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Flash Review 3, 8-21: All Killa, No Filla
Our Staff Dances the Rainbow

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000 The Dance Insider

One of the purposes of The Dance Insider Staff Performance Party last week at Battery Dance was to demonstrate and celebrate that when we say we're The Dance Insider, we're not just talkin'. Just about every member of our staff is a professional dancer; and every performer on Wednesday's bill was a staff member. This I knew going in.... What I wasn't entirely prepared for was it wasn't just that these were all dancers, but that the people on our staff happen to be some of the best dancers and choreographers in the business.... And, as important, and this feeling I came away with most of all after the performance party, they represent a wide rainbow of the dance family. This program was definitely all killa, no filla!

And since most of our New York Flashers were, er, on the stage, that leaves it to me to Flash the Flashers. With just one caveat: I was too overwhelmed and touched by the experience to be able to put my shakey hands to paper and actually take notes, so this should not be taken as a complete and thorough review of the proceedings...just some impressions.

Rachel Berman, late of Paul Taylor and, er, as of now of Hawaii (at least for the next year), was just about my first, ahem, dancer crush in New York. What I remember most about seeing Rachel onstage with the Taylor company for the first time in October 1995 is her radiant smile, which seemed to project throughout City Center. Rachel kicked off our evening, in what was, at least for the coming year, her farewell NYC performance. To see that smile, and Rachel's silken moves, close up in the intimate setting of Battery was just...a joy...a privilege...a thrill...Performing Earnest Morgan's "Ku'u Home O Kahalu'u," to music by Jerry Santos & Olomana, in a tropical dress, Rachel was, really, the Sun in her visage... Her hips and torso seemingly moved, swayed by the Hawaiian winds and the waves.... About half of the Taylor company turned out to bid Rachel aloha...as we do too, for now....

Well, er, and after that lyricism, Veronica Dittman and Faith Pilger kicked in the macho factor with their own "Rope-a-Dope," going womano-a-womano, grappling, wrestling, semi-capoiera-ing to Duncan Nielson's re-mix of Elvis Costello, John Zorn, and Combustible Edison. All executed with Veronica's patented wryness of demeanor and body, and Faith's unique combination of wenchy lust and macho bravado and robustness... Er, maybe I better stop while I'm ahead!

If there's anyone that defines Western Macho to this Mano, it's Johnny Cash. And Chris Dohse was suitably twangy (er, trying to come up a Dohsian spell-check boggling phrase here...) dancing to Mr. Cash's "I Walk the Line," in an excerpt from "Iconographies," choreographed by Lise Brenner in collaboration with Chris and Rob Hayden. In typical Western mystery man fashion, he starts with his back to us, slowly turning, head first....Chris wasn't wearing chaps or spurs, but I could swear I saw 'em!

"That was amazing!" host Ben Munisteri exclaimed to me after Tehreema Mitha performed her self-choreographed Bharatanatyam solo in the tech. I agreed, and only after the performance proper did I remember that Tehreema had told me she was going to do the run-through less than full-out. Yow! Tehreema's piece originated in the idea that artists' work is just as critical as more obviously "important" work -- that of, er, politicians, generals, etc. -- because of the transcendence, relief, transport, and mitigation it offers to all of us. From this, she developed a dramatic pretense, in dance and theatrical form, which describes the artists of various fields carrying out their work during the night as the rest of us sleep. Being me I was most impressed with her finely and precisely etched depiction of a writer...one hand clutching an imagined pen as finely as if it were a needle, and using it in the same fashion, recording her stories on a ledger embodied by her other hand...and, most intriguingly, and charmingly, evoking in her facial expression and the raising of a single finger the writer's getting an idea.

In fact, if Tehreema's feet were all barely suppressed and concentrated power as she stamped, heels planted firmly, toes curling, in her face was...well, she gave us the Universe in a face...along with her open arms, at various points in the dance welcoming us to her world...which gave us a whole world of the arts and the feelings they bring out in us.

Webmistress Robin Hoffman opened the second act with a demonstration -- enabled by Video D's loan of a projector to us -- of the web site, as projected on the upstage wall of the space. Here I was reminded of the way Robin embodies the presentational power of the polished and experienced dancer she is, the intellectual girth of someone who has an engineer's knowledge but a public speaker's ability to explain it for the layman, and her own, well, just plain charisma!

Next up was Darrah Carr Dance. Here I need to give a special shout out to Darrah's seven dancers, who performed her "Crockpot Stew" with brio, lightness, joy, effervescence, and sheer beauty. And a stew it is, indeed -- a veritable Stone Soup of seemingly divergent elements -- modern middle body movements, the occasional Tayloresque arm, and just the right dollop of Irish inflection. To a score taken from John Adams and Edgar Meyer, Darrah showed how easily she can move between these different styles and still come up with a unified whole, and her dancers how capable they are of adapting. As well, in this short dance -- about ten minutes -- choreographer and dancers seemed to bring us a whole evening of dance!

Terry Hollis, dancing his "First Session," gave the dance that resonated the most with me personally. (Well, not counting Tehreema's writer!) Which is to say, the one that seemed most to dance my feelings. Male angst, inchoate perhaps but palpable, loaded, weighted, a canvas personal and yet at the same time open to our projecting our own feelings onto it. Made more poignant, I think, by the not-obvious choice of J.S. Bach music.

Tamieca McCloud -- well, well, well. One advertiser in attendance put it best: She said Tamieca, performing her "Unsaid" to the music of Hector Zazou, made both her and her companion cry. Tamieca is that rarer than you might think combination: an artist whose dancing prowess is matched by her choreographic oomph. We've all had the experience of having a favorite giant of a dancer perform their own choreography, which turns out to be not so giant. Well, no chance of that here! In her ability to create choreography that matches the amplitude (and well-articulated angst) of her dancing, I don't think Tamieca has a match. As a choreographer, she really is her own best vehicle -- the only one I've seen give her choreography that matches the mettle and heart and soul of her dancing, and the depth of her personality. What gets to my heart and angst particularly is when, sort of sitting, hands behind her, she arches back and head, hair weeping behind her, and seems to beseech the Heavens.

If she DOES have a match, it would be Rebecca Stenn. Like Tamieca, Rebecca has this mystic way of catching the light -- she often seems to have an aura around her. If I have a "complaint," it's that her strong muscly and comic performing selves don't often enough make way for her "softer," gauzier, gossamer, lyrical and, oh okay, feminine self. So I was in for a treat this evening with her "Khaen," performed in flowing gossamer white top and pants. Not that muscles weren't in evidence; they were, particularly as she hit the floor with hands in synch with the live -- and we do mean live, his presence was greeted like that of a star quarterback striding onto the field, as he entered slinging his bass -- guitar of Jay Weissman, playing his own music. But Rebecca also seemed to find the deeper, transfixing zone hidden under Weissman's bass-ey chops. A mystic mystery, indeed. And a great, er, marriage of music and dance.

What else...? Only that we plan to make this a regular series, expanding beyond our circle to include other talented, tho lesser-known artists, the idea being to bring them together with dance presenters and media. Sponsors for last week's performance included Vineyard Expressions, Luna Bar, and Body Wrappers. Production Manager was Alison Schwartz.

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