Living Dolls

New Work in Downtown Spaces

Kerr begins alone, pointing her famously arched feet and indulging in housewifely gestures, tidying the air. Her crew, all women and mostly students at the Cunningham studio, spend some time off-center surveying her or engaging in simple actions in place, the bright reds, blues, and golds of their clothes picking up the colors of her dotted blouse and flowered skirt (all made more vivid by Mahdi Shah's cool-bright lighting). Kerr's choreography capitalizes on the three tapes that join sections of the floor. The outsider joins the crowd, and they venture along the tapes, leaping and darting from one to another to form new configurations. At the end of this pleasant exercise, the women, in various languages, debate what they see in the sky: "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's . . . " and scatter about doing formal and genteel renditions of the three appropriate modes of locomotion.

Cornfield's cast is mixed in gender, and while Kerr used Gershwin music, Cornfield's composer, Nathaniel Drake, has written some marvelously wacky, sweetly discordant pieces, in which voices mutter such clichés of love as "There's a place in my heart reserved for you," while the dancers occasionally echo the sentiments by waltzing in pairs. Kerr's women stick around. Cornfield's people give the space a different look by rushing in and out in twos and threes. Now the room's a crowd of flashing limbs, now an enjoyable display of counterpoint, now an emptiness framing two tall women.

Cornfield, a highly expressive dancer, also offered a solo, Prayer (to more fine music by Drake). She was always wonderful to watch in her richly three-dimensional scalloping movements, although I pondered, not for the first time, why it is that solos that begin with engrossing work on the floor seem to become less inventive once the dancer stands up.

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