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Review 3, 11-21: "Mother" Wit
Hedewig's Savvy Sad Clown
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2002 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- German-born,
Amsterdam-trained Guta Hedewig has been making dances in the U.S.A.
since 1991. Her fifty-minute trio, "Stabat Mater/Mother Stood" (November
14 - 17 at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church) juxtaposes quirky
dancing to 18th century composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's stately
setting of the sacred text. Set designer Illya Azaroff arrays the
sanctuary with two slatted walls, framing the dancing area. Kathy
Kaufmann's brilliantly conceived lighting back lights the slats,
casting stark shadows on the floor that melt into pools of white
light, washed by a ruddy glow. A white scrim hangs opposite the
audience, upstage center -- though it's used only once to project
a red square, it shrinks the apparent space, lit from the front,
and expands it, lit from behind.
Hedewig, Monica Bill
Barnes, and Kristi Spessard, three matching physiques -- small and
compact -- wear black pants and sleeveless jerkins, identical in
all but their shades of red: salmon, ruby, and fuchsia. They run
in a circle to the music, then stop short in a pool of light, when
it stops. They twist and turn imperceptibly at first, then add twitches
and glances. The dancing reveals Hedewig's mime training. Arm and
torso gestures, punctuated by big postmodern lurches and falls,
are puckish. Hedewig is smart enough to let Pergolesi's musical
persistence knit together the astute sparseness of the movement.
Hedewig introduces her
witty vocabulary in revolving duets with non sequitur interruptions
by the odd woman out. She and Spessard both do short solos, later
juxtaposing them in counterpoint. Then, Hedewig introduces some
narrative insinuations. Spessard dances with the red suitcase that,
till now, we've barely noticed sitting in the shadows. She and Barnes
both slip into the big black sweater-coat that's inside, becoming
a two-headed creature with four hands -- you can't tell which hands
are whose. They button two buttons at a time, pull two oranges from
the coat pockets, juggle, and snack on them.
A bundle of chiffon
also emerges from the valise. Hedewig uses it to cushion her headstand,
then undoes the black ribbons it's bound in. Spessard and Barnes
wind themselves into the two red tutus, of which the black ribbons
turn out to be waistbands, and dance a bouncy, joyful, deadpan duet.
Barnes's piercing focus gives her neutral expression a riveting
pungency. Hedewig's subsequent solo, intense and moody, looks like
a sad clown's lament, as the women somberly doff their fluffy skirts
in slow motion behind her. As the chorus sings "amen," two women
flap their arms like birds, while the third remains in the background.
Hedewig is a witty,
stylish miniaturist, whose work is mounted with a theatrical knack
that adds substance to a modest movement style. Manipulating familiar
movement cleverly in contrast to classical accompaniment creates
intriguing dramatic tension that captivates you while it's happening.
Savvy Hedewig seduces your eye with smart visual choices and teases
you with a gentle kinetic sensibility.
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