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Rachel Rabkin
Performance Reviews
Chamber Dance Project
Kaye Playhouse

Chamber Dance Project

by Rachel Rabkin
May 29, 2003
Kaye Playhouse
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(212) 772-4448

Featured Dance Company:

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

Chamber Dance Project

The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, NYC

Founder and Artistic Director: Diane Coburn Bruning
Executive Director: Stanley L. Corfman
Principal Musician: Christopher C. Lee
Dancers and Musicians: Stephan Laks, Philip Payton, Bonnie Pickard, Victor Quijada, Thomacz Rzeczycki, Dorothy Sobieski, Lisa Tachick, John Welker, Christine Winkler
Guest Artists: Cristin O'Keefe Aptowitz, Peter Boal, Bob Holman, Adam Hougland, Edwin Torres

Review by Rachel Rabkin
May 29, 2003

Chamber Dance Project (CDP) is a delightful performance group. Founded in 2000, it is composed of professional performers from all over the world, and provides a unique collaboration between dance, music, and performance art. Their fusion of art forms is evidenced by their playbill, which lists dancers, musicians, poets, lighting designers, composers, and choreographers all together in non-segmented, non-hierarchical, alphabetical order. Their mission is to perform international-level new and contemporary ballets with live music in an intimate setting in order to intensify the audience's experience. Mission accomplished. Their performance was fresh, engaging, spirited, powerful, and full of talent.

Their first piece, Stand 9, was an excellent example of how this group fuses dance and music. To start out, the string quartet took center stage, playing whimsical, dissonant music. Next, the dancers came onstage and began playfully interacting with the musicians. Both the musicians and the dancers took turns acting as the main attraction by good-heartedly pushing the other off the stage. The result was a sort of fun-loving battle between the power of the music and the power of the dance. The piece ended in a face-off between one dancer and one violinist-all in good fun. Judging by the laughter in the audience, they got a kick out of it.

In Passages (the second movement), the second piece of the evening, the music and the dancers were very much in sync with each other. The string quartet took their more traditional position, sitting slightly off-stage, and beautifully-accompanied a graceful dance between a man (John Welker) and a woman (Christine Winkler). The ease with which they moved together may be no small coincidence since they both dance principal roles with the Atlanta Ballet. Their flowing movements, the intertwining of their arms and legs, and their pulling away and coming together, seemed to represent a sad love story of two people who had developed a deep familiarity with each other's bodies and souls but were still struggling to find happiness together.

The next piece was pure music. Don't Tread on Me or on My String Quartet provided a lively, upbeat interlude. The program notes indicate that Christopher Lee (violinist) thinks this piece would make for a good new work for CDP. The founding and artistic director, Diane Coburn Bruning, hopes to choreograph it and two additional movements for the 2004 season.

All You Have was a bright piece danced by one man (Victor Quijada) and three women (Lisa Tachick, Bonnie Pickard, Christine Winkler) with the string quartet accompaniment. All the dancers were dressed in vibrant dance suits of various colors. I'm not sure what the dancers were meant to represent. At times they appeared human, at times they appeared to be cogs in some greater machine, and at other times they appeared to be otherworldly creatures. But all the time they exhibited excellent technique, and precise and polished movements, while showcasing their lean, strong bodies. At various intervals throughout the piece they all repeated the same movement with their arms: The right arm would swing up into the air along the side of the dancer's body, then it would fall down to meet the left arm, hanging in the center of the dancer's body-and that motion would set the left arm into the air on the opposite side of the body. Then, the left arm would fall to meet the right arm, setting it into motion all over again, and so on. This sort of pendulum action kept repeating itself, in a cycle. Symbolizing that every action has an opposite and equal reaction? I don't know. In my interpretation, whatever the dancers were, and whatever they were doing, they appeared to be involved in a lover's square. The dance began with Quijada alone, and then he proceeded to have all of the three women, in steady rotation, as his dance partner. The piece ended with him seeming to choose one woman. They embraced sensually and with everything in their bodies.

Suspended offered another battle of sorts-this one between two male dancers (Peter Boal of New York City Ballet and John Welker). The men were dressed alike and were engaged in a pulling and pushing of each other. They lifted each other with strength and grace, and at some points seemed to be in a slow-motion wrestling match. Their movements also appeared to be mirror images. They matched yet were opposites. Quite fittingly, I suppose, the music of the accompanying string quartet was dissonant.

Bowery Poetry Club, et al. was a special treat. This time the collaboration was between poets and dancers. Cristin O'Keefe Aptowitz delivered a sarcastic, energetic diatribe about the ironies of corporate America while a male dancer (Stephan Laks) in a suit made visual her words. His movements brought her words to life, while her words provided the rhythm, the rhyme and reason, for his movements. What synergy. It was funny, irreverent and clever.

Edwin Torres, another poet, also offered poetry and chanting for another collaboration with dancers (a man and a woman). The words of Torres (this time in both English and Spanish), along with Aptowitz, again provided the rhythm and story for the dance.

Ode was a joyful, classical ballet dance complete with springy floral mini-dresses for the female dancers. Like All You Have, there were three women and one man dancing in this piece. But unlike All You Have, it was not about a love square or making a tortured choice between the women. All of the dancers interacted energetically with each other, and also danced happily on their own at times. It was clear that the dancers were having fun-with their movements, with the chamber music, with each other, and with the audience. (It was actually quite clear throughout the entire evening that artists were having fun-and that they didn't take themselves TOO seriously).

Ballade was an impressive, inspiring, and technically difficult violin solo. It was performed masterfully by Christopher Lee.

Journey was a slow and lyrical dance between a man and a woman (Peter Boal and Lisa Tachick). They interweaved their bodies, and flowed together. They were dressed alike, in black shorts and blue tops. Perhaps they were becoming one.

The evening ended on a high note with in the garret. Most of the dancers were dressed in khakis and t-shirts. With all of them dancing with energy and smiles in what seemed to be street-wear, I couldn't help but be reminded of the clever Gap ads featuring swing dancers in khakis. This evening's ensemble, however, was not commercial or mass-produced. It was original, vivacious and merry. And judging from the audience's laughter, a good time was had by all.

Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams

Also see

  • Chamber Dance Project Open Rehearsal Photos - 5/19/2003 - by Natalie Laruccia.

  • Chamber Dance Project Open Rehearsal - 5/19/2003 - by Robert Abrams.

  • Chamber Dance Project Open Rehearsal Photos - 5/19/2003 - by Robert Abrams.

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