variety of musical styles, from Handel to Golijov” The New Yorker, 2017
“Lydia Johnson's work, rooted as it is classical ballet technique, is alive with dramatic nuances that paradoxically seem both contemporary and curiously evocative of ancient modes of dance.
Among current choreographers, Lydia's work bristles and blooms with a poignant sense of humanity. There's nary a trace of theatricality in her dances; rather, she uses the music as a canvas on which emotions - both the deep and the subtle - are painted. Expressions of tenderness (so lacking in our lives today), hope, remorse, uncertainty, and the frailty of the human heart well up on the music, sometimes unexpectedly.” Philip Gardner, Oberon’s Grove 2017
"I was so impressed with the evening that I stopped taking notes, allowing me to focus exclusively on the dance. Its subtlety, its musicality, its ability to tell a story through dance without conjuring one up (that's left up to you), puts her choreography near the top of what I have seen recently. It was so rare to be taken with images, music; by the end, I walked out into the warm air and just thought about what I had seen. And I kept walking for a long time.” Barnett Serchuk, Broadway World, 2018
"What seems to count most for Ms. Johnson is music. The four pieces...all showed uncommon skill at matching ballet movement to music, both at the large scale of structure and in small, felicitous details. Her orchestration of bodies, adding and subtracting, followed the texture of the music wonderfully, coordinating closely with each score's formal drama" Brian Seibert, The New York Times, 2015
“Lydia Johnson's choreography continues to impress as a unique fusion of ballet and contemporary dance; her intense focus on musicality has set her creations in high profile among the vast number of dance works being made here in Gotham year after year.” Philip Gardner, Oberon’s Grove, 2015
“In dance that challenges the mind as well as the heart, Lydia Johnson often isolates and reworks components of classical ballet technique to create a sense of life flowing unhurriedly over mysterious human stories.” Jennifer Dunning,The New York Times, 2005
“This ballet-based, contemporary-inflected company is musically incisive and nuanced. What counts, apparently, besides effortless musicality, is making a connection…Like all her dances, one view is not really enough to absorb the subtle musical nuances and underlying dramatic grace notes."
Mary Cargill, Dance View Times, 2015
‘The stream of dance rises and falls subtly with the music, in part because of the ways Ms. Johnson moves her dancers about the stage and places them, often meditatively, on or beside the chairs. Fleeting duets and solo passages are embedded in the flow, and the shifts from unison to individual choreography add to the texture. There is no discernible narrative, but you sense the unfolding of some fundamental human story" Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times, 2004