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Flash Review 2, 12-18: Three Times a Charm
Third Rail Kicks it at the Cunningham

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2001 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- On the eve of its first anniversary, Third Rail Dance (co-directed by Tom Pearson, Brian Weaver, and Jennine Willett) has already assembled an impressive body of work and a team of skillful dancers and designers. This past weekend at the Cunningham Studio, the young troupe presented a well-balanced program, featuring two dances by each of the collective's three choreographers.

Weaver opened the concert with a duet he choreographed for himself and Pearson. Aptly named "Through the Keyhole," the piece provided a glimpse into the various phases of male intimacy, from tense power struggles to tender embraces. It was a well-crafted, satisfying dance, yet some of the partnering could have been further explored, especially given this pair of talented, versatile dancers.

From the same choreographer, however, "The Gift" was riveting. Sitting on an examining table, behind two white screens, Weaver was lit from the back, so that his silhouette was projected on the canvas. We watched a parade of nurses take his temperature, test his reflexes, and administer a shot -- rituals that are familiar to everyone, but comforting to no one. Peteris Vasks's haunting score, coupled with Weaver's looming shadow, made this doctor's visit particularly ominous. He paused, head in hand. A small swallow, a slow breath, were caught and magnified by the shadow, revealing the vulnerable humanity of this patient. As the nurses exited, Weaver danced alone. His white hospital gown fluttered, ghost-like, suggesting he was a shadow of his former self. The opening shadow was then realized to be a dreadful foreshadowing of a terminal prognosis.

Pearson's solo "Cenotaphe" was also emotionally charged. A center spotlight delineated his dance space and framed a curved piece of rope lying on the ground. Its twisted fibers symbolized Pearson's tangled emotional state, as he wrapped the rope around his neck and wrists, before finally freeing himself and moving deliberately away. In "Uktena," which won an award for Excellence in Choreography during the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival, Pearson deftly combined narrative text, modern dance vocabulary, and dramatization to relay a Native American myth. The pleasantly odd juxtaposition of abstract movement and more literal action, such as husking corn, created a richly layered work.

Willett's pieces had less to do with being emotionally moving and more to do with just moving. Really moving. She knows how to play with movement in time and space and keeps one's eye constantly engaged. In "Last Call," a solo for Weaver, Willett sent him tumbling through diagonal crosses, with bold somersaults and impressive shoulder stands. Weaver, proving himself to be a fluid mover and superb technician, more than rose to the occasion. "Tamarisk," Willett's latest work and the concert's closing piece, burst with lush, buoyant, full-bodied movement. Marissa Nielsen-Pincus made a particular impression, moving through her solo with feline grace. Also performing throughout the evening were: Julia Behringer, Steven Dunlap, Courtney Jaudon Miller, Tanya Perez, Mayuna Shimizu, and Susan Brandis Slavin.

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