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Review 2, 1-9: Not Altogether Different
Space Cadets & Other States of Beings from Stenn & Co.
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr
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NEW YORK -- In 1996
Rebecca Stenn formed her PerksDanceMusicTheatre company, the premise
of which is interaction between dancers and musicians in performance.
(Stenn is also a contributor to this publication.) As does Momix
-- the company that weaned her -- Stenn espouses choreography by
committee, usually crediting almost the entire cast of a piece with
For her appearances
(January 7, 10, and 11) in the Altogether Different festival at
the Joyce Theater, Stenn installed her four musicians onstage, so
their instruments and monitor lights were a constant presence. Will
Knapp's and Jane Shaw's lighting strove to create distinct locales
for each dance, but especially in the premiere, where the musicians
were largely inactive, the gear distracted from the theatrical magic.
"The Seventh Wave,"
the obligatory Joyce premiere, was "conceived and directed" by Stenn
and choreographed by her along with Faith Pilger, Eric Dunlap, and
Trebien Pollard. Performers Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope joined
them for this space odyssey, in which three aliens (Dunlap, Pilger,
and Stenn) in multicolored unitards by Angelina Avallone appeared,
center stage -- lit by hand-held lamps -- and encountered three
earthlings in long tunics that perhaps represented some prehistoric
The usual interactions
between "them and us" ensued: mutual fear, curiosity, and defiant
confrontation -- played out in generic movement and with surprisingly
little passion. People pushing themselves between other people or
shoving each other was a recurring motif. The earthlings "zapped"
the aliens with flashlight beams, then embraced and partnered them
in the now standard man-man, man-woman, woman-woman configuration.
The final image, the "birth" of Dunlap, squeezing himself between
the embracing bodies of Stenn and Pilger to the sound of a crying
baby, was shockingly cliched.
"Left of Fall," the
opening dance for Stenn, de la Reza, Kope, and Pollard depicted
emotionally abstract relationships among the four who interacted
aggressively; the men seemed to be trying to incite the women to
combat. The saving grace of the dance was the effervescence of the
rocking rendition of Stravinsky's "Sacre du printemps" arranged
by bassist Jay Weissman and cellist/keyboardist Dave Eggar.
Stenn and her collaborators'
movement choices reflected influences of Momix: crabbed postures
and convoluted lifts that melted into one another and moved in limited
spatial trajectories. She and her dancers, strong athletes all,
performed with oddly inconsistent projection, alternating between
postmodern deadpanning and broad facial acting, just as the dances
themselves inexplicably veered between abstraction and narrative.
"Embrace" (1996) featured
de la Reza and Kope on an invisible turntable that allowed them
to spin constantly, while adoring each other to Eggar and Weissman's
haunting arrangement of Olivier Messiaen's music. Stenn's 1998 solo
"Zimzum," a softly lyrical study with original music by Eggar and
Weissman, showcased Stenn's physical strength and control. She danced
in a pool of light in a sunny, full-sleeved dress by George Hudacko.
Finally, "The Carmen
Suites" (2000) deftly illustrated the company concept: musician-dancer
interaction. Stenn, de la Reza, and Kope carried and dragged Weissman
and Eggar around in unexpected ways while they played selections
from Bizet's opera: Kope bowed Eggar's cello, while Eggar fingered
the melodies; the cellist reclined supine on Kope's raised hands
and feet and played.Kope took the bow and dueled with the spike
of Eggar's cello, and Eggar then ran Kope through with it. The casual
abandon with which everyone treated the instruments -- and each
other -- made a strong artistic statement. But it would've been
more satisfying, had its imaginative premise been more creatively
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