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Flash Review 2, 1-3:
Courage at the Kitchen
Dance in Progress
By Diane Vivona
Copyright 2000 Diane Vivona
There is something oddly
disturbing about reviewing a concert whose title includes the words
"in progress." The Dance in Progress series at The Kitchen is one
of that theater's longest-running programs, and this longevity alone
validates its usefulness for choreographers and dancers; to review
works on this program, however, may be premature. This fall, four
choreographers met weekly over a two-month period for peer review
and support. Along the way a product or product-like thing emerged
and, after eight weeks within the peer safety net, this product
was introduced to the public over the holiday weekend before Christmas.
As curator Dean Moss explained, "This is only a marker -- a stop
in the development of the works." This seems to me a paradox; the
dance presented is the dance presented now, and not what it may
be in the future. It also seems somewhat lacking in courage, which
is ironic for this is one thing these four choreographers have in
K.J. Holmes's piece "Ice
(is never silent)" presents an interesting mix of texture and color.
The work opens with the choreographer standing still, in silence.
Her profile is exposed just long enough that the details of her
high cheekbones and long neck become familiar. Softly her limbs
begin to feel the air around her and then she sweeps her head in
a questioning gaze towards the audience. We are seen too, she seems
to say. Behind her Karinne Keithley stands in the folds of Elena
Berriolo's set, an oversized mylar and canvas curtain suspended
in free floating motion by a single pivoting clasp. Holmes crinkles
her fingers and extends her limbs, reaching and exploring with her
antennae. She disappears behind the curtain and Keithley dances
an inward, weighted solo that seems bent on excluding her environment,
pushing against it with her back, her fists, her outstretched leg.
The curtain rotates, revealing its shiny side, and the two dance
in simultaneous solos, coming together in small moments of suspended
unison. Singer Helga Davis is heard before she is seen, her live
voice emerging as the taped sound score fades. Her entrance is bold
and elegant and she is striking in a bright red floor-length gown.
She sings with pleading open arms; the dancers move behind her in
small neurotic pecking motions and the contrast seems huge. Davis's
entrance distorts the dancers' fluidity. Their energy seems disturbed,
agitated. Davis sings, "Clarity awaits me" and with each repetition,
we know she is lying.
Trajal Harrell's "Before
and After" had a promising set-up. Five light boxes were placed
down the center line, dividing the space and providing an eerie
other-worldly glow. Harrell enters the space from behind the audience,
stops to turn on his music and proceeds onto the left half of the
stage. In the light, his costume shows a witty reference to being
hugged and held: His shirt-like covering is tied about his neck
and waist with what appear to be long gloves. However, this witticism
is not carried through to the choreography. Harrell takes a trip
down memory lane, remembering a past love with swirling gestures
and lithe romantic turns. He swoons and flirts with his imagined
amour, changes the music and then dances some more. Harrell has
an expressive face and, honorably enough, he presents his lovesick
twirls with the innocence of Snow White. This is his fairy tale
and he believes it. Unfortunately, his belief does not sway the
viewer. Harrell's sentimental world of touch memory is most powerful
in his final image: Swaying side to side and holding himself by
the waist, his face is cast aside in protection with his neck vulnerably
exposed. Harrell repeats this, then breaks into an unfortunate mime
moment, and returns. In a gutsy choice, he repeats this gesture
over and over, erasing what is left of his dream world.
Cheng-Chieh Yu is a subtly
sophisticated performer. Her lithe body and wide dynamic range exude
confidence and control. Further, her vision as an artist is unique
and engaging. Her story is simple enough and is revealed in her
title, "My Father's Teeth in my Mother's Mouth." This is the story
of identity through dentistry: genetics, heritage, DNA and molars.
This is an original premise and Yu presents this as metaphor as
well as fact. She dances with a can of teeth, tossing them like
dice in a crap game as if to say, "It's all a crap shoot, how I
came to be." There are a few magical moments with the silver folding
chairs which are lined up in a smiling semi-circle. Yu balances
a chair on her head, the seat covering her face. She is metal-head,
literally. She pushes the chairs together, slowly and evenly. Smiles
and stomps her orthodontic approval. Then, she reenacts her own
birth on a tilted, precarious chair. With the extraction of the
child, six chairs are magically removed to the side of the stage.
Yu's physical investigation of this dental metaphor produces a plethora
of images, most of them easy to watch, some funny, some physical
outstanding. With David Quinn's appropriately split costume and
an evocative sound score, Yu's work appears complete and finished.
The title of Kimberly
Bartosik's work borrows from either the Cunningham/Cage aesthetic
or the artist formerly known as Prince. It is a graphic -- the number
1 inside a thickly lined black box -- and this sets the scene for
a visual landscape where movement lies equal to color and form.
The work begins with Astrud Angarita strapped into a harness. She
is standing behind a small knee-high projection screen streaming
blue geographical forms. Her discomfort is telegraphed through the
tightness of her arms and the pull of her body against the harness.
She tries to step beyond her landscape but can't. This spell is
broken when Angarita unlatches her harness and easily enough, steps
away. Landscape two is red: Cement blocks, monitors of lipsticked
mouths talking, a goldfish bowl of red water. Angarita's task is
to travel through this obstacle course. She balances and sways as
the mouths move and tongues dart, ending in a precarious descent
to the fishbowl. She reaches the bowl, grabs, shakes, spills to
blackout. Section three begins with Angarita standing over a pile
of dirt, her hands clasped and pulled low. Her energy manifests
in a circular agitation which climaxes into a frantic tornado of
arms and energy. Upon release she walks upstage, where she sits
exposing her back. One long arm reaches snake-like above her head.
Her hand becomes the head of a cobra, seeking and sniffing for danger.
Further upstage, she finds another pile of dirt and is propelled
forward, downstage. She ends up sliding face down in the dirt and
it is a surprise, it seems, even for her. She stokes the earth,
feeling the texture of it over her skin. A shift has occurred. She
is no longer of the landscape but rather in it. Accolades to Angarita
for her strong performance and to lighting designer Anthony J. DeMeglio,
whose beautifully saturated colors enhanced the filmic quality of
Diane Vivona, a dancer
and writer, is visiting assistant professor of dance at Richard
Stockton College. She received her MA from the University of London,
where her focus was aesthetics and the choreographic process.
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