Theater archives

Far and Wide


Zach Morris’s “House of Jasmine and Bone & Other Stories” (WAX, November)—four interwoven works by talented collaborators—might have been more successful as distinct entities. The eponymous art installation by Morris and Christopher Cummings was a soul-drenched delicacy, recalling stations of the cross, memories of a mother’s life rendered in relics and poetry. For the Love of the Dark One—A Tale of Meera featured Aleta Hayes’s arresting dance solos and pleasant vocals inspired by Mirabai, famed 16th-century Krishna devotee. Ruth and Judith, Heather Harrington’s interesting duet, built a portrait of a mother-daughter relationship of equal parts focus and fussiness, strength and submission. Morris’s trio, Parched, nostalgic in both theme and form, concluded with soothing images of long-sought healing and liberation.

The Dalia Carella Contemporary Dance Collective could be called—to borrow Orchestra Baobab’s cute CD title—”specialists in all styles.” “Transparency: From the Ancient to the Avant Garde” (HERE, November) overlapped dance traditions from Turkey, Spain, India, North and West Africa, Brazil, Haiti, and, from the looks of the flashiest numbers, exotic Las Vegas. (Please save the booming music and heavy theater makeup for a much larger space!) Few dancers exude as much joy as Carella, a ravishing woman of singular confidence and dramatic expression whose role models must be Ruth St. Denis, Katherine Dunham, and Ava Gardner. There’s a wealth of imagination merely in the way she works a frame drum or a fan. When she cuts back to basics in her classic “danse orientale” solo, you see the music. Her skilled performers, who depict everything from shimmering cariocas to belly-rolling skeletons, reflect her will to take an audience by storm. If you prefer quiet, sensitive pieces or purist authenticity, look elsewhere.

At the conclusion of the New York premiere of Sankai Juku’s Hibiki, lusty cheers rang out. This award-winning butoh dance, choreographed and directed by Ushio Amagatsu, had held the BAM audience in thrall for 90 minutes, transforming the Opera House stage into a luminous shrine to the element of water—from single drops falling through air into large, shallow bowls, to the fluid, often feminine movements of its superb male performers.

With white-powdered bald heads and faces, lowered eyelids, impassive expressions, and flowing layered skirts or robes, these six dancers absorbed and reflected whatever we chose to see in them. They could be softly swirling water, or jellyfish squiggling near its surface, or some intense, unnamed turbulence within its depths. The dancers resembled life’s original forms as well as the shapes humans take as we await birth. They gently shimmied like serpentine belly dancers. In dangling earrings and laced bodices, they tended a vessel of liquid the color of blood.

Lighting rendered bodies ghostly, stark, or radiant, according to striking mood shifts within each of six sections. Music (by Takashi Kako and Yoichiro Yoshikawa) played handsome partner—most dramatically during a very, very slow, often still, Amagatsu solo where a lush flow of strings coursed around and through his arms’ angled branches.

Early in the piece, the white, rectangular backdrop gradually shrank—dark curtains encroaching from the sides and top—and disappeared. But for the finale, the white space slowly reopened behind the dancers like a rising sun. The stately corps, dressed in robes colored like cheddar and mushrooms, circled and churned, stirring chalk dust that billowed to the heavens in gleaming light.