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Flash Review 3, 6-24:
Anatomy 101 with Haim
An Anatomy of Intent -- and a Critique of Pure Movement
By Byron Woods
Copyright 2000 Byron Woods
DURHAM, NC -- As performed
by the Limon Dance Company, choreographer Mark Haim's "An Anatomy
of Intent" is a calculated, subtle and thought-provoking critique
of pure movement -- and reason, in places. In the premiere of its
final version Thursday night in Page Auditorium at the American
Dance Festival, Haim repeatedly juxtaposes exquisitely crafted but
emotionally null solos and group sequences with a handful of comparatively
simpler moments -- moments of human revelation: the remarkable discovery
of flex, in an arm or hand that hurts no longer; the body -- and
the person living in it -- seen both in and out of the context of
relationships and friends.
At times a series of
simply sculpted human miniatures, made of wire, foreground or background
the adept -- and arid -- motion studies we encounter. A man and
woman share the first one, framed on stage as in a motion picture.
Even in that limited zone, space is all they share at most; with
no common context, we sense they could as easily be dancing in different
buildings. In places, abstract group sequences seem a joyous celebration
of movement for movement's sake; elsewhere, we learn that something's
missing in the picture.
The human disconnect
is dealt with humorously in places: a quartet pointedly loses all
lyricism when one of the four dons a portable CD player in mid-sequence
and begins to boogie to unheard classic rhythm and blues. Elsewhere,
a couple looks on in mock concern as Carlos Orta breaks without
warning into a sudden attack of abstract movement, at dangerously
close proximity. Orta's look of self-satisfaction is capped by the
arrogance with which he tosses his warm-up togs at the couple before
starting a second set of movements, identical to the first.
gets skewered in a mordant one liner, stuttered and finally blurted
by the same couple after a similarly-fashioned modern-art spasm.
But distance abets abstraction
in other sections where one dancer observes a trio or quartet, but
never can enter their world. Haim has been particularly celebrated
for his previous solo compositions (including 1997's "Goldberg Variations"
-- see Flash APAP Review, 1-13: Something's
Happening Here); here it bears noting that his consistently
strongest moments remain predominantly in the solos, by Orta, Natalie
Desch and Amber Merkens. And the choreographer's penchant for repeated
sequences does not always add to a work where judicious editing
would strengthen its controversial point.
To composer Michael Grigsby's
arpegiatted, crystalline piano tectonics, dancers contrast similarly
pristine -- but inert, and nearly robotic -- physical sections with
the sudden discovery of grace in hand and arm, at their very end.
In the final sequence,
the two dancers from the beginning repeat their perfect, if airless,
The second iteration
has a telling difference, though. At its end, the two see friends
in the wings, off stage. Everything changes: They smile, their bodies
relax, and in a moment, they re-assume a context that had been previously
stripped away. A reduction has been going on, but it is over now.
It's clear that one state is preferable to the other. In "An Anatomy
of Intent," Mark Haim seems to suggest that something crucial gets
lost when one reduces humans to little motion studies. It takes
something more to get at the ghost, the soul -- the human -- within
the strangest, fragile, most temporary figurines of all: us.
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