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Robert Abrams
Performance Reviews
Chamber Dance Project
Symphony Space
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

The Chamber Dance Project

by Robert Abrams
January 12, 2004
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway
New York, NY 10025
(212) 864-1414

Featured Dance Company:

Chamber Dance Project
Chamber Dance Project (office)
P.O. Box 4499
New York, NY 10163-4499

Chamber Dance Project


presented at Symphony Space
2537 Broadway
New York, New York

Robert Abrams
January 12, 2004

The Chamber Dance Project continued to push the boundaries of music and dance.

Tonight they also combined movement with abstract theatre in a work called Four Men in Suits. This new work (new to me, anyway) started with a starkly lit box filled with shoes. Four men walked onto the stage. They entered the box and put on the shoes. They began to perform a series of not entirely synchronized repetitions. The movement had an obsessive character. It looked very much like work. When they were done with their work they started pounding the floor and looking for a cab, but they couldn't find one. Even contemporary ballet dancers are not immune to the dreaded taxi cab shift change. Since they couldn't leave the office, they started to sleep at their desks, dreaming of a beach, dreaming of shooting at things and flying with their arms outstretched. After more agitated behavior, including calling a recalcitrant dog, they sprinkled rose petals on the ground, jumped out of the box and then jumped back in.

The dancers poured their all into movement confined to one spot. One of the dancers was a musician who had never done this before, but I only learned this afterwards. He fit in well. The work is an abstraction, but its meaning was clear, in part as a mirror. They should perform this work at a management consulting conference.

Choreography, text and set: Ann Carlson; Lighting: Beverly Emmons; Adapted from "Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore of Ms. Carlson's Real People" Series; Dancers: John Welker, Victor Quijada, Philip Payton, Zane Booker.

Bowery Poetry Club, Et Al. was wonderful as usual. The pace of the recitation was well matched to the pace of Victor's movement. The movement is a combination of abstract dance with some mime.

The work doesn't need any changes, but in the interests of continued artistic development, I would suggest trying this section with a female dancer in Victor's role. After all, the poetry does refer to pantyhose.

Concept: Diane Coburn Bruning, Bob Holman; Choreography: Victor Quijada; Poetry: Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz; Lighting: Jack Mehler.

Berceuse is a work where the dancers need each other to complete the movements. The emotions displayed by the dancers suggest this mutual dependence as well. John Welker provided penitent support that enabled Sandra Brown's arching line. They would hold each other up with nothing more than a caress until she would fall into his catch, his arms.

Choreography: Diane Coburn Bruning; Lighting: Diane Coburn Bruning (design debut with thanks to Jennifer Tipton, Jack Mehler and Byran Keller); Music: Benjamin Goddard's "Berceuse" from Jocelyn; Dancers: Sandra Brown and John Welker; Violin: Christopher Lee, Philip Payton; Viola: Jovanina Pagano; Cello: David Gotay.

In Heir of Civility, Bonnie Pickard entered the stage, a vision in a purple ballgown. Christine Winkler followed in an equally ravishing red gown. From the moment they eyed each other as they put on their gloves, you could tell that beneath the civility, there was intense dislike. These belles of the ball soon proved combat ready. The movement combined sweeping across the floor with much comic interplay and some martial arts type throws to the ground. Bonnie and Christine were clearly having fun with this work and the audience did too.

Choreography: Peter Pucci, restaged by Larry Crabtree; Music: George Gershwin (Lullaby for Strong); Costumes: Alixandra Gage Englund; Lighting: Jack Mehler; Dancers: Christine Winkler and Bonnie Pickard; Violin: Christopher Lee, Philip Payton; Viola: Jovanina Pagano; Cello: David Gotay.

In Don't Tread on Me or My String Quartet the musicians were in fine form. They were all very into the piece. They haven't recorded this number yet, but I spoke to Christopher Lee afterwards and suggested that they ought to.

Music: Russell Peck; Violin: Christopher Lee, Philip Payton; Viola: Jovanina Pagano; Cello: David Gotay.

In the Garret is a work I have seen several times and always like. What struck me this time is the way that disorder resolves into order in the first and last sections. Seeing these sections in this way puts the middle section in a different perspective than if you see the first and last sections only in terms of their humor (which appears to be primarily rooted in the use of shoulder isolations). In the middle section, Victor portrays an immense sense of loss, sometimes by edging across the stage with tiny but continuous movement of his feet. He reaches out for help but pulls away. I don't want to read too much literal meaning into this work, but I think it is safe to say that if it does suggest a remedy to depression, part of that remedy has to be having a core of friends to dance with.

Choreography: Diane Coburn Bruning; Music: Benjamin Britten (from Simple Symphony); Lighting: Jack Mehler; Dancers: Bonnie Pickard, Sandra Brown, Christine Winkler, Victor Quijada, John Welker; Violin: Christopher Lee, Philip Payton; Viola: Jovanina Pagano; Cello: David Gotay.

The next work was Four Men in Suits, which I discussed first because I felt like discussing it first. Right after this work was the only missed opportunity of the night. A stage hand swept up the petals in the dark. I think they should have had a dancer do this work to combine function with art. Nothing elaborate, just sweeping with style.

The final work of the night was a work in progress, choreographed by Victor to music by Vivaldi. The excerpts presented looked promising. I especially liked the section where Victor had Bonnie dance with the ribbon of her toe shoe half unwound. Normally the ribbon of the toe shoe is not an active element of the dance, so to see it used as such was intriguing. It reminded me a little of Maria Benitez's Flamenco: the work where the dancer danced with and over the long train of her skirt.

Victor had great comic timing as he explained how he and the dancers go about creating a ballet.

This choice to end the evening with a work in progress, to let the audience into the creative process, is emblematic of the Chamber Dance Project. They manage to feed my obsession with dance just enough to make sure I need to attend their next season.

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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