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Flash Review 1, 2-11: Fired Up
Hay Brings Out the Best in Parkinson, Warby, Cardona & Lorimer

By Lisa Kraus
Copyright 2004 Lisa Kraus

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NEW YORK -- I have long thought that a designation like Japan's "National Living Treasure" is the only moniker that could properly identify certain of the dance world's greats. Seeing Deborah Hay's "The Match" at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church this past weekend makes it clear that Hay is a National Living Treasure, having forged a unique mode of performance that lives vividly, unfolding before our eyes.

How often in recent years have I bemoaned that I can't see the person inside the dancing body? As Gertrude Stein said, "There's no there there." Here, in "The Match," it is the body/mind of the performer that is visible above all else. Not only that, continually dancing on a razor's edge of nowness brings exhilaration to dancer and audience alike.

Mark Lorimer begins in the simple square of black flooring, softly lit by Jennifer Tipton. He's wearing ordinary comfortable clothing and he prances. He prances more, here and there, tracing a floor pattern, opening the space between his legs wider, simply shifting weight or speed in silence except when a creaky platform provides a spot to play. He goes out of the space and returns. The prancing continues -- why stop? This introduction downshifts us into a sensitized way of watching, with patience, with curiosity. It's a symphony of quiet.

Soon the other three dancers enter, voices mumble, then sing softly, clear lines are created and shifted in the space as every dancer has their own occupations. Whole bodies are activated, gestural, always looking about from any joint or surface. There's a sense of purpose and a quality of necessity; anything anyone does seems just what needs to happen at that moment.

Agreements have been made about clean endings and beginnings of sections. Moments of a shared action or spatial picture punctuate an otherwise easily shifting individual landscape. As "The Match" progresses, sections arise and dissipate -- everyone joins sounding "mmmmm" or creating a soft unintelligible Tower of Babel. There's imitation of shapes echoing through the space but never any easy hooks or licks; everything transforms. Ros Warby and Lorimer are yelling at each other, then suddenly they are voiceless, but still yelling. Emotion runs high but never hangs on long; the shifting movement of emotional states provides fuel for brief exchanges. There's a rhythmic song everyone knows; it's funny as they sing it wordless, shuffling from one side of the space to the other.

There's a puzzle here -- we don't know exactly how much is known. We can see that the dancers are creating their own dance while the overall progression of forms is set. Still there's a unity in the whole that goes way beyond the moments of shared intention -- is this a function of the concept -- "The Match"?

There are more solos. Chrysa Parkinson delivers an operatic panoply of proclamations -- a complaint, a cajole, a caress. Her voice and body slide all over the map, yet each split second of the journey is full in itself. This is virtuosity of an extremely high order.

Ros Warby has her moment too, a cyclic little phrase that she has increasing difficulty executing. As with Guilieta Massina in Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria," your heart goes right out to her character, who's not having an easy time of it but definitely has a heart of gold. Poor Ros, her plight has her face puckered as if she's sucking lemons.

Wally Cardona's solo is a star turn in that his means are stripped way down and he makes much from little. His face, hands, and small shifts in balance tell the whole story. Here Tipton's lighting creates a filmic close-up of his head as gradually the others join the picture, crawling across the space. What is it about this image that is so satisfying? Cardona acts eyes wide, as if he is being acted upon in extreme ways. It is utterly believable. The other dancers, like sheep in a meadow, amble. Do we take this picture on faith because that is exactly what the dancers themselves do? It IS reality, now. This gentle image closes the show.

It is rare to see improvisation with no ambiguity! These performers are also spectacular in their understatement. They are people who look as though they could do anything at all, and they might, but never for display.

"The Match" publicity asks, "What if the potential to perceive all time as unique and original, is not a theme, or movement style or goal, but a frame for the performers to weave their bodily intelligence through a choreographed melange of notable and hidden metaphors for the Match?" Hay knows exactly what she is doing. The fruits of her decades of practice of koan-like paradigms that have the effect of waking up the performer and the audience are all right here. She is not just creating dance. She brings her dancers to demonstrating a way of being that has ramifications in every aspect of life. If that isn't cause for awarding her a status of National Living Treasure, I don't know what is.


Lisa Kraus is a performer, choreographer and teacher who is just beginning to flex her writing muscles. Her chronicle of teaching Trisha Brown's "Glacial Decoy" to the Paris Opera Ballet will appear in the next Contact Quarterly. "50 Moves," her latest performance, can be seen at Movement Research in New York on March 29 and in the Dance Critics Conference in Philadelphia this June. Lisa was on the faculty of Holland's European Dance Development Center for a decade and currently guest-teaches technique and repertory. Her web log "Writing My Dancing Life" is a running account of performances seen, works in progress, experience teaching and reflections on history.

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