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Ann Carlson Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage September 9-18, 1994 Reviewed by Rick Whitaker

Last year at the Joyce Theater Ann Carlson presented a very successful piece, called Animals, that she had developed over several years using people as animals, animals as animals, and people as people. I remember especially the dance for a boy, a man, and a young woman from a school for the mentally retarded set to a recording of a man with a sharp Southern accent giving instructions for blowing duck calls. It was a risky piece, employing a generous, adventurous style, that could easily have been silly, sentimental, or boring, but Carlson's deftness and intelligence kept it always elegant and often really touching.

Her new piece at the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, Mirage, is another daringly unconventional and successful piece that attempts almost realistically to give viewers a waking experience of dreamlike quality. For seventy minutes the audience members wander at their leisure throughout several large rooms, often mingling unsuspectingly with performers, chancing upon various parts of the layered, multimedia performance. Carlson is typically postmodern in the sense that all her effects are out in the open. The mystery is that the theatricality works even while we are reminded of its contrivance.

Near the beginning of the piece Carlson performs a solo against a backdrop of clouds and sky on a bridge above one end of the central room. She tends to regard a wide variety of movements as dance, a variety of sounds as music, ideas as art. Her solo was really a slow walk across a short space, rhythmicized by abrupt, held positions. The combination of the long repetitions, the strangeness of her gestures, and the sounds produced electronically and by Carlson herself resulted in an effect very much like what one might experience in a peculiar dream. In fact, everything in the space begins to contribute to the dreamlike effect, from the audience member scratching himself to the children running everywhere to the late summer air of Brooklyn.

My favorite particular of Mirage was a woman (Andrea Mills) dressed very skimpily, with transparent shoes and a beautiful wing of real feathers. She sometimes appeared to be a frightened bird, skittering into a corner and cowering beneath the feathers; sometimes she fleetingly exposed herself as a woman; sometimes she danced, partnering her wing; sometimes she stood stock-still, a statue on a pedestal; always she was consummately persuasive. One of the spaces in the Anchorage is a small back chamber filled with soft blue light; it was empty for most of the piece, but at one point I found the bird-woman there, hiding out under her wing in the murkiness. For me it was like being awake and yet seeing a strange, beautiful dream.

My only complaint about the piece concerns the few occasions when the proceedings are ordinary. The most glaring of these comes near the end of Carlson's solo when she sings a bafflingly New Age-style song with boring, unexceptional words. She quickly recovers the all-important hazy mood by switching to wordlessness; but the lyrics weaken the otherwise powerfully unsettling solo in a regrettable way.


In collaboration with Pace University, Mary Bruce Blackburn and her American Dance Ensemble hosted Urban Artworks II, a modest showcase for six dance companies at decidedly different points of choreographic maturity (Pace Downtown Theater, August 26-27, 1994). The most developed artist on the bill was Blackburn herself, whose company presented two dances, Seeking Closure (1994) and Rafters, a premiere.

American Dance Ensemble is a troupe of five well-trained and intensely focused dancers. Yet both works performed were cases of missed synergy: the whole amounting to much less than the sum of the parts. Blackburn's dances seem to unfold in a void, leaving the audience hopelessly looking for meaning that can't be found. The dancers, ever alert and dedicated, do their best to wring something tangible out of the material they've been given. But the choreography, while never incompetent, is empty, which is ultimately more disappointing.

Caroline Kahn

The dried leaf in the hands of a lone dancer for the first of the nineteen parts that made up Zvi Gotheiner * Dancers' Fragile (Merce Cunningham Dance Studio, September 22-25, 1994) looked more than a little cliched. Similar leaves in the hands of the full cast of ten in this intermissionless work looked even more so. A choreographic exposition of the essence of fragility requires a very fine hand at dance-theater to make the delicate and frail legible and compelling. Gotheiner's generalized, moody movements and eccentric, mimetic vignettes largely missed their mark. One episode, "Folk Dance," featuring Gerald Casel and Brett Miller, and set to plaintive accordion music by Guy Klucevsek, had a physical lushness, a sensual drama, and an artful inventiveness that indicated what was missing in almost all the other snippets. Elsewhere, a quite unfragile-looking Jonathan Riseling added further substance, but not enough to sustain the "fragile" theme of Gotheiner's variations.

Robert Greskovic
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Title Annotation:Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, New York, New York
Author:Whitaker, Rick
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Dec 1, 1994
Previous Article:The Pink.
Next Article:Lyon Opera Ballet.

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