featured photo

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Review 3-13: Hopeful and Morose
Kloppenberg Dance: Good News and Bad News

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung

Kloppenberg Dance's program of two works (both premieres), seen Saturday at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, made me at once hopeful and morose about the state of dance. I was optimistic because if a program like this could get produced at a venue like St. Mark's Church, then, well, lots of stuff could, some of it with great potential. Morose, because this production managed to be presented despite lackluster choreography and mediocre dancing.

The stuff was all there to assist with success: the space, of course one of the most beautiful places to see dance in New York, where even middling dance seems sacred; the sets, canvas backdrops painted by Patrick Webb to resemble an Italian piazza; and for the first piece, live piano and cello accompaniment. Sad to say, the dance rarely added anything to these quality elements. "Shifts," in which the live musicians played lustrous music by Wes York, was a plotless work in which the dance sometimes illustrated the music, but the flaccid sections of contact improv, repeated lunges and pretty but predictable canonical phrasing went nowhere. There was virtually no energy in the movement.

"Pulcinella" is a longer work based on the classic tale and refashioned by Patrick Webb, whose libretto is an engaging storyboard of 12 pictures with captions. Operatic in ambition, the dance is largely reduced to slapstick miming embedded with flirtations, bullies who mock fight, lots of running around and collisions (mostly intentional) between the seven dancers. Though a sense of humor helped to leaven the mood (particularly by Kristen Davis and Laura Hymers, who succeeded in conveying the appropriate touch of irony despite their thankless roles in this ultimately gay union), the movement still returned to thudding jetes (I'd normally call them grand, but believe me, they weren't) and ports de bras that consumed entire 8-count phrases (it's not as interesting as it sounds). An effective bit near the end had 4 of the dancers striking different poses to the beat, but a repeated motif where all of the dancers display their arms in ovals felt formulaic.

The one true highlight was the dancing of Daniel-Aguzzoli Roberts as Pimpinella. Roberts is currently an understudy at Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He was able to breathe life and meaning into otherwise tepid dance; in a deep, sliding second position with long diagonal arms, he conveyed the essence of simple movements as no one else in the cast could--particularly the choreographer himself--giving us a reason to watch.

Brian Kloppenberg, whose movement seems to be based on rudimentary Cunningham technique, has a sense of musicality (he trained to be a professional musician before opting to pursue dance) but rarely goes beyond enchaining anything but really basic steps. This might be fine in one work as an exercise in dance-making, but for the scale of "Pulcinella," it's merely maddening. Is he perhaps scared of upstaging the music with his dance? Or need he simply recruit better dancers and give them movement that exceeds his personal technical abilities?

Other performers include Ian Van Voorst as the surprisingly fleet-footed, cape-unfurling doctor, Jordan Fuchs and Andrew DeMers. Jeanne Golan was on piano and Gregory Hesselink on cello. Lighting design was by Severn Clay.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home