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Flash Review 1, 12-16:
Weighing the 'Divine'
Rosa Mei Dances Dante
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung
Rosa Mei aimed high with
"Divine Comedy," an evening-length work given its world premiere
at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church Thursday. And while the
company achieved many noteworthy things, the overreaching theme
and a general paucity of humor ultimately weighed down the piece.
We were instructed to don blindfolds at the top of the show; after
so doing, the dancers ran around with abandon, shrieking and having
a merry time. While we saw nothing clearly we sensed things roughly,
paralleling the course of the evening.
Still, there were many
highlights. The movement is quite unique; Mei proves her range as
a choreographer by the ever-shifting vocabulary. Her influences
include Chinese martial arts, in which she has won awards; she has
specialized in "praying mantis kung fu, spear, broadsword and drunken
straightsword." Indeed, the focus and precision of martial arts
is soundly in evidence. The dancers assume positions that seem coiled,
in anticipation --and realization -- of exploding or spearing through
space. There is also a deep sense of serenity and concentration
in slow passages, as if the performers were feeling their way along
a safety line in deep waters.
The dancers are tremendously
gifted and individualistic in their interpretations of Mei's choreography.
I relished the precision of Izumi Fujii: her limbs speared the air,
where she could freeze mid-jump. She balanced the physicality with
the cerebral quality of Mei's dance -- incisive, measured, and yet
volatile. And I relished the rich dancing of Galois Cohen, who was
assured in each move, and whose arms spoke eloquently in mirrored
crookedness. The other excellent dancers were Anne-Marie Brule,
Esteban Cardenas, and Saeko Miyake.
Reiko Kawashima designed
the striking costumes, using a variety of fabrics including semi-transparent
ones that were pleated, ruched semi-transparent and sprung with
the dancers' moves. The music, by Jacob Robinette and Rick Ochoa,
was in itself a performance work. A truckload of "instruments" included
drums, sax, a mixing board, and a selection of glass vessels (the
musician chased one of the dancers literally, and with the haunting
sound made by running his damp finger around the edge of a fish
bowl). The effects produced ranged from lilting melodies to spooky
sounds. The lighting and atmospheric elements (varying amounts of
fog) helped Mei to utilize every corner of the church, and were
designed by Severn Clay.
The show's emcee was
convincingly played by David Dixon, on stilts for most of the performance.
Dixon cajoled the audience, coaxing one woman onstage to trade pulling
her hair with a punch in the stomach. He recited brief sections
from Dante's epic, loosely setting the stage for the long passages
of dance and, supposedly, enactment, which followed. I was not able
to codify the differing types of movement according to the story,
as I trust it was designed. Nevertheless, the distinctive, well-performed
choreography and the use of the whole space -- the audience sat
on two opposing sides of the stage -- was rewarding to witness despite
the ponderous premise.
"Divine Comedy" is performed
again tonight and Sunday. For more information, please visit the
Rosa Mei web site.
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