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`VENOUS FLOW': STATES OF GRACE.

VENOUS FLOW: STATES OF GRACE LI CHIAO-PING DANCE OSCAR MEYER THEATRE MADISON, WISCONSIN APRIL 6, 2001

Over the years, Li Chiao-Ping and Douglas Rosenberg's synergetic partnership has generated original works that make the best out of the marriage between real (Li's choreography) and virtual (Rosenberg's multimedia segments) elements on stage. In Venous Flow, the dialogue between the two art forms gave an added layer of meaning to this piece's constant play on opposites. Young and old, life and death, joy and sadness flowed in a nonlinear through-line about loss followed by grace.

The project began two years ago, when Li suffered an auto accident that left her seriously injured. Other personal stories, told by a wonderful multicultural and intergenerational cast, merged Li and Rosenberg's artistic responses to the traumatic event.

In the opening image, three women's backs appeared. Covered only from waist down by white sheets, they evoked a cross between Greek statues and hospital patients. Medical prescription text was projected on their bodies: "Keep out of reach," "For external use only." When three dancers carried these women offstage, their bodies limp, the spectator was reminded of biblical stories of helplessness, where only an angel-like figure can rescue the sufferer.

Each fragment of Venous Flow was a jewel that simultaneously evoked absence and presence: the image of a woman's face as she recounts her lover's death; a pregnant dancer under the moving clouds of a blue sky; an old man's fruitless attempts to play a toy piano that is continually pulled away from him; a woman who stares at the audience to say boldly, "Humpty Dumpty had a great fall." In re-emerging movements, like recurring dreams, great falls and physical vulnerability were the key sources for Li's choreography. The eight female dancers repeatedly engaged in physical contact, carrying, lifting, and leaning on each other.

The contrast between Stephen Vitiello's original electronic music and classical pieces by Mozart and Bellini sharpened the audience's perception of the differences between dreamlike sequences and passages in which danger was imminent; it's a tactic the dance-makers have used before. Rosenberg's projections provided a virtual set, while the neutral-colored costumes emphasized the performers' bodies, allowing the video images and lighting to take center stage. Deceptively simple, Li's composition embedded each movement with profound and clear meaning. The dancers were athletic and technically strong, but also delicate when giving life to this piece's most subtle moments. Tania Isaac and Lori Dillon gave especially vigorous, moving performances.

In a particularly touching segment, Li described the accident in a mixture of memory and dream: flashes of her riding in the car, snapshots of her running along with playmates; the strangely pleasant sensation of floating on top of the ambulance. As she put it, she "spun forever": in one moment, she was a child spinning with her friends; in the next, she was spinning inside her car. The dancers suddenly froze as she described a childhood game: Past and present became one as Li stared at the dancers' backs.

Venous Flow was one of those rare performances that managed to be highly emotional while stripped of sentimentalism, profoundly personal while never self-indulgent. At its opening night, the audience was visibly divided between the urge to applaud this brilliant work and the desire to remain silent to process the experience. It takes great artistic sensibility to create an autobiographical piece that becomes personally relevant to each spectator.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:NASCIMENTO, CLAUDIA TATINGE
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Geographic Code:1U3WI
Date:Jul 1, 2001
Words:566
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