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Flash Review 1, 10-12:
Less is More
Austerity Par for Childs's Course
By Ursula Eagly
Copyright 2000 Ursula Eagly
Lucinda Childs's Parcours
(Route), which opened last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's
Harvey Theater, is a grand retrospective. True to its title, the
concert maps the path of Childs's artistic development. The program
includes six beautifully danced works, the first from 1976 and the
last from April 2000. Each is stunning in its precision and austerity.
Whether viewers find such severity fascinating or alienating, they
must respect the flawlessness of Childs's craft and the clarity
of her artistic investigation.
The title Parcours not
only reflects the nature of the program, but also the nature of
the dances themselves: They are primarily crafted out of the dancers'
routes through space. Revealing her background in the Judson Church
Dance Theater, Childs refuses narrative, humor, emotion, and virtuosic
leaps and turns. Her minimal choreography finds complexity in the
dancers' intersecting, intertwining, and interlocking paths. This
focus on movement through space imparts another, different aspect
of Childs's dance education -- that of the ballet. Childs also uses
ballet as a major component of her limited movement vocabulary.
It is a testament to the clarity of her compositions that she manages
to seamlessly draw from two opposing traditions.
Her 1976 dance "Radial
Courses" is the most minimal piece in the program. Consequently,
it is also the most easily traceable example of Childs's characteristic
intertwining routes. Four men walk swiftly in a large circle accompanied
only by the sound of their footsteps. At equal temporal intervals,
two dancers break out of the walk with a rhythmic footwork sequence,
creating a musical beat. The audience hears this same rhythm throughout
the piece, but sees an increasingly morphing pattern. The men spin,
change directions, pass each other, and generally explore every
possible path while staying on the circle and keeping up the beat.
The work reflects an interest in theme and variation that is visible
in other pieces as well.
The next five pieces
explore similar themes, while departing in various directions. "From
the White Edge of Phrygia" uses a set, albeit a minimal one, consisting
of a scrim with two long slits. "Commencement" investigates patterns
using only one dancer -- in this case, Childs herself. "Concerto"
introduces an element of music visualization (or perhaps simply
of "dancing to the music"), with dancers pausing when the music
pauses. Seeing these six pieces back to back allows viewers to discover
the sheer possibility Childs's pared-down choreography. Perhaps
less really can be more.
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