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Choreographic Canapés: Dancenow
The Festival at Dance Theater Workshop
Produced by Dancenow/NYC
Dance Theater Workshop, 219 West 19th Street, Chelsea
Sept. 4-7 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 8 at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9 at 2 p.m., Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.; evening performances $20 in advance, $25 at door; Sept. 7 matinee $20 in advance, $25 at door; Sept. 10 free
Tickets: (212) 924-0077 or www.dtw.org
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, Sept. 5, 2007
In only a few years it has become the custom to launch autumn dance seasons with sampler programs by assorted companies and soloists that resemble cocktail parties serving choreographic canapés: bits and pieces in many styles for audiences to savor. Although no single nibble may fully satisfy hungry dance lovers, an evening of snippets can be quite tasty.
Fall for Dance has received justifiable acclaim for its annual autumnal gatherings. But this year Dancenow/NYC came first on the calendar with its Festival at Dance Theater Workshop, under the artistic direction of Robin Staff. Its opening attraction, Sept. 4 (with different programs to follow) was an evening called "40Up" featuring works by experienced choreographers.
The event demonstrated that samplers are ideal for miniature dances. In his witty "Finger Suite," to Satie piano music, Larry Keigwin set the hands and fingers of Michael Blake, Keith Sabado, and Valda Setterfield twitching and wiggling, their motions suggesting both harmony and rivalry. Whatever these dancers did, their fingers led the way, dominating the action instead of serving as the mere appendages they can seem in dances emphasizing twisting torsos or kicking legs.
Murray Louis Dance, "Porcelain Dialogues (revival 1974, 2nd Movement)." Part of the Dancenow / NYC Festival.L-R: Sara Pearson, Betsy Fisher, Robert Small, Janis Brenner, Peter Kyle. Photo by Steven Schreiber.
Six former members of the Murray Louis Dance Company (Blake, Janis Brenner, Betsy Fisher, Peter Kyle, Sara Pearson, and Robert Small) honored Louis's 80th birthday with the unhurriedly lyrical second movement of his "Porcelain Dialogues," to Tchaikovsky's Quartet in D Major.
Knowing that audiences enjoy being tricked, Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman, who direct Bridgman/Packer Dance, proved clever mixed-media sorcerers in an excerpt from "Under the Skin," in which, to jazzy music by Ken Field, projected images of dancers appeared on a backdrop while live people seemed to emerge from the projections to cavort in an assortment of formal and casual costumes by Margaret Auer. The production posed the question, "What's real here?" One answer might be, "Not much," for the only flesh-and-blood people present were Bridgman and Packer themselves. All the other figures were video illusions by Peter Bobrow and Jim Monroe. But that's a ploddingly literalistic explanation; when theatrical effects are imaginative, illusions acquire their own reality.
This except and the one by Louis whetted the appetite for the rest of the productions from which they came. But not all works excerpt well. In a scene from Guta Hedewig's new "Forty," five women from her company, Guta Hedewig Dance, nudged one another, held hands, and tugged one another to music by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Out of context, their exertions appeared inscrutable.
Assorted solos made good impressions. Claire Porter, of Claire Porter/PORTABLES, let gestures speak and words dance in her simultaneously witty and poignant "Interview," in which she portrayed a nervous woman at a job interview during which her gestures made a strange progression from the painfully uncertain to the sometimes semi-erotic and even quasi-aggressive while her speech grew increasingly distraught.
Sarah Hook Dances, "Rue," performed by Mary Cochran. Part of Dancenow / NYC Festival. Photo by Steven Schreiber.
Sara Hook Dances offered Hook's "Rue," which found Mary Cochran looking both forlorn and ridiculous in a pink wig. Moving with deliberate awkwardness to a Schubert song, she effectively invested grotesquerie with pathos.
Wearing glasses, jeans, and a white shirt, Donlin Foreman, of …On Common Ground, appeared to be a perfectly ordinary man wandering through his "Self Portrait w/Ghosts," to music by Andrew Waggoner. But as he asked himself questions about happiness, his journeys took him into mysterious out-of-the-ordinary psychological territories and he found himself haunted by increasingly powerful emotions.
Helen Pickett's "One Captured Kiss" was marked by its own emotional intensification as Megan Williams fell under the spell of the accompanying Tom Waits music.
Because an untitled piece by Johannes Wieland and Neta Pulvermacher's "Welcome to My Garden" were "works-in-progress," discussions of them should await their completion. Yet a work-in-progress called "Work-in-Progress," by Gus Solomons Jr., of Paradigm, made such a strong impression that it deserves a few words. Wearing formal Renaissance attire by Oana Botez-Ban, three strong theatrical presences (Hope Clarke, Carmen de Lavallade, and Solomons) danced shifting patterns that implied not only romantic rivalries, but also possibly momentous political or dynastic struggles. Spiced by a strong score by Michael Nyman, this canapé might well be a foretaste of a feast.
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