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Review 1, 11-12: Studs, Slatterns and Pasolini Angels
The Vandalized Lovemaps of RoseAnne Spradlin
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2003 Chris Dohse
NEW YORK -- RoseAnne
Spradlin has such a singular choreographic intelligence, she can
dare to irritate. Steadfast to her own inquiry, she manipulates
the figures of her magnificent dancers in an architectural space
that evidences her background as a visual artist. Sometimes their
collaborative commitment to the material allows it to morph into
scenes that are unpleasant to watch. But even when their behavior
is inexplicable, their presence beguiles.
Spradlin's program at
the Kitchen, seen this past Thursday, begins with "Rearrangement
(or a Spell for Mortals)," a new duet for Walter Dundervill and
Athena Malloy. With the first November chill in the air, this spell
sings to me like an Earth ritual, a Samhain invocation. Maybe this
is due to Malloy's rather fabulous Halloween-striped dress in oranges
and blacks. Or Dundervill's kiltish rags. Throughout, simple activities,
interspersed with clearly bracketed danced phrases, are inseparable
from the strength and oddity of these performers.
Microphoned tanks of
water burble along the sides of the space, part of Kenneth Atchley's
installation/soundscore, lit in antiseptic glare by Jason Marin.
The tanks at first sound like tranquility, but there is no serenity
in the dancers' repetitive persistence, even when they settle into
interior activities like writing in their journals. Instead, the
sound of the water begins to evoke the relentless violence of hydrolysis,
the process whereby a compound is cleaved into simpler compounds
by interaction with H2O. Dundervill and Malloy are eventually cleaved
into gesticulation and tantrum. Increasingly fractured and isolated
on the white rectangle of floor, their bowing, genuflecting, machine-like
flagellations seem to contain simultaneously the malignant sweetness
of the pomegranate and Demeter's wrath at losing Persephone to Hades.
I found the premiere
of Spradlin's "under/world" at Squid to be the most deeply moving
dance I saw last year. It loses a certain intimacy in the Kitchen's
warehouse-like cavity, but retains brilliance. Engined by its Bessie-rewarded
cast (Dundervill, Malloy and Tasha Taylor), the dance captures the
real essence and power of fetish: not its naughtiness, but its necessity.
The only perversity here is Spradlin's Prussian imposition of order
on her assemblage of studs, slatterns and Pasolini angels. From
a duet for Dundervill and Taylor built around tickling and suckling
(knowing that Taylor has a four-month old son makes this section
a bit unnerving) to sections that delight in the naked body's authentically
awkward tangle with gravity, "under/world" never condescends to
suburban mockery of fringe sexuality, but rather groans with its
urgency, its sweetness, its legitimacy. Only a fool with an unexamined
libido could find this material "racy." A recurrent motif in both
sections of the piece -- a trio of pretzelly swaying and interweaving
-- ain't no Botticelli "Spring." Even the blase downtown audience
seems assaulted by some of these images (Spradlin places two tiers
of seating in an L shape, so you can see the other half curl into
flinches). Yet for someone familiar with Dr. John Money's research
into the source of what he calls "vandalized lovemaps," this raw
swoon -- all meat, no joy -- nails something dear, something real,
something poignant, sly and sad. I get choked up at the same place
this year as last year. After a remarkable, prolonged, trance-like
hootchy-koo facing away from the audience, Dundervill saunters forward
and rather grandly bows to the conclusion of Gavin Bryar's divine
"Intermezzo." Guess I'm just a sucker for that kind of thing.
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