'Three Women Solo’ at Concord
By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  August 1, 2006

NORA CHIPAUMIRE: Her dancing hits you with a vengeance.
It’s hard to imagine a more diverse assemblage of bodies, temperaments, and performing presences than the roster for this year’s “Three Women Solo” at Summer Stages Dance. The idea for a mini-gala of powerhouse female talent was dreamed up by Summer Stages co-director Richard Colton three years ago; the concert a week ago Thursday featured Risa Steinberg, a small, tensile inheritor of the Juilliard-Limón tradition, Nora Chipaumire, a fierce, imposing native of Zimbabwe, and the elegant, long-lined Canadian Peggy Baker.

The components of the program — three modern-dance portraits danced by Steinberg, two stagings of a proud, resistant identity by Chipaumire, and a long dance memoir by Baker — reflected one another in a three-part synergy of movement abstraction and personal witness.

Risa Steinberg has been uncovering and reanimating the forgotten repertory of the great modern dancers for 20 years. In Wrath, one of the four deadly sins depicted in Eleanor King’s 1941 Roads to Hell, she wore a long gray shift, with her hair frizzed out like wires. She swept her arms through space, slapped her thighs and sprang vertically into the air, beckoned to the audience with a crooked finger and a deceptive smile, then silently pounded the floor and collapsed.

Anna Sokolow’s Kaddish (1945) appropriated the role of mourner that traditionally belongs to men in the Orthodox Jewish tradition. Wearing ritual tefillin wrapped around one arm, Steinberg bent deeply backward, beat her chest with her fists, thrashed and spun in an ecstasy of grief. Sokolow may have meant to dedicate her prayer to the dead of World War II, but today one can’t help seeing this outcry in relation to the catastrophic events in the Middle East.

Nora Chipaumire is even closer to the horrors of warfare and victimization of the innocents. Whether she’s dancing about Convoys, Curfews, and Roadblocks (a work in progress) or a woman’s defensive poses and idealized roles (Dark Swan), her dance boils with suppressed anger and eroticism. She seems to be reliving a stream of bitter memories, excruciating images, and crafty retorts. Her dancing hits you with a vengeance.

In Convoys, she hovers on one leg at the edge of a red-lit square on the floor — a jail cell? a room in flames? She clutches her abdomen and her crotch in spasms of agony, throws punches and invisible rocks at an invisible enemy, looks around warily, saunters insolently along a mean street.

Dark Swan begins with Saint-Saëns’s Dying Swan music, and Chipaumire dances a distant inheritance, perhaps from Pavlova. At first flailing and faltering along a diagonal pathway, she’s a vision coming apart. Breathing heavily, she crawls and struggles to stay upright. As the music ends, she shivers ecstatically and undergoes a kind of conversion in silence. Then she mimes what looks like putting on make-up and, retreating to a different diagonal, dances a seductive Odile, a temptress in triumphant command of her body.

The talking dances that followed this were also about memory, but memory tightly contained by form and unable to cause harm. Directed by Ann Carlson, Too Beautiful a Day (2001) has a text collage where Steinberg intercuts an eye-witness account of a prisoner’s electrocution with ironic, mundane apartment stories. Confronting the unthinkable, the mind rushes on, changes the subject. Dressed in a huge American flag, Steinberg sat in a chair and gestured obsessively, rolling out dough or smoothing laundry, hedging against chaos.

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Signals from the solar system, Top 10 local CDs: week of November 12, Top 10 local CDs: August 6, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Culture and Lifestyle, Religion,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    Erik Satie called his vocal work Socrate a "symphonic drama," though it's anything but dramatic in a theatrical sense — or symphonic, either.
  •   JOFFREY BALLET GETS ITS DUE  |  May 08, 2012
    New York has two great ballet companies, New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater. Any other ballet troupe that wants to put down roots there has to develop a personality that's distinct from those two.
  •   THE BOSTON BALLET’S DON QUIXOTE  |  May 01, 2012
    In the long string of ballet productions extracted from Miguel de Cervantes's novel Don Quixote, the delusional Don has become a minor character, charging into situations where he shouldn't go and causing trouble instead of good works.
    When Trey McIntyre found a base for his infant company in Boise, Idaho, four years ago, eyebrows lifted in the dance world.
  •   BALLET HISPANICO FALLS SHORT  |  March 13, 2012
    All three dances presented by Ballet Hispanico at the Cutler Majestic last weekend depended heavily on costume effects to convey their messages.

 See all articles by: MARCIA B. SIEGEL