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Flash Review 1, 4-20: Pilfered by Graham
"The Thief" Steals Our Attention

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2001 Darrah Carr

Karen Graham's evening-length work, "The Thief," which opened last night at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, is a clever exploration of text, movement, and group dynamics. The cast included guitarist-composer Geoff Gersh, who performed live from stage left, and five dancers, one of whom, Ms. Graham, assumes the role of the Thief. In this character, she spent half of her time perched on a precariously balanced stack of books upstage right, watching the others dance, read aloud, and interact. The rest of the time Ms. Graham moved among the other performers, stealing the books they read and mimicking their movements.

Though she moved among the other dancers, the Thief rarely danced with them. A strong sense of group versus other existed from the start. The group interacted by assuming spatial positions which occasionally recalled social dance structures, then deftly trading places, swapping books, and finishing each other's sentences. Out of these group interactions, lovely solo dances emerged. Allyson Green, Charlotte Grifffin, and Emily Coates interspersed pedestrian gestures and searching glances throughout their light-footed sweeping dancing.

Toward the end of each of their solos, Ms. Graham descended from her post with feline grace, and begin to copy the dancer's movements, both a few feet and a few counts behind her. In this way, the Thief erased the distinction between spoken text and movement vocabulary, stealing both with abandon, and making the audience consider each as an equal means of story-telling.

Throughout the evening, Dan Illian, the primary narrator, read various passages aloud, keeping the audience informed as to where we were in the story -- which chapter, which line, whether it was summer or winter -- while also giving hints as to the Thief's curious personality. We learned that she speaks of herself only in the third person, that she learns by repetition, and that she is "still missing the long-ago missing." This missing was perhaps magnified for Ms. Graham as she watched Mr. Illian and Ms. Green share a tender duet, moving in exact unison, always connected via a hand-hold or embrace of the other's waste. As noted, the Thief rarely moved with another, often missing a sense of togetherness by a few counts, followed by a swift retreat to her post.

Not until the final moments of the dance did the Thief relinquish her insistence on speaking in the third person, allowing herself to move to the center of the group, and engage in complete unison movement with the other dancers. Ms. Graham's thought-provoking, tightly-crafted work, continues Friday and Saturday at Danspace Project at 8:30. For more information, please visit the Danspace Project web page on our site.

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