Sunshine and Shadows

Old Master, Young Upstart

Someone's always the odd man out in Tetris (usually Julian Barnet). But whether the five dancers stand in a line making little self-preoccupied gestures or spread out into bigger, more athletic moves, they're bound together. For better or for worse, they're all "in." In Straight Duet, a bride and groom (Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott) start out with what looks like wedding-night jitters, but when they start diving and plunging onto a mattress while Cecilia Bartoli's gorgeous voice sings of love, it becomes obvious that this is no prelude to athletic sex; we're seeing a marriage that should not, maybe did not, happen.

Keigwin is sympathetic to both parties in this duet, and he's made insightful solos for his three women dancers in Female Portraits. The one for Veronica Tremel is the skimpiest, but it has a fine, twisted ending. Having laid out little stuffed animals around a square bordered in light by Julie Ana Dobo, and moved in uneasy, contrary ways akin to Björk's accompanying little-girl voice, she gathers up all the plushies but one and, on exiting, turns back to laugh at her abandoned toy.

Although the powerful Wolcott struts on with a boom box emitting Pat Benatar, she's not all that confident. Her fingers clutch her head as if they were alien to her; she moves in bursts and sudden rag-doll collapses, then she punches the music off and leaves. We first meet Ashley Gilbert as a pair of heeled boots stalking in the dark. But after undressing resentfully, this tall blond powerhouse stares at her shadow as if it were a mirror and she could change it.

Some say the world will end in fire: Paul Taylor Dance Company.
photo: Janet P. Levitt
Some say the world will end in fire: Paul Taylor Dance Company.

In Keigwin's Urban Birds, Keigwin, Wolcott, and Barnet are like an affectionate avian version of the trio in the movie Jules et Jim (Yann Tiersen's song has French words, too). In camouflage-pattern kilts, the three are scrappy but fond, and they help each other fly in quite miraculous lifts, which really make them seem to soar. That's what the whole program does.

When we enter the Cunningham Studio, the 22 performers in Mary Seidman's Who Will Roll Away the Stone? are scattered about the room in different positions, some moving very slowly, some still. It’s like watching ice melt or tectonic plates begin to shift. On one level, these people are stones, jolted by small seismic shocks, rolling together until they form a New England pasture wall. Severn Clay's dappled light, Karen Young’s mottled gray costumes, and Andy Teirstein’s score emphasize the disruptive nature of this terrain.

Although very abstract, Seidman’s piece seems to be about community and obstacles to community. Five individuals (Laura Caldow, Gen Hashimoto, Leah Mitchell, Francisco Rider da Silva, and Mei-hua Wang) stand out from the group; they dance more wildly and erratically. Two mature dancers, Richard Daniels and Jane Gardner, function as elders of the tribe—walking around to observe and consult with each other (this is a bit awkward) or nudge the others into motion. They also enact a brief scenario suggesting age and death. Those in the larger ensemble may twist slowly around partners or make temporary alliances, but they function primarily as landscape and a kind of Greek chorus, reacting, however indirectly, to the others with blunt, clear moves. One of Seidman's accomplishments is the way she builds and deconstructs an architecture out of bodies without obliterating their humanity. Braided into a sleeping line at the rear, or divided into two plastique hills, they remain a living society.

I didn't sense a progression in the dance, nor do I know whether Seidman intended one. The strong images convey a desire for unity, but it's difficult to tell which structures are comforting and empowering and which are "walls" in the restrictive sense. There’s one lovely moment, when two groups lift Wang and Mitchell, and the women reach for each other to try to make a bridge; the distance is just beyond their fingertips, and the effort shows how fraught such connections are.

« Previous Page