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Flash Review, 6-16: It's
Frankincense and Surveillance with Troika
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse
Dawn Stoppiello and Mark
Coniglio, the artistic directors of Troika Ranch, complement each
others' brains with beauty and brawn. "The Chemical Wedding of Christian
Rosenkreutz," which opened last night at HERE Arts Center, begins
in a cloud of frankincense and ends in a barrage of technological
surveillance. Troika Ranch's signature innovations in media slice
through the story of a 17th Century alchemist with aleatoric text,
humor and a fully realized dance language.
First on the program
is 1994's "Red People," which reunites choreographer Stoppiello
with fellow Bella Lewitzky alumnae Nancy Fields and Diane Vivona.
The two performers trouble Susan Hamburger's saturated color and
Coniglio's lush soundscape with eddies and funnel clouds of violent
physicality. The dancers' amplified breath and fragments of vocalization
weave into Coniglio's staccato as they run and stumble, pausing
to repeat secretive gestures. When Stoppiello chooses unison she
remembers for us their shared dance lineage.
In the years since "Red
People," Stoppiello's movement vocabulary has evolved, become denser,
more organic, more ambitious, more complicated. A duet early in
"Rosenkreutz" for Anthony Gongora and Michou Szabo crumples into
and through their individual musculatures to describe the fragility
of the body central to this work. As performed by Gongora and Szabo,
weight exchanges and arm weavings attend to shades of gray that
get lost in some of Stoppiello's full-out, space-eating phrases.
"Rosenkreutz" is less
a history lesson than a fantasia of imagined physics -- chimerical,
alchemical gigabytes. Coniglio narrates. He captures a characterization
that is more than a little creepy. His stream-of-consciousness verbiage
trapezes from childhood memories to hypothetical biologies. His
constant companions, two video projections of himself, dangle like
monstrously intimate voyeurs. They leer at his onstage attendants,
at us, at himself.
One thread emerges from
the dancers' interactions: the delicate heeby jeeby and willy nilly
of human biology. Another thread inquires into technology's medical
interruptions and future possibilities. Leaving us, the audience,
somewhere between the two, reminding us that performance happens
in the imagination, reminding us of the uncomfortable marriage of
the body and science, the inside and outside on the cusp of 2000.
Perhaps this work-in-progress
version has a bit too much in it. It's not always clear exactly
what's happening to this cast of eight, but it doesn't really matter;
they remain compelling due to their uniform strength and clear commitment
to the material, and their ease with the demands of dancing and
speaking. The plot make more sense after reading the program notes.
(Editor's Note: Troika
Ranch's season at HERE continues tonight through Sunday. Later this
summer, the company offers workshops in Santa Fe and New York on
the use of interactive digital media in the creation and performance
of dance, theater, and related live artworks. For information on
the season or the workshops, visit Troika's
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