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Pentacle Showcase at APAP - Zvi Dance, Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre, Ruth Cansfield Dance, Phoenix Dance Theatre, the Chamber Dance Project

by Robert Abrams
January 9, 2004
The Duke Theatre
229 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

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Pentacle Showcase at APAP - Zvi Dance, Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre, Ruth Cansfield Dance, Phoenix Dance Theatre, the Chamber Dance Project

Presented at The Duke
229 West 42nd Street
New York, New York

Robert Abrams
January 9, 2004

Pentacle/DanceWorks presented excerpts by five dance companies as part of the Association of Performing Artists Presenters annual conference. The stated purpose of these special performances is to help dance companies and performance venues and promoters evaluate each other. Dance companies' touring schedules can often be filled as a result of these showcases. A side benefit, if you are either an APAP member or a friend of one, is the ability to see contrasting dance styles side by side in rapid succession. The evening was hosted by John Claassen of Pentacle, who gave informative introductions to each dance company.

Excerpts were presented by Zvi Dance, Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre, Ruth Cansfield Dance, Phoenix Dance Theatre and the Chamber Dance Project. It should be kept in mind that since the works presented were almost all excerpts, and in some cases, were presented without a full set, these remarks should be viewed more as formative impressions than as a summative critique.

Zvi Dance presented an excerpt from The Amber Room. The first section of five used shoulder rolls as a signature movement. Ying-Ying Shiau was extremely limber. The choreography featured an appealing escalation of energy. There was one submerged hand on shoulder bow position. The bow position is an archetypal position in classical ballet, so it was interesting to see it flick by a work that was anything but classical.

In the second section, Verena Tremel and Barbara Koch danced with and through a picture frame. The picture frame served as a movable boundary. The thumb was the signature body part in this section.

In the third section, Mucuy Bolles broke with dance tradition and spoke. She spoke rather well, delivering a monologue praising her own beauty in an over the top and declamatory style. Her vanity was supported by a strong male dancer (Roger C. Jeffrey). She certainly has everything she needs to support her assertions. One can only hope that what was seen on stage was the act it seemed to be and that her real personality is slightly more modest.

The fourth section featured a seated partnership with Ying-Ying Shiau and Jonathan Riseling. The movements were both rotational and oppositional, fitting with the Waltz feel of the music.

The fifth section filled the stage with eight dancers. The movements were active offset repetitions that much of the time fit the description of processional chaos. Think of the deliberate synchronized movement in a royal ceremony or a parade, and then layer on that base a kind of wild unpredictability. It sounds like a contradiction in terms until you see it. The section ended with one dancer moving in the middle of the stage while the others stood still in a line on the side facing away.

Zvi Gotheiner, the choreographer, is also a dancer who has performed with Jeanine Durning and others. Zvi's The Amber Room is intended to be about, or at least be inspired by, the theft by the Nazis of a room carved from amber. The costumes by Naoko Nagata certainly evoked the idea of loss. The music was by Scott Killian. The dancers were Mucuy Bolles, Kuan Hui Chew, Elisa King, Roger C. Jeffrey, Barbara Koch, Jonathan Riseling, Ying-Ying Shiau and Verena Tremel.

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre presented Black Diamond. This work, in its full form, is danced on two high platforms. Tonight the work was danced on one level. Presented this way, the work lost something of its awe-inspiring impressiveness, but gained a certain intimacy that was well suited to highlight the human form. The impact may be a little different, but the choreography works equally well in either setting.

Because of the intimacy of the setting, one could see the movement of the dancer's ribcage. I thought it brought new meaning to the concept of isolations. Whether it was an intentional part of the choreography, or just a consequence of the dancers' breathing, the rib cage movement was beautiful and oddly compelling.

A few of the elements I noticed included the staccato movements separated by great holds, often on one foot, pendulum clock movements with their hands, the repeated riffs on the classic Peanuts dance style, and the occasional use of Fosse like hands. The beginning of the work used closed movement, which in the middle became more open and free flowing, returning in the end to closed clenched movement.

The music for Black Diamond was by Igor Stravinsky (Duo Concertant).

Ruth Cansfield Dance presented excerpts from four works. In Echo and Light, Treasure Waddell and Brianna Stark ran about the stage like aquatic birds, flapping their long arms with such extension that they repeatedly slapped their own backs. This choreography might also work well with Notary style sand or flour scattered on the floor so that the dancers' movements would kick up the flour and create patterns in the air. Or they could try dancing it as a site specific work on a beach somewhere.

Balance is a dance that works against the music. The music is sweeping but the movement is frenetic and heavy stepping. This was performed by Christopher Duban and Treasure Waddell, who bears a resemblance to Geena Davis.

