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Flash Review 1, 3-21: 'Fleeting' Images
Comfort's Interesting Numbers Don't Add Up

By Chappelle Chambers
Copyright 2006 Chappelle Chambers

NEW YORK -- Liz Prince's swingy costumes walked off with Jane Comfort's brief new "Fleeting Thoughts: Mr. Henderson's 3 a.m.," seen Thursday at Danspace Project. The dancers were terrific, and Joan La Barbara's score, performed both live and on tape, filled the St. Mark's sanctuary with vocal, electronic, and acoustic sounds (composer and choreographer made cameo appearances, in identical fabulous Prince creations, at the very end of the 48-minute piece). But longtime Comfort-watchers missed the coherent mini-dramas, the socially aware skits she's been showing us for close to 30 years. This work feels like a series of sketches -- small incidents plucked from workshops with the performers, perhaps.

Olase Freeman opened and closed the piece, in shin-guards covered with white feathers that matched the feathered white tail coat he added later. A smallish, athletic man, he sustained a long, lovely, Contact-based duet with Kathleen Fisher, and threw himself boldly across the room, sliding along the floor. "A parade of events," Philadelphia Inquirer critic Lisa Kraus called "Fleeting Thoughts" in an early version last fall, and a parade it still is, integrated with accumulative text structures and David Ferri's lighting. All the dancers (the others are Lisa Niedermeyer, Jessica Anthony, Leslie Cuyjet, and Peter Sciscioli) address Mr. Henderson at one point or another, but we never discover who he is or why he matters.

It's as if Comfort chopped a scenario into little pieces and threw them up in the air, letting segments play out wherever they landed. Cast members not involved at any given moment sit on the sidelines and watch the action. Sciscioli, a sort of ordinary guy in a white shirt at the beginning, reappears in red a little later, and pulls a long feather boa out of his puffy, chef-style hat. There's a long section to samba rhythms, in which the ensemble dances salsa. The unifying element is Prince's outfits, all of which are fringed or spangled or adorned with macrame or marabou. A packed house of dance-world professionals seemed delighted with the dance. I kept wanting it to add up to something.

Chappelle Chambers has been writing about dance for more than 30 years, in cities on both coasts of the U.S. and Canada. She presently contributes to New York's Metro and other publications, and performs whenever members of the downtown community invite her.


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