Offerings

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  April 27, 2010

But he moved with a modern dancer’s smooth connections and fully energized body. When they were dancing in unison, you’d see her hold a pose or finish a move while he’d keep unfolding almost imperceptibly, breathing into the next phrase. Chipaumire was almost awkward in the duets, her legs planted like sticks, her arms branching off at odd angles. She’d take unanticipated balances, with her body off center or a limb jutting in a strange direction, and then, just as suddenly, crumple out of them into a rolling fall.

They seemed to spend a lot of time running around the band’s chairs, or chasing each other, but there wasn’t any urgency or drama in it. Except when, after a solo of his that suggested a certain aggressiveness, he suddenly dropped to the ground and spread out. Chipaumire, who’d been watching him from upstage, came and bent over his body and slowly pulled him up, lifeless. Clenched together, they danced a macabre foxtrot.

Mapfumo’s music — three guitars, vocals, and percussion provided by shakers and a mbira, with some recorded additives in one piece — began with complex layers of rhythm, though the dancers didn’t always use its propulsive possibilities. Later, the music seemed to get simpler, less polyrhythmic, until, in an anticlimax after Chipaumire’s final solo, they played a pop song. It seemed she wanted to give them the last word.

 “Push” was the overall title of BoSoma’s spring concert at Boston University Dance Theater, but with nine dances, seven choreographers, and three performing groups, it was more like a jam. BoSoma accounted for half the program, with dances by its artistic directors, Katherine Hooper and Irada Djelassi. Contrapose Dance under director Courtney Peix had commissioned new works by three local choreographers. And Neoteric Dance Collaborative, a group of young pre-professional dancers, opened the evening with a piece by its artistic director, Sarah Cost. Except for the three Contrapose entries, I thought everything looked alike.

BoSoma’s dances had different pretexts, but they shared an æsthetic that encompassed inspiring subject matter, well-trained ensemble dancing, formal patterns, theme-appropriate gestures, everyday movement, and selected dance steps from the ballet and modern vocabularies. This produced the sense of a group of women yearning, longing, working together — but the specifics of each dance were always in parentheses: “Oriental sexiness” in Djalassi’s BiLine, “ritual practice” in her Habitual (set to a remarkable, expressive excerpt from Meredith Monk’s 2006 Impermanence), “bravery” in Hooper’s Soldier’s Lullaby, and “family relationships” in her The Dinner Table.

Contrapose offered a wider angle of choreographic gambits and images. Andrew Cook, Jenny Lustig, and Lindsey Ridgeway resisted the schmaltz of 1930s Gypsy music in Marcus Schulkind’s Patrin, but they preserved the music’s heavy beat and strong melody line in a relentless chain of interlocking moves. Then one of the trio left, and Cook continued with the other woman. They veered far apart, then together, as if the lack of one partner had disoriented them. Suddenly he rolled her over his back, and they faced each other and came together in what I think was an embrace, or maybe a tango. The music had ended.

Lustig, Ridgeway, and Lucy Warren-Whitman were accompanied by what sounded like German rap music in Nicole Pierce’s Shorten Her Skirts. The raucous goofiness of the music prompted deranged calisthenics and a prolonged dénouement in which they collapsed to the floor by degrees.

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