Fusion forms

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  April 23, 2008

Mysterious figures wearing mismatched costumes (the choreographers and Stephanie Lanckton and DeAnna Pellecchia) glimmered and went invisible in a 12-foot room with a scrim for a front wall. Kathy Couch’s atmospheric lighting and projections caught them crouching inside the room, suspended on its roof, hanging from the ceiling and clambering up one perforated wall. Perhaps at random, one or two of the figures slipped out to wander through the stage at large or lurk indecisively near a ladder of neon.

Sometimes I thought they were just experimenting with how their simple moves — hip wiggles, shoulder stands, folded shapes — would look under the lighting activity. Other times the movement suggested dramatic encounters. Characters seemed to stalk other characters, capture them, partner them in shadow duets. A woman ricocheted off the walls; I thought of Lillian Gish trapped in a closet in Broken Blossoms.

A program note informed us that the collaborators used a film script to make the piece, but I saw it more as a collection of scenes from German expressionism and silent movies than as a connected narrative.

Behemoth, choreographed by Cardone, filmmaker Alla Kovgan, and designer Dedalus Wainwright, seemed nebulous as “an evocation of a color organ.” Musicians, artists, and mystics throughout history have tried to correlate light and sound. Father Louis Bertrand Castel’s color organ, one of many such experiments, used colored glass and a complicated apparatus to create visible music when the organist operated the keys.

Two big objects hung over the stage, suggesting the vertical structures of organ pipes. Projections flickered over them, but they didn’t emit specific colors. Jessica Rylan sat at a console and produced a series of irritating electronic noises — steady-state screeches and yowls and static. Alissa Cardone roamed the space, making spidery gestures, wearing a mini version of an 18th-century ball gown. Sometimes the sounds seemed to propel her, sometimes not.

Midway through the piece, she and Rylan exchanged places. Rylan walked around self-consciously with a microphone, like a modern-day lecturer. She might have been saying something informative, but the noises drowned her out.

Last weekend, the New Zealand company Black Grace visited the Tsai Performance Center for two evenings sponsored by the Celebrity Series. The group of six men — joined by four female guest dancers on this tour — draw their movement material from modern dance, popular culture, and the members’ collective Pacific Island heritage. Artistic director Neil Ieremia choreographed all seven short works.

The core language was introduced in the first piece, Fa’a Ulutao, a display of unrelenting male power. The lexicon of punching, thrusting, galumphing, thigh slapping, stamping, sudden spins into the air, and running-falling-rolling stemmed from the tradition of warlike dances with which Maori tribesmen threatened their colonial enemies. Black Grace doesn’t use the grotesque face painting associated with Maori folklore, and its dance comes across less as an aggressive act than as a ritual of tightly bonded brothers.

There were two soft moments in Fa’a Ulutao: a suspension with floating arms, and a full stop when the men began what looked like a ballet port de bras. These lapses anticipated the contemporary influences on the group — Euro-American dance, hip-hop and rap, even the Christian church — but the basic vocabulary remained in place, extending into acrobatics and virtuosic body-music.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
Related: Bouncement 3, Floor show, Eclectic finds, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Lorraine Chapman, Lillian Gish,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MARCIA B. SIEGEL
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   MARK MORRIS'S SOCRATES, THE MUIR, AND FESTIVAL DANCE  |  May 22, 2012
    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.
  •   THE TREY MCINTYRE PROJECT IGNITES THE ICA  |  March 21, 2012
    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