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Flash Review 2, 9-15: Dance Haul
Dancenow Casts a Wide Net

By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2000 Peggy H. Cheng

After seeing the 9 PM segment of last night's dancenow downtown program at the Joyce Soho, I have to say that Tamara Greenfield and Robin Staff, the festival directors, have done a wonderful job and are contributing to the overall accessibility of downtown modern dance, and I for one am grateful to see that as well as some diversity of dance, dancers, and approaches to dancemaking.

There were eight pieces presented this evening, the closing piece being a last-minute addition, and this line-up is certainly proof of how dancenow downtown "casts a wide net to capture a full range" of dances. I will attempt now, in the wee hours of the morning, to give fair examination to the catch from this Thursday's 9 PM show.

Jadadance opened the evening with "Overdressed," a piece choreographed by Jada Shapiro for two women (including Shapiro). As the lights come up we see two nude women caught in the light, standing in the midst of piles of clothing strewn about the floor; they proceed to dress themselves in a bra and layers of panties. Layer after layer is added on until they are over-stuffed -- this is accomplished through skittering and running about the space as they eyeball each other. I sensed the humor yet I felt that the piece resisted any clear progress from its original purpose of showing us how being "overdressed" can be inhibiting to the idea of freedom in movement and expression.

Speaking of casting a wide net (I mean the fishing kind), the next piece ushered us into the sea. "Washed Up," an excerpt from a work-in-progress based on Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid," was choreographed and performed by Jody Sperling. In a vocabulary that seemed to be influenced by yoga, Ms. Sperling swirled and stretched throughout the space evoking the sea as the sound of waves (in music by Quentin Chiappetta) accompanied her movements. The piece seemed to explore the many ways a mermaid (i.e., a being without two legs, just one big fin) could move and in this way many yoga-like postures were struck. As a work-in-progress, "Washed Up" hinted at some interesting movement exploration. The mermaid/dancer is lovely and sweet -- could she be other things as well?

From the sea we moved to the desert in a piece inspired by Georgia O'Keefe's "The Red Hills." The solo, also entitled "Red Hills," was choreographed by Jacqulyn Buglisi of Buglisi/Foreman Dance to the music of Franz Liszt. Also appearing in the piece was Christine Dakin as Landscape. Mysterious in the program listing, the role of Landscape was just as mysterious -- and I would add grandiose -- in the piece. Dressed in a black suit and a black rimmed hat, Ms. Dakin struck a dramatic opening pose, reaching with angular fingers and limbs towards what appeared to be the sun, parching the Red Hills below. After she left, Jennifer DePalo performed a solo of energetic spiralling, muscled falls, and wide second stances, mostly around a box with the same burnt oranges, reds, and black of her costume by A. Christina Giannini. Performed with gusto, this solo is a demonstration of a classical modern dance form and vocabulary, especially in contrast to the rest of the program -- and maybe misplaced on this stage and in this context.

Back to the fishes: This time it was an excerpt from "Fishes in My Belly," choreographed by Jennifer Edwards and performed by Ms. Edwards, Andrea Johnston, and Netta Yerushalmy. Most notable here was the dueting and inter-mingling duets in the trio. There was a great deal of switching between tender touches and rejection of tenderness; the three dancers were catching, grabbing, supporting, pushing, and swirling about each other with deftness -- perhaps with a deftness that belied the yes and no of the threesome they formed. The costumes, designed by Sara Jablon, appeared to be silk tunics over silk pants (the only color I remember clearly now is a sea green -- but the three costume colors complimented each other very nicely), evoking a tone of South Asian dress.

From the "Fishes in My Belly" we moved into the pain in my belly: Jennifer Uzzi's piece entitled "Lost So Low" was a solo performed by Nicole Berger, suitably costumed in an all-black ensemble designed by Heather Warfel. In a mostly coffin-like, straight up and down posture, Ms. Berger's performance of a person stiffly struggling with an inward pain was appropriately dark. In some moments what was inside burst out in a flurry of movement; a spin to the ground, a convulsion as if vomiting. The music, Claude Debussy's "Preludes Book I, danseuses de Delphes," helped to create a feeling of aloneness and darkness -- an empty room where only the chords struck by a faraway piano could be heard.

Jettisoning us out of the somber mood of the previous solo was the playful quartet "Rolling the Hillock" (an excerpt from the entire piece was performed this evening), choreographed by Tiffany Mills "with contributions from the company" (company members being Laura Hymers, Stephanie King, Matsuhide, and Ms. Mills). The feeling of ensemble play was strong in this piece -- a testament to the contributions of all the members -- and so the enjoyment these dancers had with each other was the wave which the dance rode. Aside from some shapes that closely resembled hill-like structures, I did not understand the title's relationship to the piece. One duet in the middle of the piece allowed for more moments of tender touch and could have been a couple amidst a pastoral, hilly landscape; before long, the other playful couple returns to send the ensemble into another flurry of play.

Playful could describe some of the moments in Jennifer Tsukayama's solo "Three Sides of a Circle," but only for a split second. To the hard-pounding music of Evelyn Glennie, this solo was a series of approaches towards the audience during which several "types of women" passed over Ms. Tsukayama's face, before she shied away from the audience in a kind of sickening demure and vulnerable posture and display. I sensed that Ms. Tsukayama was making a statement about women objectified, playing roles which then contribute to an inside anger. Her formula of angry gestures (here's my vagina, hands on hips, chin out) coupled with strange, sudden shifts of "type" was disturbing; I did not know if her last reach towards the audience was supposed to be a way to leap out of this multiple-personality or to drag those out there in.

Closing the evening was an excerpt from a duet entitled "Honey, I'm Home," choreographed by Margie Young. A duet between the characters of husband and wife, this piece was an evenly balanced "marriage" between movement and theatrical narrative. A stone-faced hubby comes home from work and approaches the downstage area where dinner awaits in the form of a knife, fork and drumstick on a plate. The wife is terrified; her desperation a flutter of nervous gestures and tip-toeing about. The husband is a brute; he steps mechanically forward on his wife's fingers for a long enough time to send us the message that he is cruel enough to torture. The narrative continues with a horrible -- and I have to admit funny -- duet in which the husband eats his drumstick and "his" wife's leg, and then body, engulfing her in what is essentially rape at the dinner table. She becomes pregnant, she births twins on stage right, and she returns to the dinner table with them to sit across from her husband. Sounds ridiculous in a way -- yet I found that the movement supported the narrative, the gestures well-chosen and complete.

And that is where the evening ended, at a pleasing place of completeness. If you have time, try to catch the remaining days of the festival in your net. It continues through tomorrow night.

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