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Flash Review, 2-5: Wondrously Disparate
Triple Play Concept Exciting and Confusing

By Kate Garroway
Copyright 2000 Kate Garroway

A hearty ditto to Tom Patrick's exclamation of "welcome back" into the contemporary dance scene extended to Symphony Space, which is currently presenting Triple Play Dance. (Tom Flash Reviewed Thursday's opening of Program A; I saw Program B bow Friday.) The three companies involved illustrate the range of contemporary dance available in NY, and the brevity of the program (about 90 minutes) makes it a lovely introduction to dance for newcomers as well as providing a smattering of ideas for the regular dance observer.

Creach/Company opened the program with Terry Creach's 1998 "A Home for Boys," a piece I found kinetically intriguing at several points although I was not ruminating on the dance by the evening's end. The six-man company begins as a wall of bodies facing stage left, from which one dancer immediately emerges in a solo of rhythmic foot patterns and sporadic lunges and leaps. The soloist uses the line of bodies to stop or propel his body but the relation is vague. Before I could determine if the relationship is antagonistic or productive, the men had followed him into a clump and reformed their line only for the lone dancer to begin pummeling his weight into the floor and the line anew. My favorite moments in "A Home for Boys" come towards the center of the work when quartet after quartet is constructed with varying members throwing, chasing and heaving one another through space. A certain effortless inertia seems to take over in these segments and the supple strength of the dancers becomes apparent.

Throughout "A Home for Boys" the lighting, as designed by Roma Flowers, returns to the motif of a large white block in center stage, large enough to house all six dancers, or to emphasize who is in the "home" and who is not. This visual cue becomes a way to read the sometimes playful, sometimes rough-house behavior of the six dancers. My overall impression of "A Home for Boys" was pleasant but unexcited; the dancers' performances were strong, but the composition did not draw me in. There is a consciously casual quality to the form which works brilliantly in the swooping interplay of the quartets but is absent from some of the dance's other segments. I floated in and out of attachment to the content and physicality, which left me feeling curious about Program B's Creach/Company offering since Creach's work is new to me.

The centerpiece of the program was Geoffrey Holder's premiere of "Psalms," performed by Paradigm: Carmen de Lavallade, Gus Solomons jr & Dudley Williams. Williams begins "Psalms" by walking flat across the stage with a decisiveness which made my own spine straighten in the presence of such assurance. All three renowned performers know that their place is secure on the stage; they do not enter the space, they master it. Also, they all began their careers in the world of ballet or classical modern dance. As new forms and styles multiply, the upward, energetic stance of these performers becomes more unusual and more striking.

Holder designed the sound and costumes for "Psalms" as well as the choreography. The sound consists of scriptural dialogue between Solomons, Williams and de Lavallade. Most of the movement is locomotive--walking, running, lowering to the stage--but the way it is performed has nothing to do with the everyday. These three luminaries glide and lunge through the space, filling it with their presence. Solomons, Williams and de Lavallade are as sincere and solemn as the historical and spiritual connotations of their utterances demand, but never sedate. The three voices are in discord through the dance, displaying different degrees of trust, faith and pleading to the Lord they all want to believe in. Only at the end, as Jane Cox's lighting transforms a cloudy day into a red-mooned night, do they converge in a final "Amen" of words and hands grasping at one another.

The Doug Elkins Dance Company's "The Stuff of Recoiling" roused the crowd to its highest pitch this evening. Elkins's piece certainly has roots in Elkins' trademark break dance and club dance rhythms, but other typical forms of social dance find their way into "The Stuff of Recoiling" also, making it ultimately accessible and pure fun to watch. Working from the idea of recoil explicated in the title, the dance overflows with the same sense of inertia that characterize the best moments of Creach's "A Home for Boys." What elevates "The Stuff of Recoiling" for me is that this momentum anchors the entire work; the dancers find their place in the waves of the choreography and then ride them through the dance, carrying the audience through to the end.

"The Stuff of Recoiling" opens with the four female company members in an undulating, lethargic salsa-meets-hopscotch quartet. Soon, pairs and trios emerge through which themes about human relationships begin to surface in tandem with the physical patterns of advancing, recoiling, flying, and rebounding. Throughout the series of changing partners and relationships, the dancers remain energetically calm and carefree; nothing in their faces or bodies suggests that these transitions are unpleasant or controllable. Elkins's company rides the wave with enormous energy, which pleased the young crowd as it did me.

Seeing three such disparate companies in an evening is wondrous both in the exciting and confusing essence of the word. For Symphony Space it seems like a good move right now; I imagine a sampler program like this has the ability to attract a broad range of viewers, as evidenced by a nice turnout tonight. The challenge for a viewer (especially as a reviewer) is to be satisfied with teasing out an image of the choreographer and performers through a single work. Creach/Company left me with the most questions and some interest although I found myself more engaged by Paradigm and Doug Elkins's contributions

Program B repeats Sunday, February 6 (at 3 PM), and Program A returns Saturday, February 5(at 8 PM).

 

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