Depths of Memory

Recollecting Family Histories

Old theaters are often said to be haunted by actors who just couldn't leave the stage. In St. Mark's Church, home to Danspace since its founding in 1974, you envision not just the residue of dances and dancers past— prowling up the altar steps, climbing the pillars, yelling from the balcony, tamping hours of dancing into the glowing wood floor— but the spirits of venturesome ideas.

The Silver Series honors Danspace's 25th anniversary (Volume Three comes up in June). The members of the improvisational group Channel Z— Paul Langland, Daniel Lepkoff, Diane Madden, Nina Martin, and Randy Warshaw— haven't improvised together since 1987. But their daring and freedom with one another's bodies go far beyond what most adults are willing to risk, mixing thoughtfulness and skill with a physicality approaching that of frisking puppies. Ideas fly onto their bodies; suddenly Warshaw has an arm (Lepkoff's) in front of him; why not look under it?

The space is magic. John Kelly's marvelously flexible voice resonates like a resident angel's. Alive and vibrant in Robert Tucker's film, the late Robert Kovich dances his Tarantula with Tarantella (1991) in another world whose wooden floor seems almost contiguous with the real one. In Dizzy, a film by Matthew Buckingham and Frank Conversano, Conversano swings a little boy in many circles, and the church spins for us. Dana Reitz plays the space— listening to it, molding its air with liquid hands, flowing with sensed currents. Lighting designer Carol Mullins gives David Zambrano a corridor of light and an intruding little red spot for him to jitter around and crash into (he worries dancing like a terrier with a juicy bone). Kenneth King, looking even taller and slimmer than he did 25 years ago, might be taking the psychic measure of the place; the fluttering of his flimsy, tattered white jacket gives him the air of an emanation. His light, tiptoe steps and chassés are fitfully counteracted by his surprisingly deep voice ranting cryptic fragments that evoke days when you were never sure what persona he was adopting. Pooh Kaye's 1979 Home Life of a Wild Girl recalls a time when she had no apartment; the St. Mark's pillars become unlikely resting places, the floor a terrain on which to set up camp with the two-by-fours that she lugs: a hermit crab with its house on its back.

There each night to share my recollections, I loved seeing how these performers— and Ralph Lemon in his touching 1982 solo Wanda in the Awkward Age— show dancing as a state to be considered and then inhabited, not just a physical act to be shoved into. A mode of performance that fits a church just fine.

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