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Flash 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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