“…more varied in style and a little less culturally neutral…”

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

Tuesday July 13, 2010 – Concert A

Review by Marcia B. Siegel (© 2010)

Photo Credit: CORE Concert Dance Company performs “Coeur de CORE” (2006) choreographed by Bala Sarasvati (USA) Photo by Bala Sarasvati

The second of the WDA Global Dance Event concerts was more varied in style and a little less culturally neutral than the first. Still, much of the six-part evening exhibited the eclectic formalism and/or titillating populism of Euro-American contemporary dance. Yoke, Kate Corby’s brief opening solo was a study in agitation. Planted in one spot, she wore a long hoop skirt and nothing else, focusing the audience’s attention on her bare breasts and wild, wiry head of hair. She jerked her torso from side to side, gestured as if knocking at a door, twitched and vibrated and rubbed herself obsessively, screamed loudly. Then she went through the whole sequence again, only faster, and finally dangled from her upturned arms. I thought she looked like a person trying to get to sleep with a bad case of poison ivy.

Merián Soto’s solo excerpt from her 2006 States of Gravity & Light #2, subtitled “Noemi’s Dance,” was backed by a projected film of rushing water and a soundtrack that might have been rain or the stream itself. A nature woman, a shaman, Soto walked with slow, deliberate steps and closed eyes, two long thin sticks balanced on her shoulders. She made a few reaching gestures with her arms, walked into the path of the projection and slowly began a beatific turning. Not much more than that. Gradually she drew me into her vortex. Sweeping the sticks out and turning, turning, she became one with the water, the sound of birds, the rushing of time.

The Indian company Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop addressed the question of cultural tradition and contemporaneity in Parivahitam: Perspectives in Motion, choreographed by one of its co-directors, Sudarshan Chakravorty. In the beginning a woman seems to be blissfully dreaming, her gestures echoing the mudras of Bharat Natyam classical dance. The long piece—her dream?—introduced several dancers who behaved like the classical character types: a strong, possibly dangerous male who could be a demon or an animal, a more refined male, and two more females. Though there wasn’t an explicit plot, the characters moved back and forth between traditional dance phrases — darting, directional arm gestures and rhythmic foot stamping — and contemporary floor work and expansive locomotion. The refined man and the dreamy woman danced a duet negotiating between the two modes.

Then another woman entered. Stiffly, brokenly, trying to speak, she introduced a period of choked articulations, failed communication, and aggressive partnering. Left alone, the dreamer curled up, groping in all directions, perhaps wondering where or who she was. Intruding on this reverie, a modern man strode in with a suitcase, and soon all the dancers returned, in contemporary clothes, rushing off to their destinations, not making contact in this dimension either.

Four dancers from Bala Sarasvati’s CORE Concert Dance Company, based at the University of Georgia, effected a display of high-energy moves to a tape of Kodo drumming. Cutely titled Coeur de CORE, this piece seemed less like a formalist dance than a new fitness workout styled for TV. I suppose one could try to analyze the difference, but it’s a frightening example of how close together art and athletics have grown.

Taiwan’s Chieh-hua Hsieh baffled me with Anarchy’s Dream, for three girls who behaved like streetwalkers. After primping and taunting the audience, they bent over some chairs upstage and swung their butts at us while each girl did her own hooker variation. Gradually, amid artful skewed stretches and sultry looks, they scrambled into a three-way competition that escalated into violent combat. Running, knock-down, grabbing and pushing and shoving, and murderous embraces.

I was stunned by the way the dancers inhabited these alien characters, the full-out investment they gave to this punishing movement. But I was left with only questions about the dance. Why would a male choreographer construct women in this way? Who were these characters and who did they become? Who represented the anarchy, and was the dream simply a Dyonisian release for these creatures imprisoned in their creator’s sexual stereotyping? If they needed to destroy, would they destroy each other? Or was the posturing and the pummeling symbolic of a larger concept? If so, what would that be?

Joseph Fontano’s “Adesso NYC” translated is “Now NYC” was far less mysterious than its title. Fontano, based in Rome, played a middle aged man remembering his past life and trying, I guess, to reassure himself that he still has the goods. During an extended slide show of beautiful young men, from Fontano’s personal scrapbook I assumed, or his portfolio, the sinewy live Fontano thrust himself into agitato motion. Then he crawled under a large white tarp and emerged through an opening, wearing nothing but the cloth as a stage-size clown cape.

Fontano may have been referring to an ancient comedy tradition, or to an ingenious 1968 dance of the imagination called Tent by Alwin Nikolais, whom Fontano lists as one of his credits. Or maybe he was a grizzled ghost of Petrouchka, taunting the establishment from the roof of the carnival booth. As he hung over the cloth, posturing while trying to keep from exposing his lower parts, a voiceover spoke of the past, and of preserving the freedom to play. He looked like a man seeking his own resurrection, and he didn’t look playful about it.