Dance Review: ‘Love Songs’ Performed by Danish Dance Theater

March 13th, 2013

During “Love Songs,” a work by the British choreographer Tim Rushton, dancers dressed in everyday clothes swoop onto the stage like beams of light and swivel into deep lunges. Off-kilter steps send bodies gliding from one side of the stage to the other. The chief partnering motif involves a woman — often, the diminutive Maxim-Jo Beck McGosh — running at full speed into the arms of a man. It’s athletic to the point of being clinical. Never once does your heart get caught in your throat.

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Danish Dance Theater Ana Sendas and Stefanos Bizas in “Love Songs,” at the Joyce.

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“Love Songs,” performed by Mr. Rushton’s Danish Dance Theater on Monday night as part of the Joyce Theater’s Ice Hot: A Nordic Dance Festival, has an obvious problem. It’s lukewarm.

Performed without an intermission, “Love Songs” is split into halves, which is apparent when the dancers change costumes onstage and then reappear wearing similar outfits with a few more sequins. Set to recordings of standards in English performed by the Danish-Swedish singer Caroline Henderson — her voice, while innocuous, has no soul — this piece offers more surface than depth.

Wooden chairs line the back wall; when not performing, dancers turn into wallflowers. Luca Marazia, the odd man out, dashes on and off the stage to perform awkward, contrasting movements; strutting walks with flexed feet melt into sliding squats that hug the floor.

After a woman holds up her face for a kiss and her partner abandons her, Björn Nilsson plants a juicy one on her cheek. She gives him a swat, and Ms. Henderson’s recorded voice says: “Björn, was that a kiss? You need some advice. You can’t just dive in like that.”

Mr. Nilsson takes a seat at the front of the stage with his back to the audience while a couple demonstrates what not to do according to Ms. Henderson’s spoken word. “A kiss is a beautiful thing,” she says. “So no groping hands,” although the dancers respond by doing just that to themselves — not the only occasion in “Love Songs” when Mr. Rushton gets literal. In the second half Mr. Rushton places emphasis on couples in “My Funny Valentine,” performed by Ms. Beck McGosh and Fabio Liberti, and in “All of Me,” for Milou Nuyens and Erik Nyberg. But the clipped choreography has a sterile edge that the performers, though competent, can’t overcome. Obviously jazz music is an influence, but the way the dancers bounce in and out of rhythms — the pace tends to shift from fast to slow and back again, no matter the song — is little more than conventional and, as the piece wears on, grindingly dull.

At least that’s better than when the dancers visualize lyrics like, “spring will be coming, and bluebirds will sing” while flapping their arms. “Love Songs” is the dance version of adult contemporary.

Ice Hot: A Nordic Dance Festival runs through Sunday at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, at 19th Street, Chelsea; (212) 242-0800, joyce.org.

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