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Flash Review, 6-3: Awash
in Boston Dance
Beantown Crew in the House at St. Mark's
By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2000 Peggy H. Cheng
...As well as Fancy Dress
Barbie, Party Date Ken, Red Rover and, in the evening's most enduring
image, a flock of "crows."
This weekend Danspace
Project's Dance Access (self-produced) series features the Choreographer's
Group, a collective of three Boston choreographers, in a program
called "A Collection of Boston Dance," through Sunday night at St.
Mark's Church. The three choreographers are Lillian Carter, Perla
Joy Furr (founder and director of the Choreographer's Group), and
Ms. Furr presented two
pieces, the solo "Dare We Forget," which she also performed, and
a duet entitled "Along the Way," performed by Katie Magyar and Deborah
McMakin. The direction of the duet dance did not become clear to
me, but the dancers arrived at some shapely and sculptured poses.
Ms. Carter presented
"A Doll's Life," which fittingly opened with two human-sized cardboard
Barbie doll boxes on stage; one containing Fancy Dress Barbie, and
the other Party Date Ken. Three women with Barbie-masked faces danced
in convincing Barbie-fashion, arms stiffly in front and tripping
about in powder pink pumps. The opening section was layered over
the voices of little girls singing that silly and spoofish tune,
"I'm a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world...". After this Ms. Carter's
character, post-surgery chin bandaged, came out to deliver text
(which she wrote) that began with a mantra, "Beauty knows no pain."
The text which followed felt predictable; the clever use of Ms.
Carter staring into a "mirror," the effect achieved by one of the
Barbie-girls mirroring her movements exactly, was more engaging
and may have communicated the same message as much of the text.
Then, Barbie (Gail Phaneuf) came out of her box and sang a song
about her Barbie-self, bemoaning the fact that she's never met Ken.
Of course, after she finishes and freezes, Ken (Billy McLaughlin)
comes out (in more ways than one) of his box and sings a song about
his wistful and distant admiration for Barbie... which eventually
turns into his downright envy of Barbie and how HE wants the "perfect
tits." The musical theater of this last section was quite entertaining,
although perhaps the ending came too abruptly.
Ms. Somers's first piece
on the program was "Red Rover." I quickly dubbed this piece the
G.I. Jane Dance, although it is important to note that the choreographer
approached the dance with a serious tone. With upraised hands and
backs to the audience, the entirely female cast of this piece (Leah
Bergman, Audra Carabetta, Susan Gray, Erin Koh, Ashley Williams,
and Somers) became a troop of soldiers at war. Both at beginning
and end the dancers hummed the tune of "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye"
(which I confirmed afterwards was the same tune as "The ants come
marching in...). In addition, the sound of helicopters hovering,
combined with the rigorous and tussling movement, created the effect
of intense struggle. The images were effective -- the movement may
have benefited from some less "dancey" moves -- but the idea was
clear. "As The Crow Flys" appeared in the second half of the program,
and convinced me that Ms. Somers favors the use of large groups
of dancers moving in and out of various patterns in the space, bodies
in unison and then in canon, one dancer leaving the ensemble for
a solo. My favorite moment of the evening came during this dance
when, trusting the beauty of movement and simple patterns in space,
one soloist (Erin Koh) emerged out of the group as if charting a
course, her hand and foot pointing to four points, head and torso
elongated to look afar, while the rest of the ensemble washed by
her like a tide, approaching and swallowing and then moving on.
Later on, moments of playfulness were sweet, and a return to the
beginning movement motifs reassuring, yet the quiet elegance of
a group awash in a tide emerged again as I reflect on the evening's
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