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Flash Review 2, 9-24: Pink in the Green, Art in the Gray
Motives Golden, Dance Not in Pink Carolina

By Byron Woods
Copyright 2001 Byron Woods

DURHAM, North Carolina -- "Pink Carolina," the latest fundraising effort from the Pink Ribbons Project, produced by PR co-founder Jane Weiner, raised over $50,000 for the fight against breast cancer in a one-night stand Thursday at Durham's Carolina Theater. More remarkably, it did so one week after the catastrophes of Pennsylvania, Washington and New York. The terror attacks effectively truncated a ticket drive among the Triangle's well-heeled -- the ostensible target audience for the gala's $75 seats. Disrupted airline service in the disaster's aftermath threw transportation plans for artists and a technician from New York and Texas into disarray, resulting in one program change. Weiner replaced a scheduled appearance by her Houston-based group, Hope Stone Dance, with a solo performance of her own.

So, resolved: It was far from the easiest of weeks in which to merely carry on, much less stage a dance concert. Unfortunately, this showed in the evening's performances. If the motives behind this benefit were golden, in large part the dance was anything but.

Uneven selections from the region's dance community were one compromising factor that had nothing to do with the traumas of the prior week. The local coordinators' knowledge of the regional dance scene seemed spotty at best, with disappointing results at times.

Former Pilobolus dancer Carol Parker gave a strong reading of "Negro Spirituals," Helen Tamiris's historic suite of solos from the 1920s through the 1940s. Regional audiences have grown familiar with it since Parker has already presented it, in whole or part, several times in her infrequent public performances over the past two years.

But Rebecca Amis's Whirlwind Dance Company is generally not regarded in the forefront of this region's modern dance groups. Her workmanlike "Open Hearted," set on her ten-person Whirlwind Dance Company, proved as inoffensive -- and as unsubstantial -- as its accompanying new age jazz soundtrack by Andreas Vollenweider.

And while it's usually refreshing to see Gene Medler's undersung North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble, an aggregate of high school hoofers who regularly tour the U.S. and Europe, this performance clearly caught them in a period of transition, at the start of a new school year, just after the departure of graduating seniors.

Jefferey Kazin's reprise of David Parker's "Hind Legs" revived that amusing and astonishing exercise in balance and recombined gender cues from the initial "Pink Ribbons" concert in New York in 1995. Lisa Race was also in that initial concert, in David Dorfman's "Approaching No Calm." Here, her solo piece "Three Wishes" came off comparatively formless, and never seemed to build on Amy Denio's music.

Weiner's solo, "Night Moves," was a section from Mark Dendy and Lawrence Keigwan's uneven "Classic Suite: Rock and Soul," a changing cycle of works set to rhythm and blues and rock and roll masterpieces. Here, Dendy and Keigwan's solo seems at times devoted to physically representing every vocal tic in Nina Simone's rendition of "Ne Me Quittez Pas" and "I Put a Spell on You," and Joni Mitchell's late revisitation of "Both Sides Now." Weiner's rendition of these petit and grand mal seizures of the heart took on a strangely mechanical air at times, before Louisville Ballet dancers Dale Brannon and Elizabeth Hartwell's decidedly earthbound Soir d'Ete from the "Daphnis and Chloe."

It was announced from the stage that the dancers had donated their work and time to this worthy cause. That, of course, is laudable. And the concert was produced, at the last, during fundamentally challenging hours.

It bears noting, though, that our times will most likely remain just as uncertain for the foreseeable future. What shall we do with standards, then, for the duration of this alleged war-time? With the debt we owe our craft? Our fellow artists, and humans? Ourselves?

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