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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.

Elsewhere, over-analysis 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, opening sequence.

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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