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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 the mind.

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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