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Flash Review 1, 12-2: Originals of the Species
Fresh Tracks from Laverdure, Kikuchi & Sugimoto, Ballos, Linehan, Bokaer and Allen

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr

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NEW YORK -- The latest edition of Dance Theater Workshop's Fresh Tracks, performed November 26-27, reconfirms that it is New York's premiere series for presenting challenging, emerging choreographer/performers. Two duets and four solos showcased sure-footed, expressive dances that ranged from humor to dramatic abstraction to indeterminacy to politics and restored our often tenuous faith that original young dance voices still exist.

Jeremy Laverdure explains drolly at the start of his "besto perfecto Esperanto" that it's really a duet for two men but will be danced with a woman (Tracy Dickson); that it's made for a smaller stage, so when they're standing at the side, they're actually offstage. And, oh yes, we should imagine fancy red curtains with tassels, rather than these drab black ones we're seeing. Having thus suspended our disbelief, Laverdure and Dickson proceed through a nicely modulated series of unlikely limb-hooking, foot-pushing, body-bumping physical connections, set to epic movie music by Max Steiner (RKO Pictures Orchestra) and snatches of film dialog.

The other duet, "Shaa kHa," begins with its co-creators Yuka Kikuchi and Yoko Sugimoto sitting side by side in a pool of light, moving with glacial precision. Eventually one rises and dances martial arts-inspired phrases in various spotlighted locations. Only at the curtain call do we see that the second dancer has a badly injured foot and has been unable to dance standing up.

The rear curtains open to reveal Felicia Ballos silhouetted against the rear wall in "Fragile Lodging." To raucous post-rock music by Black Dice, she staggers on her long limber legs and then runs off to the left. As the curtains inch slowly closed, she runs again from right to left, somehow having gotten to the other side of the stage without crossing the rear wall of the building we're looking at. A third time, she runs in from the right, chewing gum and trying to gain control of limbs that won't behave. In a rubber-limbed exploration of instability, she inches toward a pair of shoes that rest downstage, left of center. Finally, however, she squats to a halt a few feet away, never reaching them.

The two male soloists both shine with distinction: Daniel Linehan, who could pass for a twelve year old, self-accompanies his "Digested Noise" with grunts, hisses, and clucks. Arms flapping and head wagging in phrases that retrograde, Linehan displays prodigious coordination, an array of kinetic textures, and a sharp instinct for when -- and for how long -- to use them. Whether he's crawling on all fours, sniffing the ground while tapping the floor with all the facets of his hands, or spinning in place weaving elaborate arm patterns in the air, he can keep all his parts moving independently in their own rhythms, then, freeze on a dime, except for a wagging pinky finger.

Anyone who has seen Merce Cunningham's company lately has doubtless been bowled over by Jonah Bokaer's glorious dancing. This brilliantly adept technical dancer combines pristine line and crystalline clarity with reckless attack. Using the computer program DanceForms 1.0, Bokaer created "RSVP," an assemblage of highly articulated movement phrases, performed in diagonal shafts of harsh white light. Each time he comes to rest on the ground the lights fade, only to rediscover him in another diagonal path. Silence is punctuated by the carefully calibrated rhythms of his body parts: knees, elbows, hips, hands, and feet, passively striking the floor -- and the chirping of cell phones, emanating from various locations throughout the auditorium (his own sound installation, engineered by Loren Kiyoshi Dempster).

Last on the program, Melinda Allen, founder of the Allen Body Group, choreographed and directed herself in "Antigen." Wearing a two-piece bathing suit by Mimi Edwards, Allen lithely stretches her formidable mocha-brown limbs, while matter-of-factly discoursing the nature of viruses, relating their behavior to disease and to that of men in relationships; "infiltration" is projected on the floor beside her. With quiet authority the charismatic performer continues her observations; "Emotions are contagious: like hate," she states, and "analogy" glimmers on the ground, as she describes how hate infects us. The inferences: racial, sexual, gender, are obvious but her calm delivery never shoves them in our faces. At the end her gaze confronts us, as the house lights bump on, and on the floor glows "perspective."

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