Complexity's Master

Merce Cunningham's 60 Years Onstage

The storefront looks good. I-Beam Design (Suzan Wines and Azin Valy) has suspended large, clear plastic bowls with a little blue liquid in each, which reflect the lights in watery patterns. Some people have been alerted by publicity; some drop in and stay, others wander in and out. Given the venue and the hawking on the street, the audience may expect something a little, well, accessible. It's a bit of a problem, then, when a solo dancer spends long first moments in silence, back to the audience, as Rachel Shao-Lan Blum does in her Gesundheit and Stamos in her Red Herring...a baby fish. Also, given the level floor and folding chairs, a dancer who drops to the ground may drop out of sight if there's a crowd. Too much yearning may not go with summer lunch. Barton's uptempo Saudade (to a tune by V. de Moraes), tastefully showing her charm, her chops, and her musicality, goes down more smoothly than her more temperamental Inside Out.

If Blum, a strong, interesting performer with some choreographic smarts, intensified the build to her final, long-stifled "a-choo!" with a few near explosions in dynamics, her piece might tickle the audience more. Stamos is eager to please, even hands out red candy fish, and rather pointlessly gets a young man up from the audience to hold a bucket for her. As the confused collage of fish-related activities (a glass bowl with what may turn into very sick goldfish, a meow on tape, clawed hands, a dive by Blum from the audience, etc.) heats up, the audience responds to color, personality, and crazy images. "Deli Dances" are like the surprise sandwich of the day; you take your chances. But the programs are free, likable, and air-conditioned. What's to lose?

Letitia Kent, architect turned journalist, was a staff writer for the Voice during the late '60s and wrote trenchant articles for other papers and magazines. My neighbor and friend, she not only sharpened my mind, she was responsible for turning me into a dance critic and getting the Voice to give me space over 30 years ago. I owe her. And, like all who loved her, mourn her untimely death.

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