Downtown Memories

Renewing the Old

The conformist society of Assembling a Common Language is stiff too, its unison labored. In white shirts and full shorts (by Rachel Carr), the performers look like bleached schoolkids. When they kneel in a circle, lighting designer Jane Cox makes a beam travel just above their heads. They're making progress but community eludes them. And in the second entr'acte, Stephanie Liapis starts as rigidly precise as a windup doll; her body is changing but she's not sure how.

After so much struggle, the final section, set to Steve Reich's ringing Tehillim, comes as a tremendous release. Carr dresses the dancers in light pastel clothes. Now the falls are soft, the gestures flowing, the movement springy, and the mood tenderly playful. The amount of dancing is prodigal, almost excessive, but Varone reveals the give and take of his ideal community— a place where individuality is honored and temporary leaders fall gladly back into the group. His Utopia is less purposeful than Doris Humphrey's, but no less joyous.

A dancer's sudden illness forced the cancellation of Swedish choreographer Christina Caprioli's work on Douglas Dunn's program. A last-minute injury to Trevor Patrick made Lucy Guerin's quartet Heavy (at Dance Theater Workshop) into a trio, with Guerin replacing Patrick in two scenes. That the evening is fascinating nonetheless affirms Guerin's originality and subtle power.

Her theme is sleep— its stages and disorders. EEG terms like "sleep spindles" inspire jagged, clustered movements; "delta waves" slow, calm ones. Behind the action, windows in Christopher Bruce's metallic silver wall reveal three erect "sleepers" as part of the decor. To one side, as lit by Damien Cooper, Jad McAdam's tape-mixing table looks like lab equipment, and he, busy threading sounds into music by artists like DJ Spooky, could be masterminding even the dreams that mingle with Guerin's more abstract images. We see eye movement as part of a quiet phrase, stare while Ros Warby twitches against the wall. Taped voices speed up crazily and sink back. Hilton slumbers and Warby crouches on her like an incubus. Guerin sits frozen stiff; the others stop their potent, lucid dancing and wrench her mouth open in a bad dream of dental work. Later she's inert, a flashlight beam focused on her face, while David Tyndall creepily manipulates her head.

The presentation is fluid, immaculate, and, best of all, sensitive. Guerin probes subjects delicately— a hot hand in a fine-stitched glove.

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