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Flash Review 2, 4-14:
Filled With Poetry
Swanson's Dance Works For Me!
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse
If I wrote Wil Swanson
a fan letter, in it I would tell him that watching him dance fills
my head with poetry. I'd quote Theodore Roethke, but genderswitch
pronouns: "The shapes a bright container can contain ... [His] several
parts could keep a pure repose ... [He] moved in circles, and those
circles moved." In a P.S. directed to you reading this, I'd add:
"Where the hell were you people last night?" Wil Swanson/Danceworks's
concert at Joyce Soho was fucking gorgeous. I'd command y'all to
rearrange your weekends tout de suite (the show plays three more
nights, Friday through Sunday at 8 PM, at 155 Mercer). Joyce Soho
is of a perfect size to allow you to savor and crawl inside the
nuances of Swanson's imagination.
The program made me wonder,
If I had a decade of dancing for and with Trisha Brown as my box
of crayons, what would I color? 1987's "Sylt," 1999's "Ore" and
the premiere of "Torse" escape the lines of Trisha's coloring book
in a trajectory from post-Brown to "Who is Wil?--What has he got?"
I first watched Swanson
in the mid- to late-80's when Minneapolis's New Dance Ensemble played
Washington, DC. I remember him, swimsuit-clad, in an erotic, astute
work of Ralph Lemon's that blew me away. Later I took a week of
his technique class as part of a workshop with Ms. Brown in Baltimore....
It must have been 1992 or '93. I admit to suffering a crush that
wasn't sure if it wanted to have him or be him. So part of me feels
I know him a little, and that part of me was rewarded but not surprised
by a choreographic vocabulary generous with the kinds of nooks and
crannies that define dancers' careers.
The phrases of "Sylt,"
performed to a score by Devon Carey that seethes like a rave of
bees, saturate Joyce Soho's tidy stage with both shape and flow
within a structure that constantly expands, but is scented with
a 13-year-old Trisha-esque derivation that looks Petroniony. "Ore"
absorbs that lineage and explores more deeply the qualities of each
dancers' attack. A gesture's path, rather than its destination,
commands inquiry and interrupts delivery. An attention to presence
stamps the work as uniquely Wil's. About halfway through, oiled
and sweating, the cast seems to forget themselves as they fulfill
Swanson's spatial complexity and his specificities of tactile detail
and visual correspondence. The incessancy of his invention bites
At first, Corelli's "Concerti
Grossi Op. 6" struggles with "Torse." Then it suits it, swells it;
then it doesn't; then it does. Swanson finds the quirks embedded
in Corelli's arithmetic while his dancers extend beyond their skins.
When they touch themselves and each other in ways that suggest aura-inquisitive
or chakra-healing, they transcend granola-crunchy by simply and
profoundly not "doing" energy-flow, but BEING it. Their adagio enhances
Swanson's experiments with the playing field's depth and width.
The program says Danceworks's
"repertory is known for elegantly crafted works, dynamic energy,
abandon, serenity, complexity and drama." I say, "Yep, uh huh, all
that, with bells on. So get your asses over there."
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