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Flash Review 3, 5-5: Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark
Shadow Boxing, and More, from Wieland & Paradigm

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung

NEW YORK -- Danspace Project's City/Dans presented five new works by Johannes Wieland at St. Mark's Church, seen Friday. In Wieland's work, the movement is the drama, presented in high style with fashion spread costumes. He sometimes adds set pieces that offer a shift in choreographic vocabulary, but they can feel gimmicky. The main event is his aggressive, frenetic style and a keen sense of pacing. Wieland danced with Maurice Bejart's company as a principal dancer and studied at Hamburg under John Neuemeier. He has established a presence in his short time in New York with a recent engagement at the Joyce Soho and this run, also pocketing a post as Paradigm's associate artistic director.

With the exception of a new work for Paradigm, the evening presented no discernible story lines. The dancers moved in disregard to one another, often treating each other as inanimate objects to step on or bounce off. "Parietal Region" featured two upstage shadow boxes designed by Frederica Nascimento -- one large enough to display the five-dancer lineup minus heads, the other just big enough for one person curled in a ball. The work began with a dancer downstage repeatedly pivoting and lapsing into a deep hinge until she hit the deck; others dropped into the big box from its roof and pushed against its innards, finally bursting out the front. Eerily lit from the top, this mini-theater created a sacred, formal space which transformed whatever it framed into a moving Damien Hirst sculpture. (In Wieland's 2002 Joyce Soho program, the dancers flung their arms and heads into tanks filled with water, even more allusive to the Brit's bad boy art.) The music by Phonophani built in speed and volume, adding to the fervor.

In "Vertical," a premiere, dancers in pep squad-type maroon and white costumes by Christopher Crawford burst into movement and then froze, not motionless so much as coiled with energy. Wieland likes to keep a certain amount of tension in his dancers all the time. They often balanced on the ball of one foot and a hand, suspended like a mobile. He makes good use of vertical space as well, building in rapid and numerous level changes within single phrases. Scott Killians's droning soundscape coaxed the dancers along until the noise of their exhausted breathing filled the air, and a solitary dancer spun around to check us out before the lights fell.

"Shift," a duet, featured Isadora Wolfe's gently rocking form contrasted to that of Julian Barnett, who attacked a jump like a toy rocket blasting off. Any drama happening between them was kinetic, not emotional. Wieland has his dancers disengage psychologically, and as a result, they seem to be passengers in their own wild bodies. Wieland performed one solo, "Mohn," with his gaze dropped to the floor signalling humility, even shyness. His tour de force segment consisted of rising on the balls of his feet in fourth position and arching his torso back impossibly far. He exuded quiet power, managing to signal technical prowess with great economy.

Wieland choreographed "Apperception," also a premiere, for Paradigm (Carmen De Lavallade, Keith Sabado, and Gus Solomons jr) plus three dancers from his troupe. Paradigm's members -- in their golden years -- performed quieter steps, occasionally showing their mileage, but also demonstrating why they are all dance legends with their good bones and elegant lines. Nascimento designed the brilliant costumes: navy and beige satin chemises, wrap skirts and trousers, and ivory Mary Jane heels. The dancers placed the shoes in different spots, often near three microphones located downstage against which Paradigm's members knocked their noggins with a thud. De Lavallade's layers of skirts peeled off like an onion, and in the finale the cast members unbuttoned their navy shirts to reveal the beige versions. Peter Garland provided the hypnotic piano motif. Wieland managed to keep things interesting despite the slow pace and contained vocabulary, which contrasted markedly with the rest of the program, and I relished the chance to watch Paradigm's many gifts.

Wieland's additional company members are Neal Beasley, Adele Berne, Brittany Beyer-Schubert, Nicholas Duran, Katherine Helen Fisher, Taryn Griggs, and Eliza Littrell. Mark Barton designed the lighting.

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