Weaving Pathways with Personal Threads

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

Thursday July 15, 2010 – Concert C

Review by Stephanie Burridge (© 2010)

Photo Credit: 8213 Physical Dance Theater (Taiwan) performs “It’s Not Too Late…” choreographed by Casey Avaunt (USA)

Cultural roots and harmonizing with nature characterized some of the works in Concert C of the WDA series of performances.  Long limbed and physically articulate, Laura Barbee connected the classical phrasing of Elizabeth Gillaspy’s opening work Threads to give an aesthetic performance of this abstract, poetic work.  Elbows, fingers and shoulders initiated the dance that opened out into the space and juxtaposed unexpected dynamic changes with stillness. The harmony of classical and contemporary movement fused eloquently with the artistry of the dancer in a choreographic statement that was beautifully crafted.

Tahmina Anwar Anika and Mehraj Haque Tushar from Bangladesh presented their choreography Me Myself n I next. It was a complete contrast and epitomized many of the structural differences between the intentions of Eastern and the Western choreographers- predominately the use of a literal narrative. The young choreographers included so much in their dance that it progressed from a boyfriend/girlfriend scenario played out with some interesting traditionally based movement, to an overly dramatic entertainment that tried to show everything from acrobatics to Bollywood style dancing.  The dancers needed to be clear about the intention of the dance, refine the idea and limit the embellishments in their enthusiastic, but predictable performance.  Technique also needed to be clearer in all the styles that were incorporated in the choreography. Winter Haiku by Amanda Sowerby for the Moving Company also got carried away from the original idea.  This time it was the dominance of the beautiful costumes and tableaus that became stagnant with the dancers seeming to move from place to place to form a new picture without a purpose. The flowing white costume and the incessant arm reaching and hair pulling of the elongated, central ‘snow maiden’ became monotonous once the pleasure of viewing the original spectacle had passed. The dancers embodied the beauty of winter as described in the poem that inspired the work, but the choreography did not develop the idea enough to sustain an absorbing dance. In a similar vein, New Morning, choreographed and danced by Jeannine Potter meandered from the initial idea despite some beautiful movement and assured dancing that seemed to fluctuate in mood between hope and despair expressed through reaching out and retreating. Towards the end, she appeared to be simply dancing out the music rather than connecting with it or with the original concept.

Dancers Chuo-Tai Sun, Yu-Jen Chen and Casey Avaunt had no problems with clarity in their light-hearted piece It’s Not Too Late… Avaunt’s sassy choreography that emerged from everyday actions was a funny take on a society obsessed with work and making money.  The shadowy underworld figure that came into their lives allowed for some situation comedy, but overall it was a conventional format that relied heavily on the charisma of the performers to make it work. Sarah Gavina Campus and Cat Ruka’s Vault was up front with a loaded agenda about difference, perceptions of ‘the other’ and reclaiming culture.  A bikini clad woman stood in a swimming pool posing in the limelight while a shadowy presence in an exaggerated blonde wig watched at the back of the stage then slowly moved forward. Taking her rightful place at the front she shed the wig, revealing a strong Maori woman wanting to reclaim her heritage – her dancing was powerful, assertive and rooted in tradition.  While the sentiments of this work about empowerment are moving, the awkward stereotypical images barely went below the surface of the issue and became irritating and patronizing.

Breath underpinned the abstract narrative of Sue Peacock’s work, Any given moment
created for dancers from the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts.   Inhaling, exhaling, the timing of events, what was said and left unsaid in the passing of time gave the choreographer plenty to work with.  Words and phrases were projected elegantly on the back wall as the dancers moved through a series of solos, duos, trios and groups work based very loosely around the projected series of words.  It was well constructed and expertly danced by the ensemble of students who wove in and out a range of emotional and physical partnerships.  The vast use of the space was tantalizing and gave the work a distinctive Australian stamp.

Although it was a night of fluctuating highs and lows for quality choreography and dance, it was engaging with a fascinating mix of cultures, genres and ideas as the artists sought to weave their personal stories and experiences into their choreography and express themselves through dance.