back to Flash Reviews
Flash Review 2, 5-6:
Ringing in the Season with Nai-Ni Chen
By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2000 Peggy H. Cheng
Last night at the Clark
Studio Theater (at Lincoln Center, in the Rose Building), Nai-Ni
Chen Dance Company helped to usher in the warm weather with a program
entitled "Spring Celebration."
The evening opened with
a rush of color and sound in "White Mountain/Black Water," a piece
inspired by the history of the land between Korea and China where,
according to the program notes, "the people are known for their
bold and enduring quality." Proud and strong men and women traveled
across the space, all fists and flexed feet, often touching and
using the "earth" below their feet. At one point, they pinholed
and planted seeds held between their thumbs and forefingers, careful
yet firm. Muscular duets lifted people up towards the sky, to scan
the mountain range. One section was almost martial in style, the
ensemble -- led by Nai-Ni Chen with particular graceful strength,
going through a series of movements over and over -- reminding me
of martial arts sequences. There was color throughout: bright celebratory
scarves in the finale dance of joy; the earth tones of the peasants;
the rosy pink of a maiden (Ha-Yan Kim) on a boat with a tall barechested
man (Gabriel Hernan). The articulation of hands and feet amidst
flying rushes of color and limbs; one sensed inspiration in the
urgent and beautiful movements. Ms. Chen seems to have found a treasure
trove of material in "White Mountain/Black Water." The piece was
additionally enlivened by the live accompaniment of the Hanulsori
Korean Percussion Ensemble playing the works of composers Harry
Lee and Forrest Fang.
Second on the program
came two sections in a larger work-in-progress, "Dragons on the
Wall." The piece is to be based on conversations between the choreographer,
Ms. Chen, and a Nobel Literature Prize winning poet, Bei Dao. Mr.
Dao was exiled from China in the 1970's for his political activities.
The first section, "Love Letters," was about the inability to express
love. Certainly the duets were about being unable to connect: A
woman on her belly suddenly arches and reaches with her feet towards
a man in front of her in a contorted and desperate effort to make
contact; a woman reaches behind her but is unable to turn. The following
section was "Walking on the Edge," in which five people tentatively
approached the audience in their individual lanes, gasping for air,
maybe gasping to hold something in, or let something out? The music,
with live reading and vocalizing from composer Joan LaBarbara, evoked
a haunted place, perhaps underground or in a cave. In any case,
it was a dark place which these people inhabited; there is a sense
that they are lost behind an impenetrable force field and unable
to express anything, and for now that seems to be where they end,
Last on the program was
the one premiere of the evening. Very playful and bright (candy-colored
unitards by Hilary Blumenthal), this piece was inspired by carousels
which Ms. Chen saw while in Europe. "Carousel Divertimento," to
jazz music played by the Turtle Island String Quartet, was in fact
quite jazzy. Mixed in to the plucky duets were moments of sensuality.
As big, swooshy moves flew across the stage, cute prances, skips,
and gallops evoked the multi-colored carousel horses while lighting
designer A.C. Hickox (lighting design for the entire evening) provided
a spiralling circle of light centerstage for the dancers to revolve
on. Very much a vehicle of high energy, "Carousel Divertimento"
provided a light and happy entertainment to end the evening.
Also dancing last night
were I-Fang Huang, Ya-Chih Chuang, Edgar Cortes, Chien-Hui Shen,
and Shanti Guirao.
Nai-Ni Chen's Spring
Celebration continues tonight at 8 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m. Sunday's
performance is sold-out.
back to Flash Reviews