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Flash Review 2, 2-1: Shadows of the 'Future Past'
In the Tree-House with RoseAnne Spradlin

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2005 Chris Dohse

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NEW YORK -- In RoseAnne Spradlin's "Future Past" (seen January 22 at Dance Theater Workshop), artificial trees menace the space. When they're not loitering in the wings. I'm guessing they're about ten feet tall. The trees create a symbolic Schwarzwald in which Spradlin's mysterious, dream-like world unfolds. If it's a dream, it's certainly a nightmare. The trees huddle like a Burnam Wood full of the undead. Or they scatter as casually nude bodies litter the floor for a Boschian Bedlam assault on the senses.

A remarkable cast (Walter Dundervill, Chase Granoff, Jennifer Kjos, Mina Nishimura, Stephanie Tack and Tasha Taylor, with eight supporting players) spurts and percolates through phrasework. Their presence is direct and visceral, unafraid of the awkward fact of their bodies. They run in circles as if lost, urgently taking off and returning, not getting anywhere, Hansels and Gretels without bread crumbs. It's a matter-of-fact, task-oriented energy, whether the task in question is partnering a tree, beginning abrupt propulsive phrases or wracking the torso with what might be sobs or succor. As it is a Spradlin dance, what the dancers are doing is eclipsed by whom they are being. And how they are being.

A body arrives in a cardboard box.

Voices, on tape, discuss death and suggest a framework for all this. Maybe it's the severe raked seating at DTW, but I find it hard to connect to this material. Sitting so far above it, I can't see it eye to eye. I feel something intuitive being called for that I can't rise to. It's satisfying to see Spradlin create on such a large scale. Her unnerving authenticity and opaque narrative are challenges. The flesh she peddles seems unadorned, stripped to primal emotive impulses. Something tells me that the dance is about terror. The kind of terror that paralyzes the body before flight. I'm seeing this unearthly poise in a lot of work this season: shadows lurking, threatening inert bodies.

John Bischoff's score is filled with the unpredictable electronic buzzes and hums of a 1970s science fiction movie.

But what about the trees? They're pagan, phallic, but also symbols of generation, fertility, photosynthesis, rebirth, magic. Though these specific trees are artificial, there's something monstrously alive about them, the way they might silently eat our oxygen. Impermanent and subject to combustion, they serve as symbols of the inexorable approach of death.

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