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Review 2, 11-12: Spirit Centers the Bones
Stories from Harrington, Hayes, and Morris
By Catey Ott
Copyright 2002 Catey Ott
NEW YORK -- Voices of
women, the spirit of generations past, and the journey towards an
awakened life led the way to a thought-provoking and inspiring evening
of theatrical dance in "House of Jasmine and Bone," seen Friday
at Williamsburg Art neXus. The show began in the lobby with a grand
art installation. The audience entered the theater by passing under
an archway made of a rib cage and other bones with hanging dried
jasmine, snippets of photos, and pieces of flip-books, making for
a time capsule theme. The arch and other pieces were designed by
Zach Morris and Chris Cummings. Morris, who presented the program,
was wise to prepare such a transition into this evening of time
passage, myth, and archetypal women.
Aleta Hayes's "For the
Love of the Dark One -- A Tale of Meera" opened the performance.
The magnificent Hayes, a stalwart with Jane Comfort for many years,
stood in traditional Indian garb of a rich and shiny pink fabric.
Hayes's grounded power, centered spirit and fullness of self allowed
the story of a 16th-century princess/wandering saint to flow out
of her. She sang the tale with her clear and enchanting voice. Her
movement, taken from Indian tradition and her personal variations
on its themes, was danced out seamlessly. The music was composed
by Khalil Sullivan and Joshua Geisler, who played live along with
Phil Kester to the lyrics of Sullivan, Hayes, and Mirabai. The story,
divided into three parts, unfolded quickly as Meera (Hayes) took
great leaps of faith in her personal maturity on her personal journey.
The complexity and layering of music and rhythm heightened with
her. The dance built as well, from the subtle waver of an arm and
foot arch to the rebellious quick hips of the wild one seeking the
love of Krishna, the blue god. As a resolve, the firey Meera finds
her inner voice and her imagination to guide her with grounded grace.
Hayes is an amazing story- teller. Her voice, text, music, movement,
and choice of musicians worked very well. The piece clearly needed
Gestalt psychology eyes -- the whole being much greater than the
sum if its individual parts.
We emerged from Hayes's
triptych into Morris's "Parched," another three-part story, constructed
by Andrea Lepcio, Nikki Berger, and Morris, to Lepcio's text. Morris's
gift is in the directing of dance theater, with simple sets, solid
simple black costumes and simple tonal music setting a plain field
in which text and crystal-clear movement to do the work. Three lovely
dancers, Nikki Berger, Taifa Harris, and Marissa Neilson-Pincus
choreographed the story with Morris. The roles of mother, daughter,
and ghost were successfully inter-woven as these dancers each played
all of the roles interchangeably. This technique gave no single
face to the voices in the text, and made phrase repetition haunt
and resonate. The tempo of the story, flow, and mood remained pretty
even in all three sections. This worked because of the broken up
nature of the show, but may have seemed rather flat next to the
vibrancy of the other pieces on the program. The text had an engaging,
rich rhythm. The simple props -- an empty bowl and a purse of sand
for planting seeds -- set up a timeless and ritualistic scene that
any culture and era of woman could reflect on. Props and text together
created images that flowed through the sections:
bowl bone dry
get off me so I can live
left with nothing (upon the mother's death)
fight for survival
beauty present and lost
a need to wash clean yet having no water.
These deep-psyche cries
were powerful and uttered in a simple and soft way which essentially
worked, but which needed more contrast. Yes, the psyche reveals
sometimes softly, but other times power and embodied emotion charge
these fearful, lonely, lost and instinctive stages of maturity.
This aspect could have been brought out to increase the awareness
of the reality and vulnerability of the women depicted. The piece
ended with a fading out, a sense that the spirit and cycles of the
women would keep on evolving without comment. I left WAX feeling
inspired and awake to ideas and voices and had a renewed sense of
honor and respect for women present and past.
A highlight of the evening
occurred mid-show and was the only tale shared in just one part.
Heather Harrington's "Ruth and Judith," danced by Harrington and
Kathleen Flynn, gave a fresh sense of story and character told by
the body and energy alone. Cam Millar's music provided a simple
melodic reverie that looped through the entire piece, changing pitches
and speeds to mirror the tale of the relations of the women. These
two characters contained the guidance and trust of a mother/daughter
relationship but also evoked, at times, the simplicity and childlike
quality of a sister relationship, in which the two do not even need
to acknowledge each other to love each other and be together. Harrington
communicated a wisdom and spirit, twirling yet unshaken. Flynn displayed
eyes with a bit more innocence, yet never got lost in the wind.
The flicker of a solid hand, a strong quirk of an elbow, and a smooth
yet direct glide to the floor made Harrington's work very honest,
mature, and revealing. The two dancers remained deeply present and
surrendered without blind faith as they bent, fell, and recovered
without crash, comment, or hesitation.
Flynn's character was
called upon to ground a whirling Harrington and center her as she
walked into the shadows. These two truly are impressive women in
body, spirit, and truth.
Catey Ott is a New York City-based choreographer, dancer, and
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