Colleen Thomas has performed with numerous companies, including that of her partner, Bill Young. Even though she doesn’t appear in either piece she presented at Danspace, the warmth and flyaway beauty of her own dancing inform them.
Both title and action of Catching Her Tears (40o N 73o W) suggest private experience transmuted into clear, yet enigmatic images. Three women, side by side, carry a man, holding him so high that all you see of them are clutching arms, black skirts, and advancing feet. They drop him, and the lights go
out almost before he hits the floor. Christopher Lancaster’s inspired mix of live cello playing with pre-
recorded elements and Carol Mullins’s lighting foster Thomas’s mysteries (an eerie follow-spot tracks Anthony Phillips in his off-balance solo). The women wear short silk-and-net dresses in black and maroon, subtly sparkling, but this is not exactly a party. Samantha Allen, Jennifer Felton, and Carla Rudiger, gripping tiny lights with their teeth, rush raggedly forward and fall; they hold those gleaming specks again as they hunch over and tiptoe to Joe Poulson where he’s fallen. Adriane Fang enters horseback on Nathan Trice, and the two shift through troubled variations on that image with remarkable deftness.
Throughout the piece, the beautiful and the ominous mingle in thoughtfully poetic ways. At the end, Rudiger gathers up the little lights, and, as the room goes dark, she’s struggling to keep those gleaming symbolic tears from falling.
The premiere, Winning You With Words (this is how we fall), is lighter in tone. Joanna Seitz’s set—a diaphanous, off-center curtain; piles of white cushions; and a small white settee—encourages frivolity. And Lancaster’s score fits the mood. Yet the first image we see is a woman lying prone with her face in a pillow, and we wonder what the male voice singing in the ensuing darkness has to do with her. Three tall people—Julia Burrer, Ted Johnson, and Karl Rogers—dance in unison with soft squirrelly movements close around the body. They also talk and sometimes demonstrate what they’ve said on the topic of perfection and its opposite. Is “the perfect walk” Johnson’s runway strut or—surely not—Rogers’s bearlike stagger? All that happens is intriguing, but much of the speaking is done with a “ta-da!” air that promotes whimsy and undercuts the edgy eccentricity that I think Thomas is striving for. Burrer tosses the men pillows and they vocalize into them, but things turn sourer when, over and over, she screams “You’re so fucking perfect!” to the air, after which Johnson puts a pillow over her face and sandwiches it between them so that it muffles both their voices.