How Many Stories?

The Temperature Changes From Uptown to Down

Dorvillier's rampant imagination creates an ambience of legend in which quest, ordeal, and violent acts play their preordained roles. "Traveling" is conveyed by a nifty, thumpy, spraddle-legged phrase that all the performers, backs to us, feed into. As a test of valor, Michelson dives through a suddenly appearing hoop onto the red bed. As for revelation of mysteries, Michelson pulls the cloth off a sawhorse on wheels she's been using as a dinner table, exposing Carroll curled up on a shelf inside it.

Feeding an audience unexpected visions and making us feel as if we're on a quest definitely has its points, although embroiling us in dazzling sights and complicated text risks losing us in the woods.

Andrea E. Woods, performing in Dance Theater Workshop's ongoing Carnival Series, also creates oblique cross- references with speech, movement, and objects. Even as they give pleasure, they rouse questions about meaning. In Honeysuckle, Honeysuckle Conversations with John Brace, Part II, Woods dances against a garden of vivid flower photos hanging on a clothesline and planted beneath it. We hear her interviewing her grandfather and (barely) his murmured answers. A straw hat, words from the biblical Song of Songs, Chopin, a jewel box, rocks, a bouquet, a suitcase, and slides of family combine in a gentle exploration of black ancestors: their courage, their pride, their life-saving humor.

The lonely ones: Woetzel, Weese, and Ansanelli in Walton Cello Concerto
Paul Kolik
The lonely ones: Woetzel, Weese, and Ansanelli in Walton Cello Concerto

Woods is a marvelous mover. Dancing for Bill T. Jones may have helped mold her beautiful slippery style and the way she draws herself up out of sinuosity as if to reconnoiter new territory, but everything she does looks original. She can be a serene presence one minute, a little wild girl the next. In Same Rivers, she and Dana Arceneaux flow together and apart, in and out of the wings, creating lovely images of closeness and gentle adventure. Later in Rememorabilia, Scraps From Out A Tin Can, Everybody Has Some, she dances with a harmonica in her mouth, her sly wit, nimbleness, and zest providing a quietly ironic commentary on black performers of the past. While she does her crazy-legs tapping on a box, a screen behind her shows Hollywood clichés: Shirley Temple dancing with "servant" Bill Robinson, Hattie McDaniel as Mammy in Gone With the Wind.

Woods is joined in Rememorabilia (and in the sweet tale In The Window/ Monk) by writer-performer hattie gossett and musician-composer Madeleine Yayodele Nelson. They create a setting for powerful dancing by Woods, Arceneaux, Carolyn King, and Felicia Swoope that combats the sounds of a slave auction and eggs on the exultant "21st Century War- rior Wimmin."

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