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Dance
 

Repertory Dance Theatre's 'Time Capsule'

Satisfies cravings intellectual and artistic
By Karen Anne Webb

 
Review:
 
 
"Time Capsule"
 
 

Continues for two more shows,
8:00 p.m. November 25-6
in the Jeanné Wagner Theatre
at the Rose.
Pre-performance discussion
at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets available through ArtTix at
355-ARTS , 1-800-451-ARTS,
or www.arttix.org

 

Time Capsule, Repertory Dance Theatre’s most recent foray into the world of the historical retrospective, opened at the Rose November 18. It proved to be everything a dance-o-phile (or even a non-dance-o-phile) could want: informative, uplifting, well thought out, and beautifully executed.

The company has added work by several important choreographers since it performed 100 Years of Modern Dance several years ago. Changes to the actual program content included adding work by these choreographers (like Yvonne Rainer’s “Trio A”) and cycling in works that have not been seen in quite a few years (like an excerpt from John Butler’s “Three Promenades with the Lord.”)

The narrative, now more of a multi-media event, now pulls in information from the world outside dance. It provided information on the milieus, both social and artistic, from which the different styles of modern dance burgeoned. It’s difficult given the history of American modern dance not to fall into a litany of “begats” in the manner of parts of the Hebrew Bible when describing what gave rise to what: Denishawn begat Martha Graham, who begat Paul Taylor, who begat Laura Dean, and so on. The narrative gave a clear sense of the interrelationship amongst many of the choreographers on the bill without going the route of a catalogue aria.

And there really is no better narrator than artistic director Linda C. Smith, who also wrote the bulk of the text. She is literate, knowledgeable about her material, and passionate in her presentation. Her comments about the genius of Isadora Duncan and about Anna Sokolow’s perspective that sometimes humanity bleeds were completely arresting.

Company alum Andy Noble provided the visuals that accompanied the narration: a fast-moving montage of slides that included everything from a shot of Loie Fuller in performance to one of Martin Luther King giving a speech to Jackie Robinson becoming the first baseball player of color to move into the majors. It was an incredible collection of images that helped to drive home the social and political atmosphere in which some of these dances originated. The only minus about this is that there were times one wished that, for just a text phrase or two, the image on the screen matched what was being described in the narrative.

The dances themselves covered the years 1905 through 1992. You have to hand it to a group of dancers (the company plus guests Paul Ocampo and Karen Oldham) that can convincingly portray the lyric spirituality of Duncan, the percussive force of Laura Dean, the narrative humor of Charles Weidman, the emotive and socially conscious passion of Helen Tamiris, and the sense of disconnection from the music of Rainer.

The bill was packed with “wow!” moments. I thought company alum Mike Eger had the market cornered on the character in Daniel Nagrin’s “Strange Hero,” and the choreography seems tailored for a man who, like Nagrin and Eger, is compact. But the taller, more long-limbed Thayer Jonutz took the piece in a different, equally compelling direction, throwing his whole body into the movement and blending the sinuous with the percussive.
Likewise Josh Larson with the male solo in Tamiris’ “Negro Spirituals.” Big, passionate movement with utterly clean execution and a wonderful sense of resisted flow made this a performance from which you could not rip your gaze.

Lynne Listing pulled off Sokolow’s “man is bleeding” piece (actually the “Allegro Mysterioso” movement from her “Lyric Suite”) in a way that was waif-like and ethereal. In the ensemble excerpt from Doris Humphrey’s “New Dance,” she fit perfectly the balance of lightness and speed called for in Humphrey’s movement.

The two humorous pieces on the bill, Weidman’s “The Moth and the Star” and Butler’s “Holy Rollers” (John Butler funny? Yup!) were delightful. Jonutz, Larson, and Ocampo got to trot out their dramatic talents for the former, a dramatization of a parable by James Thurber. Chien-Ying Wang, Angie Banchero-Kelleher, and Nick Cendese in the latter got to tackle the personae of three Chautauqua-period tent-meeting participants who let the rhythmic music carry them away.

Cendese has one of the best deadpan mugs in the business. This is movement that, while inherently humorous, wouldn’t be quite this humorous without the sense of conviction and timing and, again, utterly clean movement the trio showed, or without the sense that the body is responding to an outside force while the mind is completely unaware the body has been usurped. All three conveyed this well, but Cendese’s capture of that particular element was just priceless.

What other images will I carry away from this performance? There are so many, but chief among them are the ethereal beauty of “Soaring,” a piece on which Doris Humphrey and Ruth St. Denis collaborated; the earthy grounding of a phrase featuring Hanya Holm’s technique; the freedom and soaring buoyancy of Shapiro & Smith’s “Dance for Two Army Blankets;” and the solo excerpt (featuring Banchero-Kelleher) from Chairs by Zvi Gotheiner, who simultaneously embodies the spirituality of Duncan, the grounding of Holm, the social conscience of Tamiris, and the poetic emotion of Martha Graham.

karen [at] saltshakermagazine.com

 

 
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