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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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