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Lucifer Humming at the
Moses Takes Frisco Dance Beyond the Usual Valid Subject Matter
By Susan Maxwell
Copyright 2001 Susan Maxwell
SAN FRANCISCO -- Robert
Moses's Kin finished its home season to standing ovations at the
Gerswhin Theatre Sunday. The program, which swerved from the strangely
carnavalesque to the ethereal and back again, ended with a rousing
good time. In the final piece, the entire company was onstage performing
reminiscences of '50s social dances to Ben Harper singing "That's
the power of the gospels..." Moses has an eye for balletic lines
and Cunningham stage patternings. He also has a feel for the spasm,
an emotional overdrive working its way through the body and resolving
into exhaustion, signaled often by an arm left crooked and hanging
in the air. Add to these valences a group of disciplined and exuberant
dancers and you've got something out of the ordinary here. It's
a choreography which mines cacophony and the density of moving bodies
as grace notes, giving one the sense of an actual community occurring
in front of one's eyes onstage.
A dance called "Lucifer's
Prance" began the show with a rather ominous and studied religiosity
which seemed a little off the mark; women were hauled around crucifixion-style
and static pose dissolved into static pose. The movement announced
itself as (again) ominous but despite the title of the piece, one
felt shut out from the narrative which would have lent this texture
context. Further into the dance, however, Moses found his ground.
The choreography loosened up by finding the awkward, the almost
grotesque movements which bear emotional charge. These seemed to
slip happily out of the clean technique which also fires the work.
A group floor section featuring insect-like splayed legs and a unison
theatrical shivering was most memorable. Also, the audacious choice
of operatic music by Glass layered over already operatic movement
The next piece, "3 Quartets
for 4 and the Second is Two," changed gears completely, being a
good-natured parody of dance defined (perhaps?) by dead whitey.
The two duets kicked off near the beginning with the men lifting
the women and the women held up interminably with their feet flapping
like fish out of water. There was also a tortuous flexed foot adagio
which could only make one say Oh boy, oh ouch. The sense of humor
of the choreography (i.e., gestures of affected love and support
between the couples ) shone through the dancers' readily apparent
sense of humor, even as they executed challenging, closely-timed
"Humm," set to traditional
spirituals, brought us into the ethereal realm and, while the movement's
surface was smooth and beautiful, the choreography didn't manage
to carry the same impact of uniqueness as in the other pieces. It
came off as more abstract and for that reason more susceptible to
the gratuitous arabesque or turn; a problem which disappeared, however,
in the next dance, "Lone." Where did this piece come from? Delightfully
outside the usual San Francisco genres of valid dance subject matter,
the first half was a solo performed on a pew by Tianne Frias. The
pop/technoish song it was set to recounted a sadomasochistic encounter
gone awry (or maybe aright). The juxtaposition of religion and "deviant"
sex is not a new idea, but Lone truly worked it for all it's worth,
the choreography staying emotionally quite on-task as Frias shivered
and spasmed and wrestled with the bench.
One left the show feeling
that indeed, Moses and his kin are blazing an energetic path into
their very own sultry, spirited idiom.
Susan Maxwell is a San
Francisco-based dancer currently earning her Masters Degree in creative
writing from the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa. She
has previously written for Contact Quarterly, and worked with Jo
Kreiter and other choreographers.
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