to you by
New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women
and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
More Flash Reviews
Flashback, 3-24: Green
New O'Connor & Morris by the Bay
(Editor's Note: The
Dance Insider has been revisiting its Flash
Archive; the DI is the only national and international
dance publication to provide free unlimited access to all past published
reviews. This Flash Journal originally appeared on September 19,
O'Connor's "Baby" will be performed tonight and tomorrow
and again March 29 - April 1 at Dance Theater Workshop in New York
Copyright 2003, 2006 Aimee Ts'ao
FRANCISCO -- At times the Bay Area can seem like a cultural backwater,
stagnating like a swamp. Then suddenly a hurricane sweeps through
stirring up the green algal sludge to reveal that there are still
interesting things happening. Within a week from September 6 to
13, two premieres, by Tere O'Connor and Mark Morris, gave me more
food for thought and the senses than I'd had in a long time.
I wish I could say that
the first time I saw Tere O'Connor Dance perform was back in 1986
or '87, even 1999, but much to my chagrin it was only last week
when the company made its local debut. I had hoped that I could
give a longer range perspective of O'Connor's work in reviewing
his premiere, but I only had seen "Winter Belly" (2002) and "Choke"
(2001) two nights before the unveiling of "Lawn." Never mind; I
was transported by so many aspects of the work that the disappointment
of not encountering him sooner was assuaged. Although the span of
time for the creation of these three dances is only three years,
O'Connor has quite a range of color and tone, visually, musically
and choreographically that differentiates them. Often choreographers'
ballets during a brief period can seem to be all of the same piece
of cloth, with little to distinguish them except their titles. "Choke"
and "Winter Belly" have certain similarities, with "Choke" evincing
a sense of humor, but "Lawn" has a hardcore goofiness and a more
blatant probing of the complexity of human existence, in this case
in context of the natural world.
Seen on its September
6 premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, the evening-length
"Lawn" opens on a gigantic video screen framed thickly with plastic
foliage, hanging upstage center. It's the first tip-off that O'Connor
doesn't take himself overly-sacrosanct-seriously even on the subject
of the environment and our relationship to nature. Giving a blow
by blow description of the piece is difficult because of the over-layering
of dance, video and music. Rather it is the accumulated impression
that lingers, though several moments also are recalled quite vividly.
Ben Speth created a
video that provides both background for the dance and at times is
the featured event. The bucolic stretches of grass and trees, or
a sky arching above with clouds, soothe us and remind us of the
beauty of nature and our need to connect with it. The construction
sites and deserted lots and highways with rushing cars show how
we thoughtlessly degrade the world we live in. Interspersed snippets,
in conjunction with others that appear further on, make for terrific
irony. A man chopping vegetables is followed later by someone chopping
up plastic shopping bags and making a salad that is slowly and sensuously
consumed by a woman and man seated naked at a dining table, and
still later by a rabbit eating grass. There is the maniacal dryad,
a man in drag with a bad wig of long blonde hair and thoroughly
revolting grimaces, replete with crooked, rotting teeth, flitting
through the trees, plucking plastic bags from their branches as
if they were plums.
In front of all this
is O'Connor's choreography. He often deploys two or three groups
of dancers, pitting them against each other rhythmically, only to
have them resolve into a brief unison, or a clear fugue. His movement
vocabulary is so individual it cannot be mistaken for anyone else's
yet. (There will be imitators.) The eloquence of gesture, the speed
and precision of the dancers in the most complicated phrases is
mind-boggling. And just when you feel you're saturated with one
quality, O'Connor heads off in an entirely different direction.
At one point, the dancers suddenly drop to the floor, frozen in
contorted positions as a lamp wildly swings down from the flyspace
by its cord, casting weird shadows, then slowly, as its arc diminishes
and its wobble smooths out, the hypnotic pendulum lulls you into
a trance. The lamp slowly rises and the dance continues.
