Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review by Margaret Putnam

No End in Sight
As in the collaborative premiere from Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth. The rest of the program made up for that, though.
by Margaret Putnam
published Saturday, February 26, 2011

Close Up and Personal
presented by Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth

Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy Street
Fort Worth, TX 76107
click here for a location map

Even the silly title was off-putting: iAm uAre. And that was just the beginning. Everything about this ridiculous piece—performed Friday night at Hardy & Betty Sanders Theatre as part of Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth’s "Close Up and Personal"—raised my hackles.

Quasi-theater-art that included the obligatory video projections, text (spoken in sophomoric intonations) and pedestrian dancing—called for "Edit! Edit!" No chance of that since it was a “collaborative” effort by choreographer (and company director) Kerry Kreiman and the dancers.

Even worse, it seemed to have no end.

As best as I can remember, here’s the gist of it: with a cello at her feet, Sara Donaldson explains how new technology allows her to hear her own music, and how it could also play with reality. As she sits at stage left, characters of her imagination appear, or rather, many alter egos. There is Jessica Thomas, in 17th century regal dress and a preposterous, towering headpiece of buttons, tinsel, star, do-dads and Velcro-taped cell phone who says sweetly, “I eat. I sleep. I breathe. I love my amazing, beautiful dress.” It’s just zany enough and expressed in the right, lilting tone, that she almost draws you in. Her other asset is that she dances with a languorous grace.

The rest of Ms. Donaldson’s alter egos include a warrior woman from Zeno, a belly dancer, a CIA agent and a Miss Manners offshoot in purple wig and flounced dress made of newspaper. They all have their silly things to impart, and do it in endless repetitions, both in movement and text (“I think, therefore I am”; “I Google, therefore I am”; “I eat, therefore I am.”)

Fortunately, iAm uAre was not the whole show. The best included four solos, a duet and an ensemble piece. In seenunseen, the barely visible figure of Thomas appears wearing a billowy red slip over flesh-colored shorts. Facing the side, she bends and sways, moving faster and faster. As she does, her strawberry blonde hair falls loose past her waist, giving her even more the suggestion of a mysterious creature tossed by the sea.

In Two, a dim light captures Courtney Mulcahy hunched over a bench. The light disappears, and next Ms. Mulcahy is stretched out prone. The dance continues in that way, with little glimpses of her body in changing positions. Eventually, the light stays steady, and Ms. Mulcahy leaves the bench to take on some of the same angled poses. At the end, the stage turns dark, and when the light comes on, the bench is bare. Simple, but effective, it works like a shadow-box of movement.

In Claroscuro, Claudia Orcasitas gets dressed in front of us, putting on a white blouse, taupe-colored skirt and apron, and then takes on the appearance of a field maiden in a painting. The rock she lifts is almost too heavy for her, but the water bucket that she dips her face into gives her fresh hope, and she leaves carrying it on her shoulders.

Blind Faith is just a snip of a dance, where choreographer and dancer Tina Mullone makes her way from the far edge of the stage in a diagonal path to the other side, using arms to initiate spiraling loops and plunging arabesques.

Against a video background of bare trees, guest artist Ellie Leonhardt’s The Well Interruption brings dancers together in a calm, almost Zen-like forest setting. A dancer rolls on the ground, flanked by a cluster of three and of four. Eventually, all fan out, and as the images on the screen flicker like leaves, the dancers curve their arms and sway. At one point, they group together to shoot out limbs at all angles, a striking tableau. At the end, one rolls on the floor, and comes to a halt at the feet of waiting friends.

What all these dances have in common is a hint of mystery and atmosphere and a clear sense of purpose. That atmosphere comes to the most beguiling fruition in Ms. Orcasitas’ Madre Luna where Jacqueline DePetris and Ms. Thomas—one dressed in a white top, the other in black—suggested lunar opposites that separate and reconnect without ever losing curiosity for the other.

◊ Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.

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