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Flash Flashback, 3-10: The Throwback
Pearl Lang's Classic Themes

By Melanie Futorian
Copyright 2000, 2009 Melanie Futorian

(To celebrate ten years online as the only dance publication offering 100% of its content for free, The Dance Insider is revisiting its Archive. This Flash Review originally appeared on May 20, 2000. Pearl Lang passed away February 24.)

NEW YORK -- Pearl Lang's choreography, which is often angular and sensual, is diverse in its themes. Combining her contemporary signature movements with traditional Turkish, she depicts the yearning of man and woman in "Song of Azerbaijan." "Icarus" is the agony of a father losing his son, where "Cityscape" is an urban drama with diverse characters reminiscent of a timeless 42nd Street. "Prairie Steps" is an American tapestry incorporating a joyful celebration, a mournful procession segueing into a country hoe-down. These dances, seen last night, are on view this weekend at the Kaye Playhouse.

In "Song of Azerbaijan," eight dancers sit with their knees to their heads as they begin to arch their backs slowly. They rock back and forth to a melancholic drone of strings.With hands crossed behind their heads and elbows jutting out, the women look upwards seemingly entranced. Dressed in white with brilliantly colored cloaks, they bend into the empty spaces of the men's bodies, dressed equally as colorfully. The music gains momentum as they slap their thighs and scoop the air with broad gestures. Arms outstretched, the dancers reach towards each other with longing. The dance ends as it has begun, in tranquility. "Icarus" is a more powerful piece. A group of women, as the burning sun, emerge from material draped over their bodies, as two men, Icarus and Daedalus, enter from offstage The dancers leap in second position, tilt and fall from elevated heights to the floor in crouches. The dance represents the temptation of the sun as Icarus soars to heights close enough to melt his wings. His father Daedalus mourns, with the harsh, linear movements depicting his anguish.

"Cityscape" was a dynamic vignette beginning with a rumble recalling "West Side Story." Filled with similar dynamic, fleeting movements, it starts with an assault on a man by a gang. A group twists and turns, heaving to the floor and back up again only to dash off stage. In the second sequel, a "homeless" man strays from his heap of papers, as two women dance in a somnambulistic state. The homeless man and woman embrace each other in a romantic tango, but when finished resume their places by the trash. A dancer dressed in blue dashes onstage arms outstretched, with a now Neon backdrop. Others join her, thrusting their pelvises forward with a jazz feel. The music culminates into frenzy as the dancers become all characters in a bustling street life. They run off stage in a blackout.

"Prairie Steps" is the dance of the new American frontier. With arms crossed behind their backs, dancers releve and reach into infinity. From turns to dives onto the floor, the activity shifts from a lively celebration to a grieving procession. A mother walks with slow, measured steps with her daughter, a woman cradles a man like a child, rocking him in her arms. The final dance is a playful hoe-down (with a live violinist and pianist), as the performers break into a joyous dance.

Pearl Lang's choreography, once probably startlingly fresh, now seems dated, leaving the viewer feeling he/she has seen this before. Regardless, the dancers performed with great energy, emotion and clarity of line.

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