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Danspace Project Presents City/Dans: Rebecca Stenn Company - Blue Print

by Abigail Gehring
November 13, 2005
Danspace Project
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue)
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
New York, NY 10003
(212) 674-8112

Danspace Project Presents City/Dans: Rebecca Stenn Company - Blue Print

Abigail Gehring
November 13, 2005

Danspace Project Presents City/Dans: Rebecca Stenn Company, "Blue Print" (2005). Thursday, November 10- Sunday, November 13, 2005, 8:30 pm,
131 East 10th Street.
New York, NY 10003
Info: 212-674-8112
Fax: 212-529-2318
Reservations: 212-674-8194
http://www.danspaceproject.org/

Artistic Director: Rebecca Stenn. The Company: Rebecca Stenn, Jay Weissman, Eric Jackson Bradley, Tom Chiu, Eric Dunlap, Dave Eggar, Faith Pilger, Trebien Pollard. Original Music Composed and Performed by: Jay Weissman, Dave Eggar, Tom Chiu. Text from T.S. Eliot's, The Four Quartets.

"Honest" is the word that settled in my mind as I walked away from Rebecca Stenn Company's "Blue Print," performed at the fittingly intimate sanctuary of St. Mark's Church. Frankly, I am surprised at myself for accepting such an ambiguous, non-committal adjective to describe a dance performance. But the simple lighting, modest set, pedestrian costumes and unassuming movements leave one with the sense they have just witnessed something very exposed, natural, and free from presumption or over-dramatization. The experience was heightened by the introspective musings of T.S. Eliot's The Four Quartets, recorded and combined with powerful original music played live by a cellist, violinist, and bass guitarist.

The show opens in silence as musicians and four dancers enter wearing business casual attire, walk easily across the stage, form a circle, and wait in stillness. When the fifth dancer appears he is wearing only fitted white shorts, a clear statement of vulnerability, as he slowly pushes his way into the center of the circle. Lilting music begins as he sways, falters, and collapses, always supported at the last second by the circle. Gradually the other dancers slip him into full dress as the musicians move to the edges of the stage, words of T.S. Eliot echoing in the background, "Home is where one starts from."

The pas de deux that follows is composed primarily of arm movements, sometimes fluid, sometimes jarring as Ms. Stenn and her partner explore the complexities of human connection through touch, avoidance, gentle lifts and sudden falls. Glimpses of the dancers' abilities begin to show through here, but I was left frustrated with the simplistic nature of the choreography. Clearly these were powerful dancers. I wanted to see them really move, fly through the air, strike unusual balances. The focus on arm and hand movements seemed to replace adequate usage of the rest of their bodies. The rawness of the movements struck an emotional cord with members of the audience, but my longing for more only grew, assuaged somewhat later by a more energetic display ending the program.

The highlight was the way in which the musicians interacted with the dancers-specifically how the cellist managed to continue to play breathtakingly beautiful music while one dancer persistently slithered between him and his instrument; manipulated his bow arm; and even arrested the cello from him on several occasions, spinning it precariously on its stand before returning it. The interplay was humorous at moments, and impressively trusting and skillful on the musicians' part.

The innovative way in which the musicians participated in the dance made the show unique, and the themes of belonging, relationship, and home brought out through the poetry gave the experience a deeper emotional quality. Still, I wished I could take the dancers aside afterwards and say, "Now, show me what you can really do" and watch such highly conditioned, powerfully controlled and yet freely manipulated bodies rise to the challenge.

Abigail Gehring is a member of Gehring Dancetheatre, presenting "A Fall Gala," Friday, November 18th, 8 o'clock to midnight, Winston Unity Hall, 235 West 23rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues. www.gehringdancetheatre.org, 973.748.1408.


Eric Jackson Bradley, Faith Pilger, and Rebecca Stenn
Photo courtesy of Jeffery Machtig

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