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Flash Review 1, 5-5: Shut up and Dance
Grownup Dancing to (Mostly) Grownup Dances from Zvi Gotheiner

by Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr

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NEW YORK -- Zvi Gotheiner makes delicious movement that blends ballet, done with a released attack, and the buoyancy of folk dancing. In its New York season at Symphony Space, April 28-May 1, his ten-dancer company, ZviDance, performed three of Gotheiner's recent works. They nicely showed his stylistic range -- lyric to dramatic -- as well as his choreographic strengths and weaknesses.

Elisa King danced a solo from the 2001 "Interiors," depicting a woman unable to water a plant because of mental distractions or painful recollections that divert her each time she tries; she balances the pitcher upright as she shifts it around her torso, dribbles the water down her throat, and finally, she eats a mouthful of leaves from the still thirsty plant. And in a duet from the same work, sexual restlessness obsesses Todd Allen and Ying Ying Shiau; emotional momentum accumulates as the movement gains speed and complexity. At the climax, both huddle in a fervid embrace atop the chair that shares the cramped trapezoid of light they're trapped in.

When "Interiors" premiered in 2001 at the Duke theater -- a troublesomely wide and shallow stage space -- Gotheiner stripped it of all drapery, exposing rear and side walls, putting dancers and audience all in the same room, eliminating theatrical masking and shaping the space only with light. At Symphony Space, he and his talented lighting designer Mark London employed the same effective strategy. A bare brick wall backed the dances and exposed lighting battens framed the sides, effectively creating a neutral space for the dancing.

"Lapse," created in 2002 for Repertory Dance Theater of Utah, took us on a journey of indeterminate nature. Dancers jog backwards, as if devolving into the past, where they rediscover past relationships and encounters. Over the course of the half-hour ballet, each dancer emerges from the group for moments of solo reflection or brief, intense but emotionally ambiguous encounters with others.

In blue-patterned bathing suits by Naoko Nagata, the dancers recline in a diagonal line as if lolling on a beach, while King dances off to one side of them. Tall, powerfully built David Rodriguez engages in a troubled discourse with himself, while a tight clump of others drift in and out behind him. Sleek Barbara Koch's long blond ponytail flies, as she does her leggy soliloquy surrounded by the four men. Allen dances a stretchy, sinuous solo, ending prostrate, and then braids his legs around those of Shiau, who hovers over him in a mixture of tenderness and curiosity.

Through a maze of London's harsh white beams that slash across the space, highlighted by a misting machine, the dancers weave and tangle in human chains; Gotheiner skillfully reshapes the space and mood continuously throughout, knitting the episodes together with variations of the running motif, round and round in a clockwise course, and ending the ballet with Allen leaping into blackness.

The popular composer for dance Scott Killian devised the intriguing scores for the two dances above, using a mix of electronic and instrumental sounds, textures, and rhythms that supported but didn't dictate kinetic ideas. The newest work, opening the program: "Easy for You to Say," which premiered at Juilliard last December, rides on the acerbic melodies and surging harmonies of the Piano Quintet in G Minor by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The dance begins with a spate of joyous, buoyant motion for ten dancers. Shortly, the dancers start to hum bits of the score. Ashley Gilbert and Eric Hoisington, during their duet, repeatedly clap hands over each other's mouths to silence the singing. Allen and Hoisington partner together with Allen persistently asking "Did you say something?" or "What did you say?" but getting no response from the mute Hoisington. Between the musical movements, dancers move to the sound of their own singing.

The vocalizing and text, perhaps an attempt to humanize the dancers, fall flat; it's arbitrary, naive, and theatrically underdeveloped. Perhaps it worked, jokily, when Juilliard students performed it, but it adds nothing to the lyrical purely kinetic expression of the lovely, elongated lines and tricky foot patterns that make Gotheiner's dancing by his luscious -- and very grownup -- dancers such fun to watch.

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