Looking Forward While Looking Back

World Dance Alliance Global Dance Event
Dance Theater Workshop – Bessie Schönberg Theater

Wednesday July 14, 2010 – Concert B

Review by Stephanie Burridge (© 2010)

Photo Credits: André Santiago of VADCO performs “The Chat” (2008) choreographed by Valerie Alpert (USA) Photo by Mike Hirsch

History and tradition underpinned this evening of dance. Sashar Zarif’s Dancing Freedom travelled from his interest in the dance forms of Central and Western Asia to the conventions of a Western performance space in New York City.  It began with small movements for the arms and hands that emerged from a voluminous caftan and later extended to the torso as he seemed to punctuate a metaphoric journey through life and dance with specific narrative moments.  His head was encased in a black cloth that became a blind fold, a scarf and almost a companion in the dance.  The vocabulary was a fascinating mix of cultural influences that were creatively combined with everything from the rhythmic footsteps of Indian Kathak to Central Asian folk dance forms that embodied tradition and change.  Later in the program from a completely different part of the world, Andre Largen created Hosanna for theCompany: University of West Indies Festival Dance Ensemble (Trinidad)  – it was a simple, joyful dance of praise featuring voluminous costumes that swirled and span as the dancers stepped to the beat of the music.

Regarded as the ‘mother of modern dance’, Isadora Duncan’s pervasive influence on the art resounds in many ways today such as the freedom to express one’s individuality, wear free flowing clothes, dance barefoot, make statements in movement about personal beliefs, or simply dance to great classical music. It was an insightful privilege to watch Lori Belilove and The Isadora Duncan Dance Company perform three works from Isadora – albeit with additional staging and choreography. The deep knee bends, use of the weight of the body, strongly clenched fists, reaches that opened the dancers’ bodies to the sky and the small skips and jumps brought history to the stage in a celebration of the roots of modern dance. Although historically important, it is dated in a contemporary context; yet the purity of expression, the honesty and integrity the dancers brought to the space was illuminating.

The Chat choreographed by Valerie Alpert was a slick work danced with flair by Jeannine Potter and André Santiago.  The duet about a contemporary relationship that survived various spats and disharmony progressed through scenes of domesticity played out in the spot lights.  The words ‘I Try’ and ‘What do you feel?’ vocalized by the dancers interspersed the jagged freeze-frame format- it was a sophisticated performance that cleverly located the interplay between movement and emotion signifying discord and resolution.  A complete contrast was Susan Cash’s reflective choreography Tree Woman that integrated a composedscore, photographic stills and a serene performance by Keiko Kitano. Dreary at times, the quiet but authoritative work ritualistically interwove the ancestral roots of humanity with the survival and regeneration of nature.

Five dancers in white throw themselves to the floor, rebound, release the movement and fall again over and over – does it sound too predictable?  What makes Drop and Fall by choreographerKuei Chuang Yang interesting is the subtle variations in spatial dynamics and timing of this first section and the bodily commitment of the dancers to a simple, repeated phrases. Later in the work they group into smaller connected forms that rely on suspension, balance and counter-balance.  Sometimes they exclude other dancers who must creatively find a new pathway to rejoin the group resulting in a constant evolution of well constructed dance. This quintessentially contemporary work was a fitting end to an evening that encompassed the vibrant and varied trajectories that continue to inspire and influenced modern dance.