Writ in Water

AIDT, however, restricted Dean by commissioning a very short work that has to function within a vaguely programmatic evening-long suite called Kotuwokan! (Algonquin for "come celebrate the dance"). The scenario follows a young man (Rod Atcheynum), who goes off to the big city in search of stimulation, good fortune, an Armani suit, whatever. Once there, selling necklaces on the street, he has fleeting visions of ceremonial dances. Where does he belong? Home again, he offers his people "a new dance expression"--the expanded traditional style known as "fancy dancing" framed in unison and contrapuntal designs. In other words, this traveler is pretending to be Laura Dean, and vice versa.

Dean's work is a quartet for Lisa Odjig-Fisher, Dawn Russell, Dmitri Seth, and Eddie Swimmer in black, modern-traditional garb shaking beribboned rattles, but Swimmer (the company's splendid hoop dance soloist) was called away suddenly on a family emergency, so I didn't really see the dance as the choreographer intended it. Atcheynum filled in for Swimmer in some of the unison passages, but his different costume affected our perception of the patterns.The piece is hardly major Dean (and there's surprisingly little repetition), but she makes elegant use of intricate, twisty footwork and aerobic stamp-and-rebound--pitting soloists against a quietly stepping background chorus or sending the dancers off to salute the corners of the stage. The crispness of her designs in space ritualizes the display.


Symphonie Fantastique
Created by Basil Twist
145 Sixth Avenue

American Indian Dance Theater
Jacob's Pillow

Dean's dance is presented as a high point, but not as the evening's finale. The format of Kotuwokan! justifies a spread of traditional and fancy dances, from opening visions to ending celebration. Unfortunately, in the interests of plot, some of the numbers--especially in the first half--are reduced to brief, not-very-telling samples; six women, walking with blue canes to suggest front legs, barely register as deer dancers before buffalo men replace them. The city-streets scene is a well-managed cliché: Wall Street types checking their watches, joggers, muggers. Are we supposed to believe this superficial episode fuels the hero's desire to blend modern and traditional once he's returned home? It'd be enough to make me put on all the feathered regalia I could find, and, like Jason Daniels in one fine solo, honor the birds, the animals, and whatever voices of nature we can still hear.

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