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Austrian Choreographer Makes Strong `Point'. (Reviews: National).

LEMON SPONGE CAKE CONTEMPORARY BALLET DAIRY CENTER FOR THE ARTS DANCE SPACE BOULDER, COLORADO OCTOBER 5-7, 2001

Boulder, Colorado, now boasts an unprecedented number of talented ballerinas. For Point, the second production of his Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet, Austrian choreographer Robert SherMachherndl recruited five of the area's finest: Anna Blackburn-Wittman, Shannon Guillot, Tala McDonnough, Lesley Potashnick, and Tessa Victoria, all current members of Boulder Ballet.

The seventy-minute, single-act work premiered in June 2001 and was revived for three additional showings in October, all at the recently remodeled Dance Space in Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts. It marked a crossroads in the 39-year-old artistic director's mission to stretch the limits of classical pointe technique to comment on the current scene and integrate contemporary movement sensibilities. Doubtless it was also one of the hottest, highest-caliber classical dance concerts produced in Boulder in recent memory.

Sher-Machherndl did not fail to deliver on his primary watchwords: "cool, funky, entertaining, and sexy." He claims an urban mindset, drawing ideas from everyday life, television, film, magazines, and fashion in all forms, from clothing to furniture to interior design.

Until 1996, Sher-Machherndl enjoyed a distinguished career throughout Europe as a performer, choreographer, artistic director, and teacher. Highlights included a personal invitation to perform for the senior President George Bush in 1992, work with the Dutch National Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, and an appearance on Dance Magazine's February 1993 cover.

He left London to join his wife in Colorado; he was reportedly the first person in state history to receive an "Alien of Extraordinary Ability" visa, granting him permanent residence in the U.S. Jenifer Sher-Machherndl, a native of England, came up with the new group's catchy name and also designed the backless red-and-black Point costumes.

Point set its five young women, and occasionally their choreographer, in dating, edgy motion to infectious grooves that ranged eclectically from industrial to funk to blues to Mahler's Fifth Symphony. Sher-Machherndl wisely played to the individual personalities and technical strengths of his performers, but he also challenged them to embrace his distinctly progressive energy and style.

The work had no clear story line, but included a number of dramatically evocative passages as well as some startlingly imaginative transitions from ground to pointe. Through intertwined ensemble sequences, solos, and duets, Point seemed to juxtapose innocence with experience and suggested the jaggedness of modern romance.

Most effective were the fast-paced sections set to hard-edged industrial strains from Moby, the Chemical Brothers, David Bowie, and Prodigy. Here Victoria seemed most at home. In a number of solo sequences, the gifted, redheaded veteran of Houston Ballet and Ballet West seemed a jaded secret agent or an angry "bad girl" from the wrong side of the tracks.

Also notable were Blackburn-Wittman for her exquisite line and placement; the choreographer's seemingly ironic play on Potashnick's innocent young look; and sections featuring the ensemble, lined up at stage rear, moving in memorably beautiful canons.

Point resolved on a serene, hopeful note and ended with a lighthearted, if slightly heavy-handed, image: The women took off their shoes and exited noisily along a roll of bubble wrap set diagonally across the stage, as if to symbolize the "popping" of the old paradigms of pointework and, perhaps, love.

The slower sections, some performed in near silence, were somewhat problematic. But Sher-Machherndl is already at work with his five-member company to revise and expand the production for a Joyce Theater booking and large-scale touring.
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Author:Gesmer, Daniel
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:574
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