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Flash Review 2, 11-16: On the "Verge"
Getting Interpersonal with Miller
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2001 Maura Nguyen Donohue
NEW YORK -- Ted Johnson forces Darrell
Jones's lips into a smile at the beginning of Bebe Miller's "Verge" and though
there are a few more spurts of levity, this work lives most often in a deeper,
profoundly rich realm. "Verge" premiered in February at the Brooklyn Academy of
Music's Harvey Theater, and is now being presented by Dance Theater Workshop Around
Town, through tomorrow night at the Duke. I hear there are still tickets available
for the Friday night and Saturday matinee shows. So, dance insider, there is no
good reason for you to say you missed this triple Bessie-winning work.
"Verge" is a detailed look at the
charged space between bodies. As Miller brought us to focus on the impact of contact
and the emotional weight of proximal space, I kept referring back to my favorite
"anthropologist," Edward T. Hall. Though this quote from his "The Dance of Life"
is about musical composition, it as readily fits Miller's physical symphony: "The
rhythm of a people may yet prove to be the most binding of all the forces that
hold human beings together. As a matter of fact, I have come to the conclusion
that the human species lives in a sea of rhythm, ineffable to some, but quite
tangible to others." Miller is one of those "others," capable of tapping into
this sea and using dance to express for us that which we already knew, but were
unable to articulate.
"Verge" is an obviously sensual work.
But not in a coy or seductive way. When Angie Hauser Robinson lays herself down
on a track of grass running across the upstage, or when Jones helps Melissa Wynn
climb up a free-standing wall, we are as conscious of those points of contact
as when the partnering takes on sexual overtones. We see the human capacity for
a range of emotions as four people negotiate within the interpersonal sphere.
Miller's work seems the most appropriate
of DTW's four-week fall season (self-included) for the Duke on 42nd St. Not because
it matches the bright & shiny Disneyland of Times Square, but because on occasion
Broadway is home to our nation's finest theater. "Verge" belongs to that select
group. While Miller continues to deserve the mantle of master craftsman in the
dance world, she's been making some of the most exciting American theater I've
been witness to for the past few years. During a post-show Q&A, an audience member
asked if she'd ever considered "throwing the dance away" as she developed her
highly theatrical work. Miller pointed out that moving towards theater doesn't
necessarily require moving towards text and away from movement.
There is text, as gathered and re-arranged
by Talvin Wilks, in the "Verge." But the words, along with Hanh Rowe's evocative
score, Michael Mazzola's graceful lighting and Scott Pask's inspired set design
merge with Miller's choreography to create a fully comprehensive universe. The
dancers handle the text with natural ease and still manage to maintain electrically
compelling performances. They maneuver through various states of focus and effort
with exceptional skill and commitment for the demanding hour long work.
Bebe Miller's Verge plays again tonight
and tomorrow night, with a matinee Saturday. For more information, please visit
DTW's web site.
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