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Flash Review 1, 1-9: Invisible Content, Visible
ChameckiLerner: Nowhere Women

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr

NEW YORK -- Dance Theater Workshop's Carnival Series opens this season with "Visible Content," an example of a growing phenomenon: evening-length dance-as-installation. That is, for its 50-minute length the piece goes nowhere, which is by no means to say that nothing happens. In many of their previous works the Brazilian-born team of Andrea Lerner and Rosanne Chamecki has made a habit of exploring movement motifs at length to create various images that illuminate specific expressive themes. Now, breaking old habits, they have dispensed with all semblance of narrative or linear content and constructed a steady-state emotional continuum.

The four performers, Tarek Halaby, Maria Hassabi, Paul Matteson, and Lerner (who alternates performances with Chamecki), create a fascinating family of eccentric creatures in a pristine space. The light gray stage is bounded on the right by Thomas Sandbichler's intriguing sculptural construction: a two-ply curtain of white mesh with fine red wires warping it into peaks and valleys like a three-dimensional graph. You're sure it's going to animate during the evening, but it doesn't.

Lerner, Halaby, and Matteson stand scattered onstage, trembling, twitching, coughing, gasping. Hassabi enters with a halting stagger and sets the others into motion: Halaby collapses repeatedly, Lerner waves, pokes her belly; Matteson drops to one knee, then springs to his feet sucking in air. They squiggle their feet, toe-heel, to move themselves around. They repeat their phrases endlessly, introducing small variations, exchanging motifs, traveling through space on diagonal paths. Nicholas Petrou has dressed them in stiff and satiny cream-colored tunics with epaulets of tangled string, looking like handfuls of tossed spaghetti that stuck to their shoulders.

Lap-Chi Chu's amazing lighting keeps brightening then fading to near dark without regard to the dancing, like elapsing time cycles. He makes the space glow in subtly shifting hues, and the light-colored floor catches the reflection of the costumes, appearing to give the dancers their own follow spots. Electronic music by Azores modulates the emotional tenor of this handsome visual landscape.

When Hassabi, a dark, small-boned woman with insinuating eyes, violently punches the air around her, her whole body vibrates. Fair-haired Lerner has a softer dynamic; when she wiggles and squirms, there are intimations of a private scenario, a patina that perhaps reflects her role as co-choreographer as well as dancer. Halaby, tall, dark, and boyish, dances with refreshing ungainliness; he lunges backward then gets rubbery-legged, like a fawn finding its land legs.

The most arresting performer, though, is Matteson, a versatile dancer who works with Terry Creach's and David Dorfman's companies, among others. His movement combines animal-like resilience with a deliciously mischievous persona. Visceral enjoyment of his personal internal imagery animates his performance. He brings a consummate physicality and expansiveness to every move that inevitably draws your eye.

If you need drama in your dancing, "Visible Content" is probably not your cup o' tea, but if you're willing to let yourself be seduced by ChameckiLerner's uniquely odd vocabulary, the piece will give you a lot to relish and more to think about. "Visible Content," seen Tuesday, will be repeated on January 11, 16, 17, 25 at 7 p.m. and January 12 and 26 at 2 p.m. For more information, click here.

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