In La Sacqueboute, Brianna Stark has Flamenco-ish bearing. The movements run one into the other almost non-stop and are angular. She wears a flowing red translucent dress. The work is a little quirky, but does work with the music.

In Curiouser and Curiouser, Treasure Waddell and Christopher Duban assume a series of lucid positions. They wore costumes with ribbed black fabric and colored velvet backs. Unlike the other works, which were danced barefoot, this work was danced in boots. The choreography featured many unusual lifts and carries. Often both man and woman performed each carry at some point in the work. Because the space at the Duke is so intimate, the audience was able to see things that otherwise might be missed. When Treasure was hanging upside down, or when she was performing some move that required a high level of exertion (which was fairly frequent in this work), the veins on her hands would visibly stand out. I thought they were some of the most beautiful veins I had seen. (If the surgeon general were to put a warning label on dance performances it would probably say something like "Prolonged exposure to dance may warp your perceptions. There is no known antidote, so use with caution.")

The music was by Lee Pui Ming (Echo and Light), Sergei Rachmaninoff (Balance), Andrea Falconiero (La Sacqueboute) and Claudio Monteverdi (Curiouser and Curiouser).

The Phoenix Dance Theatre presented Can You See Me. This work is set to the music of Jimi Hendrix. It featured much determined walking in circles, push ups and shaking. Plus some wrestling with demons, not to mention just plain wrestling. If you want to know what neuroses would look like when made visible and danced to loud Jimi Hendrix music, this work is just the thing.

At one point the dancers appeared to be checking their pulse (dancing your neuroses is probably just as effective as a workout as an aerobics class at the gym). This leads to an interesting question (interesting, anyway, if you are a geeky scientist type like myself who is always looking for cool new ways to measure things): could you display the dancers' vitals in real time? For instance, a device that measures each dancer's heart rate could wirelessly send this information to a computer. The computer would process it and display the information behind the dancers. This would both add to the interactivity of the work, and would give dance critics something more to talk about. Rather than just saying that the work started with one dancer, had three in the middle, and ended with two dancers, we could say things like the work started out with an average heart rate of 100 beats per minute, and accelerated towards the middle with an oscillating pattern until it reached 286 beats per minute. Finally, the dancers used their great control to lower their heart rates to 150 beats per minute. My suspicion is that the patterns in the data would often support the subjective, qualitative analysis of the work.

The dancers were Yann Seabra, Lisa Welham, Errol White, and Kialea Nadine-Williams. The choreography was by Rui Horta.

The second work presented was Source 2. This duet by Yann Seabra and Lisa Welham was performed in white costumes. They stretched and swung. Lisa's feet were sculptural, especially when seen from the bottom.

The choreography was by Darshan Singh Bhuller. The music was by Gyorgy Kurtag.

The Chamber Dance Project presented the opening section of The Bowery Poetry Club, Et Al. Just as Mucuy Bolles showed that a dancer can act, Cristin O'Keefe Aptowitz showed that a poet can move. Victor Quijada moved very well too, but you expect that of him since he is a dancer. Most of the audience was adults, but one young girl was attending as well. She laughed out loud at Cristin's reference to the Back Street Boys, while most of the adults in the audience seemed to have missed the joke.

In Berceuse, Sandra Brown led off with a great assisted leap (with partnering from John Welker). They were very strong. There were some nice rib cage isolations in this work. Sandra and John fit together well. The dance fits well with the live string quartet.

In Don't Tread on Me or my String Quartet, the quartet played alone. They were kicking. Kicking is a compliment usually used for energetic country music, but they managed to deserve it while still preserving the refined demeanor one expects of a string quartet. After all, a string quartet is not that far removed from a band of fiddles. The music was soaring and non-stop, ending with an unexpected but fitting last note.

In the Garret had humorous inflections, including a contemporary ballet take on the ministry of silly walks. The dancers were constantly moving but each movement was clearly delineated and perceptible. This was a testament both to the dancers' skill and Diane Coburn Bruning's choreography. All of the dancers (Bonnie Pickard, Sandra Brown, Christine Winklet, Victor Quijada, and John Welker) looked happy to be dancing.

The string quartet consists of Christopher Lee and Philip Payton on violin, Jovanina Pagano on Viola and David Gotay on Cello. Choreography for The Bowery Poetry Club, Et Al. is by Victor Quijada. Choreography for Berceuse and In the Garret is by Diane Coburn Bruning. Music for Berceuse is by Benjamin Godard. Music for In the Garret is by Benjamin Britten. For more of ExploreDance.com's coverage of the Chamber Dance Project, see photos from their open rehearsal and a review by Rachel Rabkin.

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