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Flash Review 1, 1-5: Jackson's Action
Patterns and Poses of Space

By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2001 Peggy H. Cheng

Kristin Jackson Dance presented "Wanla/Weave," a premiere, and excerpts from "In Their Shoes" (1998) last night at Joyce SoHo. An internal quiet seems to pervade Ms. Jackson's movement style, even when unexpected stamping and slapping gestures accent the choreography. Throughout, there is less a sense of urgency or danger, even while exploring the large swathes of emotional territory that seem connected to concepts of survival and identity exploration, than a sense of solitude, observation, and careful movement in and of space.

"In Their Shoes" was a full-evening, collaborative project between Ms. Jackson and Japanese composer Keiko Fujiie (who lives in Nagasaki) based on oral histories by survivors of World War II. Last night Ms. Jackson showed an excerpt called "Other Stories," danced by guest performers Jennifer Chin, Kuan Hui Chew, Chiharu Ishii and Kayoko Sakoh. "A Clearing," a solo inspired by the Japanese Noh ritual of washing the stage before each performance, was the introduction to "Other Stories." Ms. Jackson ceremoniously pushed bamboo poles out of the stage area to the four walls of the stage (clearly inscribing the "fourth wall" of the downstage line) and then dragged more out as she exited by backing away slowly. At this point, the four dancers entered and sat, on their heels as in ceremony, behind the four respective poles, facing center stage and each other.

What ensued was a lovely dance filled with strings of the same, simple movement vocabulary. The style was thus spare and did not create uncertainty. At the same time, the repetition of phrases, paying much attention to facing of directions (perhaps begun with the pattern of the bamboo poles placed at the four sides of the rectangular performance space), began to feel drawn-out and too obviously repeated. The dancers drew graceful lines, held delicate poses, and performed with a kind of solitude that was broken at moments when contact was made and the group came together. Particularly towards the end of the dance, the group swept across the stage in running paths and then came together and dispersed in carefully plotted patterns, often symmetrical and pleasing to the eye. As before, the ending was a study in these patterns and the re-iteration of movement phrases with Ms. Fujiie's music trickling off and the dance ending in silence. Perhaps because it was an excerpt, this piece did not capture my thoughts and direct me towards any sense of story; instead, I found myself studying the direction of movement, the careful gestures that often carved and moved the space as if exploring the plasticity of the many formal poses that had no real beginning or end.

This feeling, of being caught up in the patterns and poses in and of space, continued for me in the final piece of the evening, "Wanla/Weave," a solo choreographed and performed by Ms. Jackson. Utilizing a sound score culled from a Matsuri festival (a Japanese celebration), Ms. Jackson explored more of a quirky side to her performance style, entering the stage with paper sculptures (which she designed) adorning her arms and balanced on top of her head. Even though this could have introduced an element of danger, it did not. Ms. Jackson retained her calmness and rootedness as she moved about, carefully placing and re-arranging the paper sculptures (which resembled partially opened greeting cards or the cover of a book) until they became a miniature house and a row resembling a wall further downstage.

For a while there was a feeling a confinement as four of the sculptures became a tiny box in which the dancer began to slap herself, the flurry growing in speed but not necessarily in emotional intensity. As before, I sensed that where she was facing, the patterns she traced on the stage and through space, were all important. However, the reasons for the chosen directions and gestures remained enigmatic to me. In the end, Ms. Jackson carefully wove her way through a line of paper sculptures with one in her hand and then brought herself, and her space, slowly towards us as the lights dimmed and the piece ended.

The costumes were all beautifully designed by George Hudacko, evocative of Japanese traditional dress in its textures and lines, yet versatile for movement and bringing focus to the graceful flow of much of the movement. Lighting was designed by Susanne Poulin and I especially noticed the design in "Wanla/Weave" where Ms. Poulin's lighting brought the focus of the middle of the piece into the small confined space of the paper box, and then added great drama to the sight of Ms. Jackson approaching us with blackness behind her as the piece ended.

Kristin Jackson Dance continues at Joyce SoHo through tomorrow night. For more information, please call 212-334-7479.

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