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Flash Review 2, 5-7: Structures
Clark and Dang at Danspace Project

By Vanessa Manko
Copyright 2002 Vanessa Manko

NEW YORK -- Hope Clark's latest work, "Fragile. Family. Structures," was inspired by a dream. Thankfully, it was a remembered dream, for Clark's latest work is a soothing yet complex piece revolving around people's emotional and intellectual responses to questions concerning these three simple words. Composed of three sections, "Regarding Point," "Tempering," and "Agile Transfer," the work is a mix of tai chi, acrobatics, yoga and what one could call mindful dancing. The energy of the dance is a contained energy, carefully structured in quiet, concentrated movements and fluid partnering. Because this work is inspired by a host of individuals' subjective feelings when asked questions about the words fragile, family and structures, it's not easy to pin down just one emotion or theme Clark is building upon. And so what stands out most in the choreography, and what could be seen as the overall mood running through the three sections, is a sense of healing. There is an inner strength and quietude enmeshed in the work.

In the first section, "Regarding Points," Clark, a strong and finely muscled dancer, has found every conceivable way to make use of her body's joints and muscles. Her legs turn in from the hip socket, her torso contracts, her arms bend in angles, her foot flexes, she rises to an impressively high half-toe, and combining yoga, tai chi and modern, she has found a very fluid, yet forceful style in her choreography. And Ms. Clark is clearly not afraid of the floor. She uses it well in this work, lying as rigid as a plank and oozing into a fetal position or rising effortlessly into a forearm handstand. Clark has a strong center (as most dancers do) and seems to work in a cylindrical space around her. The effect is serene and procures a visceral reaction from the audience. I, for one, felt compelled to breathe more slowly and deeply, to stretch my neck and roll my shoulders. Clark's work is also gestural. Each movement is adorned with a fluttering hand. It's subtle, but interesting.

"Tempering" features children of varying ages (approximately 6-13) from Danspace Project's Kid Action Program. In a word, this part of "Fragile. Family. Structures" is fun. In their various Crayola-colored sweat pants and t-shirts, Clark has the children running, climbing over and under a large blue gym mat, and finally, performing full-out belly flops, somersaults, and back flips. At one point two very trusting kids run and jump headfirst into other dancers' arms. And that is what comes through so beautifully here -- the pure fearlessness that is inherent to childhood, the willingness, when young, to throw oneself, literally, into the movement. The young dancers included Camelia Azonca-Montalvo, Cullen Golden, Margaret Holen, Oona Montalvo, Mariel Reed, J.T. Schafer, Ki Smith and Sei Smith.

With "Agile Transfer," the final section, the piece resorts back to the more introspective and contemplative mood of the first section. A group piece, the work opens with a film of a school playground where children are playing with a red ball. The film is projected onto a white strip of cloth that spans the length of the stage. Five women lie on the ground and link arms, continuing with the fluid floor work of the earlier section. The appropriately muted costumes by Astrud Angarita lent gravity to the work.

As sinuous as the movement is, there is a physical sharpness to it as well. Dancers grab and pull at each other, they spin round and round building up momentum. The fluttering hand returns here and works across the women's torsos and breasts. Clark brings us through different scenarios of leaning and supporting. At one point a somber, sunrise view of the city emerges as moody piano music and the sultry voice of Allison Cornell sings over the dancing. Along with Ms. Clark, dancers included Megan Brunsvold, K.J. Holmes, Angie Hauser Robinson, and Judith Sanchez Ruiz.

Tai Dang shared the bill at this Danspace performance, presenting "Now and then, you put your hand over." A piece about generations, the dance melds the past and present and centers around two poems by Christian Langworthy, "Mango" and "Dream of the Silent Dreams." A young man in white overalls and headphones begins the work. He passes by the cemetery where his grandmother is buried. It haunts him, as he explains, for we learn that she would have liked to be buried in her homeland. Thus, we are launched into a reverie of sorts, involving a young man revisiting his past and coming to terms with it. A white figure in a kimono and wide-brimmed hat sits still and ghostly upstage until the past begins to meld with the present. This is one of the visually serene and beautiful parts of this work -- the stillness of the white figure. Although the piece is interdisciplinary, merging poetry and dance, the poetry and story line overshadow the dance. While the moments of stillness are at times quite lovely, the continuous recitation of poetry and endless standing during what seem to be rather crucial moments of the work is tiring. There seems potential for interesting dancing to happen in this piece, yet it runs thin on this. In fact, the choreography seems to get lost behind the poetry and visual beauty of the set design. Dancers included Mandy Sau-Yi Chan, Bertie Ferdman, Hadas Gil-Bar, Eve Mei-Kar Leung, Bridgette Loriaux, Jon Norman Schneider, and Tim Wildin, with music by Ngu Yen.

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