DANCE REVIEW: American Dance Festival 2010, Part Two: Dendy Dancetheater / RUBBERBANDance Group / Eiko and Koma

(Author’s Note: Part One of this ADF series can be found here.)

Dendy Dancetheater- “Juliet Looks to the West” and “Divine Normal”
This company, led by acclaimed choreographer Mark Dendy, performed at Duke University. The first piece, “Juliet Looks to the West”, was a duet choreographed by one of the company members, Catherine Miller, and perfomed by Catherine Miller and Lonnie Poupard Jr., another company member. This piece was not a particular favorite of mine. It mostly involved the couple rolling around on the ground, and there really wasn’t very much variety or dynamism in the movement, nor was there really much emotion. In addition, the strangeness of the lighting didn’t really add anything to the piece. The dancers, I could tell, were quite skilled (which would be confirmed in the following work), but the choreography didn’t truly play to their strengths.

The next piece, “Divine Normal”, was told in both dance and spoken word, and was a story about a boy from a small town who goes to New York to follow his dreams of dance. This piece was mostly quite entertaining and poignant at times, when the protagonist was forced to confront his own sexuality and his rejection by his close-minded mother. The piece consisted of small sections of monologue and dialogue interwoven with longer pieces of pure dance that reflected what was being spoken before. On his journey, the boy faces painful choices about how he truly wants to dance and what he is willing to sacrifice to “make it” in the dance world. The dancers in the company all played various roles, including dance greats from the past that inspire the protagonist, including Ruth St. Denis, who created her own interpretations of “foreign” dance styles. The story was intriguing, and the dancing was dynamic and passionate, but the show was weighed down by several numbers that lasted too long. For example, the Nijinsky tribute that closed the show, inspired by the movement of the great dancer himself, continued one repeated jogging moment for what seemed like an eternity without ceasing, even as the curtain closed for the performance. Still, Mark Dendy has great skill as a choreographer, and I enjoyed this program very much.

RUBBERBANDance Group- “Loan Sharking”
This dance company, known for its skillful combination of hip-hop, contemporary and other dance styles, performed at the Durham County Performing Arts Center. “Loan Sharking” was divided into two parts. The first half was made up of interwoven group numbers and little humorous vignettes that involved changing poses while the lighting was off. The dancing was incredibly fluid and graceful, and incorporated Broadway-style dancing along with the more contemporary forms of dance. The group had me captivated and wishing that I could move like the dancers. The second half divided the male and female dancers into separate numbers, with the males dancing sweeping hip-hop-flavored modern and the women performing powerful, energetic modern-inspired hip-hop. Then the dancers formed pairs and performed enthralling, emotional duets, sometimes changing partners, which created more tension between the couples. For me, the show wasn’t nearly long enough, for I would have watched the RUBBERBANDance Group. I have nothing but love for this company, and I most definitely hope to see them perform again in the future.

Eiko and Koma- “Raven”, “Night Tides”, “White Dance”
This selection of pieces from Eiko and Koma was performed at Duke University as part of a tribute to the works of Eiko and Koma, a two-man (or rather, woman and man) dance company who has been active for over thirty years. At the Duke University Theatre, they performed three works from various years, but the works, unfortunately for me, were not at all to my taste. There was very little actual movement, especially in “Night Tides”, created in 1984, where the dancers lay naked on the floor, moving painfully slowly and nearly unnoticeably, for fifteen minutes. The other pieces, “Raven” (2010) and “White Dance” (1976) involved more movement, but the former still left me quite unerred by the complete and utter pain represented through the bodies of the dancers, as if breathing and simple motions were costing them their very lives. “White Dance” was probably the dance I preferred out of the three due to its range of emotion and movement (i.e., it was not mostly writhing on the floor) and occasional humorous moments, such as when potatoes were randomly thrown around stage. The other works, for me, lacked any more emotions or moods other than pain and suffering and anguish, and this led to my general dislike of the performance.

Comments

  1. I love the way you are able to articulate both rave reviews and not such rave reviews so maturely. It is clear that you watch these performances for both the artistry of the dance and the intricacy of the choreography. You are opening my eyes to a whole new world; keep your eyes peeled for RubberbandDance group. If they show up in LA I bet your "editor" would take you to see them.

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