The music by James Baker
is as diverse as the choreography. Slow and calm to frenetic and
screechy, it supports both the dance and the video. I also appreciated
the scores Baker composed for "Choke" and "Winter Belly." How fortunate
that such a long collaboration between choreographer and composer
has led to such richness! The costumes by Deanna Berg and Tere O'Connor
also added to the total effect. In the beginning the dancers wore
robes which had an Asian cast, reminding me of Tuvan horsemen or
Chinese bowmen. Later they changed to more modern dress as the dance
moved from the sense of traditional peoples connected to the earth
to our current modern dilemma of wanting the results of exploiting
the earth and still giving lip service to loving it.
("Lawn" receives its
New York premiere October 1 at Dance Theater Workshop.)
A week after viewing "Lawn," on Saturday, September 13, at Zellerbach
Hall in Berkeley, I saw the second performance of Mark Morris's
newest piece on the Mark Morris Dance Group, "All Fours." For me,
Morris seems to choreograph his juicier work to chamber music. Not
that I have seen a great percentage of his total output, but of
what I know, some of my favorite pieces, "V,"
and "Maelstrom" are all to music written for small ensembles. I
will not speculate why this is -- it seems like a good question
for an interview -- but I am grateful that Morris's taste in music
overlaps with mine in this is respect. When I read that this latest
premiere is to Bela Bartok's String Quartet no. 4, I began to anticipate
another gem and at the same time steel myself for a letdown.
This new piece is brilliant.
Never before have I encountered so strongly Morris's ability to
shape a dance both visually, in terms of the way the steps look
on their own and in relation to different ones being danced by others
simultaneously, and rhythmically, in terms of the way they're juxtaposed
and the broader rhythms produced as the rate at which the dancers
switch between phrases accelerates, defining a sort of choreographic
Eight black figures,
four men and four women, are starkly silhouetted against a backdrop
lit an intense red. As the lights brighten, Martin Pakledinaz's
costumes show themselves to be various dark shades of brown, midnight
blue and charcoal as well. For the first movement, Allegro, Morris
uses every possible combination of groupings. Unison for all eight.
Couples breaking off and exiting, then returning. A solo against
a group. Counterpoint between two equal groups. The sequences of
steps themselves have clearly defined shapes and textures and watching
them being played off against each other is thrilling.
The second movement,
Prestissimo, con sordino, for Craig Biesecker and Bradon McDonald,
dressed in light costumes, is a tender conversation between two
very different men. One more formal and precise, the other looser
and warmer. The Non troppo lento, third movement, introduces two
women, also in light colored costumes, and the four explore the
various relationships -- mixed couples and same sex couples -- with
a lot more honesty than in "Going Away Party" which opened the evening.
("Going Away Party" is very cliched, with much cutesy boy-meets-girl
flirting, though the section danced to the song "Goin' Away Party"
is, in fact, a very moving revelation about the alienation of a
man who is saying goodbye to his dreams. Perhaps I should give Morris
the benefit of the doubt and assume that the contrast between the
sections in "Goin' Away Party" is a way of further pointing up the
superficiality in the way people relate in American society.)
Marjorie Folkman and
Julie Worden get to attack a lot of intricate footwork in the Allegretto
pizzicato. At the end two women in black enter and segue into the
closing Allegro molto with the entire cast. This echoes the structure
of the opening Allegro, but incorporating new motifs and with an
acceleration of rhythm, not literally or musically, but perceptually,
as previously mentioned. At the end the two light costumed couples
from the middle three movements split the larger group dressed in
dark colors. The lighting by Nicole Pearce is mostly effective,
though I felt a bit gimmicky, akin to that used in William Forsythe's
"New Sleep," with sudden blackouts or shifts between backlit and
tightly focused spots.
With images still burning
behind my eyelids of both these premieres I will happily endure
any brief dry spell of not-so-exciting dance until the next storm
blows in. (My apologies to those of you on the East Coast who may
be dealing with the very real Hurricane Isabel.)