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Flash Review, 12-6: Towering 'Inferno'
Scorched-stage Dance from Ellis Wood

By Vidura Amranand
Copyright 2006 Vidura Amranand

NEW YORK -- Ellis Wood and her all-female company tore up the Joyce SoHo stage November 11 with a remake of Wood's four-section "Hurricane Flora: Inferno," performed by five frighteningly daring bodies, and, for this benefit performance, a surprise solo from Wood herself, "Stella," set to Rufus Wainright's "Oh What a World."

Wainwright's soft hums opened "Stella" and Wood, clothed in a short black dress, surged to his warm rhythms. She plunged into space with slicing limbs and swooping torso, occasionally interjecting a droopy head and arms. Aware of Wainwright's accounts of our quirky world, Wood hovered over a contraction, her head rebounding in fast staccatos, but taking no time to reflect, she hurled her legs along. Wainwright's orchestration ripened to a grander scale and she stuck right with him. Her cutting exhales settled in unison with her thumping stance and stable arms. The audience chuckled at Wood's punches, which could have been implying either triumph or over-the-top vigor. With the music's last hums, the soloist threw us a snapping gesture, yanking away with more guts than one imagines Wainwright could ever have.

The evening-length "Hurricane Flora" displayed five women in relationship to nature. Naoka Nagata designed the delicate dresses and Daniel Bernard Roumain composed an electrifying score. Ed Rawlings's projections displayed simple images of nature and pollution.

In the opening 'Air' section, the main character watched her story unfold in fragments that were swept up in a swirl of conflicts. The section began with the performers whispering indistinguishable phrases in the dark. Eventually, in Julie Ana Dobo's cold lights, five bodies, clad in stiff, metallic-colored dresses, shuffled in deep contemplation. The leading figure pulled away, initiating the impulse that sucked everyone else into a clump rippling on the boundaries of the stage. Four industrial fans in the corners muffled the voices, but swept the bodies into a constant rhythm. The women supported and struggled with each other. They broke away and flung into arches and extensions, blending with Roumain's yearning strings.

In 'Fire,' bodies yawned and rocked sensually in a sea of red tulle that extended across the upstage. Their lingering limbs contrasted with Roumain's staccato notes. This kept going long after the point was made, yet another theme seemed to have suddenly emerged in the end: one woman was left swimming in the glowing ruffles, her existence shrunken to the concept of sex.

Padded with dresses made out of rough, green and brown material, the dancers trailed into 'Earth,' each carrying a huge tray of flowers. The five women gathered around one bundle and began swirling in unison and canon sequences to fast electronic beats and screeches. They hovered, balancing over their trays. One woman was lifted into a suspended dive by the others. In a rage, another threw a handful of flowers at the watching four who scattered from their line, their bodies lashing vigorously. More flowers were flung all over the stage, their raw yet delicate scent penetrating through the audience. In this fierce section, the women's roles were open to different interpretations: they could be destroyers, or victims, or both.

'Water' was more calming, yet tinged with intense fragility. Wrapped in dresses of white, uneven patches, four women served as a shifting support for one unsteady and increasingly daring figure. Plinking sounds reverberated as she walked on uneven ground that swelled to catch her falls. As in 'Air,' the group collapsed and rolled into various shapes, but this time the interaction was tender. To a soft melody, three women settled with their backs to us and one cradled another in her arms.

Whether swept up by a violent storm or balancing on fragile ground, the women maintained their separate spaces, often merging in harmonious encounters.

Vidura Amranand is from Bangkok, Thailand where she has contributed reviews to the Bangkok Post. She is currently studying dance as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College and plans to write, choreograph, perform, and teach all over the world.


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