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Flash Review 2, 4-16: Only for Viola Should White Unitards be Worn
Pam Tanowitz Shapes the Moment

By Catey Ott
Copyright 2002 Catey Ott

NEW YORK -- Pam Tanowitz brings a sense of community and naturalness to the otherwise cold technique, linear/angular shapes, and off-kilter poses of her blended dance vocabulary. As seen this past weekend at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, the positions of her dancers' bodies changed from smooth to quick, then into surprise rhythms and weightedness that punctuated the phrases. Tanowitz created a passing of time within an abstract story without following the typical climax/valley tendency of dramatic dance. There was a sense that within the world of Pam, the people just spoke in this way with their bodies and did not comment as the rituals went on. The dancers acknowledged one another, also forecasting a psychological process in order to connect, pass, or jump by one another. They pulled off the technical precision and centering/off-centering demands with doubtless grace and tension-free openness in the joints and faces.

The program, Afterpiece, was beautifully lilt by Carol Mullins, who gave an icy shine, sometimes a greenish/blue hue to much of the evening, producing a sense of daylight with subtle yet powerful shadows providing a sense of present tense to the environment for the dancers in their familiar feeling world. Leave it to Mullins to bring warmth to ice and deposit trust in shadows!

"Monument (for Viola)" seems like a signature piece for Tanowitz in this stage in her style (I saw her dancers surrounded by plungers on stage in 1998.) The vocabulary presented here is fresh and prepares the audience for the development of these dancers and this type of chatter which they execute so well. The pleasing and mood varying string quartet of the Corelli Sonatas filter in and out of the seamless dance, as the dancers relay in and out of duets, trios, and quintets. The white unitards with the small one-sided aprons were worn by all five dancers, and were actually flattering, providing a clean line of vision for showing off the facings, placement, and shapes of the bodies. Only for Viola should white unitards be worn!

There are multiple moments to remember in "Monument." One is the ease of Tamowitz lowering and rising out of the floor in precise shapes without needing momentum or effort in her quickness. In the first moment of touch in a duet between Anne Lentz and Rashun Mitchell, the human warmth is set up, and lets the audience know that the dancers really see each other in the encounters. It is here where the two are moved to subtle smiles which invite the audience in a bit more. The power of focus and upper back spiral of Megan Brains adds wonder and depth to the situation in a solo of important dynamic rhythm, moving Tamowitz's vocabulary to a farther range. William Petroni and Mitchell's duet successfully moves two clean, easy jumpers through space while giving a simple heal-drop gesture the same importance.

"Informal" begins in a delicious solo by guest dancer extraordinaire Tom Gold, a soloist with New York City Ballet. Gold's very formal, almost royal ballet carriage is tamed by the grounded shapes and weighted pauses into a push-off deep plie that propels him through space. He spits out multiple pirouettes in bare feet, his loud sense of inner timing making me wish to see him dance in silence, as well to the beautiful live trio of musicians playing the composition of Dan Siegler. The lovely length of Lentz and strong grace of Mitchell enter, creating what could almost be a romantic fantasy, yet Tanowitz gives us barely even that much literally.

In the work as a whole, the body of the dancer seems to decide where to go next and why and how, instead of displaying the inner drama of a tumultuous decision to forecast each idea. Instead there is a sense of importance and humanness, discovered in the > intuitive and impulsive drive of the dancers from one moment to the next.

The rest of the evening is costumed by Yukie Okuyama. She knows how to compliment a bodyline, providing flow with fabric and layer with style and signature color. I appreciated the existance of a significant costume budget and applaud Okuyama's designs.

"Swan Song Once Removed," a solo for Mitchell, is a journey from upstage right to downstage left, beginning the precise movement in dim lights to sparse, to serene violin music by Garth Knox. The piece concludes with a build of all of the elements until the final pluck of a note resonates in the ears and for the eyes with a seated pulling hand gesture into the air. MItchell grows from his journey. Glad he arrived, where that may be.

The final work on the program "Afterpiece," was danced this weekend by Brains and Lentz, joined by the strong and fresh energy of Katie Brack and Sally Donabauer. The electronic score provides an atmosphere of an eerie warped dimension for an occasional collapse, parting of, and communal reuniting of the group. There is a sense of compassion and support surrounding the moments of needing to go through something alone. The sense that the stressors are happening TO the dancers instead of coming from deep within them could bring to mind September 11 or war, without overdone commentary. The silver and blue colors for the costumes suggest the millennium, assisted in theme by Sieglers' use of a malfunctioning music box repeating its melody with an undercurrent of old record player and spacy pressure chamber. New movement vocabulary is brought in: weather-vane legs in the air and whipping of arms while turning, which spoke about what the atmosphere caused them to need to do though dance. Two left on stage in a formal shape as the lights faded caught me off guard for an ending to this piece and the show as a whole; yet a quiet, formal exit may be what we all needed to exit Pam's world.

Well, well, well... a clearly shaped leap in timing and shift in center since the 1997 use of toilet plungers for atmosphere! I liked the thearticality then, but am excited to see where Tanowitz leads this vision!

Catey Ott is a dancer and choreographer based in New York City.

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