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Review 3, 9-12: Kinetic 'Kaleidoscope'
With a Little Help from Some (Graham) Friends, Dankmeyer Emerges
By Vanessa Manko
Copyright 2002 Vanessa Manko
NEW YORK -- A kaleidoscope,
by definition, can be a "continuously changing set of colors" or
a "series of changing phases or events." Erica Dankmeyer's evening
of new choreography, seen last weekend at Danspace Project, was
appropriately named Kaleidoscope, and the evening was not only colorful
and protean, but well conceived. Although the work of this Martha
Graham dancer is no doubt influenced by the Modern Dance doyen,
no one style or mood dominated, resulting in a nice amalgam of Dankmeyer's
choreographic works thus far. Although the season, part of Dance
Access, was Dankmeyer's first foray into self-presenting, the evening's
air of professionalism and aplomb would have made anyone attending
believe the contrary.
As the audience meandered
into to St. Mark's Church, they were confronted by Andrea Haenggi's
"Fallen," one of two works by guest artists featured during the
night. This multi-disciplinary work was inspired by Haenggi's trip
to Istanbul and features images of a Turkish woman swathed in a
blue traditional head scarf projected onto the series of long horizontal
stairs at the back of the church. Haenggi lies face down, plank-like,
folds over, around and through the filmic images, and continually
repeats the same movement phrase. The constant yet subtle movement
is serene. The even keel tempo lends the piece its hypnotic yet
Contrasting this was
Dankmeyer's "Ocean." An athletic and energetic work, "Ocean" makes
for a super-charged opener. A duet for Dankmeyer and Martin Lofsnes,
the work begins with the two draped over each other, softly contracting
and releasing. What ensues is a technically demanding series of
extensions, lifts, and vigorous partnering. What this duet best
displays is Dankmeyer's skill as a dancer -- she is a petite powerhouse
capable of lyricism one moment and dynamism the next. The bold red
and black costumes by Ricky Lizalde helped to magnify this piece's
dramatic flair. In such a work, it is easy to see Graham's influence
on Dankmeyer. Present is the earthiness and signature contractions
of the Graham technique, and Dankmeyer has found a way to extend
the vocabulary for her own choreographic interests.
"Fire in the Mind" displays
Dankmeyer's more serene choreographic capabilities. Less athletic
than "Ocean," "Fire in the Mind," performed last weekend by the
lovely Alessandra Prosperi, is a kind of trio made up of cellist,
dancer, and one long, graceful piece of fabric. The dance evokes
Graham's Noh-play-influenced works, the fabric becoming a main element
of the choreography as Prosperi roles up in it and curls it around
her body, making full fleshed-out shapes. In one moment, she drags
the white and red material across the floor as if sketching a pattern.
While fabric can accentuate a dance, one can also rely too much
on such a tempting prop. Here, it seems at times that Dankmeyer's
enthusiasm for movement possibilities made available through the
use of this fabric is overkill. This is particularly the case when
Prosperi stands above the cellist with the long piece of fabric
draped across her shoulders. This bold move almost infringes upon
the rest of the rather quiet and lyrical movement.
Prosperi is a fine performer;
she has an engaging, almost magnetic stage presence, not to mention
dancing that displays quite a bit of pluck and attack. At one point,
rolled up in the fabric, she untangles herself gracefully and with
an added bit of nonchalance. I was impressed.
Guest artist Deborah
Zall brought "Amanda's Solo," an excerpt from her "Shards," influenced
by Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie." The psychological
complexity of the play is apparent in the dance. Seated at a dressing
table, Zall grasps a hand mirror, contracting and whipping herself
around, all the while gazing into the mirror questioningly. One
of the most touching moments in this emotional work is when Zall
waltzes with an imaginary partner, her body swaying and face rapt
with delight. It was a quite moving and memorable performance by
a veteran of the Graham technique.
"Likings for Shadows,"
set for three dancers -- Dankmeyer, Prosperi and Elizabeth Auclair
-- is a somber work. A haunting knocking begins the piece as the
three women trace steps around each other, dancing, it seems, in
their own worlds. Yet they are connected in their movements, mirroring
or shadowing each other. When the three women form a tripod, the
red, turquoise, and navy blue dresses by Karen Young form an interesting
triangular color effect. The piece concludes with Dankmeyer and
Properri framing Auclair as she quietly spins round and round to
A stylistic shift in
the evening's work emerged in Dankmeyer's "The Distance Within,"
a redemptive and reflective work, performed by Lofsnes with song
and text by the sultry-voiced Morley. Morley claps out rhythms and
sings as she follows the languid dancing of Lofsnes. She seems to
confront him or spur him on as she sings out "carry the weight of
it all" repeatedly. The intense exchange between dancer and singer
is interesting to watch here, and perhaps the most powerful of movements
comes at the end, when Lofsnes walks downstage, extending his hands
in an offering.
Perhaps the most ambitious
work of the evening was the premiere of "Tree Line," set to John
Williams's "Five Sacred Trees." With Leslie Myers's costumes of
earthy maroons, browns, and greens, "Tree Line" evoked a natural
landscape or forest. But rather than directly mimicking trees, Dankmeyer
uses only their impression, making her dancers rock, sway, and careen.
In the first movement, "From Seedling to Sapling," the dancers move
in one large protean mass, rolling over each other to center stage.
"Forest Incantation," a duet for Dankmeyer and Prosperi, is a feisty
section, filled with quick jumps and spirited dancing, while "Redwood
Canopy" is a more traditional adagio duet for Auclair and Lofsnes.
Although each section had its own unique facet, "Brushfire" was
the most fun. The Puck-like tree sprit dancing of Christophe Jeannot
was infectious. From the moment Jeannot rolls out on stage he exudes
the air of a meretricious troublemaker. Here, Dankmeyer has even
found a way to show the danger lurking in the world of the forest.
Jeannot and Lofsnes engage in a sort of battle, dancing out their
territories. Throughout this work, Dankmeyer has subtly portrayed
the beauty, grace, danger, and magic of the forest.
With a fine cast of
dancers such as Auclair, Jeannot, Lofsnes, Prosperi, and Yuko Suzuki,
Erika Dankmeyer's first self-presented evening of dance is not only
a testament to her skills as a dancer, but shows her promise as
an emerging choreographer.
(Editor's Note: To read more about Erika Dankmeyer or any of the
dancers mentioned above, please return to the Dance Insider Home
page and enter the name in our
Ohio State University-sponsored search engine.)
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