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Flash Review 1, 1-8: Gordon's Pure Dance
No Cynicism or Pedestrian Movement Here

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung

It is a nearly inconceivable truth that David Gordon has been making dances for about 40 years. The truly amazing thing is that his recent premieres, as seen at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church Friday, are fresh by any standard, without resorting to shock tactics or cynicism. And if you expect choreography by Gordon, a charter member of the Judson Church movement, to be banal and pedestrian, you'd be wrong. It is visceral, technically challenging, immensely pleasing dance/theater executed by performers equal to the task.

In "For the Love of Rehearsal" (2000) performed to Bach's "Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello," Gordon essentially suspended the disbelief of theproscenium, permitting onstage to be used as offstage. The stage manager (Ed Fitzgerald) sat with his board well in sight of the viewer, just off of the stage; the lighting (by Phil Sandstrom) resembled a general purpose scheme, with the house lights up. And while Gordon performed in a few acts, most of the time he observed the performance while leaning against a column upstage, but just offstage. (I want to personally thank him for putting the performers -- and the stage manager -- in team t-shirts imprinted with each person's name, which each one wore at least briefly.)

The dancers designate section changes not by entering and exiting, but by simply stopping, relaxing into a normal posture, or discarding a piece of their rehearsal clothing. The movement felt influenced by folk or social dancing -- a little Mediterranean line dancing, a little flamenco -- but comported itself with the strong structure of ballet. It was precise and yet loose, advancing and stopping, and infectiously musical, notably so in a section where the group clasped hands and danced in rhythmic unison. Karen Graham's mental and physical intelligence was impressive, as was Tadej Brdnik's refined brusqueness. Christopher Morgan's lithesome limbs eloquently displayed each line. ("For the Love of Rehearsal" will be danced by the White Oak Dance Project at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in June.)

FAMILY$DEATH@ART.COMedy, (which amusingly is turned into a link by Word when it's typed) alternates spoken scenes with dances. David Gordon and Valda Setterfield join the cast, which also included Scott Cunningham, Tricia Brouk, and Krista Miller. The dialogue touched on familiar domestic issues, and the dancing underscored a physical way of relating that can at times be more instinctive and direct (and true) than thoughts turned into words. Gordon mixed common movements (walking; forward and backward running with stops and starts; and spinning) with more designed phrasing that included folk dancing, lunges, arabesques, and interesting quadrant work in fourth position. Gordon and Setterfield performed a section which had them getting into and out of embraces; their finale -- a "long walk" downstage -- seemed the only way to end the program despite its loaded poignancy. The music was composed by Wim Mertens, Conlon Nancarrow, John Cage, and Michael Nyman, and tended toward a dramaticism that injected an emotional urgency into small matters of domestic life.

FAMILY$DEATH@ART.COMedy repeats this Friday through Sunday. For more information, please visit the Danspace Project web page on our site.

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