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Flash Review 2, 4-16: "Transported"
Ballard's Banal Holocaust Dance

By Karinne Keithley
Copyright 2001 Karinne Keithley

"Transported," presented this weekend by Rae Ballard at Joyce SoHo, was an evening-length dance and theater piece inspired by the Holocaust diaries of Etty Hillesum. Using a chronological sequence of Hillesum's writings, the piece traced the trajectory of her life from Amsterdam to Auschwitz, where she died. Though clearly heartfelt and addressed with a sober respect, "Transported" did not achieve an impact commensurate with the gravity of its subject. Occasionally elegant but more often simplistically literal, the quiet restraint of the choreography and staging undermined the affect of the work, making the events seem more dreary than horrifying.

But okay, how do you approach this subject? I appreciate Ballard's decision to do so. Certainly Hillesum's writings are eloquent and moving. They possess a movement towards a generous enlightenment even within the most atrocious circumstances. The recorded reading of them was stilted, however, detracting from their eloquence. Underneath, in the unforgiving white box of Joyce Soho, the literal depictions of events described on tape further dissipated the writing's force.

Dance rarely shows simple facts and events better than a verbal description or physical re-enactment, but it excels as a descriptive medium with different aims. Dance could spar with Heidegger any day and claim (at least in the ideal deployment) a more concise articulation of being-in-the-world. Unfortunately, in this production the choreography was more demonstrative than descriptive, resulting in a distancing of experience more than a drawing-in.

Ballard does have a nice sense of tableau, and when the images don't get lost in pantomime, they are often beautiful. Her staging was spare and skillful, especially where crowds much larger than the cast were implied.

I left the production thinking about the constraints of beauty on the dance field, the expectations built into our training.

The cast included Ballard, Lauren Naslund, Stefanie Nelson, Karen Johnson, Madoka Atsumi, Ryoko Kudo, Jim May, Katie McIver, Kelly Peck and Karrie Wood. Many, including Ballard, have been or are part of Anna Sokolow's Players' Project.

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