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Flash Review 2, 6-13: The Joy of Logic
Curran & Co. Storm the Joyce

By Alicia Mosier
Copyright 2001 Alicia Mosier

Athletic, complicated, gentle, funny, and wide awake, the Sean Curran Company returned to the Joyce Theater last night. The company made its Joyce debut as part of the 1999 Altogether Different festival. Now it's back for a week-long engagement that features two whiz-bang premieres, three amazingly distinctive older works, and much, much joy.

It's hard to believe that "Symbolic Logic" is only two years old. Hasn't this piece existed in cloud formations and solemn village ceremonies since the beginning of time? Physicists talk about the elegance of certain theories; mathematicians baffle the math-challenged among us by speaking of the beauty of certain formulas. Curran captures the magic formula of Sheila Chandra's music in the flowing geometry of this piece. These patterns, these gestures, seem to come from something deep in the nature of the universe. The dance has a heartbeat. Ten dancers in white stand in a white circle on the floor, eyes closed, angular arms and mudra hands signaling some planet or some flicker of divinity. After a while, when they turn around, you see the chakras on their backs. They cross the stage like a flock of birds, in floating leaps and slow deep lunges, then settle into warm, concentrated duets and solos. Heather Waldon-Arnold lifts and lifts in an eternal arabesque. The final section, set to the honey-sweet sound of Chandra's quick-time chanting, is all ecstatic tension, fervor, and breath. Sometimes perfect clarity exposes even more wonderful mysteries. The logic; the symbol. It all comes together. I can't think of a piece that's better named.

Curran's 1997 solo "Average Tragedy," however, might have a better appellation. This is an intriguing psychological portrait. A man encounters a door; he keeps looking over his shoulder; at the same time he's frightened and crushed and otherwise burdened by the door (behind which, who knows what monsters might lurk?). He dances fitfully and desperately around it, and it sings (that is, Meredith Monk sings) whenever he touches it. Curran's dancing -- both heavy and light, chunky and feathery, his Morrissey sideburns adding a touch of melodrama -- makes of this the most serious sort of vaudeville. Finally, after tearing out his heart in anxiety and vulnerability, he opens the door -- and there's nothing there but light. A littler door is given to him from the dark back of the stage. All the gestures of hiding and opening and closing from the beginning are transformed into games (shell games, pick-a-hand games). He's conquered his fear, but a door -- the future, the past, a gateway to who knows what -- is still with him. He carries it on his shoulders still, though more sweetly than before. It's a portrait in courage. I saw it as "Average Victory."

"Percussion Pieces," which closed the program, showcased Curran's astonishing gift for capturing the intricacies of rhythm. Percussionist Tigger Benford, with his colleagues Peter Jones, Marty Beller, and Martha Partridge, provided the rhythmic juice for the three dances in the set: "Metal Garden," "Quadrabox Redux" (both premiering last night), and "Abstract Concrete" (first seen last year at Central Park Summerstage). What musicians, and what a triptych!

"Metal Garden" is a sensational disco-frug-salsa number (it sounds impossible, but trust Curran to make it happen) featuring seven dancers in glitter pants and tops in front of bright yellow stripes on a scrim. In a slow middle section, three couples unfold, like seedlings growing, through the circles of each other's arms; the conceit is teased open when Curran walks on carrying a watering can, then a shovel, a ladder, and a plastic lawn ornament. Vigorous partnering winds the piece into riotous knots. In a particularly crunchy pas de trois, Donna Scro Gentile, Marisa Demos, and Tony Guglietti all do a big side battement, their legs at different heights like the sunburst in "Apollo." (Speaking of Guglietti, I must say it was hard to keep my eyes off him, and not just because he bears an uncanny resemblance to the lead singer of Green Day. He's charisma cubed, a master of articulation -- a real virtuoso.)

"Quadrabox Redux," created by Benford and Partridge and performed by them along with Curran and Beller, showed off Curran's credentials as a member of the original cast of "Stomp." Think it's tough to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time? Try doing what these folks did: they sat on four red boxes, in khakis and black t-shirts and boots, and performed what I can only call a perfect a capella tap dance with their hands, slapping their boxes and their bodies and one another's knees. The friend I saw it with described it as "high-speed patty-cake." My favorite moment came when Benford, a lanky guy with a handsome face, came down to the front and did a little "soft-shoe" (still sitting on his box) with clapping hands and slow-stomping boots. This piece is flat-out showstopping, folks.

I liked the zippy "Abstract Concrete," the final dance in the set, much better this time than when I saw it last summer as part of an "Evening Stars" program at the World Trade Center. It still looks like a Skittles commercial, with men and women in candy-colored costumes spilling all over the stage to Benford's boinging music, but it's smoother and lighter now than I remembered, its fast round-the-body lifts and wide "V" arms emerging more vividly from the somewhat loose stage composition.

At the end of a mightily successful evening, Curran had the house lights brought up on Amy Brous, a longtime member of the company who sprained her ankle two days ago and was unable to perform. He wished her well and thanked the company for pulling together so they could go on with the show in Brous's absence. That's the sort of dedication -- of the dancers to each other and to the audience -- that makes a company strong. In the case of the Sean Curran Company, the strength of this family of dancers combines with a lucid choreographic vision to send a warm, bright light into your heart at every moment. Don't miss it.

The Sean Curran Company performs at the Joyce through Sunday. For more information, please visit the Joyce website.

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