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Review 3, 11-25: "Dancer's Night Out"
From the Self-congratulatory to the Abandoned with Westwater, Siegal,
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2002 Chris Dohse
NEW YORK -- Dance Theater
Workshop's "Dancer's Night Out," seen November 15, features the
work of three choreographers: Kathy Westwater, Richard Siegal and
Kimberly Bartosik. All three works are dense with movement ideas
and visual images and share a dream-like intensity. All three also
stall at times, either bogged down in self-involved content or structural
drift. In a program like this, placement is crucial. Bombast that
is forgiven in the first piece seems intolerable in the third.
The four characters
in Westwater's "Dark Matter" (Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede)
are astronomically known as the Galilean moons of Jupiter. The mysteries
of Westwater's subtext, though, are better unlocked by recalling
the Roman myths from which these names were drawn. In mythology,
all four (Io, a river nymph; Europa, a Phoenician princess; Callisto,
another nymph; and Ganymede, a lovely Trojan boy) were duped and
seduced by the God Jupiter. Europa and Callisto bore Jupiter children
and Ganymede became his cupbearer. Now, due to some astronomer's
whim, these darlings are doomed to circle their duplicitous rapist
for eternity. Westwater curiously genderswitches her cast, leaving
her only male, Aaron Mattocks, to dance Callisto, while Ganymede
is danced by Rachel Lerner. They are joined by Abby Block and Westwater.
During Part 1 ("Frontier"),
the dancers' specific gaze, simultaneously direct and blank, connects
what might otherwise look like simultaneous, unrelated solos. Never
engaging the audience or connecting with each other, they stare
intently at the unseen. Two scoot on their butts across the stage
backward, as if rowing Charon's boat across the river of dark wisdom.
The others narrowly miss each other while focused on the rafters.
Westwater's first solo is a portrait of someone trapped in a recurring,
unpleasant challenge. Her composition is spare and academically
informed, with surprisingly satisfying use of canon. Arms are drawn
to the earth in heavy gravity against staccato-legged accuracy.
She explores virtuosity within a limited kinesthetic range.
Suddenly, the dancers
acknowledge that they're being watched and soften, waving their
wrists and arms rapidly before them. This ado might signify flames,
or rain falling, or the urgent threading of a loom. Their change
of affect suggests the welcome coming-to-consciousness after nightmare.
For Part 2 ("Dynasty"),
the quartet adopts a more traditional proscenium intent and their
dancing warms up. They flop on their bellies like copulating frogs
and join hips for a Rockette kickline, still as if fenced into a
repetitious, ill-fitting reality. Their upward gaze in a final square
suggests some kind of epiphany, as in "a comprehension or perception
of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization."
Richard Siegal has worked
to great acclaim with and for William Forsythe at the Ballett Frankfurt
for many years. His "X=X" shares certain elements with their collaboration,
"Woolf Phrase," seen last year at the Brooklyn Academy of Music:
the intersection of dance and text within a highly stylized visual
sensibility. Siegal and ex-Frankfurt dancer Crystal Pite preface
the formal beginning of the piece by chalking text across the apron
of the stage floor while composer Diane Labrosse sets up her equipment
behind a rolling mirror. Siegal embellishes the scrawled words until
they resemble a fussed-over mathematical theorem, a notated musical
score or an obsessive proofreader's marks. This palimpsest is read
aloud by Siegal a few moments later, to initiate an odd story of
chance meetings, reminisced emotion and surreal leaps of logic.
Pite dances while Siegal
narrates. Her movement -- quirky, squirming and playful -- is often
the least compelling element of the composition. Siegal's intimate,
thoughtful presence and rich voice, Labrosse's growling score, and
reflections caught haphazard in the mirror overshadow her action.
When Siegal joins her briefly, his flurried, abbreviated attack
flings into itself. The story diminishes into a sort of philosophical
dangle and the work, as impressive as it is technically, is ultimately
Kimberly Bartosik is
returning to choreography and performance after a two-year break.
In that time she seems to have stored up a lot of ideas. Her duet
with Derry Swan, "The Mechanics of Fluids," contains the evening's
most inscrutable barrage of images and meanders compositionally.
It also contains the evening's lushest dancing. The two figures
begin isolated in pools of light, one underneath what might be a
giant Native American dreamcatcher. Fractured forms pulse on a television
monitor like during REM sleep as the dancers shake. Are they invoking
or warning away demons? One solo approaches liturgical flagellation.
Another is juxtaposed against environmental sounds, birds whistling
and amphibians croaking, as if at the dawn of the world.
Both dancers, Bartosik
a Merce Cunningham alumna and Swan a current Cunningham member,
are eerily feminine, perhaps sensing genesis in their wombs. They
alternate between wonder and abandon. Ancient, violent, elemental
and scary energies wear each of them out after possessing her.
Chris Dohse is the Dance Insider's senior critic, and has also
contributed to the New York Times, Village Voice, and Dance Magazine.
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