Friday, April 30, 2010

Fieldwork for Mixed Desciplines-The Dinner Party

DC Arts Center - Washington, D.C.
April 28, 2010

The Field/DC's presentation of The Dinner Party was one of the first dance events that I attended after moving to DC last summer. So, as I prepare to return to California, it seems fitting that another episode of The Dinner Party will be one of my final DC reviews. A wonderfully diverse program awaited the audience with nine individual offerings. Choreographic works still dominated the program, though this time, music and photography were also included. The breadth was an accurate representation of 'fieldwork for mixed disciplines' as opposed to my first Dinner Party where there was only dance and only solos. This broader scope also permeated the choreographic works themselves: two solos, a duet and three group pieces. Variety was the common denominator on Wednesday night.

The four solo performances (2 music, 2 dance) were the highlights of the evening. Patrick Smith's Creation Suite, a tripartite acoustic guitar composition, was beautiful. In particular, the first movement, Kinnara, explored the space between major and minor keys using arpeggiation. I felt the presence of a Baroque prelude where the purpose was to explore different keys to the enth degree, including notes and intervals that are not necessarily a part of that original key. This type of experimentation is really the only way to unlock the mysteries of and discover the possibilities within the major and the minor. The electronic music of Yoko K. involved audience participation in composing her soundscape. She was so genuine, authentic and passionate about her message of 'small changes' that you could not help but be charmed by her and her musical goals. Bridget Kelly's Center explored and examined points of origin in the body and how they translate into choreography. Positions were achieved (the arm behind the body, a pointed index finger, arabesque extension), though the intent was focused on how the body got to those postures. Nothing was peripherally placed; it organically emerged from a central point, traveled through transitory space and then achieved the final pose. These resting places were very beautiful in their own right, but for me, the impetus and transitional movement were most compelling. Feel This, composed and danced by Ilana Silverstein, was the final piece of the program. The costuming and choreography suggested a Duncanesque, Egyptian quality as she moved through a series of very dramatic poses. Silverstein is a strong performer and her choreography interesting, but her gaze was very distracting. She constantly looked around with no clear focal point, taking away from the overall piece. This is something that is incredibly difficult to recognize if you are choreographing on yourself. I wonder if she should spend some time out of her work setting it on other dancers. A lack of visual focus would be obvious if she was choreographing on someone else.

Of the group pieces, the most developed were two by Orit Sherman, Sphere and Inside a Cell. Sphere has a very consistent image throughout the work, starting right with the opening pose. The dancers stand in 2nd position, with their hands grasping an imaginary ball. As they moved through the dance, the volume of that spherical space remained clear in their bodies. Inside a Cell reminds us that sometimes biological progressions can be both calm and organic or abrupt and jarring. Sherman sought to illustrate both aspects - quiet flow alongside punctuating change. Although the dancing and choreography were strong in both of these pieces, I must admit that at times, I was worried about the safety of the dancers. Each piece had seven women and the performance space at the DC Arts Center is tiny. There was some holding back and some actual collisions due to the restrained working area. I would be interested to see these pieces in a larger venue to get a fuller understanding.

The idea of works-in-progress is necessary in the performing arts, but it is also leaves me feeling a little lost. I want to see another showing of all these pieces at their next level of development. I think this would provide a much stronger relationship between the audience and the work. Then again, maybe it's completely valid to not have a sense of resolution.

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