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Flash Review 2, 10-13: Triple-Play
Limon to Baker to Byrd Uptown

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue

Don't let the construction outside scare you away from Symphony Space's new season of dance performances, which opened last night with "Triple Play Dance," featuring a premiere from Donald Byrd/The Group, a Mark Haim work for the Limon Company and Canadian soloist Peggy Baker. Make yourself familiar with the 96th St. express stop on the 1, 2, 3 or 9 line and get your downtown self uptown to see some great work.

As a 6-year resident of the upper Upper West Side I was thrilled to be walking to a show. Along the walk my companion wistfully hoped that this "would be good." Of course, "good" was hard for him to define specifically but I pointed out that we could at least expect some excellent, refined and fierce dancing. This is something that I haven't seen a lot of in one sitting. I can happily say I got a good fix.

Mark Haim's "An Anatomy of Intent," a New York premiere commissioned in part by Symphony Space, had a delightful self-referential air. It seemed at times that the dance was referring to it's own specific circumstances. The season flyer calls it a "magical and poignant work...which is a fresh and vibrant contrast to their other more classic work." That well describes the action on stage, vibrant and fresh versus stoic and stately. The dances mostly kept the two parties noticeably separated. I comfortably gravitated towards the interweaving duets and quartets full of rapid drops and catches. The partnering work was seamless and specific. The dancers reflected a classic -- and I'm old enough to know that a classic should be respected but young enough to think that "classic" sometimes just means old -- modern dance company of the modern world. And by modern world, I mean happily non-vertical. The younger bodies, at times chomping on gum or singing along with a walkman, seemed in a constant state of sequentially shifting ease while the older ones spent more time quietly observing before embarking into movement. At one point, the costumes seemed to obviously be marking the differences when Raphael Boumaila, in puffy sleeves and all, performed a solo of melodramatic reaches and gesture. That he returned moments later to perform it again in only his briefs heightened the sense of self-referential humor. Anatomy figures dotted the stage on occasion, at one point serving as the chorus surrounding a solo, at another lining the edge of the stage until one slowly floated away in the last sweet moments of the dance.

Peggy Baker is all limbs. When she expands she is enormous. And you can't miss this. Each of the three short dances she performed presented her overwhelming wingspan repeatedly. Baker's had an impressive performing career as a member of Lar Lubovitch's company in the eighties and of the White Oak Dance Project during it's inaugural season. She's been performing as a solo artist for the past ten years but shared the stage partly with pianist Andrew Burashko. Her final embrace of his back, as he plucked the piano strings, was a strong and startling image.

Donald Byrd spent the summer in a creative residency at Symphony Space to develop "Alleged Dances." Set to the Kronos Quartet's recording of John Adams's "John's Book of Alleged Dances," this dance begins and ends still in motion. The work is broken up into several, sometimes swift, vignettes of movement. The dancers gallop and cavort into a new frontier that seems to be somewhere "down home" on the Nile. Every time they removed a layer of Dawn Weisberg's evocative costumes they seemed nearer a destination point until the final duets seemed more like a settling in and not a moving on. The duets also gave Thaddeus Davis and Jamal Story a chance to show of their prowess, which up until that point was solely the domain of the fantastic and fierce Olivia Bowman and Alexandra Damiani.

This program repeats Saturday at 8 p.m., with different programs Friday and Sunday. For more information, please visit the Symphony Space web site.

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