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Flash Review 3, 4-27: "Where's My Pumpkin?"
Searching the Past with Ariane Anthony

By Karinne Keithley
Copyright 2001 Karinne Keithley

Ariane Anthony fancies a past somewhere between the archaic and the nostalgic, or at least that's my guess based on her eponymous company's season at Joyce SoHo this weekend. Working with a hodgepodge of influences at her disposal, Anthony's work is firmly before and also elsewhere, and when it's working, it charms you into wanting to go there. Whenever it was.

Watching "And So On," a trio for a man, a thought and a second thought, and based on Samuel Beckett, I had an equation in mind for Anthony's particular hybrid choreographic form (the hybrid generation: post-deconstruction etc.?). I thought: spare formal/structural elements, as befits totally abstract choreography, yet with images and a physicality which have character and are at least older than retro. As the evening went on, however, the tight form got looser and the character got louder.

I found "And So On" to fulfill a mixture of opposites. There's a warm and cold dynamic between the image of the three men (in dusty brown pants, suspenders and hat) and the structural deployment of their actions (sparely repeating, with perhaps a small set of variables, each action or situation until it is time to move on to the next). The performers countered the slow repetition by allowing themselves a narrative immediacy. Looking like a dustbowl threesome of sweet-faced Missouri boys, they went through a course of mundane obstacles, from walking forward to crawling out from under a mimed wall. More towards a quiet clowning than deadpan, over time the behavior began to accumulate a deeper and more meaningful resonance. The piece is goofy, beautifully constructed, curious.

"Current," for a quintet of woman, had strong elements, but lacked the cohesion of the former piece. The five women are in period blue costume (just pick a period -- they spanned about 200 years between the five of them). There's certainly a narrative sense about the piece -- not only is everyone in an ornate costume, but also they dance as though behaving, responding to something. Images of sailor wives gazing out to sea come up early on, though later the women seem to simply be the current. There is a basic confusion to the piece. The firmest thing is that something unidentifiable, only round-aboutly datable, but somewhat recognizable, is happening. But to what end? Made up of countless sections stopping and starting a little clumsily to a disjointed musical score, "Currents" runs in circles. Though there are many superb images, though there are individual sections that are elegantly assembled and thought out, ultimately it is inconclusive.

Anthony's new solo, "Where is my Pumpkin?" employs all her charm and artistry. A parable told by a child, an old lady and a young lady (a morphing Anthony), "Where is my Pumpkin?" is a story about loss and contentment, told simply and effectively by Anthony. She talks most of the time, dances a 'journey' some of the time. Her clowning and Commedia Dell'arte training support the telling of the story.

If only the shaping, arrangement and delivery of the text in "Playground" was as well done as it was in "Pumpkin." The closing piece of the evening was a letdown for me. "Playground" was literally a playground dance, beginning with a classroom scene, moving into re-constructions of playground games. Much of the piece was spent in the dangerous combo of talking/moving/acting childlike. Stories were told by each of the performers about things like monsters under the bed, playground incidents, and grilled cheese friendship incentives. While one person was talking, the others on stage would make quirky phrases in their own timing. These sections were like a scene from improv class. There was a lack of orchestration that was incongruous with the quality of the rest of the work. I think my Mom would have thought this piece was cuteƒ but appealing and charming as Anthony is, and as much as she plays up her child-like wonder, I think she is going for something more layered than this set of games and stories.

At their best, Anthony's works take that wonder towards an enchanting, smart place. She certainly possesses a rare choreographic sensibility.

Ariane Anthony and Company includes Katsunore Abe, Renee Archibald, Paul Belger, Ryan Bronz, Kerry Parker, Alexandra Shilling and Ashley Smith. The program, which continues at Joyce SoHo through Sunday, also includes "A Treasure," a solo for Anthony choreographed in 1994.

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