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Flash Review 2, 10-22: 'Imitations of Drowning'
Harrington Ebbs and Flows

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2003 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- "Imitations of Drowning," which ran last weekend at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, was an ambitious endeavor by a promising young choreographer, Heather Harrington. The evening-length work, Harrington's first, was loosely based on Shakespeare's "Macbeth," and benefited from very high production qualities -- superb lighting, inventive costuming, an interesting set, and a haunting original score by Quentin Chiappetta, performed live by the Ellison String Quartet. The choreography, however, could have benefited from further editing. Numerous moments shone, but an equal number were tedious. Harrington's composition had an uneven quality, both in terms of the originality of her movement vocabulary and the proficiency of her dancers' execution.

The three witches, played by Tania Varela-Ibarra, Sarah Lewis, and Alyssa Stith, were technically strong dancers, but they lacked the forceful intention that Harrington brought to her interpretation of Lady Macbeth. Their simple, gestural moments worked best -- slithering across the floor, whispering at the audience, or interlocking limbs. These were often interrupted, however, by a series of chaines or a routine arabesque. The "dancey" dance seemed out of place and mundane. It failed to capitalize on Chiappetta's compelling score, nor did it paint a convincing picture of the witches' characters.

Only Harrington was able to translate the choreography's stilted arabesques, attitude turns, and high grand battements into sweeping arcs of movement. She has a lovely, expressive back, pliable from years of competitive figure skating, that gives a sense of curve and flow to her dancing. This was particularly evident in the work's opening image, where Harrington arches incredibly far back, then desperately pulls at her long brown hair, foreshadowing her character's tormented psyche. With a degree in Psychology from Boston University and previous experience dancing for the Martha Graham Ensemble and the Pearl Lang Dance Theater, Harrington has a flair for the dramatic and an interest in revealing emotional states through movement. She achieved this goal most successfully during her solo sections, but there were chilling moments throughout the evening.

Harrington's duets with Macbeth, played by the brooding Branislav Henselmann, alternated between tender, gliding caresses and furtive gropes. At one point she cradled him on her lap, rocking plaintively, and pulling strings out of his costume with her teeth. In the second act, the scene "Fracturing of Lady Macbeth's Psyche" was brilliantly executed by Harrington, Kathleen Flynn, and Sarah Lewis. The trio personified a psychotic break via repetitive, methodical gestures, while the impeccable Jennifer Chin echoed their movements from the balcony above. To her credit, Harrington made excellent use of the Church's elegant balcony and carpeted seating levels; toward the end of the piece, dancers representing Lady Macbeth's visions of herself stalked her from every angle. The final moment was a tad predictable, in its return to the opening image of Harrington as a distressed Lady Macbeth, alone in the center of the stage. Nevertheless, such a tightly-structured, A-B-A resolution was ultimately satisfying.

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