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1, 6-7: The Jung and the Restless
Swanson & Crew Take it from the Birds to the 'Pointless'
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2002 Chris Dohse
NEW YORK -- Vanessa Paige Swanson
wears a lot of hats. Among them: artistic director of Vanessa Paige Dance, executive
director of Soundance Repertory Company, actress/dancer/singer, choreographer,
and storyteller. In the evening of dance/theatre created by Swanson and collaborators
called "Graces/Fates/Furies," seen Saturday at Williamsburg Art Nexus (WAX), a
lot of ideas, styles, and techniques are thrown at the wall; many of them stick.
As an actress, and in this particular evening acting is perhaps Swanson's most
identifiable activity, Swanson maintains a perplexingly self-effacing presence,
tossing and swallowing throwaway lines almost apologetically. In "The Jung and
the Restless," she walks around the space too much looking at her feet between
sentences, but the rite-of-angsty-romance story that comes forward rings true.
In a second task-oriented, text-based
solo, "Feed the Birds (A Story)," Swanson conflates post-9/11 anxiety with pick-me-up
video rentals, like "Rosemary's Baby" and "Mary Poppins." The work's simplicity
and its healthy dose of humor distinguish it from the coming glut of post-terrorist
memoir dances. Swanson says at one point, with a rueful shrug, "I'm a choreographer
and what I do is more or less pointless."
There are two works on the program
that look like their roots are in "downtown" or "barefoot" jazz: "possibly maybe,"
choreographed and performed by Sarah Carlson, and Jill Meadows's "lostinasense/Still
With Me." Both dances use fluid yet muscular vocabularies. Carlson's dancing is
focused and articulate. To a variety of soundscapes, including the ubiquitous
Bjork, she uses just the right amount of repetition; her performance is the most
fully realized of the evening.
An eloquent duet happens toward
the end of the forced partnering and awkward phrasing of "lostinasense." But the
pedestrian material that forms the duet has its humanity somewhat leeched out
of it by arbitrary execution of phrase material and soft, lyrical jazz enchainements.
The program cites the Balanescu Quartet but the uncomfortable disco score sounds
more like the Silver Convention or Love & Kisses.
The central piece of the evening
is "Grace/Fate/Fury," choreographed by Swanson and Carlson. Commissioned by the
London-based organization Fontanka and scheduled to be performed in St. Petersburg
in 2003, this narrative, expressionist dance play is set during that city's WWII
German siege. Gestural and folk influences and psychodramatic elements are balanced,
accompanied by variously gorgeous, swelling Russian musics, to produce effective
images. A sort of weeping Mother Russia, robed in a purple swath, is one of the
most striking. The cast's commitment to the work and its essentially earnest quality
succeed, regardless of unclear specificities of plot or context.
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