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Flash Review 2, 3-14: "Passage" Through Irish Step and Modern
Traversing the Darkness and the Light With Darrah Carr Dance
By Vanessa Manko
Copyright 2002 Vanessa Manko
NEW YORK -- When one thinks of a
blend of traditional Irish step and modern dance, thoughts of "Riverdance" might
come to mind. But far from this rather gaudy appropriation of an Irish tradition,
polished up for consumption on the Broadway stage, is something quite the opposite
on the smaller stages of the New York dance scene. And that something is being
realized in the work of Darrah Carr Dance, whose latest creation, "Passage," had
its premiere at Brooklyn's Williamsburg Art NeXus last weekend.
"Passage" is dance synchronism at
its best, merging two wholly different styles: modern dance and traditional Irish
step dance. Carr has taken her background in both and seamlessly woven the two
genres together for what amounts to a refreshing new work. Equal parts gravity
and joy, "Passage" stems from the traditional Irish song cycle of goltrai (sad
songs), geantrai (happy songs) and suantrai (sleep songs). Carr ably translates
-- in dance form -- the melancholia inherent in goltrai with deep, repeating grand
plies and arms that wrap tightly around the neck, while the more whimsical spirit
of geantrai is conveyed through buoyant jumps and the fancy foot work of step
dance. But this work also focuses on the passing on of traditions, particularly
the Irish tradition of keening to mourn the dead and mouth music, as the program
notes explain. Indeed, there is a great sense of "passage" in this work, whether
it is the passing on of tradition or the moving sense of passage, of struggling
toward an end, or embarking on a journey. And while this piece also moves one
through extremes of emotion, it does so subtly, with dancers gently switching
moods -- a feat aided, no doubt, by Eduardo Castillo's nicely structured musical
melange of keens, mouth music, and even one cameo from Irish rockers U2.
The work opens quietly. Two dancers
emerge from the wings with arms held tightly round their necks -- a recurring
movement motif through the dance. One performer descends into a slow, deep grand
plie as, one by one, others appear and make a slow ascent on the diagonal upstage.
Some extend into lunges while others roll on the floor, until a mass of bodies
serenely forges onward. There is a ritualistic aspect to the piece -- particularly
in the opening segment in which, having traveled upstage, the women align themselves
in an ascending arc. Some squat, some kneel, a few stand, and one dancer arches
her torso back and up. It's a peaceful moment in the work. Another signature in
"Passage" is a repeated flourish of the arms. Dancers fiercely throw their arms
above their heads only to allow them to float softly back down as if speaking
in gestures and politely taking back what they had intended to say.
For every more contemplative, pensive
sequence in "Passage," there were swift-moving, jubilant, almost rejoicing dancing
segments complete with grand sweeping movements, perfectly timed canons (there
is always something innately pleasurable about watching canons), and, of course,
the intricate and quixotic footwork of step dance. Particularly interesting is
that the step dancing does not seem out of place here. Rather, it is an extension
of the rest of the choreography. For instance, as the women prance and point their
feet in one long line, breaking off into groups of four, then two, then one, suddenly
the step dancing has morphed into more generalized dancing. They skitter off into
flirtatious little develope jumps as arms curve delicately above their heads.
The dance ends on a more somber, but powerful note. With backs turned to the audience,
the women form a staggered group and sway back and forth, slowly breaking off
into a diagonal formation like the one that began the evening.
Carr's dancers, Allyson Arena, Amanda
Tate Callahan, Victoria Gochenour, Kritina Kirkenaer, Jennifer McDaniel, Kerri
Stilwell, Tara Marie Perri, Cara Surico, Jocelyn Tobias, and Isadora Wolfe, moved
with grace and aplomb throughout. In addition, the soloists, particularly in the
step dancing segments, displayed dexterity and nimbleness. Cindy Capraro's costumes,
leotards and skirts of deep blues and purples, added to the dreamy serene tone
of the work.
"Passage" was not the only work on
the bill that night, and, had it not been for a migraine, I would have gladly
stayed to see what else Carr had to offer. If the works were anything like "Passage,"
I would surely not have been disappointed.
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