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Flash Review 1, 2-12: Sanctuary
Graham Legacy Finds Safe Harbor with Buglisi/Foreman

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung

NEW YORK -- Buglisi/Foreman performed three works on the second program of its first week-long Joyce Theater run, seen Friday and each striking in its own way. The company demonstrated that the buffeted legacy of Martha Graham has a safe harbor -- movement-wise, with dancers who are familiar first-hand with the Graham technique, and theatrically, with ample use of costumes, lighting and music. Jacqulyn Buglisi's choreography retains the archetypal core of Graham, elemental shapes which carry emotional weight, without resorting to sentimentality. Donlin Foreman's choreography is bolder, a bit more lyrical and flowing.

"Frida" (1998), a tribute to Frida Kahlo choreographed by Buglisi and performed Friday by Terese Capucilli, Christine Dakin and Miki Orihara, incorporated projections of Kahlo's artwork and voiced-over snippets of text by the artist. The Graham style was well-suited to the character of Kahlo as both painter and choreographer possessed a stubborn independence and an unsparing eye for a powerful symbol. The dancers' upper carriages maintained a powerful dignity, evoking Kahlo's ramrod posture in her self-portraits. It was underlined by contrast in released backbends over the stylized stools/chairs, and in moments of surrender when the women lay on their backs and flailed their limbs in the air like babies. Capucilli wore a dress with a cape/skirt overlayer, which she used to great dramatic effect, sometimes holding it up to act as a screen for additional artwork projections. (Buglisi and Christina Giannini designed the costumes). The swelling music (by Tobias Picker, Hector Villa-Lobos, and Arvo Part) was occasionally overwrought, and perhaps it was the music selection that dictated the length, which was a few minutes too long for an otherwise eloquent portrait.

The company performed the premiere of Donlin Foreman's "Dances for Seven," to music by Ivanovitch Gurdjieff/Thomas de Hartmann, played on piano by Brian Zeger. The simple structure basically introduced each dancer in a solo, progressing into pairings and larger groupings. As a performer, Foreman filled the Joyce stage simply by spreading open his hands and throwing his arms wide, and his strong presence was matched by that of Stephen Pier in vivid mustard silks. Pier partnered Nancy Turano, a hearty, dramatic performer, while Foreman paired with Rika Okamoto, an elegant, remarkable dancer whose face transformed from an opaque mask to a rapturous emotional statement in the blink of an eye. The group performed courtly dances, complemented by jewel-toned costumes (by Giannini), moved through big, dramatic lifts, and delineated boxes by chassee-ing through wide-open second positions.

Buglisi's "Suspended Women" (2000) was a buoyant finish to the program. The Ravel score was partly taped, with live segments on violin by Daniel Bernard Roumain. A line of twelve women in Victorian-inspired dresses advanced step by slow step downstage, in a kind of stop-action. They formed interweaving lines, pique arabesquing and then chasing the movement with arms crashing likes waves onto a beach. They threw their arms up and their heads back, and sank in rhythmic plies. There was an amazing dynamic to their group movements, in part due to the unselfconscious way they performed with abandon. Though the men were given small roles, attempting to assert power over the women, they were relegated to carrying women in frozen poses on and off the stage, and crossing now and again. It was a celebration of female strength and beauty in which the men were interlopers.

Dancers in addition to those mentioned include: Kevin Predmore, Virginie Mecene, Jennifer dePalo, Jennifer Emerson, Emma Stein, Walter Cinquinella, Helen Hansen, Christina Sanchez, and Jennifer Binford. Lighting was designed by Jack Mehler and Clifton Taylor.


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