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Flash Review 3, 11-7: Splitstream, Mixed Styles
Loulaki, Hassabi Invent; Casel Crafts

By Anne Zuerner
Copyright 2002 Anne Zuerner

NEW YORK -- Splitstream, a shared evening performed at Dance Theater Workshop Tuesday, presented the work of three choreographers with appropriately divergent styles. Amanda Loulaki, Maria Hassabi, and Gerald Casel each presented an individual dance statement while following a similar casting format: choreographer accompanied by three other dancers.

Other than casting, the three works had little in common. Loulaki's bizarre vignette "Hi, My name is Clio" illustrated the thin line where dolls transform from angels into decaying monsters. Costumes, by Nicolas Petrou, played a prominent role. Dancers wore big layered skirts that frayed at their denim edges, furry collars and sporadic pink fingerless gloves with white polka dots. Inside layers of floppy fabric, the dancers themselves flopped, bounced, and shook with blank faces. The movement consisted of flinging body parts, gently displacing limbs with a nudge from a friendly hand or foot, and sinking into joints with an intriguing lack of kinesthetic cohesion. The collection of playful movement innovations seemed thrown together like a pile of dolls tossed into the corner of a girls room; there was little discernible composition in the way phrasing was layered and phrasing was loosely layered so that at times it became overwhelming to digest so much grotesque movement.

The piece had a cold eerie look, reminiscent of a David Lynch film, where one knows not whether to laugh, scream, or close the eyes. Blank-faced dolls teetered about the stage occasionally accompanied by trotting white toy dogs for a particularly frightening effect. Movement was peppered with outbursts of speech, like "Hi, my name is Clio," adding some offbeat and unclear humor to an already quirky piece.

"Late Night Future," by Maria Hassabi, also lacked craft. More like a structured improv than a well thought out piece, it moved from orgy-like contact between dancers to masturbation-like self involvement. The piece began with the dancers writhing in a mass, rubbing their faces along the bodies of other dancers, occasionally looking at the audience with a super model-like glare. At one point, a dancer pulled down his pants and moved nervously away from the audience in his red underwear. This action was out of place and expressed little beyond shock value, though it was not that shocking.

Casel's "Foible," was not quite as inventive as Loulaki's "Hello, My Name Is Clio," but it was the most structured of the three pieces. Layers of movement were easier to digest and the composition was lean and well thought out, leading the viewer from section to section with ease and continuity. His dancers looked extremely comfortable with the movement, exerting just the right amount of energy in order to sail through soft, pretty phrasing.

The piece was mostly pure dancing with an occasional theatrical gesture, like picking up a suitcase or wiping the brow. The gestures were executed with such an even amount of effort that they seemed sarcastic at the same time that they were robotic, yet they fit nicely into dancey phrasing, planting small seeds of narrative into a long line of abstraction.

Loulaki and Hassabi belong to a more experimental camp, attempting to move away from dance that easily pleases and toward images that attempt to surprise with their unusual nature; they put more thought into movement invention, as opposed to craft. Casel, on the other hand, has a more classical aesthetic, using common modern dance movements, yet reworking these movements into new forms. With this combination of experiment and craft, the evening was well balanced and engaging.

Splitstream repeats Tuesday November 12, at 7 p.m. at Dance Theater Workshop. For more information, please click here.

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