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Flash Review 2, 1-9: Isolationists
Up Against the Fourth Wall in Wally's World

By Angela Jones
Copyright 2003 Angela Jones

NEW YORK -- Have you ever been in bed with someone and felt incredibly lonely? That's how it felt sitting in St. Mark's Church less that a foot away from the dancers of the Wally Cardona Quartet Tuesday at Danspace Project. The performers would sit down among us, come close to us and yet never acknowledge the audience or each other for that matter. Blank expressions, those Cunningham-esque mitten hands and stiff limbs performed patterns in space among square architecture, florescent lights and video to a flat line of DJ remixing. From beginning to end, everything was the same. With one notable exception. Only one ephemeral moment shone through, when Cardona wrapped his hand around one woman's waist, using his fingers to actually hold her, and really looked at her, while she touched him with her mittens and looked through him. I thought that maybe the humans might come out to play after all. But then it simply went on.

Perhaps my disappointment is simply a matter of my own high false expectations. What I was looking for, I did not find. When I read the PR, it piqued my interest because I thought, "Ah hah, someone in Modern Dance is finally acknowledging and interacting with the audience." But really the dancers' proximity to the audience only made the fourth wall glaringly obvious. Nor did we get a voyeuristic glimpse of a raw physical relationship between dancers, as they never really touched, but only bumped into each other. It was about as intimate as your average subway ride.

It is of course possible that the city life/alienation theme was the point, but if so, this wasn't clear enough. The dancers were technically proficient, a solid unit, and the choreographic movement vocabulary consisted of well-constructed patterns and nicely crafted theme and variation. However, I found myself rather disengaged from the entire experience. I was looking for someone to take a real risk, to reach out and break real boundaries, not just pretend to break boundaries. I was hoping for an experience like Douglas Dunn's "Neither," squashed into an old tenement with dancers caught up in the moment all around you, or Ann Carlson's tour of Old Chelsea, where you weren't sure what was dance and what was just New York. With these few notable exceptions, I find the "avant-garde" dance nowadays generally pretty formulaic. Unfortunately, what I was looking for was a rare gem and what I found was yet another Modern Dance Concert, very well crafted yet utterly the same.

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