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Flash Review, 8-31: "Unforgettable Journeys"
Le Minh Tam's "Familiar Stories"

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

At the unholy crack of noon under a pleasant swelter of trees on the Battery Park lawn that my taxi driver couldn't find, Le Minh Tam Dance performed an ensemble piece drawn from the immigrant experience, "In Familiar Stories Unforgettable Journeys." Six females in translucent dresses became the froth of an ocean crossing, whitecaps, the gauzy edge of paradise like Botticelli Muses only not as numerous, a backdrop-landscape for the four featured performers, two of each gender, to make duets against with therapeutic aspects, querying each other's bodies. This piece succeeded in the outdoor setting of Battery Dance's Downtown Dance Festival, but made me hope for another chance to see its details more clearly.

For a final pass from right to left, some of the dancers wore those doohickeys on their heads like they were about to engage in speleology while the cicadas sang of back-to-school in the trees' barks, mysteriously. Apparently, at least one member of the audience complained about the work's apparent violence, the layering of which gave a sense of a mature, fully evolved artist who sees the way people treat each other without apology.

"Threshold; Corner" started with mostly mean kids goofing and groping. Tam's generous phrases that slurp through the whole kinesphere with quirks and emotional residue reminded me of Trisha Brown. This older dance was less pretty than the new one, more demanding, more disturbing. Its community of tormented and furious, powerful and gorgeous bodies did things to each other that weren't very nice. Sometimes they behaved like automatons, trying things on for size, struggling and flinching against their lot. Allowing each dancer to fully engage in the moods of the material, Tam is concerned at the same time with the design of space and the relationships of body to body. Tony Silva's score answered the movement vocabulary's oddness and depth.

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