April 21, 2003
POTENT 'DANCE SALAD'
TAKE DRAMA OVER THE EDGE
By Molly Glentzer, Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
Good dance takes you on a journey.
And it can take you multiple places, depending on your state of
At last weekend's Dance Salad festival,
15 dances -- all either North American or Houston premieres --
mixed and matched into three programs. Friday's was the most potent,
although I wouldn't have missed Netherlands Dance Theater's Sigue
or Buglisi/Foreman's Requiem from other nights.
Edgy theatricality was the passport,
combining inventive choreography with a minimalist visual aesthetic,
intriguing costumes and appropriate music. Virpi Pahkinen's Bardo
for the Royal Swedish Ballet's Stockholm 59° North company,
and David Dawson's The Grey Area for the Dutch (Het)
National Ballet came from different movement perspectives, but
both were as spare as a Zen poem.
For Bardo (the stage between
life and reincarnation), a horizon of white light glowed under
the partly raised black backdrop, and a mobile of large spheres
hung centerstage. Akemi Ishijima's music lent quietude. In a great
moment, Pahkinen and two men created the shape of a lotus blossom
opening. Pahkinen, a spirit traveling fitfully between worlds,
danced a compelling long solo. At the end she rejoined the men,
lying down, and each turned slowly to face the light.
In The Grey Area, the Het's
five dancers had out-of-this-world ballet technique. They spun,
walked, spiraled and flew over a gray floor in changing light,
sometimes facing a huge curtain at stage right. Niels Langz's
score enhanced the atmospherics, electronically distorting music
by J.S. Bach.
Other dances were sexual journeys.
A huge red velvet couch was a tantalizing island of desire in
the Brazilian Quasar Companhia de Danca's Mulheres (Women).
Henrique Rodovalho's intense work for three women was metaphorically
loaded. A fierce dance over the top of the couch caught every
beat of the heart-pounding music by Les Tamoures du Bronx. Likewise,
a repeated motif in which one dancer encircled another with her
arms, then collapsed, caught the emotion of Wim Mertens' memorable
Hans van Manen's much-anticipated Live
also suggested love's dangerous aspects. A sensuous young ballerina
(the Het's exquisite Igone de Jongh) chased a male dancer like
a heat-seeking missile. But he was more than she could handle.
Their come-and-go sensibility was reflected in the action -- doors
opening and closing, plus live video that prompted thoughts about
the real versus the staged.
Created in 1979, Live was
one of the first dances to incorporate real-time video. It still
resonates, although most of it is not lit or shot in a way that
would excite the MTV generation. Cameraman Henk van Dijk provided
close-ups of de Jongh's opening solo (she flirted with him, too),
projected on the backdrop's large screen. He followed her into
the lobby as she pursued the boy to dance a pas de deux; the audience
saw it only on the screen. When de Jongh covered the lens as if
to say, "Enough. This is private," a pre-recorded video
began. It was even more private: a violent pas de deux set in
a ballet studio. Pianist Olga Khoziainov's passionate rendering
of the Franz Liszt score went silent, to emphasize the amplified
slamming of the dancers' bodies and their angrily stomping feet.
Finally, van Dijk followed de Jongh out of the building, leaving
a final image of her wandering, alone, toward Buffalo Bayou.
Sigue, created and awesomely
danced by Netherlands Dance Theater's Paul Lightfoot and Sol Léon,
was a pilgrimage through grief. It needed no more than bodies
to make its point, although a shaft of light and a falling snow
of flour added drama. She was a mourner. He was the object of
her sadness. Sigue was punctuated by Léon's quirky
gestures and Lightfoot's gravity-flouting spirit. He began the
dance with a jaw-dropping fall, landing flat on his back with
no mat underneath -- as mean as the blow of death.
Requiem -- featuring glorious,
backless baroque dresses that served as flags, cloaks and sculptural
drapes -- was a reaction to the tragedy of 9/11. The Göteborg
Ballet's Blue Ballerina created a Magritte-like image
But Dance Salad wasn't just a heavy
trip. Mats Ek's Pointless Pastures duet for Sweden's
Cullberg Ballet charmed with its gentle humanism. Picture two
country bumpkins in silly hats. And a girl who says hello to her
man by knocking him down but later buries her face happily in
his used handkerchief. Kanji Segawa tickled the funny bone in
Robert Battle's Takademe. Kenneth Kvarnström's Carmen?!
was silly, lapsing into predictability after an opening of quaking
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