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Flash Review 1, 5-19: wrightright
Smooth New Work from Haphazard

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2003 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- In 2002, Marta Miller and Aislinn MacMaster co-founded "Haphazard," an informal collective of artists making work around and for each other. Despite the name I couldn't find anything chaotic or disorganized about the ensemble's program at Mulberry St. Theater Thursday.

Miller and Anka Sedlackova open with "Dress," a duet created together. Several dresses hang upstage, filling the space and providing a pleasing visual backdrop to the dance. Sedlackova begins downstage in a slip and then dresses in a skirt and top before joining Miller upstage. After changing into two of the dresses hanging onstage, they begin a brooding dance in the front left corner of the stage and then change outfits again. We hear a gossipy voice-over discussion about cruises and broken legs while the women unsuccessfully try to pull the shorter black dresses down to cover their slips. The dresses define the mood for each sequence before Miller finally removes Sedlackova's dress and slip and she walks upstage into darkness.

In "Bed," Miller and MacMaster stand facing upstage at a baby blue sheet hanging on a line. The dance seems like it's going to be dark but MacMaster soon explodes into bursts of expansive movement that deny the intimacy of the small theater. Their rough and tumble partnering careens through the space, arms are flung, glances are plaintive and they collapse to the floor repeatedly. Miller is a sharp, skillful dancer and this work highlights the two co-founders' abilities very well. MacMaster notably inhabits her dancing with stunning vibrancy and freedom. A solo moment moves seamlessly between rushes of movement and subtle, minute gestures. She's a compelling dancer who implies that there is always much more happening than what we see on stage.

To slaughter a certain Gertrude Stein phrase, "A dance is a dance is a dance is a dance" except when Chris Dohse, who also writes for this publication, pairs Stein's text with equally fragmented movement phrases. His solo "RememBury Mine" opens with Dohse as a solitary figure sitting downstage left with head down. After a ponderous beginning, isolated in down light, he begins speaking and draws the crowd in with a slight shift, a wry smile and the phrase "and so do queens." The wordplay Stein's repetitive and slightly varying text propels can easily spin my brain into a serious state of 'duh?' But Dohse is an animated performer and so thoroughly enjoys the material he's working with that I stay engaged. The work hits its liveliest points when Dohse stands and begins to build a sequence of movements onto the verbal wanderings. The solo becomes such a tightly crafted and crafty accumulation (and digression) of movement and words that the succeeding dance is overshadowed until he rolls upstage, the back traveler curtain is pulled apart and MacMaster and Miller are revealed behind it in stunning red dresses. Johanna Hegenscheidt joins them and we've segued straight into "rongwrong," a trio choreographed by Dohse for the three women.

As the dance begins, the women weave between one another in silence, returning to a single-file column facing the audience. The effect is like a shifting image of the multiple aspects of a single entity. Here, perhaps, they are the ancient Greek Graeae (gray ones): Horror, Dread and Alarm revealing themselves. Catherine Barinas's red dresses offer some sense of differing characters among the three women, with Miller in a more innocent high-wasted dress, while Hegenschedit's flows and MacMaster's satiny number is tantalizing. A transitional moment where the women seem to be seeking one another blindly and then one pulls a long white string from another's mouth recalls the image of the Graeae as sharing one eye and one tooth between the three. Severn Clay's lighting design is most enjoyable here, as he manages to create separate environments in the small space.

Writer, dancer, and choreographer Maura Nguyen Donohue is artistic director of Maura Nguyen Donohue/In Mixed Company. To visit the company's web site, please click here.

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