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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
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