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Daniela Hoff/HoffTanzt and Daman Harun - My Secret Business, Love in Several Equations, Beneath the Skin

by Robert Abrams
March 19, 2006
The Mulberry Street Theater
70 Mulberry Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10013
212-349-0126

Daniela Hoff/HoffTanzt and Daman Harun - My Secret Business, Love in Several Equations, Beneath the Skin

presented at
The Mulberry Street Theater
70 Mulberry Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10013
212-349-0126
www.htchendance.org

Robert Abrams
March 19, 2006

Daman Harun's My Private Business is supposed to be inspired by the work of sculptor and printmaker Kiki Smith and Harun and Speck's personal experiences. The program notes also describe it as a blank wall upon which observers are free to project their own meanings.

It was very minimalist. A man in a black dress caresses a column while a man in a suit walks slowly along the back wall. They both have very slow movements. The man in the suit starts licking the paper on the back wall. The man in the dress gyrates with his back to the audience. A red line appears on the paper where the man in the suit licks. The red line gets thicker. A red stripe is revealed on the man's dress. The man in the suit looks at his hand and exits. The man in the dress takes off the bottom of the dress (he is wearing shorts underneath) and then pulls the paper from the wall.

While this work was provocative, there was nothing obscene about it in any way. You know how Freud said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar"? Well, in this case, sometimes a blank wall is just a blank wall. Maybe it was just too downtown for my tastes.

Direction/Choreography: Daman Harun and Bob Speck. Costume: Cathy Beals. Music: T.Reznor, Rema/Rema, Chain Reaction, J. Elias.

I liked Harun's Love in Several Equations better. There were sections of this work that had some interesting images. For instance, at one point the women walk across the stage with bent knees. When they reach the right side of the stage, their movement changes to sweeping motions. In another section, the five women are sitting in chairs in a row. Harun hugs one woman. A woman stands up and moves her chair. The others follow, forming a row with a new orientation. Harun moves over and hugs another woman. Another woman gets up and the line moves. This is repeated several times. The parts I especially liked were those where the five woman were on stage together and were moving; they were fluid and pretty. I especially liked the section towards the end where all six dancers were dancing in a circle.

Choreography: Daman Harun. Dancers: Christina Amendolia, Daman Harun, LoMa Familar, Cecilie Farrar, Bethany Prater, Alexandra Shilling. Music: Miss M/Stuart Price, Thievery Corporation, Edgar Meyer, Chain Reaction, Thierry De Mey.

Daniela Hoff's Beneath the Skin is a work that is inspired by Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI), a healing technique. The work, according to the program notes, uses both the emotional and physical content of SRI.

I could definitely tell that the work was based on therapy. This root produced some very arresting images. The nature of the therapy wasn't always so clear. There are two ways I can think of that Ms. Hoff might continue exploring these themes. She could turn the work into a lecture demonstration. Someone would talk about a particular aspect of SRI, and then the dancers would dance the segment that relates to that aspect. Alternatively, she might consider adding a narrative arc to the work. This would be another way to try to make the ideas of community, loneliness, hate, envy, acceptance and love more explicitly visible. Such a narrative arc would also be conducive to expressing the therapy aspect of the work.

While I would like to see this work again with some continued development, there were several aspects of the work as is that I liked very much. Some of these aspects fit the theme of therapy and some might give my therapist a field day.

Let's start at the beginning. Five women are lying on the ground. They arch their backs. They arch their backs in canon (meaning they repeat the same movement in sequence offset from each other). Part by part they release from their supine position. They stretch their arms. They lift their legs. (One woman walks in from the back of the stage.) They spin on the ground. They roll over. The five women on the ground have some speed but the woman walking forward is moving very slowly. This makes for a good contrast of levels. The women on the ground now leap and finally pull the standing woman down to the ground.

The next section was possibly my favorite of the work. Six women are rolling on the ground. Maybe it was the red-brown color of their costumes, or maybe it was the supple quality of their movement, but they reminded me of earthworms. Earthworms are cool, and if you are a farmer you depend on them to aerate the soil. The women first roll with divergent motion and then roll in unity. They pop their arms. They managed to get a good ways across the stage by undulating. This was perhaps the most extensive groundwork I have seen. Some of the dancers crouched and hopped a few times like frogs. I am quite certain that Ms. Hoff wasn't intending this section to be about earthworms and frogs, but I think she has the potential to expand this section into a dance for children, especially if she adds a few more animals.

In another section with an arresting image, one woman moves in a low position between four who hop. It is like the low woman is trapped. Then one of the trappers leaves the stage, but even with only three defining her space the low woman still dances like she is trapped. Then another trapper leaves the stage and still the woman is trapped. Then only one is left and even when this one trapper is sitting with her back to the audience, the other woman dances with the same pattern. She moves around the stage and then she sits and shakes. Perhaps Ms. Hoff is saying that while there may be things out in the world that constrain us, part of our constraints are within us, as seen when those external constraints are peeled away. Finally the one remaining trapper tries to hold the other woman. They make calmer sweeping motions for a while, but then the hugger-trapper gets wild. This might be a commentary on the dangers to the therapist of transference, but I may be reading too much into this section.

The ending sequence was also quite arresting. Five dancers are at the back of the stage. They breathe audibly. They repeat a series of movements over and over, up, down and to the side. One dancer is down on the floor in front. She rolls around like she is in agony or like she can't get to sleep.

There were moments in the work where the dancers seemed to be healing, but the ending left the impression that there is more work to do. Can we find peace and resolution, or will old and new demons continue to torment us? This work gave the audience plenty to think about.

Choreography: Daniela Hoff. Dancers: Ellen Cramer, Daniela Hoff, Tomomi Imai, Miranda Mikesh, Dagmar Spain, Mary Seidman. Music: Richard Miller, Meredith Monk, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Kevin Volans. Costumes: Karen Young.


Beneath the Skin
Photo courtesy of Frederique Porter



Beneath the Skin
Photo courtesy of Frederique Porter



Beneath the Skin
Photo courtesy of Frederique Porter



Beneath the Skin
Photo courtesy of Frederique Porter



Beneath the Skin
Photo courtesy of Frederique Porter



Beneath the Skin
Photo courtesy of Frederique Porter



Beneath the Skin
Photo courtesy of Frederique Porter

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