By Tom Sellar
By Emily Warner
By R.C. Baker
By Alexis Soloski
By Alexis Soloski
By R. C. Baker
By Alexis Soloski
By Tom Sellar
Its become a ritual for many dance lovers. Labor Day has come and gone; youve arrived back in the city from summer jobs and summer vacations, or your apartment is still sweltering and why should that be? If you love downtown dance, you have one appealing option. You can get yourself to Dance Theater Workshop and see some of the 40 choreographers and companies presented by DanceNow strewn over four performances of its Festival Twenty Ten. Highly visible up-and-comers mingle with fresh faces and established dancemakers who wouldnt mind a little extra exposure.
Co-founder, co-producer, and executive artistic director Robin Staff and her colleagues, Tamara Greenfield and Sydney Skybetter, practice tough love in putting together this 16-year-old season. Short numbers or excerpts are the rule: seven minutes or less. No bows until the end of the evening. How else could we sit and watch 10 dances without seriously challenging our concentration and our backsides? The result is a sampler of the scene. The downside is that we dont get to know every choreographer well; the upside is that we get an idea which ones wed like to see more of.
As you watch, you can also idly wonder if youre spotting trends in the postmodern scene or just coincidences. Back in the 1990s and beyond, many choreographers were in love with free flow; dancers flung and lashed their arms, legs, and bodies around. They could look impetuous and voluptuous, or like rag dolls pummeled by high winds. That vision of movement persists with some very fine artists. But at DanceNows opening night, I became aware of how a number of the choreographers wanted you to see pictures and retain shapely images. They seemed more interested in precise, controlled movement than in fluidity. Welcome to Staccatoland.
The notion of isolated moments is integral to Deborah Lohses Work, since she made it by stitching together moments by 15 different choreographers she knows or has worked with. Lohse is an expert dancer and an adept comedian; gawkiness and grace mingle beguilingly in her lean, tall body (now topped by a shaved head). She makes smooth transitions, though, and is a pleasure to watch, even though the piece is structured like a string of beads.
Emerging choreographer Gregory Dolbashians premieres, In Flux, makes you wonder how he defines flux; certainly not as flow, more in terms of abrupt changes. To dense, repetitive music (Son Luxs Weapons), two women (Marie Doherty and Frances Chiaverini) in trim black outfits mostly stay close together, yanking and pushing each other, making you aware of the angularity of their elbows and wrists. The smoothestbut also the most opaquething they do is skid (that must be why theyre wearing socks). The somewhat opaque Cloudburst by another emerging choreographer, Mana Kawamura, is full of falls and sudden moves, abetted by rhythmic crashes by Loituma, but mysterious in relation to Kawamuras other collaborator, J.S. Bach. Cloudburst is somewhat intriguing, especially when its four women sing in determined discord or cop-opt a single chair. For no apparent reason, Kawamura, who studied in Germany with former Pina Bausch dancers, is alone at the end, thrashing and turning into obliging darkness. Camille A. Brown, reprising Good and Grown from her Joyce performance in August, is a dynamo of punchy, little moves and busy hand gestures close to the bodya contrast to the projected paintings by Justin Morris of dark, clustering faces.
Khaleah Londons precision is for the sinuousa fusion of modern dance and Africanismsand she presents herself to us with focused dignity. Shes one gorgeous creature. Slender and long-legged, she dances her Being in a golden overall with a halter-top that bares her sinuous arms. What with her shaved head and the glow of Lauren Parrishs lighting, she looks like royalty from ancient Africa. The recorded voice of the late choreographer Ulysses Dove speaks about the expressive power of dance. I didnt sense motifs or developments in Londons choreography, but, then, I was mainly just admiring her presence.
You wouldnt call David Parkers heavenly trio, T4Three, staccato, or even percussive, although its movement base is soft shoe and vintage show dancing. But its expertly controlled. Like much good comedy in dance, it looks easygoing but makes its points with needle-sharp timing. The performersJeffrey Kazin, Nic Petry and David Parkerare stalwarts of Parkers Bang Group. All are adroit charmers. Parker, large and eager, plays a klutz with hidden foot skills. He and Petry like to sell the routine; Kazin nixes that. Mostly. As they dance for us to All I Do Is Dream of You, their little dust-ups, pauses, looks, and sudden, perfect-unison Charleston keep us on the qui vive for small surprises. When they launch into Tea for Two, whistling enters the mix (Kazins the expert), and the rhythmic ante is upped.
Controlor lack of itin terms of structuring also figures on the program. For his Mile 21, Jamal Jackson strings the 11 members of the Berean Drum Line across the back of the stage and sends dancers rushing on and off. You get the dizzying feeling that there are more than nine of them, even though Jackson presents them mostly in threes. The performers (often focusing on one downstage corner) work the African-influenced movement with fervor, but the heavily trafficked pieceneither quite a ritual nor exactly a partycomes across as under-rehearsed.