The time is right for ‘Before Afterward’

Choreographer Susan Vencl’s “Long Before Afterward” premieres Feb. 19–21, at the Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Choreographer Susan Vencl’s “Long Before Afterward” premieres Feb. 19–21, at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Choreographer Susan Vencl has taken that well-trodden “better late than never” trope, done a graceful pivot, and arrived at the point where the later you wait, the better it gets. A Hiram College class of 1964 magna cum laude philosophy major whose life was interrupted by a decade of “seemingly intractable depression,” 37-year-old Vencl reset her downward trajectory by taking up Spanish, then modern, dance. In 1992, four years after graduating from Case Western’s MFA program, the 50-year-old hopeful followed in the footsteps of countless just-off-the-bus others by arriving in the East Village “powerfully prepared” to realize her creative ambitions, yet “terribly ignorant.” Intense study of ballet, along with the Hawkins and Limon techniques, led to the formation of Vencl Dance Trio in 1997 and, later, Susan Vencl Dance (her current troupe).

Touching upon the motifs of falling and dispersal, “Long Before Afterward” celebrates her own predilections (“an appetite for jumps, turns and complex stepping patterns”) alongside the equally idiosyncratic work of others. This 50-minute piece for five dancers — the fourth evening-length work of Vencl’s career — will be performed to a suite of expressionistic pieces by London-based American composer Arlene Sierra, and preceded by Sierra’s “Avian Mirrors,” a short musical piece featuring violinist Jesse Mills and cellist Raman Ramakrishnan.

Fri.–Sun., Feb. 19–21, at 8 p.m., at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance (55 Bethune St., at the corner of Washington St.). For tickets ($20, $15 for seniors & the disabled, free for children 12 or under), visit artful.ly/vencl-dance or call 212-388-9563.

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