featured photo

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Review 3, 1-8: Ripening Repetition
David Grenke Crafts High-quality Dance at Pace
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung

Well-crafted dance is difficult to imagine, but it's one of those things that you know when you see it. As seen Friday at Pace University in the program of his Thingsezisee'm Dance/Theater, David Grenke crafts high-quality dance with parts that fit together perfectly. There are no indecisive filler steps, no confusion about where the gaze should be, no seams, and presumably plenty of rehearsal. His phrases are taut, hermetic gems that withstand, and in fact ripen, with enduring repetition.

A gesture's impetus is often clearly diagrammed. The diaphragm fills with a puff of air whose ensuing breath starts a chain of tiny movements that travel from the center, up the spine, through the shoulder, and out the fingertips. In "Chasing His Tail - Volume II," a premiere, Grenke's shirtless torso could be a kinesiology textbook, clearly demonstrating the sound logic of his movement vocabulary. The smallest impulse is magnified tenfold and the quiet nature of this piece allows a similar magnification of emotion. The result is a contemplative, intense study of restrained physical and psychological power.

Quite the opposite effect is achieved in "Degenerate Art - Revisited," an indulgent theatrical piece based on the infamous exhibition of so-called "degenerate" works chosen by Hitler and exhibited to enlighten the public. Characters from paintings come to hellish life, spouting quotations, mugging, and strutting across the stage in stark lighting. Film clips and captions are projected on screens above the stage as Tom Waits, in his beautifully damaged way, belts out songs which brand the whole business with pathos.

Nestled in the mayhem are some luminous bits of dancing: a duet in which a woman, limp, is rolled and tossed around in intriguing weight shift games that are desperately poignant. A phrase toward the end has women hurling themselves at a man with such force that they both sadly crumple to the ground, only to rise and be repeated. It is reminiscent of those films of huge buildings imploding silently, rewound and played over and over.

Grenke is skillful at gauging the limits of the body and using physics to evoke emotion, showing he needn't browbeat the audience with histrionics and visual cues. In "Humpty-Dumpty," Grenke offers a sequence that threatens to become a signature for his entire oeuvre, much as David Parsons's "Caught" is for him. Kelly Grigsby falls, rolls, shifts her weight and repeats with great force and speed. She is mesmerizing, and there is something about the fulcrum moment when her weight shifts that simply catches the heart. Grenke also knows the relative value of stillness and uses it in contrast to thrilling, daringly visceral sections. In this program, he demonstrates a flair for the dramatic yet it is clear that he has every tool he needs within his own skin.

The program repeats Saturday at Pace.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home