One of the loveliest performances I’ve seen in months, Chamecki/Lerner’s i mutantes, switches gears midway from magic lyricism to silly metaphor, and the extraordinary mood the piece creates begins to dissipate. Taking visual inspiration from Brazilian artist Janaina Tschaspe, dancers Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner, Maria Hassabi, and Cristina Latici, in Nicolas Petrou’s squeaky, translucent rubber garments, inhabit what looks like a desert landscape, all white and overseen by a huge orange sphere. Standing like succulent plants or moving like infant giraffes on four extended limbs, they crisscross the stage, well into the dance before anyone shows a face.
But frequent blackouts let the energy crash, and a detour into a landscape of white “thought” balloons feels like a wrong turn. The theme of the piece is change, so I guess they intend the jarring alteration of mood signaled by the speech of actress Shannon Descarfino. An encounter between two female lovers and their balloons—what they say juxtaposed with their inner fears—has touching and powerful moments, but remains matter-of-fact.
**Public radio junkies will be amused by David Roussève’s new Somethin’ From Nothin’, performed by the terrific Ballet Hispanico dancers. A young woman enters a disheveled social club and, while straightening it up, listens to an interview with a former slave; deeply moved, she proceeds to goose her hangdog friends into a frenzy of salsa dancing, to recorded tunes by Eddie Palmieri. The two sections of the work connect in no noticeable way; the interview’s another of Roussève’s signature riffs in the voice of an old black lady, and the dancing rousing party fare.
Another premiere, Guajira, by company member Pedro Ruiz, evokes the people of rural Cuba, not to mention the birds who perch onseaside sands. Jeff Segal’s lighting is true to the island’s magical skies, and the big, free movement by the cast of eight captures many moments from work to romance to celebration. A fine first effort.
**The most compelling performers on opening night of the Eighth Annual Improvisation Festival were nine- and 10-year-olds from P.S. 3. Their teachers, Yvonne Meier, Joanne Nerenberg, and Guta Hedewig, did a great job helping them to be simultaneously focused and free, providing a challenging score within which the kids could let loose. Improv can be tremendously liberating or depressingly self-indulgent, and the adults on the bill seemed short on the very qualities of directness and intelligence that draw us to them in the first place. On the second night, at Danspace, Ray Chung and Katarina Erickson captured the preternatural alertness that characterizes fine improvisers; tap dancer Roxane Butterfly and her drummer Rocafella, on the other hand, kept interrupting and stepping on each other’s riffs, producing a blur of sound and movement.
Five events remain, featuring international stars like Andrew Harwood (Wednesday at DTW) and the John Zorn Group of musicians and dancers (Saturday at Washington Square Church).
**David Gordon, whose Autobiography of a Liar opens a two-week run Thursday at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, got started in show business in a classic manner: He was discovered sitting on a park bench by choreographer James Waring, who lured him onto the stage. More than 40 years have passed; the paternal figure has spawned dozens of dances that succeed more than most in blending language, props, and movement.
Some of the material is reconstructed, some new. “I’ve never been interested in repertory, because the people you make the work on inform the work. I work with my friends. I ask them who they’d like to dance with.” His Pick Up Performance Company includes his wife Valda Setterfield, veterans of nearly a decade, and a few new faces.
Young Downtowners who hunger for the history of postmodern dance will find it here, discussed and performed. “My models are Sophie Tucker and Milton Berle,” crows Lola Pashalinski, who plays Gordon; Setterfield plays herself, though she is lied about. “Maybe it has something to do with being Jewish, the idea that if you go out and buy a ticket, you’re entitled to a good time,” says Pashalinski-as-Gordon.