The nine “restored and late model” solos on Marcus Schulkind’s concert at Green Street Studios two weekends back took about an hour all together. Instead of the shreds and startles that you come away with after a program of tiny dances, Schulkind’s concert provided strong impressions of strong performers, and a profile of a choreographer as well.
At first, I thought, there’s no way to get a grip on a string of pop songs with a different dancer in each. But by the end of the first set, Ladies Night Out, things were beginning to add up. The songs, by the Beatles, Randy Newman, and Bonnie Raitt, all spoke of disappointment — maybe in love, maybe not — and a resigned commitment to going on regardless. Audra Carabetta seemed the purest of all the dancers who followed, stepping back along a diagonal, alternating between mechanical pacing and relaxed swings and spirals. RuthAnn Callen and Kate Cross followed the same diagonal path. Their phrases took different shapes from Carabetta’s, but they might have grown from some of the same motifs. I remember Callen as tall and spiky, Cross as dynamic and determined.
In Radio Daze, a tribute to Woody Allen, Lorraine Chapman was like a kid at a small-town carnival. Gawky and appealing, she tilted off-balance, poked her elbows out, stomped around with flexed feet, to “They Didn’t Believe Me” played by Red Nickles’s swing band.
Randy Newman recordings backed up nearly half the dances on the program. Newman’s sophisticated, often mordant poetry, sung in his indolent, faux folksy style, slides over you stealthily, and I think it’s the combination of innocence, nostalgia, disillusion, and irony that must appeal to Schulkind. None of his dances conveyed Newman’s actual words, but all of them suggested sensibilities in conflict.
Jim Viera seemed pulled into introspection in Guilty. Randy Newman sang, “Takes a whole lotta medicine for me to pretend that I’m somebody else.” Ruth Bronwen couldn’t resist breaking out of her contained, small phrases with exuberant leaps and gallops in Rollin’. Newman sang, “Ain’t gonna worry no more.” Jeanine Durning struggled and scrambled in Job, to Newman’s bitterly agnostic “God’s Song.”
Allemande, Schulkind’s new dance for Liz Waterhouse, had no words to accompany it, and it showed off her musical range. To piano and cello selections by Valenti, Vivaldi, and Corelli (otherwise unidentified), Waterhouse worked with classical clarity at first, then slowed to a melancholy middle section. In the lively final part, the music at times seemed to propel her into bursts of locomotion, but she never gave in entirely to its rhythm.
Clarence Brooks treated us to a rare modern-dance classic, Talley Beatty’s 1947 Mourner’s Bench. The piece constituted one section of Beatty’s early work Southern Landscape, which is drawn from the sad aftermath of the Civil War. During Reconstruction, freed slaves were thrown off the land and persecuted by Southern racists. The funerals of lynching victims had to be held at night, and in secret.