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Flash Review 1, 10-2:
Brahms in the Mix
Brendel & Friends & Gorgeous Music
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung
Janie Brendel and Friends'
"An Evening of Brahms" was aptly titled because the live music really
stole the show, despite a strong slate of choreographers and some
admirable dancing. Seen on Sept. 30 at Danspace Project at St. Mark's
Church, the program featured works contributed by Zvi Gotheiner,
Ze'eva Cohen, Doug Varone, and Peggy Baker, the last of whom was
most unfortunately unable to perform one of her solos due to an
injury. Both acts began with gorgeous pieces by Brahms, performed
A duet by Varone, which
he performed with Brendel, was the one piece on the program without
musical accompaniment. It was also the most remarkable, showing
Varone's terrific acting skills. Titled "Care," it featured Varone
as a bespectacled, needy, bumbling partner to Brendel's supplicating
care giver. They communicated a tenderness and poignancy in small
gestures that captured a long-term relationship of mutual dependency,
evoking the little sigh-in-the-heart you get when you see a very
old couple holding hands. His occasional tantrums, which looked
improvised until one was repeated precisely at the end, created
rifts between them, yet resulted in simply reinforcing the unbreakable
bond between them.
Ze'eva Cohen's "Two Songs,"
a world premiere, featured Gerald Casel, Roxane D'Orleans Juste,
and Suzanne Gardner dancing to music performed by John Gavalchin
(piano) and Ivy Frenkel (soprano). Cohen created powerful drama
by mixing movement dynamics, alternating between gentle, soft phrases
and outbursts of ardent angularity performed with appropriate urgency
by Casel. The second part was a beautiful solo by D'Orleans Juste,
whose combination of strength and lyricism matched the music.
"Andante, ma moderato,"
a world premiere by Zvi Gotheiner, illustrated the music without
becoming too literal. Gotheiner, known for his musicality, sometimes
traced the rhythm with step-for-count segments, and other times
flagrantly counterposed the quick beat with two of the dancers walking
very slowly downstage, then upstage, while the third teased them
by dancing around them in circles. I wished the dancers had more
fully developed the movement in this piece; it seemed to call for
a lusher, more aspirated reading.
Brendel danced the rest
of the program solo. Stefa Zawerucha's world premiere of "White
Ginger" featured a pose, a gesture, a turn, a glance, in variations.
While Brendel was clearly enjoying each moment, she seemed intent
on conveying that to us, and that negated the unselfconscious focus
that might have better suited the work.
Finally, Brendel danced
Peggy Baker's "Her Heart" (1993), to four intermezzos for piano.
While some basic, well-executed moves were eloquent -- such as a
punctuated tendu naturally evolving into an elegant floating leg
-- they were linked with a great deal of running. The several costume
changes were puzzling for a work of such modest length, though one
was cleverly scheduled midway through an intermezzo so that her
entrance coincided with the next piece. A moment of high drama (and
the probable explanation for the unusual lengthwise orientation
of the performance space) came when the stained glass windows of
the sanctuary were lit from behind -- a Brahms light and laser show!
Brendel cites Lar Lubovitch's
"A Brahms Symphony" as inspiration, though his fluency in Brahms
-- it's as if they spoke the same unique language, or breathed the
same refined air -- was merely hinted at in this program, only making
me wistful to be watching the Lubovitch masterpiece. The music held
up its end of the bargain though, like a perfectly brewed cup of
hot coffee -- sensual, aromatic, adrenalizing, yet sensible. The
other skillful performers were David Bursack and Kirsten Johnson
(viola); Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim (violin); and Alberto Parrini
and Pitnarry Shin (cello) under the music direction of John Gavalchin.
Lighting was designed by Clifton Taylor.
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