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Flash Review 1, 11-7:
Out of Space...
...And Breaking the Pecking Order
By Vanessa Paige Swanson
Copyright 2000 Vanessa Paige Swanson
Few people would juxtapose
the NYC dance scene with Star Trek, and actually, I'm thankful for
that. However, in both arenas, space really IS the final frontier.
In response to the ever increasing space crunch, the folks at Danspace
Project have come up with "Out of Space," a series which is (in
their words) "aimed at providing opportunities for both emerging
and established choreographers to present small scale works in an
intimate setting." The version I saw last weekend at Studio 5-2
was very well curated, featuring the works of Gina Gibney, Sarah
Skaggs, Liz Claire and Sam Kim. It was also refreshing to see a
program featuring female choreographers -- a welcome change from
the "have penis, will travel" pecking order of dance, one of the
last American bastions of institutionalized sexism.
To intensify my positive
review of Gina Gibney's work, I'll just come out and say it. I hate
duets. O.K., hate is a strong word so I will rephrase it to say,
I dread duets. I dread the "I-will-lift-you-now, you-will-lift-me-now,
we-are-angry, I-raise-my-hand-to-strike-and surprise!, you-deflect-it-we-fall-too-the-floor-and-so-on."
Gibney's duet excerpts in progress, entitled "Several Truths," are
miniature gems of unpredictable movement and subtle emotion. Stark
and simple, Gibney uses her considerable craft to create compelling
environments of trust, power, manipulation, sensuality and conflict.
The beauty of these works is the faith that Gibney has in her material.
Her work doesn't need to "try too hard," and as a result neither
Sam Kim's "After the
Ice Age" left me cold (ha ha), which I believe was the intent. Backed
by a sparse set of white lights tipped with red, the harsh angular
movement brought to mind primitive life forms struggling across
a frigid landscape. Stiff lunges, sharp arm gestures and precise
turns created an environment of cruelty and bare bones survival.
The movement was eerily realized by Kim, and by Carolyn Hall, who
is such a lovely and multi-faceted performer that I would gladly
purchase tickets to watch her cross a street.
"Anna (excerpt from 'The
Bells')" was choreographed by Liz Claire and dedicated in part "to
working women everywhere." The piece is full of images of female
labor -- cooking, laundry, and care of the family. Claire, who also
created the score, has a sparkling musical talent, and the most
haunting images come from her combination of gifts. In one such
moment, the three women swing their arms repeatedly, facing inwards
in a circle. Their hands clasp bells of various sizes and tones,
creating a simple but interesting blend of movement and sound. At
another point, the women kneel and do a tender, precise gestural
phrase, while singing in an unfamiliar language. These segments
knit the themes of the piece beautifully. However, some of the movement
vocabulary, though skillfully executed, was too acrobatic for the
atmosphere and the costumes (long skirts and blouses). This created
a disconcerting "Little Release Class on the Prairie" feel, which
lessened the overall impact of this promising piece.
"She always chooses great
music" my companion whispered as the lights dimmed before Sarah
Skaggs's "Making a Dance Part I." Skaggs also chose intense and
original movement and nifty structure for her piece, which starts
with a solo that introduces the vocabulary and builds to an energetic
celebration of the movement. At once intricate and accessible, "Making
a Dance Part I" showcases both Skaggs's gifts as a choreographer
and as a director, as her dancers never faltered in this complex
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