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MURRAY LOUIS AND NIKOLAIS DANCE.

MURRAY LOUIS AND NIKOLAIS DANCE OCTOBER 27-NOVEMBER 8, 1998 JOYCE THEATER

Two truths emerged loud and clear from this fiftieth-anniversary celebration of Murray Louis and Nikolais Dance. One, Alwin Nikolais was a master of bodily illusions, and two, Murray Louis is still the master of his body.

The company offered one program of Nikolais's dances, one of Louis's, and another a mix of both. The Nikolais bill was a grab bag of the choreographer-musician-designer's tricks with dancers' arms and legs reflected off mirrored horizontal surfaces in Crucible, their bodies encased in tubes of pliant fabric in Noumenon, dancers balancing on metal discs attached to their feet in Kaleido-scope Suite, or sporting spongy arm extensions in "Mantis" from Imago. For those who had never before seen Nikolais's work, this sampling gave a perfunctory idea of the range of his inventiveness; how he works with lights and color, props and costumes to redefine human proportions and capabilities. But the succession of random excerpts culminated in an impression of circus acts. What such programming did not reveal was the sublime scope of Nikolais's imagination. The mystery that his awesome environmental pieces inspired was missing. At his best, Nikolais created entire universes, not bits and pieces.

Only Tensile: Involvement sustains physical suspense with the same power that it must have had when it was created in 1953. The dancers crisscross the stage stretching and pulling elasticized bands, secured offstage, into a cat's cradle of possibilities, and! each transformation of the space is a revelation, no matter how many times the piece is revisited.

The dances offered on the Louis program followed a chronological order from Bach Suite, created in 1956, to a new work, Millennium Loop, with live music composed by Scott Killian in collaboration with Carol and Lawrence Lipnik. While the former responds intelligently to Bach's mood and structure as a lively, quintessentially fifties modern dance, Millennium Loop appears to be two separate dances.

In the first section the unitard-clad dancers tote one-rung silver ladders

that serve as both props and partners while the dancers go through clipped, robotic sequences. The multiple uses of the ladders generally emphasize sculptural design rather than kinetic development. But in a series of compelling duets, one dancer manipulates a ladder that another performer hangs from. An unexpected blackout and a screeching sound accompany the crash of ladders falling in an apocalyptic destruction. When the dancers reappear wearing turn-of-the-century fashion and the music also echoes that era, Louis seems to be saying that history itself. When embarrassed nude couple emerges with an apple, is he further suggesting that history regresses? Although the idea connecting the two sections of Millennium Loop was comprehensible, its realization was rather clumsy.

The high point of Louis's program was his solo from the 1996 Sinners All. In a dance that examines religion with a jaundiced eye, Louis, dressed in a black vest and bowler, slips ironically between the posturing of an evangelical preacher and that of the Devil. Incorporating opposing energies in his body, Louis creates an ironic duplicity. A swiveling shuffle of his feet complemented by a sensuous undulating of the torso, sleight-of-hand gestures interrupted by sudden leg kicks and spontaneous turns, Louis's performance denies time in its technical clarity and wit. In contrast to the less-experienced and less-magnetic performances of his current company, the detailed articulation of movement in this solo encapsulates the synergy of technique and imagination upon which Nikolais and Louis constructed their art.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:THOM, ROSE ANNE
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Feb 1, 1999
Words:575
Previous Article:BUGLISI/FOREMAN DANCE.
Next Article:HANK SMITH.
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