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Flash Review Journal 2, 5-22: Joyce SoHo Presents
Two Programs Demonstrate Intimate Angst

By Diane Vivona
Copyright 2001 Diane Vivona

Joyce SoHo Presents is a panelist-curated show. Choreographers submit videotapes, panelists review these and select pieces to present. This year Joyce SoHo limited the amount of videos accepted to the first hundred that arrived in the post; out of these thirteen works were chosen. This is a coveted position for emerging choreographers. To be selected is both a form of recognition by the dance community and, perhaps more significantly, a show of support by the ever fickle, oft-wooed presenter contingent. Coming from the Joyce Theater's younger, hipper sister, Joyce SoHo Presents could reflect a curatorial perspective which forecasts the Joyce's future programming; or it could simply represent what sticks out when panelists are faced with a glut of video viewing -- coffee cups, notebooks and eye drops in hand. In either case, this group show is significant in its overall representation of independent, primarily self-produced choreographers. Of the eight dances viewed the last two weekends, six presented worlds in which emotional turmoil manifested as spatial confinement. Bodies twisted and pursed, some resolving in surrender, others fighting -- till the end. Apocalyptic? No. The intensity level never raises to such a high or expansive social pitch. These choreographers' works are intimate and private, though presented for public witness.

The program seen May 11 began with Jorelle Pome's solo "Exiled Owl." Pome is a striking performer who is not afraid to use her body in unconventional, non-dancerly ways. Her movement includes the strain of deliberately sickled feet as well as the dynamic explosion of shoulder-popping street steps. She becomes, rather than performs this creature and in so doing the individual movements are transformed into the quirky palette of a nature show. Caged and inspected, in close up or slow motion, this voyeurism is not unpleasant, but , as in any nature show, we long to set this animal free.

Marilynn Danitz's duet, "Breaking the Envelope," is an unfortunate work which has two very capable dancers trapped within the confines of cliched victimization. Kindra Windrish and Emma Nagata appear pained and airless in brightly coloured negliges. Their task, it seems, is to sigh heavily in both body and breath; they collapse and kick, reaching for each other and then swatting at themselves in reprimand for any display of tenderness. Surprisingly, there is no external motivation for this harsh sadism. The dancers' punishment is self-inflicted, a torture which in the 21st century seems surprisingly small minded. These unemancipated women would make Susan B. Anthony turn in her grave.

Dagmar Spain also presented an angst-ridden all-female duet. According to the program, "Over There" explores heroism through goddess archetypes: Persephone as the embodiment of submission, Athena as the embodiment of strength. One dancer represents each goddess and this separation of character reduces rather than clarifies Spain's position. Persephone is clearly vulnerable and unhappy. There is a sense that her softness is a retreat from abuse, rather than an embrace of compassion. Athena is fierce in her high releves, but she is also cold and detached. Together they create a strangely disconnected pair. The perspective could be that Athena antagonizes Persephone. Or that the two represent conflicting aspects of femininity. Either interpretation seems disturbingly reductive and old fashioned. The use of P.J. Harvey's music further trivializes Spain's work.

"Parallelogram for Rags and Prayers," by Fiona Marcotty, is a high-energy work exploring the turmoil of interacting with the opposite sex, the same sex, and a variety of household objects. Marcotty seems inspired by the small interruptions these real things have on the body and psyche, and she is able to expand that into a cascade of flying limbs, exposed torsos, and flailing objects. Witnessing such unrest pulls at your internal comfort zone: you want to offer these dancers Prozac or at least a hug and a pillow. Their world is fraught with hard things -- mismatched shoes, folding chairs, a plastic bowl, a wire hairbrush --- and their bodies respond in kind. There is sexual writhing and squirming but it is all hard effrontery, thwarted and misunderstood impulses to get close that repel. This community of movers quake together and suffer alone. No one has the strength to see or watch, but we do, to our sorrow.

This last weekend's program, seen May 17, proved stronger than the previous weekend's, and infinitely more watchable. "Intersection," by newcomer Lenore E. Eggleston, is a well-crafted work for four dancers. Clad in the costume du jour -- lingerie -- these women slice and scoop the air with their arms and legs, effusively showing off their contemporary balletic technique. Eggleston is able to create phrases that travel fluidly, punctuated by frequent changes of level in gesture as well as locomotion. This keeps the interest up, as the dynamic of punch, shoot, and roll is surprising, even in its repetition. A more mature choreographer might have avoided the use of Arvo Part's masterful score. It is a difficult piece to live up to. Also stemming from youthful vigor is the overly dramatic use of breath and the performers' intense but purposeless gaze. Nevertheless, Ms. Eggleston has a firm grasp of movement composition. Time and experience can only contribute to this.

Marla Bingham is an extraordinary performer -- a diva who captivates. In her improvised solo, "As I Hear it," Ms. Bingham is delightful purely because of her physicality. She is gifted with a lithe facility and has had the opportunity and discipline to train her body to respond to her every wish. In her many years as a performer, she has also developed an eagerly expressive face and expansive dynamic range. Her lightning ability to shift from one specific image to another with all of its contrived intricacy is astounding. This piece was sheer enjoyable entertainment.

Dawn Stoppiello and Anthony Gongora explore the decay and renewal of friendship in view of mortality in their duet "Flowing of Honey." I cannot help but see these two as twins, connected at the hip and heart through their similar ways of moving, their similar expressions of self. Stoppiello conveys a profound fear, Gongora a blind hopefulness. Together they show the balance of see-sawed feelings. At its best this duet's partnering flows in gestures of familiarity taken to extremes: "I can hit you, or smother you or leap over you or copy you and you will accept all of me" is the implication. At its worst, this duet is self-consciously funny: "It is uncomfortable to be so honest. Break. A funny. Ha -ha." The clearest moments expose and invite. The humorous moments brace and exclude. Stoppiello and Gongora brave their friendship to the rigors of composition with varying effect. But one thing is certain: When they dance together there is comfort.

Erik Kaiel and Fiona Marcotty's work, "From the Ends of the Boulevards," is an open wound of fecundity. The work begins with Kaiel's naked body powerfully contracting and sinking under a fading downstage light. In front of him, Marcotty sits with legs spread. She is surrounded by empty electrical socket boxes. This opening image sets the tone for metaphor, but the movement could not be further from such intellectual devices. This movement is not semblance. Kaiel repeatedly performs a series of one-handed inverted cabrioles, his legs in penile erection. He then runs full speed in an arc from one side of the space to the other, stopping just before toppling into the audience. He is the epitome of explosive taut muscularity; we feel his imminent eruption. Sitting on the electrical outlets, Marcotty is all flesh and softness. She is wearing a thin gauzy slip that enhances her round feminine figure. She stands and supports herself as if on high heels on the edge of two boxes. She overflows into movements both seductive and protective. It is as if she can't help but spill out into our laps; she is not embarrassed. Throughout the duet the two do not touch, which only heightens the air's electrical charge. They exchange only a whisper: he to her first. She listens, has a moment of recognition, a cognitive awareness, and then swoons, escaping to the other side of the stage. Later she whispers to him. Kaiel lies in Sisyphean agony, his head and feet on the boxes, running in the air to nowhere. Marcotty leans over, murmuring into his open ear. There is a flash of response, like a baby hearing his mother's voice. Marcotty retreats, then raises her dress overhead revealing pink flesh, the round spheres of woman. She rocks gently, her dress a flag, a flowering signal for her bees; succor.

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