Astrid von Ussar uses juicy, ferocious movement to create dances exploring, most often, relationships of the heart. Her instinct for people’s desires and dilemmas is true; her mastery of structure and focus still a now-and-then matter. And Nothing but the Truth, concerning a tribe of women who cast out the lone man in their midst, has a knockout impact, while the point of the tentative coupling in Enter My Silence remains elusive. Her dancers, who represent a glorious range of body types, ethnicities, and training, are generally superb, each confident in her or his personal identity and style. Nichelle Wright is beyond superb. Her build is low to the ground and heavy-muscled; her effect, powerful and lush; her commitment to each move, extravagant. In a variety of roles, she manages to wear her soul on her sleeve and yet retain dignity and mystery. Both choreographer and audience should be down on their knees before her.
Diverse Dance Influences Converge, Evoking Women’s Quest for Freedom
Michiyo Sato summons a polyglot vocabulary (Duncan-esque modern dance, Eastern folk and theatrical forms) and a gently feminist approach to treat issues rooted in the history of her native Japan. Her ambitious new group work, The Plum Tree Is in Bloom, tells its story—of an uprooted little girl who becomes an influential educator and a crusader for women’s rights—only feebly, and its choreography is neither here nor there. Still, one scene at least shows a maverick psychological insight, while moments of sheer pictorial beauty are achieved through Tomoumi Ono’s costumes. In Silk Mother, an extended solo for herself that opened the program, Sato takes up the cause of the young female workers once sacrificed to Japan’s silk industry—and that of the silkworms, equally deprived of their chance to metamorphose into butterflies. The idea is charming, even poignant, though the choreography and performance just aren’t up to it.