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Flash Review 2, 10-27:
Just De Facto, M'am
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse
Dance Improv people have
always seemed like a community unto themselves. A sweat-stinky,
scruffy village somewhere between Wackyville and Granola Towne.
Even though I've performed improvisations myself, both solo and
group, using both text and movement, I think I've always seen improv
more as an effective compositional tool than a performance medium.
The success of its masters, like Paxton or Forti, can be attributed
to compelling personae as much as to execution. When it sucks, improv
performance is self-indulgent, dull, corny, infuriating, an endurance
test of love-it-or-hate-it. Waiting for seat-of-the-pants serendipities
can be nerve wracking.
De Facto Dance is a quintet
of adherents to the form, an evolution of Richard Bull Dance Theatre
and Improvisational Arts Ensembles, comprised of Kelly Donovan,
Meg Fry, Aggie Postman, Naomi Pressman and Lee Shapley. If improv
relies on the charisma of its players, these five have that in abundance.
The three dances they showed Wednesday night in the funky, overheated
basement of Middle Collegiate Church illuminated the process of
their thoughts and actions in true improv fashion, creating a sort
of found sculpture in sound, image and conversation. These collages
framed quotidian gesture and prose as art without reifying it, in
a way reminiscent of the merzbild of Kurt Schwitters.
Various members introduced
the "outline" or "narrative lens" of each dance before the group
began it; we were told that "In the Wild" was inspired from watching
programs on the Nature Channel. Using theatrical conventions of
lighting and spatial clarity, the piece started with two seated
narrators, interpreting aloud the movements of two mirroring hominids.
The participants costumed in black with faux-furred pillboxes, the
interactions between stalkers and the stalked proceeded to the sound
of falling rain. An essential playfulness pervaded the group's relationships
and became a primary device of the evening.
I kept imagining how any two of the dancers first met and became
friends. One of them repeatedly tried to perform a solo to music
that never began. Another plead for a dance where everyone would
"feel their feelings." As they began to forget we were there, the
ludic became luxurious. A dance without text, "Turns" poised the
dancers against Skip LaPlante's instruments made from found objects.
I noticed that when the dancers stopped talking it made more room
for my imagination and made me wish I hadn't been previously alerted
to that particular dance's structure. A repeat of "In the Wild"
closed the performance.
All dance is really made
up on the spot, even when some sequences are well-rehearsed. Perhaps
improv-as-performance increases the spotlight on a dancer's know-how
and make-do, and increases appreciation for why a thing is done
rather than how. In this way, De Facto Dance charms with its simplicity
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