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Flash Review 2, 12-12: Cloudy Vision
DeGarmo's Unrealized "Eyes of the World"

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

The three dances included in Mark DeGarmo & Dancers' concert, "Mark DeGarmo Eyes the World," at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center over the weekend, appeared to please the women sitting next to me. One of them remarked during a short break, "Their hands were so graceful." But I was mostly baffled. Program notes on two of the works, both of which were "portraits" of South American countries (El Salvador and Ecuador, respectively), told of historical inequity and suffering and political and sociological paradoxes. The two dances, however, were composed of superficial mime and ballet adagio. The program note on a third piece, "Dear Children: Awake and Rise," was full of catch phrases and homilies, while the dance was a jumble of steps from various disciplines, indifferently sequenced.

The eight women in "Dear Children" looked a bit lost. If any direction was given to the walking patterns and arm gestures with which the piece began in terms of a cohesive demeanor or focus, these efforts failed to manifest. The dancers' formations wobbled through African contractions, balletic pas de chats, jazz pas de bourrees and some kind of weird mime with tongues hanging out, with little sense of ensemble, like eight solos happening simultaneously in happenstance-at-best unison. The dancers are to be applauded for their evident commitment to this material; it's a pity the material failed to showcase their talents more becomingly.

"Bitter Grounds: A Portrait of El Salvador," a duet, gave its dancers, Marie Baker-Lee and Eunice Payes, little to do but wear brooms and baskets on their heads while engaging in overlong episodes of coffee-bean picking and laundry washing. The masks they wore were visually striking. One of them capered about wrapped in a straw rug, which elicited flaccid applause. Each vignette was irritatingly tied to its accompanying music, forming abrupt starts and stops.

The NYC premiere of "Relative Tranquility" opened with a series of duets and trios, all of a slow, awkward vocabulary. The dancers wore spaghetti-strap leotards without tights, which seemed to add to their discomfort in the phrases they were asked to perform. Their stick-to-it-iveness won my heart. In a second section, a swarm of black-clad bodies ran and circled and clumped and ran and swarmed and clumped.

So, my bafflement, which provided conversational fodder all day yesterday. This dotcom format allows me to air a few thoughts. Simply panning an evening at the theater, as I just obviously did, serves no purpose but to blow hot air up my own skirt. Yet there's a seductive pleasure in being bitchy. When I dislike something, what can I say that's constructive and not just arrogant and what right have I to say it at all, after so much endeavor by so many? What is the critic's function blah blah blah? I'm left with this: It's frustrating to see a seasoned choreographer with multiple foreign commissions, a fertile cast of dancers, and admirable intentions miss realization.

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