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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
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
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
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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