Skin Deep

I must admit a bias against dances that fuse ballet's extensions, kicks, jumps, and swift turns with jazzy, funky moves, sexy costumes, and pumped-up music—and have nothing else to say. It's worse if the performers—though damn flawless in technique—seem to have been chosen mainly for their power to burn your retinas. Even more annoying are overwrought heterosexual duets—a man flinging a woman around, each treating the other like a set of monkey bars. Glossy, nonsensical emptiness leaves me cold, although it appears to thrill many. That covers most of the Complexions Gala 2002 ("Live and Let Dance") at the Hudson Theater in November. But here's to magnificent honoree Sarita Allen, dancing like a woman who's been around the block a few times, and to Francesca Harper and Desmond Richardson accentuating the original craft and true sexiness of William Forsythe's pas de deux from Herman Schmerman.

I wasn't totally sold on "New Territory," a program of 10 New York premieres and three repertory pieces by the Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company (Joyce Soho, December). Its structure, 13 modular works run together with but two pauses, was intriguing—more like a symphony than a dance concert. However, the show required a faithful attention that its length and lack of substantial breaks undercut. That said, here's a troupe I'd follow anywhere: Jason Ignacio, Cary McWilliam, Oren Barnoy, Lindsey Dietz Marchant, and Gwirtzman himself—perfect magnifying glasses for the choreographer's quirky ideas. They brought exceptional vitality to each work's compact vignette. Top marks go to Ignacio in Scenarios. His expressiveness and wondrous athleticism heightened the pain of watching the dancers' harsh interactions. At the other extreme, the duet Shifting contains perhaps the most convincing, affecting tenderness I've seen in postmodern dance. —Eva Yaa Asantewaa


In Dash, Hanearl Guhm, an Asian male, clutches a mirror, reflecting choreographer Ju-Yeon Ryu's painted face at the darkened house (Mulberry Street Theater, December). White hands slowly creep out beneath Ryu's dress, revealing Michael Keeler. Ryu's masterful ability to carve sociopolitical substance out of minimal, contained movements drawn from Korean shamanist rituals made Dash the highlight of the emerging choreographers series "Ear to the Ground." Every step articulates the unutterable fears immigrants possess. Dancers sway over the mirror, fixated on their reflections; mouths gape open; fingers twitch, reaching, grasping for air. Suddenly their restrained bodies erupt into a violent frenzy. Limbs flail, slashing white strips of paper through the darkness. Ryu, entangled, tears across a blood-colored sheet into Guhm's arms. The tumultuous sequence leaves the dancers and the audience in silent horror, listening to the lingering drone of chanting. —Josephine Lee


"Assorted Goods" (WAX, December), a choreographic collaboration by Aszure Barton, Nell Breyer, and Robert Battle, was a primal feast that satisfied the lustiest cravings. With "X," a multimedia melding of crisply syncopated movements set against film of pecking pigeons and frenzied foot traffic, Barton and Breyer convey a brick wall of stubborn unaffectedness amid a racing urban jungle. Battle's Strange Humors plays a belly-breathing duo against their own boundaries of corporeal resistance and acceptance, while Breyer's hand for a hand captures the essence of competition, juxtaposing two men in capoeira combat against projections of fencing and racquetball. But perhaps the program's most arresting performance springs from Barton's Mais We, in 20 Soles. Flawlessly executed by members of Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal et al., Mais We's brief vignettes, complete with an animalistic romp set to Paul Simon's "Pigs, Sheep and Wolves" and a manic woman imprisoned in a circle of her own shoes, delve into human peculiarity. —Michelle Fowler

 
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