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Flash Review 2, 9-15:
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
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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