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Review 1, 4-30: Last Dance
From 'Hand' to Eternity with Donna Uchizono
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2004 Maura Nguyen Donohue
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(Editor's Note: While
the reviewer did not know it at the time, this dance, seen April
23, would, the following night, be the final work seen by Homer
Avila in a lifetime of dancegoing Homer pursued as zealously
as he did his dancemaking.)
NEW YORK -- Donna Uchizono's
"Butterflies from my Hand," seen last Friday at Dance Theater Workshop,
opens with intriguing mystery, moves through pain and its release
and leaves us with a glimpse of encouraging but completely wide-open
possibilities. Uchizono is a choreographic maverick whose fiercely
innovative style delivers rigorously awkward dances. "Butterflies
from my Hand" brings her odd movement phrases and striking imagery
together with enormous power and obvious mastery.
Uchizono applies such
a rigor and intensity to her work that if often feels as if we are
gazing through a high powered microscope, not at minute creatures
but rather at tiny universes or, in this instance, at time, at fleeting
moments in life. This entire work is a dissection of a single moment.
It strips apart the milli-seconds of surrender, exposing the binding
tension and its euphoric, if painful, release. A red cloth hangs
suspended above the left audience aisle. As the houselights dim,
the cloth snaps from its connection and is dragged under the curtain,
which opens to reveal a single female dancer, Hristoula Harakas,
hanging suspended by red fabric. She calmly pulls out a pair of
shiny silver scissors and slowly cuts the fabric above her until
she crashes to the floor. And so begins our fall down the choreographic
rabbit hole and into a rapidly shifting landscape full of wounded
angels and amusing surprises.
The dance bursts into
action with Levi Gonzalez, Carla Rudinger and Andrew Clark entering
in a frenzy of shaking and crumbling. There is a sparkling violence
to Guy Yarden's extraordinary score that creates an undercurrent
of the world in a time-lapse decay. Gonzalez dances a solo of twitches
and jitters. Harakas flails and falls forward on a diagonal as she
pulls a long cloth behind her until Rudinger is suddenly revealed
happily sitting on the end and waving to the audience. When Harakas
pulls the fabric out from under her, Rudinger continues to wave,
though she is now lying sideways on the floor. Later when Rudinger
clings to Gonzalez's shirt, Clark enters with the scissors and cuts
her loose before proceeding to cut the remainder of Gonzalez's top.
Our world is so simply destroyed. When Clark reenters, he crawls
across the front of the stage, cutting at the edge of the first
strip of flooring. Gonzalez soon pulls a new lavender shirt from
beneath the floor. This shift from the rich golds and reds of Wendy
Winter's costumes seems to herald a rebirth. Gonzalez dons the shirt
while walking backwards chased by a cyc that slowly grows green
behind each step and we hear birds chirping in the distance.
Towards the end the
dancers move through a continuing sequence with such beauty and
calm vigor I find myself wishing for the DVD version so I can return
to it again and again, following each individual dancer's journey.
There is an anti-virtuosic nature to the slips and slides of the
dancing but it is clearly demanding choreography. The dancers, credited
as collaborators, handle it magnificently. The section ends with
Gonzalez and Harakas suddenly left to begin a long slow inching
forward on their bellies. They are the proverbial caterpillars waiting
for their release into freedom, flight and astounding splendor.
Eventually, they meet in the center and kiss. Clark falls backwards
and Rudinger walks backwards in retrograde on a diagonal as we hear
the sound of (butterfly?) wings beating. After she exits, the empty
stage brightens; it is a blank slate full of hope and promise.
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