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Dance Theater Workshop Reopening.

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence
(October 2-20, 2002)
"Dancer's Night Out": Kathy Westwater,
Richard Siegel, Kimberly Bartosik
(November 14-17, 2002)
Cathy Weis
(November 21-December 1, 2002)
Big Dance Theater
(December 5-22, 2002)
Bessie Schonberg Theater
New York, New York

It was no coincidence that Ronald K. Brown/Evidence was chosen to inaugurate Dance Theater Workshop's splendid new theater, after that important establishment's total renovation, which took nearly two years and almost doubled its audience capacity. Brown has emerged as a significant choreographer, and the three parts of his Walking Out the Dark (2001) were finally and powerfully assembled here, marking the work's premiere as a whole--the first two sections had been shown elsewhere. The title comes from text within the piece: "We must speak the truth / To each other / Or else stay / Buried in the dark."

This quartet featured a stunning, slashing, angry modern-dance dialogue between two dancers, then a requiem for fallen comrades. It ended with a celebration of African dance roots--redemption and renewal by returning to the wellsprings. The dance was thus revealed as a journey. The dramatic intent, from angst to joy, was clear, and the company was dancing wonderfully. Brown himself partnered the magnificent Diedre N. Dawkins, who danced the angry role (performed more delicately in another cast by Camille Brown, as another woman, Shani Collins, took Ronald Brown's part).

Later in the DTW season came "Dancer's Night Out," works by three very different choreographers. Kathy Westwater's Dark Matter ("Part I: Frontier" and "Part II: Dynasty") for three women and one man in sleeveless black sequined outfits was mechanistic, bloodless, and fascinating. Watching the dance was like being held in a peculiar dream full of unpredictable movement choices. The performers were cast as Io, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede. Two women were often paired as twins, scooting across the stage on their bums. Dancers coupled ritualistically, then held one hand to an eye while the other arm hung like a mutilated limb in this abstract, robotic rendering of the Greek myth.

In Richard Siegal's X [equivalent to] X', Crystal Pite alternately drew on the floor and moved away from her line and doodles to precisely dance wildly scrabbled shapes. Siegal mostly talked into a mike, then danced near the end of this work, which was ultimately about relationships between men and women. These two pros, who had spent time dancing with William Forsythe, performed marvelously.

Least compelling was Kimberly Bartosik's The Mechanics of Fluids, a duet set between a suspended rope sculpture and a television set showing what seemed like manic disaster footage. Two fine dancers, Bartosik and Derry Swan, former and current Merce Cunningham dancers, respectively, moved in their own orbits, one looking up, the other down. On the floor, their positions suggested painter Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World or parched animals. Elsewhere, Swan clutched at the front of her gray dress. The imagery referenced fluids or the lack of them, but the whole felt intellectual rather than emotionally satisfying.

Cathy Weis premiered the excellently titled Electric Haiku. WEIS REMAINS A STUBBORN INNOVATOR, A MAKER OF PIECES THAT HAVE A DELIBERATELY HAND-HEWN EFFECT DESPITE THEIR INEXTRICABLE CONNECTIONS TO THE ELECTRONIC WORLD. The work is a collage of several fascinating haiku-like sections envisioning the human body naturally (a man leaping like a faun) and extended (a man on stilts) or electronically filtered. The most brilliant use of video had a topless dancer (Ksenia Vidyaykina) moving in dim light as a black-and-white image of her turning figure was projected onto the cyclorama, the two images marrying as the dancer turned slowly and flung her arms, wrapping them around her in a corkscrew-like effect, like a postmodern dying swan. Later, a video camera tracked the movement of a man's heel from behind, at heel level, distorting and enlarging in its oversized projection what we watched live. Still later, the same dancer, Scott Heron, bounced about on the coils of a mattress suspended within a scaffolding, while Weis videotaped him from underneath. Weis is what the British call a "one-off," or one of a kind--who else would dream up such delightfully kooky imagery?

Concluding the fall season was Big Dance Theater's extraordinary gloss on Antigone, directed by Paul Lazar, co-directed and choreographed by Annie-B Parson to a fragmented, elusive script adapted by Mac Wellman. You had to go into this Antigone, subtitled "The Tin Can Tied to Her Own Damn Tail," with the play in your head because you wouldn't glean it from what you saw here. To the side sat a DJ/commentator called E Shriek, played by Father Christmas-look-alike Leroy Logan, who commented on the action. Four women (Didi O'Connell as Antigone, the other three as Fates who become Graces) in elegant, pleated costumes by Claudia Stephens, danced in a quasi-Japanese style of movement on a white floor against a backdrop of four classical columns, handsomely designed by Joanne Howard. The effect was rather like looking at postmodern Kabuki, influenced by the ritualism and set of Balanchine's Bugaku and the quirkiness of Meredith Monk's Education of a Girlchild. O'Connell used a high-pitched little sound, almost gibberish, to depict the tragic heroine who can't escape her own mind-set. As E Shriek observed, "Nothing surpasses man in strangeness."
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Author:Smith, Amanda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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