Yanira Castro, Maura Nguyen Donohue, and Mei-Yin Ng all arrived on these shores in 1993 or 1994. Their concert “Bare” (La MaMa, closed) suggests that’s the only thing they have in common.
Castro’s work is intellectual (Vulgar is inspired by Kierkegaard while the text for All About Richard is taken from Einstein). Her movement is quirky; remarkably polished performances propel her unexpected stutters and awkward positions. She uses costumes by Albert Sakhai that are faboo but overshadow the dances with their outrageousness. In the first piece the dancers look like robotic beekeepers from Planet Claire; in the second they might be drag-king Captain Hooks put through a weedwhacker. Connecting Sakhai’s unique visuals to the specific philosophers creates a conundrum, but Castro’s smart, kooky shenanigans captivate on their own.
Donohue’s dances deliver a sociopolitical wallop, challenging the male gaze in Exotic Dancers, turning the personal into the universal in Grin and Bare It. Exotic flirts with the erotics of the geisha and the stripper. They titillate, then disintegrate.
Both Castro and Donohue attended the Five College Dance Department, as did four of their dancers. Their movement invention is personal, almost intimate. They use the technique or “steps” they uniquely inhabit. They then frame their idiosyncrasy into compositions with clarity of design and attention to detail.
Ng goes for the heart. Both her solos are emotion driven and, like haiku, use economy to reveal their images. Su-Zen, actually a duet with a chair, to music from Old Shanghai, feels unfinished. Just when I began to see what she might be trying to say, she was gone. I wondered where she meant to go. Her collaboration with multimedia artist Christina Ottolini, Graffito, sees humanity’s glass as half full. Magnified shadows trapped on the cyclorama by Ottolini’s photographic device became a transcendent whoosh of birds as Ng walked toward us.