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Flash Review, 3-2: Too Much & Too Little
'Radiant Imprints' Fails to Leave an Impression

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2005 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- Given the unrelenting harshness of the economic climate that surrounds New York's downtown dance scene these days, it makes sense for choreographers to band together under a collective umbrella. By working as a group, dancemakers can more easily shoulder the financial burden of renting a venue and promoting a show. Judging by the full house at the Merce Cunningham Studio Saturday, this formula appears to be working for InnerLandscapes Dance Theater. The collective, made up of choreographers Nomi Bachar, Valerie Norman, Kathryn Sullivan and Natasa Trifan presented "Radiant Imprints," an evening of multi-media dance theater exploring various psychological issues and the multi-faceted inner workings of human relationships. Each choreographer created one or more pieces individually, and, when taken as a whole, the evening boasted high production values, a number of original scores, interesting video projections, and beautiful costumes. Unfortunately, much of the choreography itself failed to live up to the promise of these trappings of performance.

Kathryn Sullivan's "Illusion" was an extremely literal portrayal of an angst-ridden young woman who, upon manipulating an oversized mirror frame, underwent a transformation to a state of greater peace. Although creatively lit with a shocking-pink scrim and well-executed by Natalia Wodnicka, the piece was too short to convince us that such a drastic transformation could have taken place. Sullivan also premiered "Three Women," a look at the archetypes of maiden, mother, and mentor. Interestingly, the characters were depicted by three generations of dancers from the same family: Enid Flender, Nicole Flender-Chalamet, and Pauline Chalamet. Enid Flender proved to be a seasoned performer, a true gem, who charmed the audience with her story of growing up in the Bronx and first being exposed to the interpretive dances of Isadora Duncan. Nevertheless, the work suffered from an overly mimetic quality with movement sequences that faltered awkwardly between classical ballet and pedestrian gesture. Wendy Mark's artwork, projected on the scrim, nicely captured the evolving essence of the stages of a woman's life by shifting from images of petals to spirals to more abstract circular shapes. But the pre-recorded voiceover describing the symbolism behind each archetype was both overbearing and predictable. Equally unnecessary to understanding the concept was the chorus of four dancers who flitted in and out of the scene. They were all skilled, clean movers, but their shorts and tank tops were unflattering and out of place in comparison with the beautiful white costumes of the archetypical women.

Nomi Bachar, the founder of InnerLandscapes Dance Theater, also presented two works, both premieres. "Transparent Weights" began with Bachar lying on the ground swathed in a curious, multi-layered dress by Natasha von Rosenschilde complete with a long, serpentine tail. As a voiceover announced that she was letting go of past emotional baggage, Bachar slowly circled, writhed, and stripped off different elements of her elaborate costume. The voiceover disturbed the otherwise hauntingly beautiful flute score and interfered with the audience's ability to develop their own interpretation of the movement. It became tedious to watch Bachar's costume unravel, because her intention was so clear and obvious. In "Divine Beggar," the choreographer left more to the imagination, and consequently, the piece took on a greater life of its own. With tongue-in-cheek references to the biblical story of Adam & Eve, the work examined both a woman's role as seductress as well as the often fraught relationship between women and men. Bachar wrote and narrated the witty text and was joined onstage by impressive performers Caitlin Mulhern and Michael Buoni.

Natasa Trifan's premiere of "White" was blissfully free of voiceovers, leaving the audience free to ponder without assistance the tangled encounters of the trio of dancers. Trifan herself began the piece, edging from the stage left curtain while slowly undulating her hips, which were lassoed by an elastic band. She continued her horizontal journey across the stage, as Andrei Garzon and Saar Harari entered from opposite sides. The dancers formed odd couplings as they became ensnared by the elastic or wrangled fiercely with each other. Tension was heightened by Chiaki Watanabe's excellent video projections; most notable was a dizzying collage of geometric shapes. Despite the interesting, albeit fleeting pairings, the overall sense of the work was that these were fundamentally lonely, isolated journeys across the stage and beyond.

The final piece of the evening, "Closer," was put to the test by a last-minute change in plans. During the final dress rehearsal, choreographer Valerie Norman sustained an injury which left her unable to perform. In a truly admirable case of "The Show Must Go On," Norman and her all-female cast reworked the original sextet into a quintet in just one day. While there were places in which having six dancers (or three pairs) would have made logical sense, one could perhaps better appreciate the asymmetry of five. The work began with lovely solos for each woman. Isolated in separate spotlights, they were able to demonstrate their individuality briefly, but deliberately. An original score by Alon Nechusthan of the Talat Trio lent a buoyant rhythm to the dance. The movement quality fluctuated between soft and yearning to playful and impulsive. Flowing dresses in shades of dusty rose and light pink perfected the feminine touches on the piece.

Throughout the evening, enchanting musical interludes, performed live by composer and pianist Bruce Lazarus, gave a feeling of wholeness and inter-connectedness to the mixed bill.

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