featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Review 2, 2-25: Oh oh & Oh no
Careless Costumes Trip up Rethorst's Rigorous Dance

By Alissa Cardone
Copyright 2004 Alissa Cardone

New! Sponsor a Flash!

NEW YORK -- Wrought with intricate gestures and unpredictable configurations, Susan Rethorst's dances demand a dedicated eye. I was concentrating so hard on them Thursday at Dance Theater Workshop I felt as if I were playing a high stakes game of charades. But the performances of "Oh Oh Oh" and "Don't Go Without Your Echo" weren't games; I couldn't yell out any guesses.

I was thinking: Must you always know what a dance means? And does it matter if you get its meaning right? Rethorst's work begged these questions because I found her dances difficult to interpret. I've never believed you have to "understand" a dance in a specific way -- but as a fan who is used to engaging with dance as a dialogue, I found Rethorst's dense vocabulary and even pacing more like a tour-de-monologue; it was difficult to absorb. I felt like I was reading a classic novel that I knew was amazing but I couldn't understand all the big G.R.E.-style vocab.

And yet, the movement was undeniably intriguing. Laced with neurotic ticks and spasms, "Oh Oh Oh"'s bluesy air did have me guessing. Was it about love, longing and loneliness? Was Rethorst being ironic or sincere? The various repetitions of dancers' hands twisting, slapping, slicing, grasping or twinkling became hypnotic as the piece lurched forward in dense flurries of action split up into various solos, duos, trios and foursomes. Dancers shadowed each other or performed simultaneous yet independent phrases; action layered upon action, sometimes making it unclear who to look at or where the focal point of the dance was. Entrances and exits happened often and unexpectedly, keeping a sense of momentum going as well as an element of surprise. Seasoned performers Jeanine Durning, Taryn Griggs, Jodi Melnick, Jeremy Nelson and Vicky Schick danced with impeccable skill and fluidity, a sense of control and alertness which made technique look so natural it was nonchalant.

Rethorst's work brought me back to my early days of watching dance in New York, in the mid-'90s, when video projections, elaborate stage sets and media hybridization weren't drawing attention away from the dance like they are now. Movement is the primary element for Rethorst, and her pursuit of choreographic structures in which to frame her quirky idiosyncratic vocabulary takes precedence over all other elements. Rethorst certainly brings the Dance back into focus. And yet, considering her deep talent, her experience -- she's been making dances since 1975 -- and her strong ties to the European dance community, she pays surprisingly little attention to music and costuming. The murkiness of these works could have been prevented had these vital elements not been neglected.

In "Don't Go Without Your Echo," the music sounded like it was playing back off a beat-up cassette tape deck and Rethorst's costumes made the excellent and diverse cast of dancers look frumpy and washed out. Music in "Oh Oh Oh" consisted of an equally poor sounding instrumental version of the classic tune "Summertime," only in this piece, the degraded sound did support the atmosphere. The song was randomly faded in and out, leaving long moments of silence in which the dance talked on its own. Although the costumes and lighting made me think more of a rainy springtime than summer, there was definitely a flirtatious echo in "Oh Oh Oh," and even though I couldn't quite grasp its teasing line, I was still determined to follow it all the way.

See Susan Rethorst Friday and Saturday at DTW. For more information, please visit the DTW web site.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home