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Flash Review 1, 12-4:
Mesmerized at Offspring
By Jill Emerson
Copyright 2000 Jill Emerson
"We've been dot-commed,"
said the emcee of The OffSpring Festival. She was referring to the
demise of dance at 550 Broadway, the venue for this annual non-curated
festival. This year's December 1 and 2 event was the tenth and last,
as Zvi Gotheiner has been forced to close his studio at the end
The OffSpring Festival
has been a blessing for choreographers facing the battle to find
a venue and an audience. The biannual event displays a cross-section
of the dance community: first-time choreographers and veterans wishing
to test out new pieces; technical, "dancey" pieces and more pedestrian
performance art. The folding chairs are always full or over-flowing
in 550's ballet studio. No need for lighting. All the better to
expose the energy and invention of the performers. In between sets,
have some wine and soda. We in the audience feel like this is family.
We pull for the performers as if we knew them all. We are twice
as pleased when a piece is spectacular than we would be if we saw
it at, say, the Joyce. After all, we're in a training ground. A
December 2's lineup was
of a quality especially high for a non-curated performance. Veterans
Raymundo Costa and Maxine Steinman choreographed and danced in "Tide,"
in which the smallest gestures and inclines of the head were most
powerful. The dance was a journey of two people whose irregular,
breathy path was driven by a current of energy that allowed no poses.
They traveled their path as if riding the crests of waves, finding
the ecstasy in each moment along the way. Jill Spiewak Eng's piece
was danced to the music of the waves, literally. She began with
a tremor on the floor, as a gasping fish out of water. Staying in
the center of the stage for much of the dance, Eng appeared to be
trapped in an uncomfortable world under the control of someone or
something else. She was pulled at the neck and whorled around in
the confining space with desperation, and at times, a defeatist's
Kim Gibilsco was a doll
or circus performer or panther; something magical. Her virtuosi
showcase matched the dynamic music and raised the oft-asked question
in modern dance: What's in that corner? Ashley Gilbert gave us Tchaikovsky
with a twist in "Out of the Loop." A full introduction of the famous
Nutcracker music played with no one on stage. Then comes Ashley
prancing out of the audience, morphing from a ballerina into an
extremely animated modern dancer. Gilbert played with the associations
we had with the music, switching from the held ballet lexicon to
an African-based contraction in one beat. It was hard not to revel
in how much fun Gilbert was having. Vanessa Paige-Swanson gave a
tongue-in-cheek liturgical show in "What God Really Wants." What
does God want? Lots of apples. Leah Kramer and three other dancers
yoga-grooved in her dance, which evolved from stripping out of disco
boots to suspending in arcs on each other's legs to the music of
their own breathing and giggling.
Kuan Hui Chew and Ying-Ying
Shiau provided a show-stopping performance in their untitled duet.
In the audience, we breathed a sigh of relief as the next song came
on because we knew the dance would continue. Chew and Shiau's finely-nuanced
choreography and performance showcased a tight interplay of limbs
and the phrasing of mercury. Looking like little boys in their Gap
clothing, these small women dance huge. Chew stormed in on Shiau,
we held our breath trying not to miss a second of the dancers' dodges
and flicking, and, too soon, the dance was over as Chew stormed
back off the stage.
After the show I talked
with a newcomer to modern dance who was in the audience. She highly
enjoyed the performances and had even been taking notes. Her goal
was to learn more about the form. Finally, she said, she thought
she understood what it's all about. "The purpose is to be mesmerized!"
Jill Emerson is a New
York-based dancer, choreographer, and writer. This Wednesday through
Sunday, she appears with Mark DeGarmo's company at Tribeca Performing
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