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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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