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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 Carol Somers.

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 dances.

For more info on show-times, call 212-674-8194.

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