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Flash Review 3, 10-20:
The Mind-Body Connection
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue
One wouldn't necessarily
expect much from an Ivy Leaguer dance concert such as Columbia U's
Barnard Dances at Miller Theater last night. I'd expect this lack
of expectation to be fed by a general impression of tedious college-level
work mixed with an idea that these particular students would be
spending more time in their heads than in their bodies. However,
like their NYU/Tisch Îneighbors,' these dancers get the splendid
benefit of their location, location, location. Even all the way
uptown, this department benefits from the input of Downtown NYC
in the form of emerging and established choreographers. This year's
concert included works created or inspired by Anna Sokolow, José
Limón and Rebecca Stenn.
I'll admit I was wary.
To attend a college-level concert without any prior personal or
artistic history with the participants is a significant challenge
to my patience level. It's difficult enough to emerge from most
concerts fully satisfied. The questions are the same but the grade
curve is usually lowered. It's about challenge, it's about risk,
it's about safety, interest, desire and love. I'm asked to weed
through all the students who dance "cuz it's fun or whatever" for
just a glimpse at those who sincerely revel in what they're doing.
Of course, when that does happen it's refreshing and exciting to
think we might possibly be witness to someone who may eventually
inhabit that most exhausting mantle of 'professional dancer.'
Last night, I saw those
sparks in Sarah Samis and Mara Torres especially. Samis breathed
confidence into Kathryn Sullivan's premiere "Islands, Bridges and
Highways." The work started off shaky. Gilles Obermayer's original
score, performed live, seemed overpowering for the dancers. Obermayer
is an accomplished musician and his presence on stage was much livelier
than the nine women en pointe began with. It seemed that the music
and the dance were going to end up in competition. But as the second
section began and Samis claimed our attention, the entire group
seemed to settle into the work. Sullivan's choreography, particularly
in the port de bras shapes, demanded a kind of self-assured ease
of the cast that wasn't wholly achieved. I'd say it was beyond their
years, except that Samis seemed perfectly at home with the material.
Risa Steinberg reconstructed
excerpts from José Limón's "Dances for Isadora." How's
that for rich: Three dance history icons for the price of one. Torres's
performance of "Primavera" was playful, buoyant, articulate, warm
and engaging. She is a dancer so fully present and alive that I'm
reminded of someone in love. She glows. Liz Pearlman's fiery "Maenod"
and Meaghan Daly's matriarchal "Naiobe" were also noteworthy performances.
A point of pride for
Barnard College's department of dance should be it's inclusion of
work by emerging New York choreographers. "Valeska's Vitriol" by
Sara Hook was a high point of last year's concert for me, and as
a work Stenn's "Stride" was thrilling. I'd seen Stenn's PerksDanceMusicTheatre
at La Mama a few years ago, when her clever style still seemed very
connected to her six years with Momix. "Stride" used none of the
conventions of set or props from her earlier work, but it was still
innovative in a deliciously filmic manner. Think cotton or Levis
commercial for the opening: oil slick grey -- flash -- a woman striding
slowly forward -- dim -- flash -- a group striding slowly forward
-- dim -- flash -- the woman stands alone amidst the group. One
becomes many becomes alone again. Stenn handles the very large group
relentlessly. There are a lot of bodies to manage and she keeps
them moving. Their accumulations and the brief moments of contact
that resemble a desperate tag game maintain a sense of urgency that
is heightened by both music and movement vocabulary. "Stride" is
an enthralling dance full reeking of seductive danger.
The program also included
Lorry May's "Rooms Etude" from Anna Sokolow's "Rooms," which continued
the original's sense of isolation, with 13 dancers straining from
their chairs. Sandra Genter's flowing "Fado!" was well named after
it's overwhelmingly enjoyable and memorable Portuguese music.
Friday and Saturday, at 8 p.m. at the Miller Theater, Columbia University,
B'Way & 116th.
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