Illusion and bedrock

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  August 27, 2007

Henri Oguike’s work, the same weekend in the Ted Shawn Theatre, seemed like your typical eclectic, low-calorie contemporary dance entertainment. With a brief solo dance for the choreographer (whose company is based in London) and three pieces for eight dancers each, the program promised lots of variety. It had a spoof on Baroque dancing, a nature-metaphor piece, and a ritual set to live drumming on the barrel-shaped drums called taiko. Before we’d heard more than a few minutes of Scarlatti (White Space), I’d had enough of the dance’s arch posturing, pompous walks, exaggerated gestures, and imitations of far more subtle Paul Taylor period pieces. After that, everything pretty much looked alike.

Oguike, I think, makes movement like a mime artist. He goes for physical effects, one at a time, each one terrifically clear and emphatic, without any evident necessity to create a connected line or phrase. The dancers, of course, can jump and move lickety-split and can conjure their bodies into any sort of interesting shape.

Tiger Dancing, which, the program advised, offers “sinuous and feline movements,” looked spiky and nervous to me, more like Meerkat Manor than an aggregation of stealthy predators. As for the drum piece, Second Signal, this may have been an evolved form of taiko drumming, but the three bouncy white guys and their showy, jazzy rhythms had no relation to the meditative performing or the variegated sounds of the Japanese touring taiko ensembles I’ve seen. Still, they dominated the stage. I have no recollection at all of Second Signal’s dance component.

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