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Flash Review 1, 3-4: Asking What's Next
From Rosen/Bernstein and Peloquin, Transitions

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr.

NEW YORK -- As most of the downtown dance world knows by now, on February 19 Amy Sue Rosen lost her valiant battle against cancer, a little more than a week after the opening of her latest collaboration with visual artist partner, Derek Bernstein. "Break/Broke" is an exploration of support and comfort in a community of people.

A striking setting by Bernstein consists of a carpet of shredded material (it looks like Excelsior, the old packaging medium that bubble wrap replaced) on the floor and a backdrop of the same stuff with light bulbs scattered through it. Hung from a spine of human bones it could suggest a huge grass skirt or the flesh of a decaying torso.

Sally Bomer, Amy Cox, Philip Karg, Kristi Spessard, and Laura Staton in stiff white lab coats by Reiko Kawashima move glacially: creeping, staggering, collapsing, embracing. Rotund Thom Fogarty prowls the scene like a demon/father. At one point the others smear his skin with a black goo. Later, he cranks a manual generator that keeps the bulbs behind the shredded tapestry lit: the organs alive. Finally, he stops turning and the lights go out to end the dance. A soundscape by Andrew Russ of human sounds and electric noises and Jeff Fontaine's lighting reinforce the mood of despair. The agonized piece is the last of Rosen's meditations on dying, and at the last performance the cast couldn't conceal their pain and sadness.

This shared program, part of DTW's Carnival Series, opened with Peggy Peloquin's "Strategies Stabilizing." For a change, there is an entirely comprehensible relationship between the description in the press release and what actually happens on the stage. "Strategies" is, the press release says, "an ironic investigation of the choices we make -- to change or not, based on the illusion of control and unintended consequences.... Peloquin abstracts the architecture of the house and the body."

Peter Richards's video art adds wonderful dimension to the dancing without visually competing with it. The opening image of a highway with insets of houses dropping into the frame and dissolving segues into a solo by Barbara Grubel (who alternated performances with Peloquin). Wearing a salmon-colored dress by Liz Prince, Grubel tosses a handkerchief in the air and lets its random fall direct her response: she dives under it, catches it on her sleeve, rests her head on it like a pillow. Her character is raging against the ravage of impending senescence.

She chews bubble gum and spits it out; she labels her knees L and R -- on the wrong knees -- and she barks. In a huge video close-up of Peloquin's face, she grimaces, causing her neck to wrinkle like a turkey's and the cords in her neck to strain. A verse by May Swenson printed in the program pertains: Body my house/my horse my hound/what will I do/when you are fallen.

Young Daniella Hoff and Kelly Eudailey in sheer, pink, jumpers roll on the floor in perfect unison, sometimes merging into one being by crawling on top of one another, then shooting apart. The smaller Eudailey props up Hoff from behind; they jog round and round the space. Hoff wears a distorted house on her leg; Eudailey takes tiny building blocks from a red handbag and strews them in small piles around the floor. Later, she becomes her mother, reprising some of Grubel's movement.

C. Hyams-Hart composed the original music of rumbling sound with wood block chatter and haunting melodic motifs. Philip W. Sandstrom's lighting is, as usual, eloquent: active and colorful. Two cloud-like sculptures by Matt Gagnon that have been hanging above the stage descend and the young women step into them, as handkerchiefs in the video behind them float upward, turning the stage space into outer space. They drift aloft -- or are they descending into hell? Peloquin poses provocative questions and lets us ponder the answers for ourselves.

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