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Ballet Tech/MANDANCE PROJECT

by Jennifer Wesnousky
November 9, 2004
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

Ballet Tech/MANDANCE PROJECT

www.ballettech.org

The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
October 21st-November 7th, 2004
www.joyce.org

Presented by: BALLET TECH FOUNDATION, INC. and THE ANNE HENDRICKS BASS FOUNDATION, ARLENE C. COOPER, CORDELIA CORPORATION, THE IRENE DIAMOND FUN, LAUREL DUREST, THE HORACE W. GOLDSMITH FOUNDATION, AGNES GUND and DANIEL SHAPIRO, THE LuESTHER T. MERTZ CHARITABLE TRUST and THE FRIENDS OF BALLET TECH in association with THE JOYCE THEATER FOUNDATION, INC.
Choreographer: ELIOT FELD
Dancers: DAMIAN WOETZEL, WU-KANG CHEN, NICKEMIL CONCEPCION, JASON JORDAN, SEAN SUOZZI, PATRICIA TUTHILL
Ballet Mistress: PATRICE HEMSWORTH
Front curtain design: MIMI LIEN
Costumes: CAMILLE ASSAF
Lighting: ALLEN LEE HUGHES

Jennifer Wesnousky
November 9, 2004

The moniker, MANDANCE, points out choreographer, Eliot Feld, in the program for this project's most recent incarnation at the Joyce Theatre between October 21 and November 7, 2004, invokes the more general definition of "man" in the human sense, upon including a woman in addition to the company's original five male dancers. However, despite this slightly "paradoxical" departure from the company's original form, its vision as regards dancing, an "abiding passion for music and the organization of shapes in visual time and space," remains very much the same.

While the addition of abstract set pieces is no doubt meant to continue the company's commitment to the visual organization of forms, the audience does seem to become collectively annoyed at lengthy set changes which come to seem superfluous. For example, several times during the performance, the stagehands labor for far too long to erect a strange metal curtain composed of pole-like pieces which open with loud clangs to introduce the next piece in a fraction of the time it has taken to erect it.

These poles, however, do definitely become more interesting during the RUMORS piece, in which the performers create interesting lines and angles upon swinging from them. Being as much about vision, staging and creative props as it is about movement, several of MANDANCE's numbers incorporate the use of such elements, including a wall on which, in BACKCHAT, the men scale and shimmy and a staircase they ascend and descend in the aptly named A STAIR DANCE.

Later, intelligent and varying use of a pair of spotlights attached to soloist Sean Suozzi's hands makes for a captivating piece called PROVERB, with an ethereal feel. The lights are utilized to cast and cover shadows and to illuminate various parts of Suozzi's face and body as well as the stage and backdrop in a manner which must be seen to be believed.

While the corps pieces are strong and interesting, the impact of this and MANDANCE's other solo piece, entitled JAWBONE, are the highlight of their current repertoire. Soloist Damian Woetzel is a gifted performer who departs choreographically from the evening's other numbers with his beautifully executed leaps and fouttés. Woetzel manages to connect with the audience, despite seeming deep in thought, appearing in the midst of choreographing the number and experimenting with his own movement. As he alternates between perplexity and joy at what he discovers along the way, the audience feels lucky to be a witness to his process.

Feld's introductory words very accurately describe choreography in which he only occasionally employs traditional mechanisms such as Woetzel's leaps and turns, frequently opting to instead present isolations and mechanical movement which make the dancers seem compelled to dance rather than consciously choosing to move. As their focus is very often downcast, they seem intent not to break the actor's proverbial "fourth wall." While such is obviously Feld's choreographic intention, one may sometimes find himself longing to make eye contact with the performers, hoping for them to, as Woetzel does, somehow engage the audience with their gaze. That being said, the dancers in Ballet Tech's MANDANCE do definitely engage the audience both technically and with their commitment to the interesting and eclectic movement which Feld prescribes.

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