Theater archives

Anything Goes These Days. Why Not Spice Sufi Dervish Spinning With Samba?


Headed up by Mohan C. Thomas, an insistent mixer of media and cultures, the German-based Tanzmoto group made its local debut with Orientation. As a performer, Thomas specializes in the whirling that has been practiced, variously, by Sufi dervishes, Mary Wigman, and Laura Dean. On this he builds a vague narrative in which he plays guru to a pair of initiates, recruiting them and filling them with the spirit. Most of this action takes place in modern dance lingo, feebly implemented. Thomas had the maverick idea, though, of melding the spinning with Latin American dance forms and rhythms, and this is where his two acolytes, the soulful Carlos Martinez Paz and the charming Maria Lucia Agon Ramirez, come into their own. The otherwise naïf choreography is glossed with picturesque video effects: The hands of the live drummers appear simultaneously, blurred by speed, in backdrop projections, as does swirling fabric, powered by invisible bodies, in bird’s-eye view.

The Brain in Spain Challenges Form, Film, and the Audience

While Dagmar Spain’s A/PART (five scenes and a short film) lasts 85 minutes with only a brief, set-changing pause, I couldn’t imagine excising any part of this enigmatic production. It’s too prickly to embrace but perfectly logical in its illogic. It juggles a multitude of disjunctions and re-joinings—from a text made of fragments ripped out of context to Spain’s crinkly solo dancing that resembles a film sequence missing every other frame and makes you feel jittery, too. From the outset, the piece produces discomfort—dancers gaping at the assembling, quickly hushed audience, leaning forward, settling back, or momentarily pacing like caged animals but never taking their eyes off us. Tension builds as they gradually creep forward from their distant perches. Heading for us? No, thank God! Heading for the mysterious, spotlit satchel in the middle of the floor? Yes, but will we ever figure out why? Eva Yaa Asantewaa